On May, 2, 1942, the 341st U.S. Army Engineers, along with their pitifully inadequate equipment, arrived in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to build the southern sector of the Alaska Highway. Building the first 25 miles of highway was a process of trial-and-error. Rain, mud and swarms of hungry mosquitoes made it the most memorable, frustrating, difficult part of the 300 miles assigned to us.
By July 4, we were camped at Mile 48 north of Charlie Lake. There was a long way to go, but at least we were making progress. That Independence Day was memorable. Before leaving base camp, we had all chipped in for a two-quart ration of beer. The intended delivery date was July 4. On that morning, the sky was clearing after a couple of days of heavy rain. The road behind us was a sea of mud. The prospect of supplies of any kind reaching us within the next few days seemed very remote. We were lined up and about to move out, when in the distance, we heard a bulldozer driven by a farm boy from Kansas, pulling a trailer with our long-talked- about beer. When he rumbled into our washed out camp and cut the throttle, there was much yelling and jubilation. Only the whites of his eyes were showing, under a heavy coating of mud. He said that, at times, the mud nearly covered the cat tracks. He had delivered our beer against incredible odds.
After we shoveled the mud from the wooden barrels containing our quart bottles of beer, we formed that memorable Army beer line on July 4, 1942. Soon, there was harmonica music, singing, and time for thoughts of home. When I got around to shaking hands with the hero of the day, I told him we didn’t think he would make it. His only reply was, “I had to. It’s the Fourth of July.” There was more to come that day to boost our morale. As we were drinking our beer, a couple of bombers that were heading north flew just above the tree tops and dipped their wings to say, “Hello.” Late in the afternoon, when we set up camp at the 50-mile marker, it seemed to us to be a symbol with special meaning. If we could go a hundred, we could go all the way! That night, a long way from Hometown, U.S.A., we were proud, but very lonesome.