'He was fearless': Movie to be made about heroic North Dakota aviator Carl Ben Eielson

The story of a gutsy North Dakota aviator could soon become the next Hollywood Blockbuster.

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Carl Ben Eielson was born in Hatton, ND and went on to be a world record setter in aviation and exploration to the North and South pole in the 1920's. He was one of the first to deliver mail by plane and use planes for medical rescues.
Contributed / North Dakota Office of the Governor

FARGO — Carl Ben Eielson, of Hatton, learned to fly in World War I. After that, he became famous for his early explorations and flights in the Arctic and Antarctic, setting world records along the way.

His incredible life story could soon be told on the big screen.

It's surprising Eielson's story isn't already an Oscar-winning film. A WWI pilot, born the small town of Hatton to Norwegian immigrants, who went on to fly over both of Earth's poles in the same year.

Eielson's great-niece Kari Eielson Mork said her great-uncle was fearless.

"He had been stranded in the Arctic before; he was taking on very dangerous missions and he was fearless," Eielson Mork said.


Scott Rosenfelt, now filming a movie in the Philippines, is known for his successful blockbuster movie "Home Alone." He will be the producer behind the Carl Ben Eielson movie, tentatively called "Polar Pilot," which is in the financing phase.

"He (Eielson) seemed to have no fear. He saved people and took care of people and did some extraordinary things. So, he also wasn't just barnstorming or grandstanding. He wasn't just saying, 'I flew the longest flight in the history of the world.' He was more low key which makes him, to me, a more interesting character," Rosenfelt said.

In Hatton, a museum honors the state's Rough Rider Award winner and Scandinavian-American Hall fo Famer. His famous plane is still intact. Still young, Eielson died in 1929 at age 32 in a crash in Siberia while trying to evacuate sailors on a cargo ship trapped in ice.

"I'm afraid that if I don't get the movie made now, it will slip away," Eielson Mork said.

The film would reveal Eielson's heroism and bravery. Being first to fly mail in Alaska, piloting medical emergency flights and, later, sacrificing his life to save sailors are among the incredible deeds done during his short time.

"Every once in a while there's something that perks my attention, and this one just stood out. It just stood out right away," Rosenfelt said.

An estimated 5,000 people attended Carl Ben Eielson's funeral in Hatton. The King of Norway would later visit Fargo-Moorhead and travel to Hatton to place a wreath of flowers at Eielson's grave.

For more information on this project, contact Kari Eielson Mork at

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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