Warplanes to Alaska


256 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88839-401-2
DDC 940.54'43798




Reviewed by Cameron Pulsifer

Cameron Pulsifer is a historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.


The shipment of war material from the American “arsenal of
democracy” to its overseas allies constitutes a critical component of
the Allied victory over the Axis powers in World War II. Published
accounts of this vital outpouring of weapons, vehicles, aircraft, and
other provisions have for the most part concentrated on transatlantic
supply routes. This book focuses on another significant artery of
supply. Between August 1942 and August 1945, a continual stream of
aircraft traveled from a base in the northern United States up through
western Canada to Alaska, and from thence across Siberia to the
Soviet–German warfront. The route was known to Canadians as the
northwest staging route and to Americans as the northwest ferry route;
close to 8000 aircraft were delivered along its arduous course before
the supply was abruptly terminated at the war’s end. Warplanes to
Alaska tells the story of this largely unheralded (mostly American, but
to some extent Canadian) accomplishment.

Smith is an aviation enthusiast and amateur historian. His book,
clearly a labor of love, is based on extensive interviews with American,
Canadian, and Russian personnel who either flew or worked along the
route. It also contains a large number of photographs, most not seen
before (a feast for fans of the P–39 Airacobra). Unfortunately, the
book is poorly organized and cluttered with diversions into irrelevant
topics such as Japanese balloon bombs.

Smith’s primary concern is with the exploits of those who flew the
route, rather than with larger political–strategic considerations. His
book will thus be of primary interest to aviation enthusiasts and, to a
lesser extent, local historians of the Canadian and American North.


Smith, Blake W., “Warplanes to Alaska,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3141.