Search for Amelia Earhart: Elgen Long

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Elgen M. Long was born August 12, 1927, in McMinville, Oregon. At nine years old, his first memory of Earhart’s disappearance came from selling newspapers headlining the event. He attended public schools in Taft and Marshfield, Oregon, until the tender age of fifteen. With his parents’ permission and the exigencies of World War II, he joined the U.S. Navy and began a lifelong career in aviation: first as a radio operator, then as a navigator, and finally as a pilot. As of this date, he has accumulated over sixty years of experience and nearly forty-five thousand hours of flight.

During World War II, he flew over one hundred combat patrols in navy PBY and PB2Y seaplanes throughout the Pacific theatre including many patrols over Howland Island. His service took him through the Marshall, Mariana, Philippines, Okinawa, and the occupation of Japan. On the date of cease-fire in August 1945, his plane was directed to fly over all Japanese military installations on the island of Formosa (modern Taiwan) to see if the Japanese would shoot at them or honor the cease-fire. To this day he remembers thinking to himself “you have to be young and stupid to do this.”

As a young sailor Elgen was lucky enough to meet his future wife on a blind date in Los Angeles, California. On May 12, 1946, only a year after they met, twenty-year-old Marie Katherine Kurilich of Cleveland, Ohio, and Elgen were married. Throughout their fifty-seven years together they worked as a team, and Marie contributed to all of their life endeavors.

After World War II, Elgen was able to advance his formal education to graduate from the college of San Mateo with an associate degree in aeronautics. He also obtained his aircraft mechanics license and added that expertise to his radio and navigation skills. Although WWII had ended, there were still many regional conflicts throughout the world. Elgen became deeply involved in rescuing refugees and flying them to new locations. Israel, Yemen, China, Korea, Hungary, Vietnam, and the Middle East were conflicts he became involved in first as a radio operator, navigator, and for the latter forty years as a pilot. He also received training at the University of Southern California and became an aircraft accident investigator for the Airline Pilots Association. The world was his workshop.

Related media: Watch a video about Elgen's Round-the-World Flight