Arts Literature

Book Feature: A Different Race: World War II, the Alaska Highway, Racism, and a Court-Martial

Christine and Dennis McClure, Authors

Christine and Dennis McClure were on a publicity tour in 2017 for their book We Fought the Road when they learned of the segregated 97th Engineering Regiment that built the northernmost end of the Alaska Highway—crucial to national defense—at snow-covered Valdez. The authors followed that route just as the soldiers had in 1942. “We stopped wherever somebody with useful memories might be willing to talk to us and we learned a great deal about how poorly the Army treated the men in that regiment,” says Dennis.

Like their previous book, A Different Race involved much research, notably uncovering records about a court-martial for mutiny. “We found a complete record of the investigation and court-martial and, reading it, we realized that this was the most egregiously racist event in the history of the project,” says Dennis.

The McClures are encouraged by belated efforts in Alaska to recognize the men who worked on the road, very few of whom are still living. In 2017, a state holiday was established to honor the black soldiers, and one, Leonard Larkins, interviewed for the book, visited Alaska, receiving the Key to the City of Delta Junction and recognition by soldiers at every military installation.

A Different Race: World War II, the Alaska Highway, Racism, and a Court-Martial, January, 2021, history, paperback $14.99, e-book $6.99, by Christine and Dennis McClure, and published by Little Lands End Publishing Company, LLP, Taylors, SC

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