Bob Lind, Published November 02 2013
Neighbors: A tale of one of ND's native sons
On the memorial listing the people from Traill County who had served in the military was Carl Ben Eielson’s name.
Sure, Jim knew that Eielson, born and raised in Hatton, gained fame as a pioneer aviator in Alaska and the Arctic region in the 1920s. But he didn’t know any details of his military history.
Well, Curt Eriksmoen, Fargo, who writes a North Dakota history column for The Forum, wrote about Eielson, including his military record, in one of the books he, with his wife, Jan, as editor, has written about North Dakota people.
Eielson was a first-semester student at the University of North Dakota in 1917-18 when World War I began, Curt wrote.
So, he dropped out of school and enlisted in the newly formed Army Signal Corps on Jan. 17, 1918, at Omaha, Neb.
He applied to get into flying, his request was granted and he was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of California at Berkeley.
While he was participating in flight training at Mather Field, near Sacramento, the war ended.
But Eielson remained at the school, received his wings, and was retained for a short time as a flight instructor.
On March 1, 1919, he was commi
ssioned as a first lieutenant, and then was discharged three days later, ending his military career.
He went on to set flying records, including that of being the first pilot to fly over the North Pole. He died in a plane crash in 1929. He is buried in a Hatton cemetery.
The Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska is named for him.
So, thanks to Curt, there’s the military history of Carl Ben Eielson. As Jim suggests, the military record of one of North Dakota’s most famed native sons is a good story to tell, with Veterans Day coming up next week.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email firstname.lastname@example.org