“The Ancient One”— Alaska’s Kesugi Ridge
Photograph by Rupert Pratt—September 1996

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"Touching the Ancient One" an Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist!

April 26, 2007

I am pleased to announce that Touching the Ancient One has placed as a finalist in the National Indie Excellence 2007 Book Awards for Biography.

The Indie Excellence Awards are presented annually by, a public relations & marketing firm under the trademark of JPX Media. Yesterday, 250 winners and finalists from more than 60 categories were recognized. A complete list of winners and finalists in each category can be seen by clicking on this link.

Coming on the heels of the 2006 Military Writers Society of America Silver Award for Biographies, I feel very gratified and thankful that my book is so well thought of.


Posted on Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 08:24AM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment

A Trip Back to Curry, Alaska

April 23, 2007

Curry, Alaska played a prominent role in Touching the Ancient One. I gave only brief space to the history of Curry. If you would like to know more about this little town that no longer exists, check out this website. There are lots of photographs.


Posted on Monday, April 23, 2007 at 06:47PM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

More About Eli LaDuke’s Torn Pants, from His Son

March 20, 2007

A few days ago I got a letter from Alan LaDuke, Eli LaDuke’s son. He responded after seeing  my journal entry of March 14 and the photographs of his father which were taken by Joseph F. Grey back in 1954. I thought others might find Alan’s letter about Eli’s torn pants interesting. 

     It was only a short time before Dad passed away that I was told about the torn pants. It came to my attention from one of the employees who worked for the same company as I do. I had to place a call to Fed Ex Tech Support, which my company operates. After the agent on the other end had finished helping me, he asked if any of my family had been in the military. It was a weird question, but I answered, “Yes, several of my uncles, as well as Dad and I are veterans.”
     When he asked if any of them were in the Air Force, I felt this weird sensation, but said, “Yes, my father and an uncle were both Airman.”
     Then, I about passed out when he asked about Alaska!  I was really unsure of what this guy was doing. When I told him Dad had been in Alaska, he then proceeded to ask if he had been in a plane crash during that time. My heart stopped and my blood chilled. I was thinking that this guy knows nothing about me because he’s just a person on the other end of the phone that answered the Fed Ex tech support line. But, it seemed he knew more about my family than I did.
     Once he knew that I was Eli's son, he asked if Dad had ever told me the story of the pants getting ripped and Dad having to find some other pants to cover his backside.
     I took the guy’s name and called Dad. When I asked Dad about the pants, he wanted to know how I knew of that, and I explained the call I’d received.
     I do know he and Dad talked a time or two after that. I have since lost contact with him because he left the company and I can't find any notes of the contact info. It turned out this guy served at the same time you guys [the other crash survivors] were there and knew Dad. It was an experience that most people would find unbelievable or spooky, but I cherish the fact that this guy even took the time to ask the questions based on my phone call and the fact that he recognized the last name.
     Just wanted to share this story with you since the pictures (Picture 1, Picture 2, Picture 3, Picture 4 ) bring this memory to life.

Wonderful story, Alan. Thanks for sharing it with us.


Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 02:16PM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment

JUST DISCOVERED––Amazing C-47 Crash Survivor Photos from 1954

March 14, 2007

510423-619734-thumbnail.jpg Ed Olson has been in touch with members of his old military unit in Alaska. It seems that Joseph F. Grey, a 3rd RSM Radio Intercept Operator, took color photographs of the survivors in their Elmendorf AFB Hospital ward sometime in the week following the crash. His son, Dave Grey sent the images to Ed.

I find these four photos truly astonishing since I hadn’t known that any others existed except those black and whites that are in Touching the Ancient One and the others in the Gallery Pictures link on this site.

Three of the new photos are of Eli LaDuke. Two show Eli holding his torn trousers. Eli had told me the story of the struggle he had in finding and exchanging his torn ones with the ones he had taken from a “borrowed” duffel bag at the crash site, but I hadn’t remembered that he’d saved the torn ones. (To download a PDF file about Eli's trouser experience from Touching the Ancient One, click here.)

The group picture shows, left to right, survivors, Ed Olson, Huey Montgomery,  Ed Fox, Rupert Pratt, and Eli LaDuke. For some reason, Bob Sallis was missing. Clearly visible are cuts and scrapes and, in my case, swollen eye, lips, and hand, as well as bandaged right leg. My memory is excellent, so it’s strange to see this photo taken so long ago, and of which I have absolutely no recollection.

