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Elgen M. Long was born August 12, 1927, in McMinville, Oregon. At nine
years old, his first memory of Earharts 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