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Map of Alaska
The wide wilderness of Alaska and the Yukon Territory

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The Alcan Highway in Alaska Opened
November 21, 1942

When the Japanese invaded the nearby Aleutian Islands, completing the highway became even more urgent. More than 10,000 U.S. troops worked in cooperation with Canadian troops and independent contractors to accomplish this remarkable engineering feat in just over eight months! Among those soldiers building the Alcan Highway were four units of the Army's Black Corps of Engineers. All troops worked under extreme conditions. Mosquitoes and flies swarmed them in the summer heat, and temperatures near 40 degrees below zero chilled them to the bone in winter for weeks on end. To build the Sikanni Chief River Bridge, men waded chest deep into freezing waters to place the trestles. To keep themselves going, some of the men sang. Some African American soldiers, mainly from the South, sang old work chants like this "Steel-Driving Song."
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