I was pleased to read the short article in the October CAHS Newsletter, regarding the “Crimson Route’, established by the United States Air Force – from Western Canada to the UK in 1943.

1948 Bill Cameron Radio Room The Pas MB

In 1948, three years after the end of WW-II, I was temporarily posted at The Pas, MB – as (a 19 year old) Radio Operator-Agent, for Canadian Pacific Air Lines, Ltd. CPAL operated a daily DC-3 Service from Winnipeg – via Dauphin, to The Pas; and three times a week the DC-3 continued on to Churchill, MB – and return. The sector from the Pas to Flin-Flon and return, was flown by a Consolidated PBY5-A Canso, based at The Pas.

1948 The Pas Manitoba Control Tower

All the facilities at The Pas, MB had been constructed by the USAAF, and included the Tower/Operations Centre, a Base Hospital, Mess Halls, Barracks, etc, and one fairly large Hangar building. There was one hard-surfaced runway 5,000 ft long.

It was obvious that the buildings had been constructed in a hurry in 1943, and were certainly not built for long-term use. The exterior cladding of all buildings being of black tar-paper, attached with wood strips.

The Pas CRV

The history and purpose for the Base was told at the time, as being two-fold...

  1. An enroute base for ferrying shorter-range aircraft, e.g. North American B-25 types, Douglas DC-3, and P-47 and P-51 fighter aircraft, from Great Falls, Montana Air Force Base, across the so-called Polar Route – to England.

  2. A Great-Circle Route from England to USAAF Bases in Western United States, that could be used to evacuate large numbers of wounded American service personnel, that were expected to occur in the Invasion of France in June 1944.

This planned purpose appeared to be the reason for naming the Route, “The Crimson Route”... A hematological allusion.

In 1948 and 1949 several of the buildings, e.g., the Base Hospital and a few former barracks; were in use as a Tuberculosis Sanatorium, facility, serving First Nations settlements in Northern Manitoba.

The “Crimson Route” was described in 1943-44 as being: Great Falls, Montana – The Pas, MB – Churchill, MB, Frobisher Bay, NWT, Baker Lake, NWT, Sondrestrom Fiord, Greenland; Keflavik, Iceland; Prestwick, Scotland.

The USAAF Ferry aircraft, east-bound, and the Medical Evacuation aircraft, west-bound – would most probably not have landed at every base, on every flight. Every flight-plan being conditional on upper level winds, and weather conditions at en-route bases.

1948 Canadian Pacific ShieldNB.
In 1956 the CPAL DC-6B Polar flights usually operated from Vancouver to Amsterdam, with one, or a maximum two - fuel-stops. (Granted, the DC6B had a greater range than the DC-4 aircraft of 1943-1944.)

William Cameron
CAHS Member 4972