Tag Archives: WWII

The Original: “Blue Canoe”

The MV Chilkat at dock in Ketchikan, Alaska

In 1948, what would become the Alaska Marine Highway System, started out as a ferry service between Haines and Juneau with a surplus WWII landing craft, which was dubbed The Chilkoot. Demand quickly outpaced what the 14 vehicle Chilkoot could provide, so the territorial government commissioned the building of a dedicated ferry at the cost of $300,000.

The MV Chilkat came on line in 1957, as the first ferry in the new Alaska Marine Highway System. Painted blue and gold, the ferries soon took on the nickname Alaska’s “blue canoes”.

The Chilkat was “the Queen of the Fleet”, and traveled the Lynn Canal daily, between Haines, Skagway and Juneau. Later, it would ply the waters between Ketchikan and Annette Island. The Chilkat carried 59 passengers and 15 vehicles, and was a workhorse in Southeast Alaska until 1988.

The decommissioned Chilkat in Fanny Bay, British Columbia, circa 2012

The Chilkat became a scallop tender in 1988, when the State sold her.

The Chilkat breaking loose from her moorings; Photo credit: KTOO

High winds hit Anacortes, Washington on January 13, where the Chilkat was docked. She broke loose from her moorings in gusts of 50 knots, shifted awkwardly, and sank within minutes. Three boats broke free during the storm, but only the 99 foot former ferry sank.

Since the Chilkat had been taken out of service, she had no fuel or oil in her system. The owner of the boatyard says the Chilkat will be eventually be raised from the sea bed.



Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument

The Milwaukee Road

Chicago – Milwaukee – Saint Paul

1847 – 1986

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I had not heard the term Milwaukee Road in years.  I came across a plaque honoring the rail line when I was looking around Union Station in Chicago.

The railroad started in 1847 as the Milwaukee & Waukesha.  At the time, rail was needed between Milwaukee and the Mississippi River.  Changes came and went, the railroad went into receivership in 1859 and was purchased by another railroad and then combined with still another.  Out of the chaos emerged the Milwaukee and St Paul.  In 1874, the line absorbed the Chicago and Pacific Railroad Company.  The name changed once again to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul: The Milwaukee Road.

The passenger train was the Hiawatha.  My grandmother told me stories of riding the Hiawatha from St. Paul to Chicago.  It must have been quite the ride for the details flowed smoothly.

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Hiawatha’s “Beavertail”

By the mid 1930’s the Hiawatha added the famed “Beaver Tail” cars.  The streamlined observation cars were a hit, and earned their nickname from the rail car’s shape.

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Milwaukee Road plaque: Union Station, Chicago

Expansion would begin with the Olympian Hiawatha, which ran out to Puget Sound; the Midwest Hiawatha, which ran between Chicago & Omaha; and the Southwest Limited: Chicago-Milwaukee-Kansas City.

There was a burst of ridership after WWII, and the railroad came out of the bankruptcy caused by the Great Depression.  Unfortunately, like much of the railroad industry, hard times returned again.  Between 1971-1974, Milwaukee Road lost $100 million.  After downsizing, selling of track and assets, Milwaukee Road was finally bought by two competitors: Soo Line and C&NW.  By 1986, the Milwaukee Road was on the route to memories.

Today, much of the abandoned Milwaukee Road is now Rails to Trails.


ALSIB Air Route

Fim Friday:

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Alaska – Siberia Monument

Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, T-Max 100

 


Pioneer Air Museum

Fairbanks, Alaska

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Pioneer Air Museum

It had been several years since I ventured into the Air Museum at Pioneer Park.  Since they were experimenting with winter hours, I decided it was time to head back over there and see what was new.

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Under The Dome: Inside the Air Museum

The Pioneer Air Museum houses a fairly extensive collection of aircraft and other artifacts mainly pertaining to Interior Alaska and Arctic aviation.

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Ben Eielson Display

The first major display is on Ben Eielson, the famed aviator and Alaskan bush pilot.  Eielson learned to fly in WWI, with the U.S Army Signal Corps.  After the war, a chance run-in with Alaska’s territorial delegate to Congress, led to Eielson heading to Alaska to teach.  By 1923, Eielson had started the Farthest North Aviation Company.  Eielson was the first to fly air mail in Alaska, and the first to fly from North America over the North Pole to Europe.

In 1929, Eielson and his mechanic died in a plane crash in Siberia.  The cargo ship Nanuk was frozen in sea ice off North Cape, and Eielson was contracted by expedition leader Olaf Swenson to fly out personnel and furs.  The plane crashed in a storm, cruising at full throttle into the terrain.  A faulty altimeter is the suspected cause of the crash.  Parts of Eielson’s recovered aircraft is on display at the museum.

