Stationed at Ladd: Memories of World War II

This blog post written by Leanna Williams.  Leanna is the museum’s social media manager.  When not writing blogs or managing our Facebook page, Leanna is a graduate student in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic and Northern Studies Department.

PictureMSG Charles Edward Ulrich. Photo Courtesy of Mary Jackson

We often hear the history of World War II as told through the eyes of those at the top or on the front lines – the generals or ace pilots.  There are so many stories that have never made it into history books or museum exhibits: stories that have only been told over family dinner tables or recorded in journals.  We were honored to receive one such story recently, and are sharing it here with you.  

Mary Jackson contacted us via our Facebook Page and honored us by sharing her father’s story.  

According to Ms. Jackson, “My father, Charles Edward Ulrich born April 14, 1918 was a master sergeant and weather observer for Ladd Airfield during World War 2. He absolutely had the best time anyone could even imagine during World War 2 and it was his dream to go back and visit [Fairbanks]!”

Ms. Jackson related that her father had enlisted in the Army Air Corp in March of 1941, before the United States had officially entered World War II.  She told us that her father was a graduate of the Chanute Weather Observation program in Illinois and  was assigned to Ladd Airfield to help set up weather observation stations after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Mr. Ulrich’s job as a weather observer was a vitally important one, as Ladd Field (now part of Fort Wainwright) was an important base for sending aircraft to the USSR via the Lend-Lease program.  These aircraft were sent to the Eastern Front of the European Theatre of the war.  Aircraft were flown by Americans from their factories in the Lower 48, through Canada to Fairbanks.  Here in Fairbanks, the aircraft were inspected and handed over to Russian control for their trip across Western Alaska, the Bering Strait, and Siberia.

PictureRussian Officers in the Briefing Room at Ladd Field. ​ Kay Kennedy Aviation Photo Collection. University of Alaska Fairbanks. UAF-1991-98-842


Mr. Ulrich told his family that he especially loved to give weather briefings to Russian pilots (perhaps even the men pictured above!), because he found them “so friendly and larger than life.”  

Ms. Jackson told us that her father developed a special affection for the type of furry hats the Russians wore, and favored them throughout his life.  She said that as he was a dairy farmer in Texas, Mr. Ulrich got a few curious looks for his choice of head gear! 

​He said he was terrified during a personal weather report he gave to a 5-star general and was relieved at the warm: “Well done, sergeant” he received.

As sadly happens too often, many of the photos and letters providing details of Mr. Ulrich’s story were lost in a house fire and on his passing in February 2017.  Ms. Jackson said, “I would look through them as a child and the sense of unity and camaraderie just shown through! Of course the military has a specific ranking system but Ladd Airfield really seemed like a place where all parts, big and small, pulled together equally as one!”

Thankfully, she was able to talk with her father about his experience at Ladd.  She  related interviewing her father for an elementary school project for Veteran’s Day and discovered that the only injury her father suffered during his service was when he broke his leg skiing during a weekend pass.  

Thanks to the combined effort of skilled weather observers like Mr. Ulrich, construction personnel, aircraft maintenance and service technicians, translators, pilots and so many other support staff that often go uncredited, Lend-Lease at Ladd Field was a successful contribution to the war effort.  Nearly 8,000 aircraft were transferred to Russian control at Fairbanks, and made it to the Eastern front.    Their efforts are memorialized at the Lend-Lease Monument in Downtown Fairbanks, and in our museum.  

Thank you to the Ulrich family and Ms. Mary Jackson for sharing MSG Ulrich’s story with us. 

MSG Ulrich at Ladd Field and in Fairbanks.  Images Courtesy of Mary Jackson

2 responses to “Stationed at Ladd: Memories of World War II”

  1. Jeremiah Avatar

    World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world’s countries including all the great powers eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and <a href=””>scientific capabilities</a> behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, genocides including the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

  2. kelvin Avatar

    i have always loved stories of world war 1 and 2. seeing the details in your site just lifted my spirit for more interesting details. please check out my site for details on <a href=””>o2tvseries</a>. Thanks for the details by the way.

    if the link above is not working, make use of this one

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *