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   Chapter 18 ALASKA AND THE WAR

The Land of Tomorrow By William B. Stephenson Characters: 7242

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


A WIRELESS message flashed the news to Alaska that our country had entered the war. The effect was the usual one,-the one to which we in Alaska have become accustomed. It aroused a patriotism which was both ideal and practical. It is said that the man who went farthest to serve his colors was a man from Iditarod. A man with his dog team drove by his dwelling and told him the news. Like Israel Putnam of Revolutionary fame who left his team standing in the field where he was ploughing and went to join the Minute Men, so this man laid aside his work and journeyed a thousand miles on a dog sled to enlist!

Every line of industrial, engineering, mining, agricultural and fishing activity immediately was speeded to the top notch of energy and production. The coal output increased from fifty thousand to a hundred thousand tons. Fish food products jumped from twenty to forty-two million dollars. There was an increase of twenty-two million pounds of canned salmon shipped to the United States over the output of 1917.

The people of Alaska are hardy. They are patriotic. They are energetic and practical. They understand fully what war means. They know that although far removed from the scene of activity they are called upon to help win the war just as much as if they were fighting in the trenches. They know that the greatest good they can do their country is to feed her fighting men. So they went about it in a business-like manner. The result is that theirs is a practical, organized patriotic co?peration. Many of the pioneer gold seekers are now transformed into farmers. The potato crop for this year is two thousand tons,-only one item, but a significant one.

The Alaskan women, as always, came straight to the front. With that practical knowledge born of residence in such a country as Alaska they eliminated the sentimental and went to work at those things which America asks and expects of her women. Mrs. Thomas J. Donahoe, of Valdez, who is also President of the Federation of Women's Clubs, was appointed Chairman of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense, and the Red Cross is represented and practically managed in almost every locality in the territory. When the first Liberty Loan was floated the response of Alaska was instant and generous and the same is true of the succeeding loans.

In connection with the part Alaska is playing in the great struggle I revert once more to the subject of the dogs. Our hearts were touched when we learned that they, too, had been awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Government, the Cross having been sent to Mrs. Esther Birdsall Darling who owned and sold many of them to France. "Scotty" Allen took them over and left them there to do their "bit."

It was a French Reserve Officer, a mining engineer, Lieutenant René Haas, who first called the attention of the French Government to the services which could be rendered by the dogs. Mrs. Darling, good patriot that she is and ever ready to promote the cause of the Allies, promptly offered the best that the Darling-Allen kennels afforded. Lieutenant Haas was commissioned to select them. He chose twenty-five of the youngest, swiftest and best bred of these kennels. Then, supported enthusiastically by Captain Moufflet, who also knew the possibilities of the Alaskan dog service, the interest of their superior officers was aroused and Lieutenant Haas was ordered to go to Nome, there to select and purchase a hundred or more suitable for duty in the Vosges. "Scotty" Allen was persuaded to go to France with the dog contingent and the number was augmented by others from

Canada and Labrador. When he and Lieutenant Haas sailed they had four hundred and fifty splendid dogs with them,-half a regiment! All were successfully delivered at the front where they have rendered distinguished and valuable service.

He would indeed be dead to emotion who could read the report which came with the Croix de Guerre and which was sent from headquarters on the French frontier to far-away Alaska. We all knew that the dogs would meet emergencies boldly, no matter what the circumstances, the conditions or the weather. One specific incident which will be a part of Alaska's written history when the war is over serves to emphasize and justify our faith in them.

From a lonely post out on the frontier in the French Alps came to headquarters a most urgent call for help. They were out of ammunition and the situation was most critical. True to their reputation for valor the French were holding the post, fighting against heavy odds, each man saying in his heart the little sentence which has become the slogan of the French army and the prayer of every man, woman and child in France,-"They shall not pass!" To hold the post longer, however, meant that ammunition must be forthcoming at once. A terrific blizzard was in progress. The trails were dangerous, almost obliterated in places. Trucks and horses were of no avail. But there were the dogs,-Alaska's heroes. To them France turned in her emergency. The sleds were quickly loaded. The Malamuts fell to harness instantly on command. Lieutenant Haas was ready for his perilous journey. A crack of the whip, an encouraging shout to the dogs and they were off. For four days and four nights they kept their steady gait. Up and down precipitous mountain-sides, over treacherous trails and across the snow-buried expanse, most of the time under shell fire from the enemy, they went quietly, steadily on. Lieutenant Haas acknowledged that the dogs seemed to realize quite as clearly as he did himself the necessity of haste and a cool head, that they had in their eyes the "do-or-die" look which he had so often seen in the eyes of his men. And every one who knows anything about them knows how much victory means to a Malamut.

On the morning of the fifth day, just at dawn, they reached the post,-one more instance of a dramatic arrival in the nick of time. The ammunition was now completely exhausted. One needs not a vivid imagination to hear in fancy the ringing cheers which greeted them. A pronounced trait of the Alaskan dog is glory in victory, mourning in defeat. This has been observed many times in the races,-the downcast, dejected air of the dogs that fail, the brisk and happy attitude of those that win. So in this instance, the cheers and the Cross were but episodes. The victory was the thing!

The French Government acknowledges that the dogs are quite as valuable as any other branch of the service and those that made this hard and perilous trip are to be painted and hung in the War Museum in Paris.

Mrs. Darling and "Scotty" are and have every reason to be proud of their dogs. In the din of battle and the precariousness of life on the frontier they doubtless miss their owners' kindness and attention. But the sympathies of the latter go with them wherever they go. Lieutenant Haas declares that these dogs have a "college education" and can be trusted to do their work intelligently and fearlessly. When the time comes for the history of the Great World War to be written, may the deeds of the dogs of Nome who played no less courageous and conspicuous a part than did her men be fittingly inscribed therein!

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