By Brian Garfield
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Extra resources for Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians
Buckner ("The Silver Stallion of Alaska," as he loved being dubbed) never seemed to be more than ten paces from anything. His trousers pressed to a razor edge, he was everywhere, bellowing in his paradeground voice, badgering civilian contractors to work their crews three shifts a day, seven days a week. When cement shipments sank en route, he told the contractors to use native stone. When shiploads of milled lumber did not arrive on time, he used his Army troops to cut down trees and handsaw them into planks.
The evacuation began in December and did not exclude Buckner's own family; his wife Adele and the two sons he adored went to San Francisco. 2 What caused greater controversy was the evacuation of Japanese-American residents. Hardly had the smoke dissipated over Pearl Harbor when the West Coast's Hearst press started a banner campaign against the "yellow peril"; it was not long before a full-blown witch hunt was under way. Under pressure from a vast Western public whipped up to the verge of panic, the President authorized the Secretary of War to "exclude" Japanese from military areas.
Taking up Buckner's battle cry, Alaskan civilians started to buy Defense Bonds for a new B-17 bomber to be called The Spirit of Alaska. Within four months they had surpassed every state in the Union by oversubscribing their War Bond quota by 300 percent. But it took a long time to build a Flying Fortress. *** Early in January the llth Pursuit Squadron's twenty-five P-40s, and the 77th Bombardment Squadron's thirteen B-26s left Sacramento for Spokane, on the first leg of an incredible voyage to Alaska.