|Written by Kenneth E. Lindley (son) and
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The Alcan Highway was opened to traffic in September, 1942, and Kennie and the rest of Company D were stationed from White Horse and to the south, along the highway, to keep the bridges and road open for winter supplies to Alaska.
Company D was back in Dawson Creek to build four spurs at the railhead and metal huts when, on February 13, 1943, a fire spread to an old livery barn in the center of town where thousands of miles of copper wire, kegs of nails and tools were stored, alongside cases of percussion caps and a truck load of dynamite. Company D fought the fire through the night and lost one of its men when an explosion blew him off the ladder on which he was standing. The explosions and fire nearly destroyed the entire town.
At the Peace River, nearly one-third of the bridge had to be replaced in unbearable and dangerous conditions with high wind and 65 degree below zero temperatures.
Arriving at the Liard River, the men of Company D set up a saw mill, cut timbers and replaced bridges in the area during spring thaw, which washed out the Liard River bridge. They maintained the road, keeping the road open to traffic moving supplies to the north.
Near Lower Post, British Columbia, at mile 627, Section K squad was building a loading platform for dump trucks when Kennie was injured by a truck running over and smashing his foot. He was taken to the Army Aid Station at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, to recuperate and was assigned to repair and paint a directional post that had been nearly destroyed by a bulldozer. Longingly thinking of home, he added a sign with his hometown to the post “Danville, Illinois 2835 miles.” Seeing this, his comrades began to add their own home towns, unwittingly starting a tradition and a tourist attraction known as the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake. Today, the Sign Post Forest has over 72,000 signs. A replica Sign Post Forest was constructed in Danville, Illinois, at East Harrison and North Vermillion and dedicated to Kennie’s memory in 2010.
Kennie was back at home on July 29, 1943, on a short furlough. Kennie and Elinor Edna Connelly were married during Kennie’s furlough, on August 13, 1943, in Urbana, Illinois. Some days after their marriage, he reported to Camp Sutton, North Carolina, for combat training. (We do not know the date of his departure or transportation mode.) He shipped out from Camp Sutton on October 21, 1943 on the USS Siboney. In his 1985 recount of the 341st Engineers war efforts in the European Theater, he said:
We disembarked at Cardiff, Wales, England, on November 2, 1943. The Regiment stationed its companies at different locations throughout southwest England where the men received additional training. They operated an “Assault Battle Range” at Slapton Sands. Each company had assignments along the coast of England until the invasion of France on June 6, 1944.
The 341st Engineers Regiment landed on Normandy at Utah beachhead on June 23, 1944. Men and equipment assignments were roads, repairs, bridges, stockades for prisoners, railroads, food, fuel and as infantry men and reconnaissance. The 341st Engineers were much in demand due to their experience and [being a] well-seasoned outfit.
Much of the 341st Regiment was involved in the “Battle of the Bulge.” Many men were transferred to the infantry. Several were injured, killed or taken prisoner of war. Several companies were trapped behind the German lines when the Bulge started. However, when the Germans had moved on without coming in contact, our troops worked their way back to better areas…..