AKA "Fish" Hassell & Bruce Raymond John Hassell
|Biography||In Greenland||The Greater Rockford||Resources|
Fish was born in Marinette, Wisconsin, the son of Ellis and Elizabeth Hassell. For a time, he was sent to
a school to study for the ministry. But that didn't take. After leaving Rutgers University, he decided on an aviation career and took
flying lessons from Glenn Curtiss in Hammondsport, N.Y.
On June 15, he soloed and immediately entered into barnstorming. A fancier of Seaplanes, Hassell while flying one over Reed's Lake near Grand Rapids, suddenly lost his power and wound up in the drink. That incident gave him the nickname "Fish", a name that still holds to this day.
When the United States entered the war, he became a second lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps. Here he was made a flight instructor and taught many of our overseas combat pilots to fly.
After the war, Hassell went barstorming again, and for a time worked for the U.S. postal system. During this time, his great dream of flying the great circle course to Europe was developing. He wrote voluminous articles and a book, "The Hiking Viking", in which he pointed out the advantage of such a route.
The people of Rockford, Illinois became interested and decided to back his scheme. A Stinson Detroiter monoplane was obtained and planning of the flight began. As his co-pilot and navigator, Hassell selected Parker "Shorty" Cramer, and together they began making test flights in the vicinity of Rockford. They set the date for the take-off as July 26, 1928. When the appointed time arrived, they took off with the crowd cheering. But the fuel load proved too heavy and they wound up in a corn field west of the river.
After repairing the plane, they again took off on August 16, 1928 and headed for their first scheduled refueling stop, a base on the Sondre Stromfjord in south-west Greenland. After twenty hours in the air, they failed to find the base and were forced to make an emergency landing. The two adventurers set out to walk to the base. Fourteen days later, they encountered a group of Eskimos who brought them into the camp, just as they were about to be given up for lost.
From the base, they worked their way to Holstenborg, on the coast where they got passage on a tramp steamer to Europe. From there, they made their way back to the United States and Rockford.
Robert Carlin, district manager of National Airlines in Houston, an aviation buff and a native of Rockford, started a crusade to bring the plane back to Rockford. The Hassell family joined in. Parker Cramer, in the meantime, had lost his life in another exploring adventure.
On September 11, a Sikorsky helicopter lifted the "Greater Rockford" from its resting place. Unfortunately, however, the first step proved to be the easiest. As the Hassell-Cramer flight was not a military one, there was reluctance to place the now disassembled plane in the belly of a big transport plane and return it to the United States. Finally, arrangements were made with a private aircraft leasing company, and the flight was made. On June 17, 1969, the "Greater Rockford" came home.
"Fish" or B. R. J. Hassell died in 1974. He was an original member of the Early Birds of Aviation.
The Official Publication of the EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION, INC.
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E-mail to Ralph Cooper