operations in the Arctic began in the 1940s and
continued into the early 1960s. The Army had two
main missions - one for research and testing and the
other for protection from an atomic threat from the
This photo shows a TC-18A International
crawler tractor climbing from lake to
portage. It was fully tracked and
designed for heavy hauling or
plates oscillated independently. The
tractor was powered by a 6-cylinder
diesel engine with a system for
converting to all-weather starting on
The Transportation Corps tested many different
vehicles - from tractors to rail cars.
operations covered many miles of ice,
from Alaska through Greenland.
Testing began in ports where Transportation Terminal
Units operated during World War II. Units stationed
in Churchill, Canada, and Thule, Greenland, examined
equipment and maintenance under harsh conditions.
the Ice Tunnel Chapel, located at the U.S.
Army Polar Research and Development Center,
Camp Tuto, Greenland. The chapel was first
used on May 27, 1962, when Chaplain
(Captain) Joseph V. Coshan said mass for a
tunnel was used for Army Research and Development
projects under supervision of the U.S. Army Cold
Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories and
the U.S. Army Engineering and Development
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE D.E.W. LINE
Transportation units were also actively supporting
the establishment and operation of the US and
Canadian Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line.
Quonset hut quarters
and bunks within.
Two members of the
early Transportation Arctic Group.
anniversary of the Transportation Corps,
shortest distance for enemy bombers to get into
America's industrial heart was across the Arctic
through central Canada. Because of this threat, a
radar system was built across Alaska, Canada,
Newfoundland, Labrador, Baffin Islands and
This was the largest and longest lasting
Arctic program. The 373rd Transportation
Port Command supported the operations in the
eastern section. Later re-designated as the
7278th Transportation Terminal Command, the
men lived aboard their vessels, moving from
place to place, and unloaded cargo across
partially ice-bound beaches with LCUs and
OPERATION BLUE JAY – 1951
first over-the-beach operation in the Arctic was in
1951 with Operation Blue Jay. Over 1/2 million tons
of cargo were carried over the rugged beaches
without benefit of port facilities.
supply line had many obstacles, the largest being
that the Arctic coast was free of ice for only a few
weeks in late summer which allowed ships to get in
close enough to unload onto landing craft. Even
then, 'icebreaker' ships were often used to break up
the icebergs. Preparation and planning for supplies
a year in advance was critical.
Craft, Mechanized) approaching the beach
of Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island, 1958.
were two major ports of embarkation for the DEW Line
- Seattle and Hampton Roads, with the latter
supplying the area in Canada and the Baffin Islands.
1959 alone, over 40 vessels (Coast Guard, NSTS and
US Navy) moved 177,000 tons of dry cargo plus
another 2,135,000 barrels of petroleum into the
OPERATION TOP DOG – 1959
early 1959, a four-man expedition called Operation
Top Dog conducted a study covering 150 miles from
Thule Air Base up the northwest coast of Greenland.
a polar sea and ice navigation study conducted by
the US Army Transportation Environmental Operations
Group, headquartered at Fort Eustis, VA.
being indoctrinated in Arctic survival, they ran
tests such as thickness, physical and chemical
properties of the ice, and tensile strength. The
H-19 helicopter was used to fly in supplies to the
group each day.
OPERATION LEAD DOG – 1960
Operation Lead Dog, a continuation of Operation Top
Dog, expanded to a 41-man team along the upper edge
of Greenland and covered over 600 miles. Its
mission was to experiment with transportation
equipment, map a safe route to the northernmost part
of the world, and conduct weather studies.
tested surface conditions on the ice cap, some of
which were up to 19,000 feet deep. They also tested
for movement of the ice caps and took radiation
team was supplied by H-19 Chickasaw helicopters,
which also carried scientists to various locations
explorers also used the 1/4 tracked Weasel as a
scouting tool; it was small, compact and easy to
transport. Its 20-inch tracks gave it low ground
pressure which made crossing mud, sand, marsh and
The ladder descending into Crevasse
at mile 8.5 on the Greenland Icecap.
Crevasses were usually hidden and had to
be blown up in order to provide a safe
route for the vehicles.
SUPPORTING THE D.E.W.
BARC (Barge, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) had its
first operational mission in the Arctic. It was
tested at Frobisher Bay in the Baffin Islands in
1956 and proved successful by carrying 60 tons from
ship to shore.
tractor from a BARC at Saglek Bay
1956, the BARC worked the beaches at Sondrestom Air
Base, Greenland, and four others were used at Thule,
Greenland in 1958, moving over 4,000 tons of cargo.
Supplies were moved further inland by truck and air.
North Star Bay on
the road to Thule Air Base, 1952.
Transportation Corps continued supporting the Arctic
into the mid 1960s under the acronym SUNEC, Support
of the North-East Command.