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1935 Stinson SR-JR

This bright red Stinson SR-JR, the Spirit of Barter Island, came to Alaska in 1940, and was flying the Interior out of Fairbanks in 1953 for Interior Airways.

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The Stinson in artwork

This SR-JR carries four passengers, has a  cruising speed of 110mph, and a range of 450 miles.  It was an Interior workhorse, and well known in the Fairbanks area.  The image, “I Follow Rivers”, can be found on t-shirts around Fairbanks to this day.

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Stinson V77: Peter Pan

The Stinson V77 is the Navy version of the SR-10 Reliant.  “Peter Pan” flew the Kuskokwim and Yukon River mail runs.  The Stinson Reliant was a favorite of bush pilots, as the aircraft was equally at ease landing on wheels, skis or floats.  In 1949, “Peter Pan” made the flight from Bethel, Alaska to Boston, Mass.  It is back in Alaska, on loan to the museum, from the bush pilot’s family.

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1943 P-39 Wreckage

The P-39 Airacobra was a common sight in Alaska’s Interior during WWII, as it was a mainstay of lend-lease aircraft to the Soviets.  This P-39 only made it to Fairbanks in pieces, as it was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft 60 miles east of Fairbanks.  Both pilots survived the crash.

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1942 ST Type Ryan PT-22

The PT-22 was used for flight training all over the globe.  Over 14,000 Air Corps pilots trained in the PT-22.  This particular PT-22 came to Fairbanks in 1956 after it was retired out of the military.

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The “Huey”

Manufactured by Bell Helicopter in 1966, this UH-1H “Huey”, saw combat in South Vietnam.  During a mission in 1969, this UH-1H was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while landing.  After the war, it came to Alaska, and was transferred around the Alaska Army bases, finally landing at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.  It was retired in 1993, and is on loan to the museum from the U.S. Army.  The “Huey” is still maintained by Army personnel.

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Thomas Ackerman photo

A visitor to the museum several years ago, recognized the Huey’s ID number as the one he flew during the Vietnam War.  Sgt Thomas Ackerman was a crew-chief and gunman on this UH-1H.  He supplied several photos of the Huey, during its time in Vietnam, to the museum, including the one above.  Thomas Ackerman died of Agent Orange related cancer in 2004.


Lend-Lease Monument

 

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Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, TMax100

The Lend-Lease Monument is located in Griffin Park, downtown Fairbanks, near Golden Heart Plaza, alongside the Chena River.

The Lend-Lease Act was originally passed in March 1941, with the Soviet Union being added to the program in October of the same year.  The Northwest Staging Route, from the mainland of the U.S. through Canada and into Alaska, was extended into the Soviet Union with the Alaska-Siberian Airway (ALSIB).

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Map of ALSIB; cell phone photo

Planes were ferried from locations like Buffalo, NY; Minneapolis, MN; St Louis, MO; and Oklahoma City, OK to Great Falls, MT.  Airfields were carved out of the wilderness from Montana through Canada and on to Ladd Field in Fairbanks.  Most airfields were built 100 miles apart, with the longest being between Fort Nelson, BC and Liard River, which was 140 miles.  The Alaska Highway would soon be completed linking the airfields together by road.

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Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, TMax100

The first Soviet pilots landed in Nome on 14 August 1942.  The Soviets took over the aircraft at either Ladd Field in Fairbanks or at Nome, then flew across the Bering Strait to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

Over 8000 aircraft flew through Ladd Field in Fairbanks on their way to the Soviet Union.  Between October 1941 and the end of May 1945 the U.S. provided the USSR with nearly a half-million vehicles other than aircraft, 2 million tons of gasoline and oil, and close to 4.5 million tons of food.  Of the 8000 aircraft, 133 were lost.  The average time to ferry an aircraft to the Soviet Union was 33 days.

Some of the aircraft ferried:

The Bell P-39 Airacobra, followed by the P-63 Kingcobra its successor, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and Rebublic P-47 Thunderbolt.  Bombers ferried included the Douglas A-20 Havoc and North American’s B-25 Mitchell.  Most of the transports ferried were the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.

“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation… it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

 

 

 


Air North

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Beechcraft Model 18

This Beechcraft Model 18 aircraft was manufactured in 1943, and used as a military trainer during the latter years of WWII.  After the war, it was bought by Air North for both cargo and passenger transport in Interior Alaska.  The aircraft is now on display outside the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks.

Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, Ektar 100


USS Croaker

Buffalo and Erie County Naval Military Park

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The USS Croaker, a Gato class submarine was launched on this date in 1943. The Croaker received three battle stars for its service during WWII. One of three ships I toured while in Buffalo, New York at the military park at Canalside.

Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, T-Max 100


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