HISTORY OF THE ARMY'S ASSISTANCE & OPERATION
OF THE ALASKA RAILROAD DURING WORLD WAR II
Due to loss of personnel to the Armed Forces and to the construction industry in Alaska and elsewhere, and also due to the general run-down condition of The Alaska Railroad during the early stages of World War II, it became apparent that some outside assistance would be necessary in order for the Railroad to perform its mission of transporting military supplies. A survey of the situation was made by representatives of the Office of Chief of Transportation during the midsummer of 1942, The result was that a railway operating battalion was designated to be assigned to The Alaska Railroad beginning in l943,
An operating battalion training on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad, the 714th Operating Battalion, was the unit selected. Since the battalion was organized to operate a railroad division of approximately 150 miles, and since The Alaska Railroad was more than three times that length the battalion was augmented by three additional platoons for "A" Company, each of 87 men, The battalion departed from Camp Clayborne, Louisiana, on March 14, 1943, and moved on to the Railroad April 3, 1943. The unit was commanded by Lt. Col. Herbert S Huron, who, a short time later, was rotated and succeeded by Lt. Col. W Hastedt.
The 714th ROB was on the property for more than twenty-five months, augmenting the civilian personnel of The Alaska Railroad in all departments, The unit was relieved of responsibility of the operation of the Railroad on May 7, 1945, and departed for the United States on May 10 1945.
Very little difficulty was experienced in integrating the members of this unit with the Railroad employees, who throughout the twenty-five months period, worked side by side. It was not uncommon for an engine crew to consist of one civilian employee and one enlisted man. The whole-hearted cooperation of the Commanding Officer and all of his men with the Railroad was a tribute to the Military and the classic example of the type of close cooperation that has existed since the inception of The Alaska Railroad
The rehabilitation program on The Alaska Railroad starting in 1946 was justified principally on the basis that adequate rail transportation facilities should be available to the Military and their day-today operation and also in case of a national emergency. Many of our shop facilities, our trackage, equipment rolling stock, and operating plant in general, is geared to serve the Military efficiently and without delay at their highest peak anticipated under was conditions. To maintain a facility of this size and to have a first-class Railroad available for the support of the Military in the theatre, and for the support of the Armed Forces in an emergency, the Military traffic enjoyed by the Railroad is not only very welcome--but in our over-all plans is absolutely essential to maintain our standards.
We look forward to many years of harmonious relationships and close cooperation in carrying out our individual responsibilities and to maintain an adequate defense for the Territory of Alaska.