Chronology of Construction
December 7, 1941
Japanese forces bomb Pearl Harbor, and Japan and the United States officially enter the Second World War. Fearing a west coast attack, the possibility of an emergency supply and mobilization route is looked into.
February 6, 1942
The Chief of Staff of the US Army announces the plan to build a military highway to Alaska. Officially called the "Alaska Military Highway" the road became known as ALCAN, short for the "Alaska – Canada Military Highway".
February 11, 1942
President Franklin Roosevelt authorizes the construction of the Highway.
March 2–9, 1942
The first American troops arrive at Dawson Creek, British Columbia—Mile 0—to begin construction. Dawson Creek is flooded with soldiers, engineers, supplies, and equipment.
May 17, 1942
Twelve men drown when their makeshift ferry is overcome in a sudden storm on Charlie Lake in British Columbia.
June 1, 1942
After nearly two months of work in difficult terrain, the Army Corps of Engineers has completed only 95 miles (153 kilometres) of the Highway.
June 4, 1942
The Japanese bomb the Dutch Harbor on Attu, and later invade the Aleutian island of Kiska. Fear of Japanese aggression escalates, and the construction of the Highway is seen as an essential military endeavour; construction is fast-tracked.
June 30, 1942
The Army Corps of Engineers speeds its progress in the month of June, building 265 miles (426.5 kilometres) of the Highway in only one month.
An additional 400 miles (643.7 kilometres) are completed.
September 24, 1942
The 35th and 340th Engineers link up at Contact Creek, by the Yukon and British Columbia border. This completes the southern sector of the Highway.
October 25, 1942
At 4 pm, the 18th Engineers and 97th Engineers link-up the northern section of the Highway. This officially closes the final gap of the road.
November 20, 1942
The Highway officially opens, a formal ceremony is held at Soldier's Summit—Milepost 1061—8 months and 12 days after construction began. The first military truck convoy runs from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska.
July 19, 1943
The name of the Highway is changed from the "Alaska Military Highway" to the "Alaska Highway."
April 1, 1946
After the war, the US Army transfers control of the Canadian portion of the Highway to the Canadian Army. In order to reduce future American claims to the Highway, the Canadian government repays the US for the cost of constructing the Canadian portions of the Highway.
The Alaska Highway is opened to civilian traffic on a limited basis, with checkpoints and convoys used to ensure safe travel along the still rough road.
April 1, 1964
The Canadian Army bequeaths the Highway to the Federal Department of Public Works. At this time 90% of the road is paved.