A 1952 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that the US and Canada were vulnerable to Soviet aerial bombing from the north. The solution was to build a network of search radar stations in the Arctic part of Alaska and Canada. They called it the Distant Early Warning, or DEW line. The line stretched for over 6,200 miles, with 63 different stations. Here's an example of one built in Greenland:
Building and supplying the stations was an extraordinary task, involving about 25,000 people and 460,000 tons of material moved to the Arctic by bush planes, barges, snow cats, and cargo turboprops. And specially-built giant Mack trucks.
This film, from Mack Trucks in 1956, shows the DEW line supply convoy of 11 trucks hauling concrete and steel to the Arctic. The trucks' 5-foot tall tires were turned by 600HP diesel engines that needed hot air machines to start in the 50-below weather. The trucks ran nonstop. Men worked 12-hour shifts, inching through the Arctic behind bulldozers building trail, and sleeping in bunks hauled on the trucks. The video says: "There's no second-guessing, no quitting. Men depended on men, and machines."
Most of the stations were abandoned in the 1980s, replaced by more modern technology. Watching this video as I sit by my toasty woodstove fire tonight, it's hard to believe that sixty years has passed since this convoy rolled to the Arctic. At the time, perhaps convoying the Arctic to supply the DEW line was just normal work to be done.
Today, it's obvious that the trucks and the men had one thing in common: they don't make 'em like they used to.