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Centre for Allied Strategies

Edmonton was playing an important role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), with its Manning Depot, Air Observer School, Initial Training School, and Elementary Flying Training School, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and Americans saw a new threat from the Pacific. The Americans wanted to increase the defence of Alaska and sought to provide a direct link so that troops and equipment could be moved quickly north. Edmonton had a proven record as a good base for air travel to the far northwest in 1937, when Yukon Southern had carried out flights from Edmonton to locations like Fort St John, Fort Nelson, and Whitehorse.

There was a sudden increase in interest in the airfields in northern centres like Grande Prairie, even though there had been ongoing improvement to such airfields for some time before. Facilities were rapidly enhanced with the construction of a line of landing fields marking the way between Edmonton and Fairbanks, Alaska. This series of landing fields and facilities for aircraft was known as the Northwest Staging Route. The effort paid off, allowing aircraft to travel rapidly from Edmonton to Alaska. The perceived threat from Japan quickly faded, but the new airfields played an important role in providing planes to Russia for the Lend-Lease program. This Lend-Lease program was set up by the United States to help various countries defend themselves from Axis invasions, and it provided the Russians with transport aircraft, bombers, and fighter planes, which were flown to Alaska by American pilots. Russian pilots then flew the aircraft from Alaska into Russia.

 

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