Carl Benjamin Eielson (1897 - 1929)

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Nicknames: ""Ben""
Birthplace: Hatton, North Dakota
Death: Died in Siberia
Cause of death: air crash
Managed by: Caida Gill
Last Updated:
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About Carl Benjamin Eielson

Carl Benjamin "Ben" Eielson (1897–1929) was an aviator, bush pilot and explorer.


He was born in Hatton, North Dakota in 1897 to Norwegian immigrants. 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. This ended America’s immediate need for pilots and Eielson, not willing to give up flying, together with friends organized the Hatton Aero Club starting with barnstorming.

After the war, 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.


In 1924, he flew the first air mail in Alaska from Fairbanks to McGrath 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.

He is perhaps best known for flying the first airplane across the Arctic Ocean, with Australian explorer Hubert Wilkins in April 1928. The flight, from Point Barrow to Spitsbergen, covered 3,540 km (2,200 mi) and took 20 hours. The main purpose of the flight was to establish whether or not any Island (Graham Land) existed between Alaska and the North Pole. In the Antarctic summer of 1928 - 1929, Eielson and Wilkins were the first to make 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. Eielson died alongside his mechanic Earl Borland in an air crash on November 9, 1929, in Siberia while attempting to evacuate furs and personnel from the Nanuk, a cargo vessel trapped in the ice at North Cape (shown as Mys Schmidt on today's maps).


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. He is a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. In 1929 he was awarded the Harmon Trophy. In 1985, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. An elementary school on Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota is named after him, as well as the Junior/Senior High on Eielson AFB and a middle school in Fargo, North Dakota.

The Carl Ben Eielson House in Hatton, North Dakota is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Carl Ben Eielson's Timeline

July 20, 1897
Hatton, North Dakota
November 9, 1929
Age 32
Saint Johns Cemetery Hatton Traill County North Dakota