William J. Green, 90, Builder Who Beat the Odds in Burma
By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr
Published: August 10, 1996
William J. Green, who blocked for Red Grange at the University of Illinois, helped cut a 400-mile road through the jungles of Burma during World War II and then helped clear the way for the full integration of black troops into the United States Army in 1947, died on July 17 in a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 90.
In the quarter of a century he spent as executive vice president and chief engineer of the S.J. Groves & Sons Construction Company in Minneapolis, Mr. Green worked on many challenging projects, including major Interstate highways and river locks in the United States and Canada and an Arctic air base in Greenland.
If he had to stifle a yawn now and then, it was understandable. When it came to building highways, Mr. Green had not only been there and done that, he had done it in a place where it was said it couldn’t be done.
Its official name was the Ledo Road, but it wasn’t called the road that couldn’t be built for nothing. The 400-mile route from Ledo, India, to a connection with the old Burma Road in China traversed some of the world’s most daunting terrain: stark mountain ridges and monsoon-fed jungle valleys so forbidding that the entire triangular area of northern Burma was virtually uninhabited and all but uninhabitable.
Submitted by Derrick Green