Brooks Range
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Foxholes for Fighting Planes
Small Web version of WWII interpretive panel installed at Campbell Tract trailhead(The following text appears on one of four interpretive panels on the Campbell Tract trail system to acquaint visitors with the area's history.)
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, heavy construction equipment plowed through the northern forest to prepare Anchorage for war. Birch and spruce trees toppled and were pushed aside to enlarge Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Field and to build four satellite airstrips. One of those strips was Campbell Airstrip at Campbell Garrison at the foot of the Chugach Mountains. Similar satellite strips were built at Birchwood, Willow and Goose Bay.
The remote airstrips were built to disperse and shelter aircraft from enemy aerial attack. At Pearl Harbor the United States learned harsh lessons when Japanese pilots easily strafed or bombed planes parked in neat rows.
Now hidden among 50-year-old birch trees, wide piles of gravel arc around parking aprons that protected fighters and bombers from attackers that never arrived. That wartime construction, nearly forgotten now, was just a brief disturbance in the life of this forest.
Today, Campbell Airstrip is maintained for Bureau of Land Management field operations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency stockpiles supplies here to be flown around Alaska when necessary. Should disaster disable Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport or any of the city’s other airfields, this airstrip could serve as an alternate.
  • Photo captions and credits:
    • Pilots survived brutal weather and hostile geography to fight the Japanese. (3rd Wing History Office, Elmendorf AFB)
    • Campbell Creek Garrison cook reclining on part of a taxiway (F. Robert Grant)
    • Heavy equipment clearing land for Campbell Airstrip (Corps of Engineers)
    • North American B-25 "Mitchell" bombers attacked Japanese positions on Attu & Kiska. (Army Air Corps)
    • Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber (Army Air Corps)
    • Douglas C-47 "Skytrain" transport (Army Air Corps)
    • Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" bomber (Army Air Corps)
    • Lockheed P-38 "Lighting" fighter (Army Air Corps)
    • Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk" fighter (Army Air Corps)
    • Bell P-39 "Airacobra" fighter (Army Air Corps)
    • Aircraft identification silhouettes used to identify Allied planes
    • A variety of American and Canadian fighters and bombers used Campbell Airstrip during the Aleutian Campaign.
    • Background aerial photo: Campbell Airstrip, August 1950, showing adjacent parking aprons, taxiways, and surrounding forest (Aeromap U.S.)
    • Sailors at NAS Ford Island watch the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor. (National Archives)

Download 11x17" version of panel in JPEG format (2.26 MB)

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