My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Tuesday—Two days ago, a friend of mine, a young man who has served in the Oregon State Legislature, and who is now aide to General J. A. O'Connor, with headquarters at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, came to lunch with us. He is back in the United States for a short leave and he told me some very interesting things about the building of the Alaskan Highway.

He wrote the whole story for the Army newspaper "Yank," and I think parts of it have been reprinted in newspapers throughout the country. Perhaps many of them did not carry the picture, which I think is most striking. Two bulldozers meet in the Canadian forests, one driven by a Negro corporal from far-off Philadelphia, the other by a private, a white boy from Kennedy, Texas.

They stand on their machines shaking hands when the Alaskan Highway, which was built from two directions, meets. They typify the cooperation of the colored troops and the white troops, who have borne the same great hardships, have worked with the same enthusiasm, and who will continue to work in the same way until the road, which is now open for traffic, is really permanently finished.

This is a 1,630 mile highway. Inspector William Grennan, of the "Mounties," in the Yukon Territory, told Brigadier General O'Connor, head of the Northwest Service Command, which operates the Alcan Highway: "You have both explored and built."

There are many stories of the road, which are going to be told around campfires in the North Country for many years to come. One, for instance, is about Staff Sergeant James A. Price, of Baltimore, Maryland, who supervised the blasting of some of the cuts through Sikanni Mountain. When the ice floes were endangering a bridge, he managed to blast them away without damaging the structure of the bridge. There is the story of the colored boys, who stood waist high in icy waters, pounding in the piling, and who built a bridge in 84 hours which was scheduled to take two weeks.

It is not just the work, it is the loneliness and the difficulty of communication, for even their radios don't always work, which makes this particular assignment a test of the character of the men. We people at home have so much to be grateful for when we think of the many things, in great cold and great heat, which our men are doing all over the world. Things which mean for us and our children, a better world, but which may mean death for the men who have to accomplish them.

Rationing may be hard to master, but I guess it is up to us to master it. The OPA film "Point Rationing Of Food," ought to help considerably. We made a rule long ago here in the White House to simplify meals, to use as many non-rationed foods as possible, especially when we have guests. Even when we have many people, I hope we shall be able to have such simple things, that it will not give anyone the feeling that he is taking food away from people who need it.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 3, 1943

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.