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Exercise Sweetbriar and A.P.O. 949

The Only Post-World War II
United States Army Post Office in the Yukon

Arctic & Northern Military History and Issues

    This page has been built from a Powerpoint created for a Northern Canada Study Group Presentation at BNAPEX 2005 (British North America Philatelic Society) in Edmonton, AB, by Kevin O'Reilly of Yellowknife, NT. It is presented here with permission.


    The Alaska Highway was built during World War II by US military forces and civilian contractors. During that period, several US A.P.O.s (Army Post Offices) operated in the Yukon Territory, including:

  • 475 Watson Lake
  • 702 and 702-1 Whitehorse
  • 918 Watson Lake and Brooks Brook
  • 931 Kluane Lake
  • 933 Squanga Lake and Carcross
  • 934 Whitehorse and Destruction Bay
  • 996 Watson Lake

Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

Background on Exercise Sweetbriar

  • concern with threat from Soviet Union during Cold War.

  • winter exercises in 1948 did not proceed due to Berlin Airlift.

  • planning for new military exercise in the North began in November 1948, known as NORTH STAR, then CROSSINDEX, and finally SWEETBRIAR.

  • involved 5265 personnel from US 5th Army, Alaskan Command, US Air Force, Canadian Army and RCAF.

  • "Aggressor" force captured Fairbanks and preparing to move south along Alaska Highway, "Allied" forces to intercept and retake Northway Airport.

  • US troops mainly from Camp Carson, Colorado, Canadian troops from Wainwright, Alberta.

  • August 1949 advance Service Support Unit established permanent headquarters at Camp McCrae, 8 miles south of Whitehorse at an old highway camp.

  • Exercise took place from February 13-23, 1950.

  • Evacuation of troops occurred in March 1950.

  • Camp McCrae closed on March 24, 1950.

Camp McCrae, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

Camp McCrae, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950
Map of Camp McCrae (APO 949 likely at HQ SSU)

    Prior to and after Exercise, and for those at points distant from Camp McCrae, use of the Canadian postal service was authorized, as seen with the envelope below. The letter that was in that envelope is also shown below.

Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1949

Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1949

A.P.O. 949 and Postal Service

  • Army Post Office 949 operated as a branch of the Seattle Post Office from October 25, 1949 to March 8, 1950.

  • Capt. Ira W. S. Lawrence led the four-person Army Postal Unit (Captain, Postal Officer; Master Sgt. Postal Specialist; Sgt. 1st Class, Postal Specialist; Sgt. Postal Specialist), had telephone service at A.P.O.

  • "the maintenance of qualified postal personnel was a problem."

  • average transit time for regular mail to the south was 8 days, 4 days for airmail.

  • during Exercise, mail forwarded daily by couriers from the 229th Signal Operations Company.

  • incoming/outgoing mail to A.P.O. 949 handled through:
    - Canadian Pacific Airways (six times per week)
    - Pan-American Airways (four times per week)
    - Military Air Transport Service (two times per week)
    - Whitehorse post office (twice per month, incoming only)

Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1949
The last recorded cover from APO 949 - February 10, 1950.

    Mail dispatched via Canadian Pacific Airways at 2000 hours required Canadian postage, as seen on the cover below.

APO 949, Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

    Mail dispatched via Pan-American Airways and Military Air Transport Service prior to 1300 hours daily required US postage, as seen on the cover below.

APO 949, Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

  • Propaganda leaflets were mailed to US troops as part of the Exercise through Whitehorse post office.

  • Canadian postal revenues reported as $161.05 for A.P.O. 949 as a non-accounting office (dates of operation Nov. 1, 1949-Mar. 10, 1950).

  • Canadian personnel appear to have received their mail through the civilian Whitehorse post office.

APO 949, Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950
Cover sent by a returning soldier through the Whitehorse post office on March 13, 1950, after APO 949 closed. Note return address as Camp Carson, Colorado.

  • Canadian postal marking appears to have been used (recorded use Feb. 3 and Feb. 10, 1950)

APO 949, Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

  • US postal marking appear to have been used (recorded use Feb. 9, 1950)

APO 949, Whitehorse, Exercise Sweetbriar, 1950

Future Research

  • Are there any US military records on A.P.O. 949?

  • What other Canadian and US markings were used at A.P.O. 949? (there should be a Canadian registration box, US double circle marking, etc.)

  • Are there examples of other mail to/from Canadian personnel and to troops stationed outside of Whitehorse?

For further information, please contact:
Kevin O'Reilly,
P.O. Box 444,
Yellowknife NT X1A 2N3 Canada
Email: kor @ theedge.ca (remove spaces, of course)