Writer recalls time in Alaska after reading column


To the editor:

I read with interest Carl Hendrickson’s column in the July 22 St. Louis Call. His Healthy Living segment was titled “My great adventure by sea and train.”

Similar to his account, I joined the U.S. Army in February 1960, trained at Fort Leonard Wood and posted to Alaska in July of that year.

We were flown from Fort Leonard Wood, stopped to refuel at El Paso, Texas, and landed in Oakland, California. Then the ship, SS Breckenridge, left Oakland Army terminal. The Breckenridge however did not take the inside passage, rather the open sea and we experienced a couple of rough days. We did see whales (Wife and I, with several friends went to Alaska on a cruise in 1996, and that time we took the inside passage). Those of us destined for Alaska departed the ship at the Port of Whittier. The remainder went on to Korea. 

From Whittier we went by train to Anchorage, then short drive by car to Fort Richardson. I was assigned to the 521st Transportation Company as a truck driver. The company has since been deactivated.

I was able to see much of Alaska and some of Canada driving a truck. Alaska was pretty wild at that time, having just become a state in 1959. This was supposed to be a 24-month assignment, however Russia built the Berlin Wall in 1961, and all military personnel were extended. 

I was relieved from active duty in December 1962. A good friend and myself flew from Elmendorf AFB (near Anchorage) top Fairchild AFB near Spokane, WA. Next we took Great Northern Railway train from Spokane to Chicago and then either the BM&O to Union Station in St. Louis. At that time passenger trains still came into Union Station. Quite an experience for a farm boy who had never been further from Missouri than Tennessee. 

I enjoy his articles. This one recalled some memories.

Norman Miller