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The Whitehorse Star

Whitehorse, Yukon         Friday, October 16th, 1942

Biographical Sketch
Brigadier General J. A. O'Connor
Officer in Command U. S. Army Here

by Lieut. R. L. Neuberger
(Public Relations Officer)

    WHITEHORSE, Y. T., Oct. 16th - Brigadier General James A. O'Connar has arrived at this frontier settlement on the upper reaches of the Yukon River to head the farthest north service command ever established by the United States Army.
    In the pine and spruce forests fringing Whitehorse, General O'Connor is organizing the Northwest Service Command, which will direct and coordinate the supplying of the American Army in Alaska and the vital North Pacific area. Under his command is the Alaskan Highway and and vital roads, railways, inland water routes and pipe line of the region.
    General O'Connor takes over the new assignment after extensive experience on the Alaskan Highway. He supervised construction on the road's southern sector from headquarters at Fort St. John, B. C. Under his direction, engineer troops pushed through woods, uplands and swamps to thread a road through the wilderness.
    General O'Connor is 57 years old. His Army career has taken him around the globe. He had charge of the tunneling at Corregidor when that fortress was built in the Philippines, and he has supervised engineer developments in many States. Because he was brought up in the white pine lumber region of Michigan, he says that his present job is somewhat reminiscent of his boyhood surroundings.
    General O'Connor was born at West Bay City, Mich., on July 19, 1885. His father, who was engaged in the operation of logging railroads, moved to Seney, Mich., when James was 5. He attended school there. He went to the University of Michigan and latter to Notre Dame with the intention of becoming a lawyer, but abandoned the bar when Congressman Sheldon of Ishpeming, nominated him for the United States Military Academy.
    O'Connor attended West Point from 1903 until 1907. After receiving his commission, he began to see service in far-flung lands. He was in Cuba in 1909, in Hawaii in 1912 and then came back to continental United States to study at the Engineer's School at Washington Barracks. In the years before the first World War, he had a part in the construction of such historic projects as the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington Memorial in the nation's capital.
    In 1917 O'Connor was with the 9th Engineers Mounted at El Paso, Tex. He saw duty overseas in France in 1918 and 1919 with the 39th and --- Divisions, and was back at Engineers' School in 1920. During the next two years he fought Mississippi River floods from the district engineer's office at Vicksburg, Miss., and many men and women along "ol' Man River" still remember O'Connor's efforts to keep the rampaging waterway from their homes.
    From 1923 until 1926 O'Connor was with the United States Army Engineers in Washington, D. C. He helped construct the city's present water-supply system and outlined a new aqueduct to tap the Potomac River. Before Congressional committees he presented the study for hydroelectric development of the Potomac drafted by a staff under General Max C. Tyler.
    From 1927 until 1931, O'Connor was an instructor at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He crossed the Pacific to the Philippines in 1931 and for nearly three years supervised the drilling of a million cubic feet of tunnels in Corregidor's shaggy rocks. These tunnels a decade later were to be the refuge for thousands of hard-pressed and out-numbered American soldiers.
    From 1934 until 1937 O'Connor was with the Army Engineers at Buffalo, N. Y., where he reviewed the studies for the much-discussed St. Lawrence seaway undertaking. He was associated with an engineering district which included the American shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River system.
    From 1937 until 1940 O'Connor was at Fort Belvoir, Va, where our Army Engineers are now trained, as regimental commander and later commandant. He crossed the continent in 1940 to be engineering officer for the Western Defence Command, with headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco and at Monterey, Calif. During this period he became well known along the Pacific Seaboard.
    Early in 1942 O'Connor received the assignment which led to his present duties. He took charge of the southern sector of the Alaskan Highway, the sector which stretches northward along the British Columbia-Alberta border in western Canada, and then bends westward across the mountains toward the Yukon Territory and Alaska. It was a wilderness assignment and O'Connor lived in tents and ate field rations with his toiling troops.
    As commanding officer of the Northwest Service Command, General O'Connor has been placed in charge of all American undertakings in British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. He also is in charge of the White Pass and Yukon Railway, which crosses the Coastal Range from Skagway, Alaska, and the Alaskan Highway, which connects interior North America with Fairbanks in the heart of Alaska. With respect to domain and area, this is one of the largest Service Commands.
    The Northwest Service Command was formally set up in September, shortly after a trip to the region by Lieutenant General Brehon Somervell, chief of the Army Service of Supply. At that time General Somervell conferred extensively with General O'Connor and other officers on the scene.


  • this article is reprinted as it was originally published, with even spelling errors such as "O'Connar" in the first paragraph left intact

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