Eugene Burton Ely was buried the day after his 25th birthday, less than a half-mile from where he was born. No sooner had he captured the world's eye and gained the fame he sought, than he crashed into the earth. Until 1911, the last year of his life, hardly anyone knew his name - a century later, nothing has changed. If he is known at all it's because he - an Iowa farm boy afraid of heights - was the first to land an airplane on the deck of a ship. The threads of Ely's life have been left dangling for too long.
To some, he is the father of naval aviation, the inspiration behind today's nuclear aircraft carriers - but many details of his life have been lost until now.
Former historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society, William M. Miller is a reporter and history columnist for the Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune newspaper. He lives in Shady Cove, Oregon, USA.