History shows that the Eisenhower administration delayed Alaska statehood in an effort to buy time for the Navy to strike commercially-viable oil in the Umiat area. Had that happened, I doubt Alaska would be a state today or we’d be half the size and there’d be a territory appended to us. It was to the United States government’s benefit to have Alaska as a territory when oil became big. But, no matter, Carter figured out how to get around that inconvenience, which is a later subject.
Claus Naske, Alaska’s premier historian, views the proposal to make Alaska and Hawaii commonwealths as another effort to derail statehood. I disagree. I think it was a thoughtful and educated discussion that would have been better for Alaska (and, possibly Hawaii) in the long-run. It was a debate drowned out by the statehood coalition, because it would have greatly benefited us at the expense of the federal government..
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