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340th Engineers, U.S. Army on the Alaska Highway

    The following history has been copied from "Lower Post or Freeze: 340th Engineer Regiment on the Alaska Military Highway, 1942-1943". This book was published in 1944 for members of the regiment only, and no copies were ever offered for sale, even to family members.

340th Regiment members - a complete list, by company, with photos.

    The 340TH ENGINEER GENERAL SERVICE REGIMENT was activated at Vancouver Barracks, Vancouver, Wash., March 5, 1942. The nucleus was a cadre of seven officers and seventy-two enlisted men from the 18th Engineer Combat Regiment, who arrived on March 9. A cadre of 62 enlisted men from Fort Francis E. Warren also arrived on March 9. The remainder of the officers and men came from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, during the latter part of March and the first part of April.

    The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel F. Russel Lyons, arrived on March 27, 1942. Prior to that time the regiment was commanded by Captain John B. W. Corey, and later by Major Reinder F. Schilsky.

    The short period at Vancouver Barracks was spent in obtaining supplies and preparing for an overseas movement.

    On the night of April 18, 1942, 35 officers and 883 enlisted men entrained for Seattle, Wash., and thence aboard the USS St. Mihiel to Skagway, Alaska, that famous boom town of '98, arriving there April 22. On April 23, the remainder of the regiment - 10 officers and 343 enlisted men - entrained for Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, and thence aboard the SS Prince George to Skagway, arriving on April 25.

    The ghost town of Skagway was the home of the regiment for nearly a month. Additional supplies and equipment were obtained and distributed. Much work was done, improving sidewalks, streets, and general appearance of the town, and the condition of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, a narrow gauge line running from Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. The men had their first taste of road building while at Skagway, working on the road to Dyea. It was during this period that the attack on Dutch Harbor and Kiska was perpetrated by the Japanese, and the regiment spent a memorable night on the alert organizing the defense of the town and important harbor of Skagway.

    The Signal Detachment assigned to the regiment arrived May 18, 1942. It consisted of 15 enlisted men.

    Finally, on May 22, the regiment started its move toward the designated section of the Alcan Highway. The vehicles and supplies were moved by railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse, along the historic route of the gold rush days, "The Trail of '98"; thence by steamboat, the old stern-wheeler type, pushing barges loaded with equipment down the Lewes River into Lake Le Barge, then up the Teslin River to Lake Teslin and Morley Bay. To facilitate this movement of supplies, Company F was split into three platoons, one at Morley Bay, one at Whitehorse, and the other at Skagway. Company D and H & S were moved along this same route while the rest of the regiment went by rail as as far as Carcross, a little Indian town along the railroad, thence overland by foot to Johnson's Crossing on Teslin Lake where they were picked up by barge and taken the rest of the distance to Morley Bay. This overland march of 75 miles was a difficult task and a grueling effort, through deep and soggy swamps, only part of which were marked by any trails.

    By June 18, the regiment, less 1 platoon at Whitehorse and 1 platoon at Skagway, was at Morley Bay. Work was commenced immediately, but proceeded rather slowly at first, due to lack of equipment - especially D-8 tractors. The work gathered momentum as it progressed, however, and by the first of September the original goal of Lower Post had been reached. Though it took nearly a month to build the first ten miles of the Highway, in the next two months 210 miles were constructed. It was near the end of the first month that the motto - "Lower Post or Bust" - was revised by popular repetition to "Lower Post or Freeze." This phase of our mission was completed in record time with the 1st Battalion smashing through a "tote road" while the 2nd Battalion followed, constructing the finished road. Continuing south, the regiment met the 35th Engineer Regiment, working toward us, at Contact Creek, a distance of 220 miles from Morley Bay.

    We then started working back toward Whitehorse, maintaining and improving the road, constructing permanent bridges at the Liard River, Nisutlin Bay, and Tagish Crossing, and building rest camps at Rancheria River, Swift River, Morley River, and Brook's Brook. It was also during this period that the Fairbanks Freight trucks began to roll, and overnight every man became a truck driver. Then too, the Robinson Mine project was started in the area between Carcross and Whitehorse, but the coal mined turned out to be carbonaceous shale, so the project was abandoned. Another venture about that time was the Company E sojourn on the Norman Wells road. They took over the job after the 93rd Engineers were pretty well bogged down. Most of the work consisted of reconnaissance and freeing mired equipment.

    The extremely cold weather set in early in December and from then on it was seldom above zero, with week-long periods when the temperature would range between fifty and seventy-two below zero. Most of the companies were forced to make long moves during this extreme cold.

    On January 25, 1943, Colonel Lyons was transferred to assume command of the Whitehorse Sector, and Major Corey assumed command of the regiment. In February, 1943, a cadre of 4 officers and 95 enlisted men was sent to Fort Lewis, Wash. These men went into new combat battalions.

    About this time, the regiment was spread widely, with platoons scattered from Judas Creek to Big Delta, a distance of about 600 miles. The work consisted of maintaining all the stream and river crossings between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, and driving Fairbanks Freight trucks. With the ice conditions that existed, the task was no easy one. During and after the Spring break-up, the 1st Battalion continued its stream crossing work and also repaired the road itself. In June and July, when the bottom literally fell out of a section of highway south of the Alaskan border, Companies B and C pooled their meager resources and began the difficult task of reopening the road. During this period the companies were partly or wholly isolated, some being supplied by air and others not accessible by any means.

    The 2nd Battalion started work on the Haines Road in March. Company D moved out first and, taking advantage of the frozen ground conditions, penetrated well into the wilderness so as to be able to commence work as soon as the thaw set in. This company was then entirely cut off for about three months when the thaw practically obliterated the road in a sea of mud. Meanwhile Companies E and F worked forward in order to open the road to Company D. In spite of the lack of equipment, long swamp areas, and a road that, due to the thaw, was impassable for even the big tractors in some places, the 2nd Battalion met the civilian contractors working north from Haines on the first of August. The Battalion had built 75 miles of road - another task completed against overwhelming odds.

    At this time the regiment was alerted for movement back to the States, and the 2nd Battalion, Company A, and H & S Company moved into Whitehorse. Moving Companies B and C was a different problem, since the road was still closed. The movement was accomplished by air transport and for the first time since leaving Skagway, the regiment was together in one camp. The next phase of the journey was back to Skagway by rail, then by boat to Prince Rupert, thence by rail to Camp Sutton, North Carolina, arriving September 1.

    The excellence of the work performed by the unit was recognized several times in commendations and citations.

    On September 7, 1942, in congratulating the unit upon completion of the initial phase of our mission, Colonel Lyons said in part: "To date our record stands unsurpassed. The figures for the past 26 days are of interest. During the time, the regiment made 127 miles of road over most varied and difficult terrain, a daily rate of 4.9 miles."

    The regiment was also cited in War Department General Order No. 18 dated April 15, 1943, for "meritorious conduct in the construction of the Canadian-Alaskan Military Highway."

    The 2nd Battalion was also commended by Colonel Hayes, District Engineer, Skagway, Alaska, for its superior work on the Haines Road.

    It may be safely said that all the work assigned to the 340th Engineer General Service Regiment has been accomplished in a manner to warrant a commendation. The spirit of the men is well exemplified in the words of Colonel Lyons: "I am sure that all assigned missions in the future will be accomplished with the same intelligence, dash, vigor, and enthusiasm. These are the characteristics of the youth of our nation which will carry us on to ultimate victory and the establishment of a better world order in which to live in harmony and peace with our neighbors."