Alcan Highway (My father’s passed on…a roadtrip for him?)

My dad died in 1997, and one of his most cherished memories was being part of a ground breaking force that helped construct the Alcan Highway. He was a Staff Sgt. in the Army’s 18th Engineer Combat Regiment. He moved from Skagway toward Whitehorse and then inland for the better part of a year under extreme conditions. He also spent very hard times on Attu & Shemya in the Aleutians. His origins were from the hills of West Virginia, near Panther. Eleven children, a farm, coal mines and a lumber mill. Stills and shotguns. He left home young. He grew up quick. This was my dad. That was my surrounding aura of expectations. My dad worked til he died at 76 y/o. He never really learned how to relax. He did take me camping and as often as not, it was where I steered him toward possible fish. He didn’t fish, but he drove that way anyway. 

I have a calling toward that mega roadtrip in his honor. Time is passing. I figure I would need a month to move up and back from Oregon to some meaningful end point to say we made it and to incorporate the fishing of B.C. and part of the Yukon. I am not sure I will make this happen. But, to write about it and the tough men that endured that experience is at a minimum important. It reminds me of my blessings. It reminds me of my genetics and upbringing. It reminds me to not be a complainer….he wasn’t. Duty, honor, country. He was man of complex components and a simple result…a rock. Love you dad.   





If anyone knows of viable fly fishing opportunities up that way, let me know sometime. I may make it in a year or two.          

17 Responses to “Alcan Highway (My father’s passed on…a roadtrip for him?)”

  1. December 9, 2013 at 13:57

    I was stationed at the Headquarters of the Northwest Service Command in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

    The weather was not nice.

    At age 90, I may be the last survivor of that grim time.


    • December 9, 2013 at 15:16

      Thank you John for reading the post and taking the time to respond!!! Some how that grim time was one of my Dad’s greatest senses of accomplishment in life. God Bless You!!


      • 3 Mike Carpenter
        January 6, 2019 at 07:29

        My father also was in the 18th engineers and not to long ago I came across a photo diary.I have 100’s of pictures of the progress of the 18th with many captions and quips.In one of the pictures there is 4 men standing together with rifles in winter garb it was a break from the norm as they were duck hunting also a picture of my dad with the caption above 60o.The photos are in good shape but the bindings and black pages are falling apart.I would like to find someone who would like to put these in a book or magazine.It’s a virtual treasure trove of history….Mike Carpenter Modesto Ca.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 8, 2019 at 12:39

          What a treasure you have!!! I wish you well!! I have an old scrap book of the smallest photos my Dad had developed…it was his greatest personal achievement and too late in life did I come to realize what that whole venture from Attu to Skagway and beyond must have been like. Amazing adventure!!!!!


  2. 5 JR Russell
    April 2, 2010 at 12:27

    My father has also passed on. He was a civilian worker on the highway and i am trying to find out if there are any organizations that might exist compried of these men. Any information would be helpful.


    • 6 SwittersB
      April 2, 2010 at 13:03

      Hello JR…there was. Not sure now how many still live. My dad attended a gathering in Whitehorse about 15 years ago (passed 13 yrs. back). You can find books that celebrate the units involved. There is a PBS show about the AlCan but it took the slant of highlighting the black platoon/company that was stationed there and less about the others. If you a little research you will find a few small pamphlets and maybe from there mention of a current group. I would have to believe with few exceptions they have mostly all passed. My dad was in, I believe, the 18th Engineers.



  3. November 5, 2009 at 04:45

    Действительно интересно написано, но мне кажется, что все-таки автор что-то не договаривает 🙂


    • 8 SwittersB
      November 5, 2009 at 07:34

      Спасибо, Сергей, и благодарим Вас за посещение. Могу ли я спросить, что если вы столкнетесь с соотечественниками, которым нравится летать летают рыбы или галстуком, будете ли вы так любезны, направляйте их на мой сайт? Спасибо, Гэри


  4. January 21, 2009 at 20:58


    Go for it!!!

    My BLOG is-in a way-to honor my Dad who introduced me to Fly Fishing in thought, if not in deed.I say “hello” to his spirit each time I enter the Owens Valley. My brother and I and my three kids, scattered his ashes there -in five locations – in August, 2001.



  5. January 21, 2009 at 17:36

    I found your story as a result of Dennis’ post on his blog. It is so nice to see a man who respects his Dad’s accomplishments – so many people just put their family’s history in the garbage or on eBay. The cabin I lived in at Carcross for several years (and still own) may have sheltered your father at times, as it was built in 1943 by the soldiers based there, to be used as a gambling and drinking getaway! I’m a nut for Alaska Highway history – as well as having almost 100 books about it in my collection, I’ve written 2 of my own (a small one is in print now, a much larger one hasn’t quite made it that far yet).


    • 11 swittersb
      January 21, 2009 at 18:47

      Thanks Murray. I have found so many facets of this story amazingly fascinating. Not just the soldiers, but those that followed and were already at outposts. Good luck with your literary efforts. Gary


  6. January 20, 2009 at 18:36

    Great post. I appreciate your feelings towards your Dad and the significance of fishing. I am in Whitehorse, Yukon and can direct you to some great Yukon fly-fishing spots.

    I will link to this story on my website http://www.fishonyukon.com. Thanks again.


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