Much-loved humorist and columnist Will Rogers, left, and his friend and pilot, Wiley Post, left California in August 1935 on their ill-fated trip north to explore a new route to Europe over Alaska and Siberia. Post had a hybrid airplane custom made for the grand adventure. It was the last trip the two would ever make.
The men explored parts of Alaska for about a week and then were antsy to move on. And although weather reports showed poor conditions, they decided to head for Barrow anyway.
“I think I can make it,” said Post.
“If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me,” Rogers replied.
So the pair took off from the Matanuska Valley colony project on Aug. 15 … a few hours later they were lost in fog. When they spotted a Native man on the ground near a camp, Post landed on a lagoon nearby and asked directions. They learned their destination was only 12 miles away.
So they took off from the water, but at about 500 feet up, the engine sputtered, the plane went into a nose dive and then it hit the shallow lagoon with the speed of a rocket.
Hours later rescuers from Barrow found their remains.
A typewriter recovered in the wreckage had Rogers’ unfinished last “piece for the papers,” and the final word he’d typed was “death.”
Headlines across the country blared, “Will Rogers dies in plane crash.” (Aunt Phil’s Trunk, Volume 3)
By Laurel Bill