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Studebakers on the Alaska Highway, October 1943

Alaska Highway History

An Explorer's Guide to the Alaska Highway ("Alcan")

The South Bend Tribune - Friday, October 8, 1943

    Studebaker trucks, built in South Bend for the army, are maintaining round-the-clock schedules in moving vast quantities of food, fuel and other supplies northward over the recently completed Alaska highway. Although the highway is unpaved and army drivers have to wear masks for protection against dust, construction engineers have reduced the sharpest grades, blocked slides, filled in depressions and built four steel bridges. Convoys of Studebaker trucks now can travel the 1,000 miles between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse in 72 hours. A camera crew that spent several weeks in the territory reports that the army has worked out a routine whereby each driver works 100 miles in one direction, sleeps for six hours at a control station and then takes over a truck going in the opposite direction.

    Convoys of Studebaker trucks, their drivers helmeted and masked against thick, rising curtains of dust, now maintain round-the-clock schedules over the Alaska highway.

    According to word brought back by a camera crew that spent several weeks in the territory, vast quantities of food, fuel and other vitally needed supplies are moving at a fast clip through the scenic wonderland that in the postwar period is expected to become a magnet for American tourists.

    The highway, reported the crew, is still unpaved and rugged in spots but engineers have accomplished a miracle in cutting across sections that were wilderness only 10 months ago.

Four Steel Bridges.

    Four magnificent steel bridges, a notable one spanning the Peace river, have been completed, thus eliminating loss of valuable time in ferrying. Sharp grades have been reduced, slides blocked, depressions filled in, and millions of tons of earth moved to improve both the speed of transportation and the safety of driving.

    A few strips still present tough going and repair and construction gangs are working feverishly to prepare the roadbed for the constantly increasing load of traffic.

    Despite the handicaps and hazards, military drivers push the convoys of 10 or more Studebakers through in remarkably short time. The 1,000-mile stretch between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse is covered in 72 hours.

    Driving _calls for skill and concentration even though the government has endeavored to build as "foolproof" a roadway as possible. Occasional signs like "Suicide Hill" jolt the driver's attention.

100-Mile Tricks.

    As a general routine, drivers work 100 miles one way, curl up in sleeping bags at a control point for six-hour catnaps, then are ready to take over a convoy assignment in the opposite direction. They consider their jobs as difficult as any dealt out by the army to its drivers but few would change. Sparkling clear air, inspiring vistas and a fellowship born of pioneering and common problems offer recompense for lonely hours of travel.

    Army officers, meantime, keep close tab on these rubber-tired flocks. A dispatch board at Dawson Creek posts the exact location of each truck and its destination. Evenly spaced service stations furnish gasoline and oil for the vehicles.

    Studebaker trucks oh the Alaska highways are some of the 10's of thousands the factory here has shipped to combat and defense sectors. The first vehicles engineered to army specifications in the current war, production began in mid-1941. Four and 6 wheel drives are provided.

Studebaker US-6 heavy duty 2 1/2-ton 6x6 truck on display at Delta Junction, the end of the Alaska Highway

This Studebaker US-6 heavy duty 2½-ton 6x6 truck in on display at Delta Junction, the end of the Alaska Highway.