Title: Road to Alaska
Author: Douglas Coe
Major Themes: Canada, Alaska, Road Building, Alcan Highway, Arctic, Engineering
Synopsis: When the United States entered World War II, there was suddenly a great need to connect Alaska to the mainland by road—how fast could a road be built 1,600 miles through wilderness?
One of the books that has been on our shelf since long before we got married, but no one has ever opened, is Road to Alaska. I read it back when I bought it at a library sale back in the 1980s or 90s, and remembered it being quite interesting, so when one of my sons was looking for a book for me to read aloud recently I recommended this one. It was a winner!
It is 1942. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and are moving up the Aleutian Islands toward Alaska. America needs a way to connect the main part of the country with Alaska and get supplies and men up there quickly. A road must be built through 1,600 miles of wilderness, in less than a year. Was it possible? The Engineer Corps of the United States Army took on the task!
In March 1942, men and supplies began arriving in a tiny town in northern British Columbia. Immediately, the men began driving trucks, loaded with supplies, to the 35th Regiment of Engineer’s starting point 325 miles away—but there was no road or railroad to that point! Rivers and creeks and muskeg were all still frozen, so it was possible to drive—but could they get everything moved in time? And once all the equipment and other gear was moved to where it needed to be, and the job began, they found out just how hard it would be to build a road through this trackless wilderness. Would they really get it done in a year? The weather would be too cold to work again in just a few months!
We were fascinated by the details about how bridges were built, and how they got across the muskeg. The story about building roads on permafrost was really interesting, too. Road to Alaska, written in 1943, just after the road was built, is an exciting story of an event that really happened. It is profusely illustrated with line drawings and maps. We thoroughly enjoyed it—and your boys will, too, if you can find a copy. This book is well worth searching for. Now, I want to find the pictures my dad took in 1967 when he drove this highway to Alaska, alone! Those pictures will mean more to us now, since we read this story.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12