- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska is commemorating 75 years since nearly 4,000 segregated black soldiers toiled in harsh weather and terrain to help build a highway across the state and Canada.

The soldiers worked on the 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) highway during World War II, a contribution largely ignored for decades.

It took the soldiers working from the north just over eight months to meet up with white soldiers coming from the south to connect the two segments on Oct. 25, 1942. The route set the foundation for the only land link to Alaska.

State lawmakers voted this year to set aside each Oct. 25 to honor the black soldiers who worked on the Alaska Highway. The anniversary has gained attention this summer with multiple Alaska events.

Leonard Larkins of Louisiana was among the black soldiers who helped build the route. The 96-year-old applauds lawmakers for finally recognizing their role.

Lawmakers note the soldiers’ work was a factor in the Army’s integration in 1948.

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