By Brian Garfield
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Additional resources for Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians
On February 11, 1935, Mitchell had singled out Alaska as "the key point of the whole Pacific," and told the House Military Affairs Committee, "He who holds Alaska holds the world . . Alaska is the most strategic place in the world. It is the jumping-off place to smash Japan. " Fairbanks, center of Alaska, was within 4000 miles of London, Berlin, Moscow, and almost every other strategic northern capital. The shortest line between Tokyo and the United States — the Great Circle Route — crossed the Aleutians and Alaska.
The other is to bash in its head and put it out of business. That is what I favor. To DeWitt, July 17: Only two fields exist in Alaska from which bombers can take off with full loads. To Chief of Staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, July 24: In view of our present available strength, or perhaps I should say weakness, I would rather have one squadron of heavy bombers than a whole division of infantry. To DeWitt, September 4: We must have an air striking force now. To Marshall, November 28: Quick-drying cement does us very little good in speeding up construction unless some quick-drying ink is used on the approval of our plans.
The 36th Bombardment Squadron had no remaining aircraft of its own; its crews alternated half-day shifts in another squadron's planes, and clearly the few remaining B-18s would not last long if they had to stay in the air eighteen hours a day. Billy Wheeler wrote in the Squadron's unit diary: All patrols are flown to the maximum range of the B-18's. The weather is very bad, even for Alaska. . Icing conditions are always present and both men and ships suffer. The P-36 flying air-alert over Turnigan Arm iced up suddenly and spun out of control.