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An American Hero

Elgen receives a commemorative medal at the American Museum in Saipan

I met Elgen Long over twenty years ago and we worked together through that time on the deep sea quest to find Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. But one of my most memorable experiences with Elgen was a visit to the Pacific island of Saipan in 2007. I was working on a renewable energy project, and he asked to tag along, having visited there 63 years earlier on the occasion of the WW II Battle of Saipan. Elgen served as a radioman on a PBY flying boat and was only 16 years old at the time, having enlisted on his 15th birthday. Among other remarkable events during our week-long visit we toured the Japanese Jail where Earhart was rumored to have been held and visited the Saipan Rotary Club, where Elgen said a very eloquent few words about his experiences on the island in 1944. At the nearby American Memorial he was presented with a commemorative medal as a hero of the battle. The lucky fellow had won $31 in the Rotary 50-50 raffle which he deposited in the memorial donation box. On our last day Elgen and I took a short flight to the nearby island of Tinian where we saw the runways that served the B-29’s that bombed Japan and replicas of the atomic bombs. We shared the experience solemnly, feeling in the grip of history. Elgen and I spent many unforgettable trips together on expeditions and other adventures, but our trip to Saipan stands out. He was a true American hero and it was a privilege to call him a friend.