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Alaska Highway construction companies leaving Edmonton, 1944

History of the Alaska Highway

Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta), February 24, 1944

4 Major North-Work Firms 'Pulling Out' From Edmonton

    Work of four major civilian contracting firms in Edmonton and the north country is nearing completion and they soon will be "pulling out," Brig.-Gen. L. D. Worsham, now commanding general of the Northwest Service Command of the U.S. Army, revealed Thursday.

    In announcing the reorganization of all services under the Northwest Service Command, and the merging the command and the Northwest Division, US. Engineers, Gen. Worsham stated "demobilization of contractors will greatly ease the congestion in Edmonton."

    According to Gen. Worsham, Bechtel-Price-Callahan, contractors for northern projects, "will go out of Edmonton entirely." The administration force is being reduced "commensurate with field production." It will take 30 to 60 days for them to get "cleaned up" after the field work has been completed.

    Metcalfe-Hamilton Kansas City Bridge Companies, now occupying the Empire theatre on 103 st. will be leaving Edmonton, it was stated. The move from the theatre, rented from Famous Players Corporation, is expected "sometime this summer" but the general would set no date.

    Also completing their work is the firm known as Marine Operators, which had operating contracts on the route to Canol. The Edmonton offices of Standard Oil of California Ltd. on 104 st. also are being vacated and their headquarters is being moved to Whitehorse. This firm has contracts for transporting and refining crude oil from Canol, and distribution of the refined products.

Won't Renew Contract

    Contract of Coast Construction Company, which has been building the Namao airport, expires March 1, Gen. Worsham stated, and is not being renewed. The firm has been working on a cost-plus fixed-fee contract and since the work of paving and laying runways cannot be started until the frost is out of the ground, sometime in June, overhead costs will be reduced by the Northwest Service Command taking over, Gen. Worsham stated.

    "As the contractors are demobilized they will be consolidated in the Bechtel-Price-Callahan building on 113 st. and Jasper ave. This will release other office buildings in Edmonton now occupied by the contractors and by government agencies," he said.

    "When the contractors move out altogether, the U.S. government will take over the B.P.C. offices."

    The 113 st. building was constructed at an estimated cost of more than $150,000 and probably is "the most modern office building in Edmonton."

    Asked if all this meant "the boom in Edmonton was over," Gen. Worsham described the demobilization of contractors as a "leveling off." He said the maintenance and operation services of the northern projects will be continuing.

    In the reshuffle of personnel and reorganization of the Northwest Service command, formerly commanded by Brig.-Gen. James A. O'Connor, headquarters of the command comes to Edmonton from Whitehorse. The name remains the same.

    Under Gen. Worsham there now is an inspector-general, Lt.-Col. Joseph A. Day, Whitehorse; air liaison officer, Capt. Hines of the U.S.A.A.F.; public relations officer, Maj. Freeman C. Bishop; control officer, Maj. B. J. Nickelsen; inspection officer, Maj. W. J. Hayes. Gen. Worsham has not yet named his chief of staff.

Executive Assistant

    Chief operations of the Northwest Service Command now comes under Lt.-Col. K. B. Bush, as executive assistant in charge of military services. Former chief of staff to Gen. O'Connor, Col. Bush will have under him all special services, morale services and military training. Lt.-Col. C. M. Clifford has been named executive assistant in charge of administration. Under his command comes security, intelligence, office service, surgeon, military and civilian personnel, legal, real estate, fiscal and audit.

    Col. L. M. Adams, former quartermaster of the Northwest Service Command, becomes executive assistant of supply. Col. E. E. Kirkpatrick continues as executive assistant in charge of engineering and operations. He has under his command repairs, utilities, construction, equipment, transportation, Canol and communications.

    The combined Northwest Service Command and Northwest Division will be divided into five districts under district commanders. In the reorganization, the Post of Edmonton becomes the District of Edmonton, with Gol. Joseph W. Whitney in command. He replaces Col. Ralph W. Dusenbury, and will have under his control all field forces in the area.

    Other districts and their commanders are Col. Jesse E. Canary, Dawson Creek; Col. James V, Johnston, Whitehorse; Lt.-Col. Gerald E. Tyler, Fairbanks, and Lt.-Col. Ruben L. Tatum, Skagway. Lt.-Col. Robert W. Lockridge, former district engineer, will be in charge of engineering and operations and district engineer for the Edmonton district under Col. Whitney.

Engineers Remain

    Lt.-Col. L. W. Kehe, former district engineer at Dawson Creek, will continue there. The district commanders at Skagway, Whitehorse and Fairbanks also will retain a positions.

    Gen. Worshaw described the purposes of the reorganization "to bring about a reduction of military and civilian personnel."

    "The mission of the Service Command is to complete construction now authorized and to operate and maintain facilities in the north which come under the command, except the operation of airports under the Air Transport Command. The command's job also is to supply all U.S. forces in the northwest."

    Still to be completed are 10 permanent bridges on the Alaska highway. A total of 103 bridges is planned for the highway. Five of the 10 are near completion, Gen. Worsham stated.

    Other projects still uncompleted include Canol project, the paving of airfield runways and some utility work.

    "The Canol project will be completed," the general declared. He said the refinery at Whitehorse will be completed "this spring." Gen. Worsham also declared "I want to spike any rumor that the Peace River bridge has collapsed or that salvaged steel from the Tacoma bridge was used in it. That is absolutely absurd. Every bit of steel, every cable was brand new."

    He stated salvaged steel - absolutely good - has been used in some truss bridges on the Alaska highway. He also said it had been found that timber bridges at some Spots are satisfactory and Will not have to be replaced by steel bridges as originally planned.

Civilians Replace

    Gen. Worsham said a further purpose of the Service Command reorganization is to "replace military by civilians wherever possible." He explained the military men were needed in more aciive theatres of war.

    "The war labor board is being very co-operative in making available Canadian labor which will be under the U.S. army now and not under contractors. There will be an increased use of civilians, especially hauling over the Alaska highway. They will be paid on a fixed fee of ton mileage and not on a cost-plus basis.

    Referring to the reduction in military and civilian personnel under the old set-up, Gen. Worsham said he was not prepared to give figures on the reduction, but said it would be "material."

    He said there "may be a temporary increase in the staff in Edmonton but it will not affect the housing situation here. We have ample space in government quarters to house both military and civilian personnel." The general said "those we need from the Whitehorse headquarters are being brought here."

    Gen. Worsham stated "there is no new construction which can be announced now." He said renegotiation of contracts is being prepared by the U.S. army with civilians "and the remaining work on uncompleted projects will be negotiated on a unit cost contract."

    He paid tribute to Gen. O'Connor. "I regret the loss of my good friend Gen. O'Connor, whose services are desired at an army training centre "because of his qualities in training and commanding troops."

    Gen. Worsham has been directly in charge of construction of the Alaska highway and related projects since April, 1943. He graduated from West Point in 1916 and during the last war served in the Philippines and Hawaiian islands, in France and was with the occupation forces in Germany. He has been in the army continuously since then and was senior instructor in railitary engineering at the U.S. military academy and graduate manager of athletics from 1932 through 1936.