By Treva Slaughter Installation Protocol Office
Used with Permission from the Fort Greely Interceptor
With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the United States began to worry that the territory of Alaska would be attacked also leading to the birth of the ALCAN Highway project (renamed to the Alaska Highway in 1943). Within a month of President Roosevelt’s approval in early 1942 the U.S and Canada reached an agreement on the location of a U.S constructed highway through the Canadian and Alaskan Yukon territories. With only eight months given to finish the project and much of the Army’s Soldiers sent to fight the war in Europe and Pacific theaters, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers looked to young African-Americans in engineering units. Three Engineer units were comprised of African-Americans, the 93rd, 95th and 97th. These young men were often fresh from the deep south and had never seen cold as we know it in Alaska! With strength of heart and mind, these units overcame the elements, training issues, equipment shortages and the mindset of white leadership in a precivil rights era to finish construction of the Alaska Highway in just nine months.
Located at mile 1388.5 is a 1,820 foot warren through truss steel bridge. Built in 1944, the bridge is one of only four truss-style bridges located on the Alaska Highway. In 1993 the bridge was renamed the “Black Veterans Memorial Bridge” in honor of the contribution of 3,693 Soldiers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in building the Alaska Highway. I believe it is a fitting monument to the group of men who are such an integral part of the history of the U.S. Army and Alaska. The steel that makes the bridge reminds us of the steel in the character of men, who far from hearth and home and facing many difficulties, worked tirelessly to pioneer a highway in the remotest part of the United States and Canada.