Yukon North Of Ordinary

Wily Post and Will Rogers Die In Plane Crash

August 16, 1935


Top photo: WILL ROGERS (left) and WILEY POST. This photo was taken in Dawson City, where the two spent a day site-seeing, before continuing on to Fairbanks. U.S. National Archives & Records coll./Yukon Archives. Bottom photo: THE WRECKAGE. Wiley Post's crumpled aircraft sits on it's back in shallow water. Butterworth coll./Yukon Archives.

August 16, 1935

Wily Post and Will Rogers Die In Plane Crash

POINT BARROW, Alaska, August 16, 1935. Wiley Post, famous round-the-world flier noted for his stratosphere flights, and Will Rogers, celebrated humorist, writer and film star, were instantly killed this morning when their plane crashed 15 miles south of Point Barrow.

According to meager reports received, the plane left Point Barrow in good condition apparently, but was forced down 15 miles south. The plane landed and it is presumed the trouble was rectified, but crashed in taking off. It is thought the pontoon hit some hidden obstruction in the water.

The Pacific Alaska Airways are rushing an Electra plane from Fairbanks to Point Barrow to pick up the bodies.

Post and Rogers were enjoying a leisure bear hunt in the wilds of Alaska.

Contrary to the 1935 STAR news report, Will Rogers and Wiley Post had taken off FROM Fairbanks that fateful morning on their way TO Barrow, Alaska.

Flying through coastal storms had used much more fuel than expected however, and Post had turned slightly inland and put down near the small settlement of Walatka.

Upon being informed that Barrow was only 14 miles to the North, Post apparently believed he could fly the short distance with no problem. Unfortunately the remaining fuel was used up on take–off, the engine stalled and the aircraft crashed into the small lake killing both Rogers and Post.

The Whitehorse Star, Friday, August 23, 1935.

Editorial by William R. Carruthers, Managing editor.

Two Gallant Spirits Pass.

In the sudden deaths of Wiley Post, intrepid air ace of the United States; and Will Rogers; esteemed as the nation’s most lovable character, in the plane crash near Point Barrow, our Southern neighbor loses two of her most distinguished countrymen.

First news reports of the calamity were received here Friday morning, when shocked residents could scarcely believe the reports. Elsewhere the same circumstances and scenes were being enacted.

Even the press of the nation was stunned. We can picture frantic news editors shouting down speaking tubes orders to ‘kill the run’; the huge cylinder presses rolling to a stop; a maddening rush in the composing room as new plates were cast, and once again the huge iron monsters start turning over, gain momentum, and finally roar away at a terrific speed as papers begin again to flow with that even and monotonous regularity. Huge ‘scream lines’ adorn the front page—the extra is out.

In every city, town and village and hamlet of the nation, that same scene was no doubt enacted. Bewildered townspeople read the news with stunned faculties, hardly believing their own eyes. ‘It can’t be so,’ was a common refrain.

Did Will Rogers have a premonition of the tragic crash? Certainly it would appear that way as reports say he seriously considered turning back at Juneau for some ungiven reason.

A tragic feature of the disaster is the bereaved Mrs. Post, left practically penniless except for the proceeds from the sale of the ‘Winnie Mae,’ Post’s former plane and the one he used in his globe-encircling trot in ‘33. Earning huge sums, Post, an ardent air enthusiast, threw all of it back into aviation experiments, always seeking to advance the progress of science in the air.

We of the Yukon extend our sincere sympathy to our Southern neighbors in the tragic calamity of their loss, and bow our heads in tribute to the passing of two gallant spirits.”