This web page, published by the Military Postal History Society, contains the text content of the single frame The ALCan Highway Project. This exhibit was created by, and is the property of the late Al Kugel, and is being supplied by his heirs as a courtesy to the Military Postal History Society.
One of the great engineering feats of recent time was the construction of the 1,680-mile Alaska-Canada Military Highway in World War II. Prompted by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the J apanese invasion of Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutians, the U.S. decided it needed a land-based supply route to Alaska that would be safe from attack by Japanese submarines and surface vessels. The project would connect Dawson Creek, B.C. with Delta Junction, Alaska and was authorized on February 11, 1942. Construction by U.S. Army Engineers began on March 8, with orders to proceed as rapidly as possible. The so-called 'pioneer road' was completed on October 28, 1942. However, there were many problems with log bridges, melting permafrost and muskeg bogs, so that it was only passable by heavy-duty Army trucks until well into 1943. In fact, some sections had to be completely rebuilt, and work continued through most of 1944 even though the Japanese threat had receded, When the highway was turned over to civil authority in 1946, the route had been improved and shortened to 1,422 miles.
To view the exhibit page images, see: web page containing the image content of the exhibit frame.
THE ALCAN HIGHWAY PROJECT
One of the great engineering feats of recent time was the construction of the 1,680-mile Alaska-Canada Military Highway in World War II. Prompted by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the J apanese invasion of Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutians, the U.S. decided it needed a land-based supply route to Alaska that would be safe from attack by Japanese submarines and surface vessels. The project would connect Dawson Creek, B.C. with Delta Junction, Alaska and was authorized on February 11, 1942. Construction by U.S. Army Engineers began on March 8, with orders to proceed as rapidly as possible. The so-called “pioneer road” was completed on October 28, 1942. However, there were many problems with log bridges, melting permafrost and muskeg bogs, so that it was only passable by heavy-duty Army trucks until well into 1943. In fact, some sections had to be completely rebuilt, and work continued through most of 1944 even though the Japanese threat had receded, When the highway was turned over to civil authority in 1946, the route had been improved and shortened to 1,422 miles.
The engineering and supervisory troops required postal service, which meant creation of new APOs. The first of these (APO 918) was officially established on March 9, 1942 and several others (931, 933, 934) on April 1. This did not mean that the offices were open and functioning on those dates but that they were added to the Army Postal Service’s list of APOs. (In fact, the earliest postmark reported is March 28, 1942 fromm APO 918 at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.) Other offices were established during May and June, with the final ones on November 18, 1942 (which did not actually open until into 1943.) Postmarks from the Alcan and related Canol offices are among the scarcest of all APO mail from WWII. Indeed, nine of these cancels are ranked among the top 25 on the Forte-Helbock rarity scale.
The only philatelically cacheted cover from the project seen by exhibitor. It was sent from APO 702 in * Whitehorse, Y.T. on September 23, 1943 to commemorate the first land mail route to Edmonton, Alberta. The cover was backstamped September 28 in transit at APO 722 in Edmonton.
The material in this exhibit is shown geographically, starting with Dawson Creek (which was milepost 0) and continuing through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and into eastern Alaska. Some locations had more than one APO, and some APOs moved as construction shifted along the route. Thus, within each number, the covers will be shown chronologically. At the end will be shown mail from the Canol pipeline project and the base supply port at Prince Rupert, B.C.
DAWSON CREEK, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Construction of the Alcan Highway began at Milepost 0 at this location, which was the terminus of the existing highway from Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. There were three Army Post Offices established at Dawson Creek. APO 996 is recorded from April 14 to November 1942 and APO 998 from June to November 1942. These were replaced by APO 724, which served from November 9, 1942 to December 14, 1944.
May 25, 1942
August 15, 1942
March 28, 194?
Reply postal card from APO 996 appears philatelic and may have a cancel that had been requested on the first day the post office was open. APO 998 served the 95th Engineering Regiment, which was a colored construction unit. Note that at this time the APO number had been excised from postmarks by order in effect from July 1, 1942 until March 10, 1943. Cover from APO 724 was sent either in 1943 or 1944, by which time the APO number had been restored in the dial.
INBOUND OFFICIAL MAIL
Inbound mail to the officials working on the highway construction is very seldom seen. This official letter from the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington was directed to the Commanding General in Seattle to be forwarded to the Engineering Liaison Officer on the Alcan Highway. It is the only example of inbound official mail known to exhibitor.
June 5, 1942
Ordinary postage would have been free on this letter. However, postage was required to pay for special services: double-weight airmail at 12 cents, registration at 15 cents and return receipt at 3 cents, for a total of 30 cents.
FORT ST. JOHN, BRITISH COLUMBIA
February 13, 1943
July 2, 1943
Moving toward the northwest, the next location of consequence was Ft. St. John at milepost 47. APO 701 was authorized there on June 29, 1942. The office opened on July 18 and remained in operation until the end of 1945. APO 478 also served there from May 5, 1943 until March 21, 1944,
The official envelope presumably carried a periodic report on engineering activities to Washington. It does not show an APO number in either the postmark or the return address, but was mailed from APO 701. The other cover was sent by a soldier in a Quartermaster Regiment.
FORT ST. JOHN, BRITISH COLUMBIA
January 4, 1944
February 24, 1944
Every APO outside the Continental U.S. was assigned to a supervising post office, with a high proportion being related to New York and San Francisco. However, military offices in Alaska and Western Canada were under the supervision of either Seattle or Minneapolis. In the case of APO 701, this responsibility was shifted from the former to the latter on February 1, 1944, which is reflected in the return addresses shown on the two covers above. Note that the upper cover has an imprinted "Alaska Highway" on the reverse. Although this was likely a private creation, it is the only example seen by exhibitor.
