80 years of the Alaska Highway

 The 11,000 workers who built the Alaska Highway over the course of eight months in 1942 were divided into units that were tasked with constructing a section of the 1,600-mile road. These crews forced their way through the wilderness toward one another, until the road sections connected. The most famous of these meetings took place near Beaver Creek on October 25, 1942, when two bulldozer operators came crashing through the woods toward one another. Photographer Harold W. Richardson of Engineering News-Record posed Corporal Refines Sims, Jr. and Private Alfred Jalufka for a photo of the two men shaking hands. The image was widely reprinted in newspapers and magazines and the press heralded the construction success as a feat of engineering. 

The official ceremony for the opening of the Alcan, as it was called at the time, took place nearly a month later on November 20. American and Canadian military representatives and other dignitaries gathered on a frigid day at a scenic overlook 1,500 feet above Kluane Lake at historic milepost 1061, about 100 miles from the Alaska border. The site of the commemoration is now called Soldier’s Summit and can be reached by a trail a little over a half-mile long. Interpretive signs at the summit remember the workers’ efforts and honor the indigenous guides and traditional trails that helped steer the route.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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