Carl Ben Eielson

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Carl Ben Eielson
Carl Ben Eielson and George Hubert Wilkins visit Paul von Hindenburg in 1928
The tombstone of Eielson located in Hatton, North Dakota

Carl Benjamin "Ben" Eielson (July 20, 1897 – November 9, 1929) was an American aviator, bush pilot and explorer. Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska is named in his honor. [1] [2]

Background[edit]

Carl Ben Eielson was born in Hatton, North Dakota to Norwegian immigrant parents. His interest in aviation went back to his childhood. Following America’s entry into World War I, Eielson found his chance to become an aviator. Eielson learned to fly in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917. In January 1918 he enlisted in the newly formed aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. World War I ended while Eielson was in flight training. Eielson returned to North Dakota to help in his father’s store and finish his degree at the University of North Dakota. During the winter of 1919-20, he and others founded the Hatton Aero Club, the first flying club in North Dakota. After graduating from the university in 1921, he enrolled at Georgetown Law School (now Georgetown University) in Washington, D.C.. Working part-time as a police officer at the Capitol, he met the Alaska Territory's delegate to the Congress, Daniel Sutherland, who persuaded Ben to go to Alaska to teach secondary school. [3] [4]

Career[edit]

Eielson soon became the sole pilot for the Farthest North Aviation Company which was formed in 1922. In 1924, he flew the first air mail in Alaska from Fairbanks to McGrath, Alaska in 4 hours, a distance dog sleds took 20 days to cover. He also flew the first air mail from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida in 1926.

In March 1927, Australian polar explorer, George Hubert Wilkins and Eielson explored the drift ice north of Alaska. They touched down in Eielson's airplane in the first land-plane descent onto drift ice. In April 1928, Eielson and Wilkins flew across the Arctic Ocean in the first flight from North America over the North Pole to Europe. The flight, from Point Barrow to Spitsbergen, covered 3,540 km (2,200 mi) and took 20 hours. When Eielson accompanied Wilkins on an Antarctic expedition later in 1928, they became the first men to fly over both polar regions of the world in the same year. During the Antarctic summer of 1928-1929, Eielson and Wilkins made air explorations of the Antarctic, charting several islands which were previously unknown.

After his return from the Arctic flight, Eielson was asked to establish Alaskan Airways, a subsidiary of the Aviation Corporation of America. In 1929, Eielson died alongside his mechanic Earl Borland in an air crash in Siberia while attempting to evacuate furs and personnel from the Nanuk, a cargo vessel trapped in the ice at North Cape (now Mys Shmidta). [5] [6] [7]

Legacy[edit]

Eielson Air Force Base and the Liberty ship SS Carl B. Eielson are named in his honor, as is the new visitor center at Denali National Park and Preserve. The Carl Ben Eielson Memorial Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus is named in his honor. A peak in the West-Central Alaska Range is also named in his honor. An elementary school on Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota is named after him as well as Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in Fargo, North Dakota. The Carl Ben Eielson House in Hatton, North Dakota is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8]

In 1929, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy. In 1984, Carl Ben Eielson was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame held each year during Norsk Høstfest Scandinavian festival in Minot, N.D. [9] In 1985, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. [10] In 1997, Carl Ben Eielson was a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. [11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson, Alaska Aviation Pioneer". explorenorth.com. 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Carl "Ben" Eielson". University of Alaska. 8 March 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ Curtis Eriksmoen (May 15, 2011). "Pilot Eielson a hero in Alaska as well as North Dakota". Fargo Forum. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson: The Father of Alaskan Aviation - 1897-1929" (PDF). LifeSite Alaska. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  5. ^ Althoff, William F. Drift Station: Arctic outposts of superpower science (Potomac Books Inc., Dulles, Virginia. 2007. p. 35)
  6. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson" (PDF). University of Alaska Anchorage. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson: The Father of Alaskan Aviation - 1897-1929". USAF Fact Sheet. May 2006. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  8. ^ Dawn Maddox (October 26, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Carl Ben Eielson House / Osking House" (PDF). National Park Service.  and "accompanying photos" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  9. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson". Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Eielson Visitor Center". National Park Service. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Carl Ben Eielson, Pioneer Aviator". Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. August 26, 1997. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 

Other Sources[edit]

  • Wambheim, H.G. (1930) Ben: The Life Story of Col. Carl Ben Eielson (Hatton)
  • Rolfsrud, Erling Nicolai (1952) Brother to the Eagle (Latern Books, Alexandria, MN)
  • Chandler, Edna Walker (1959) Pioneer of Alaska skies;: The story of Ben Eielson (Ginn)
  • Herron, Edward Albert (1968) Wings Over Alaska: The Story of Carl Ben Eielson (Pocket Books) ISBN 978-0671297114
  • Gleason, Robert J. (1977) Icebound in the Siberian Arctic (Alaska Northwest Pub. Co) ISBN 978-0882400679
  • Page, Dorothy G. (1992) Polar Pilot: The Carl Ben Eielson Story. (Vero Media, Moorhead, MN) ISBN 0-8134-2936-6

External links[edit]