MUSKWA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
FORT NELSON, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Based on the APO Locations handbook published by the Military Postal History Society, the first Alcan Highway post office was established on March 9, 1942 at Muskwa, B.C. In fact, the earliest reported postmark is March 28, 1942. This office served there until July 10, 1942. APO 479 opened on May 5, 1943 at nearby Ft. Nelson (milepost 300) and served there until March 9, 1944.
April 13, 1942
June 15, 1943
Based on the return addresses on the envelopes, these covers were sent by members of the 35th Engineering Regiment and 843rd Signal Service Battalion, respectively.
MORRIS LAKE, BRITISH COLOMBIA
APO 934 was established on April 1, 1942 and apparently opened at Morris Lake in the following month. It later moved to Whitehorse, Y.T. in March 1943.
June 22, 1942
August 31, 1942
October 24, 1942
Shown above are an official Post Office Dept. cover and two letters from servicemen via APO 934. Note that all three postmarks are different: one has both APO and the number; one has APO only; and the third has both APO and the number excised.
WATSON LAKE, YUKON TERRITORY
CARCROSS, YUKON TERRITORY
The highway first crosses into the Yukon at Watson Lake (milepost 635). APO 996 opened at this location from March 1943 on. APO 933 was established at Squanga Lake in the central Yukon (milepost 850) in April 1942. It then opened at Carcross near Whitehorse on September 10, 1942 and remained in service until June 30, 1945.
June 1, 1943
January 11, 1943
Upper cover sent by a Staff Sergeant of the 34st Engineering Regiment working on the highway to a correspondent in Washington State. Lower cover sent by an officer of the 93rd Engineering Regiment to Massachusetts.
WHITEHORSE, YUKON TERRITORY
Because of its serviceable airport, Whitehorse was selected as the field headquarters for the Alcan operations. APO 702 was established on June 29, 1942 and the office is reported to have opened on July 8. It remained active until June 1, 1946.
Nov. 8, 1943
Sept. 8, 1944
Upper cover has a postmark that includes “Seattle, Wash.” which is the only one of its type used on the Alcan project. Lower cover sent from Unit 1 of APO 702 via APO 722 in Edmonton and on to Washington. Registered mail from the Alcan APOs is highly elusive. In this case, postage of 32 cents was paid for double-weight airmail plus a 20 cent registration fee.
KLUANE LAKE, YUKON TERRITORY
APO 931 was established at Kluane Lake in the western part of the Yukon (milepost 1423) in April 1942. It remained there until January 1943.
June 20, 1942
This cover was sent by an officer of the 73rd Engineering Regiment to Michigan. Nate the use of a censor label, which is very unusual for Alcan mail.
BIG GERSTLE, ALASKA
Moving into eastern Alaska, APO 989 was established at Northway on 1 May 1942. Its location moved frequently with the construction activity to Tanacross in December 1942, to Big Gerstle in March 1943, to Livengood in May 1943 and to Fox in August 1943,
April 26, 1943
This cover was sent by an officer at APO 989 to Pennsylvania. Based on docketing, it was received in eleven days.
FORT McMURRAY, ALBERTA
FORT SMITH, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Closely associated with the Alcan highway was the Canol Project to build a pipeline to move oil from Norman Wells, NWT to Whitehorse to supply fuel for the construction equipment and other vehicles. This was a daunting piece of engineering and wasn't completed until until February 1944. APO 999 was authorized on June 11, 1942 and opened at Ft. McMurray on June 24. It later moved to Ft. Smith, NWT in May 1943 and to Norman Wells in April 1944. APOs 373 and 474 also served on this project, being established on November 18, 1942 and opening on January 8, 1943 at Camp Canol, NWT and Peace River, Alberta, respectively.
July 6, 1942
July 22, 1943
Covers sent by enlisted men serving with the engineering regiments on Canol. The upper example was sent through the civilian post office at Ft. McMurray with Canadian franking, Lower cover sent through the APO at Ft. Smith.
CAMP CANOL, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
March 22, 1943
APO 473 was established on November 18, 1942 and actually opened at Camp Canol, NWT on January 8, 1943. It remained in service until well into 1944. This example was written on a V-Mail form (although V-Mail service was not available in this theater) and sent in lieu of a normal envelope to Arkansas.
NORMAN WELLS, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
June 3, 1944
Official cover converted to free mail for personal use by a major in the Engineering Corps then at Norman Wells, which was located just 75 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Oil production started there in 1920 for local use and, at the time, was the northernmost producing field in North America.
SUPPLY PORT PRINCE RUPERT, BRITISH COLUMBIA
June 3, 1944
In order to move equipment and supplies for the Alcan Project, Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia was chosen as the primary port since it was connected by rail to Edmonton, Alberta via the Canadian National Railway and thence to the trailhead of the Northern Alberta Railway at Dawson Creek. As a result, it was a major factor in the construction of the highway. APO 997 served Port Rupert from May 1942 until November 1945.
This official cover was sent from the Office of Port Intelligence in Port Rupert via APO 997 to the Chief of Intelligence & Security in Washington.
SUPPLY PORT APO 997
PRINCE RUPERT, BRITISH COLUMBIA
March 20, 1943
May 11, 1945
Above examples show the APO 997 postmark with the number excised and later restored back into the dial. Note unusual unit military censor marking on the upper cover.