I’ve added the four photographs to Gallery Pictures in the sidebar. You can find them in there at the bottom of the Alaska 1953–1956 gallery, or access them here:

LaDuke 1
LaDuke 2
LaDuke 3
Survivor Group

Thank you, Joseph and Dave Grey for sharing this with us––gold nuggets from the past.


Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 10:11AM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

The Gilboa Dam––Worth a Visit

March 7, 2007

I like discovering nice places and telling people about them. I was asked some time ago if I would give a talk at the Gilboa Dam Visitor’s Center, located in Schoharie County and operated by the New York Power Authority. The nearly six-mile-long body of water created by the dam in the upper section of Schoharie Creek also borders portions of Delaware and Greene Counties. Schoharie Creek is a tributary of the Mohawk River.

I don’t want to get into a discussion on the recent controversy concerning the safety of the eighty-year-old dam, but merely wish to comment on my impression of the visitor’s center and the pleasant experience I had there.

This past Sunday Millie and I drove down from Scotia, a trip of about an hour and a half. It was cold, but sunny. We stopped once to grab a bite at a cafe in Middleburgh. As we climbed into higher altitudes, we ran through some light snow flurries. The center occupies an old, remodeled barn and houses several exhibits dealing with the construction and operation of the dam.

Nearly forty people attended my one-hour presentation in a beautiful and functional little auditorium. The attendees were attentive, asking many questions, both during and after. The center has presentations every weekend and are free to the public. Dessert was served in a large room overlooking the dam. I just missed seeing an eagle, I was told. As I looked out over the water, a wall of snow moved upstream, momentarily obscuring the far shoreline before moving on.

Good experience. Click here to see their schedule of events.


Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 06:24PM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment

REUNION in America’s Heartland—Elkader, Iowa, here we come!

February 19, 2007

Our C-47 Survivor’s Group will hold the next reunion in Elkader, Iowa. In Touching the Ancient One it was stated that we would meet in Orlando in February of this year. For various reasons those plans got derailed. Ed and Ruth Olson stepped forward and volunteered to host this event on the weekend of August 3-5 in Elkader. This is not the first time for Elkader. Our group visited the picturesque little town in the northeast section of the state in the summer of 1999. I was intrigued. Ed says 15-Iowa 1999it’s changed somewhat as more people have discovered it, but that it retains its charm. I look forward to returning.

Since the publication of my book several people have shown an interest in attending our reunions. They’ll be pleased to know that we’re extending an open invitation. The events were never closed to the public, but we made no great effort to publicize, either. So, join us in Elkader on the weekend of August 3-5. We’re a friendly bunch.

Ed Olson has just published an edition of our newsletter, The C-47 Survivor’s Sentinel, announcing the reunion. It contains information about accommodations and Elkader’s history. You can download that newsletter from this site, either from the Download link in the sidebar or below. Ed will continue to feed us information in the coming weeks and months and I’ll also make it available through this website.


Download The C-47 Survivor’s Sentinel.

Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 at 09:37AM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment

A New Look

February 10, 2007

If you are a previous visitor to this site you will see the new look right away. However, rest assured that the content has not changed. Squarespace has several templates that their sites may use and this one appealed to me, so I changed over. For someone like me, who knows next to nothing about building websites, Squarespace has provided a viable answer. I joined them last March and haven’t been sorry. I can concentrate on the content of my site and let the experts do the other work. Hope you like the new look.


Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 04:56PM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt | CommentsPost a Comment

Meeting People

January 20, 2007

I had a book-signing on Saturday, January 13 at the Saratoga Springs Barnes & Noble. Relations Manager Crystal Jenkins and the rest of the staff was wonderful to me, setting up my table in a proven “hot spot” near the front door where I sold lots of books.

Aside from that, I came away with a warm feeling about the people I rubbed elbows with that day. People didn’t just want to pick up a copy of my book to peruse, they wanted to talk about my experience and theirs, my life, my thoughts on various subjects. A variety of age groups stopped by my table. There was a boy, about thirteen, excitement in his eyes, who begged his father to buy the book. There was a woman who, after reading the back cover, said her brother had attended Marshall University and was still living in that area. A retired physicist never picked up a copy but grilled me for several minutes about what’s involved in writing a book. Scores of people stopped by to chat.

What I came away with was a head-full of memories of nice folks. If I hadn’t sold a single book it still would have been worth it. Thanks, Saratoga Springs Barnes & Noble.


Posted on Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 09:48AM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment

A Long-Ago Friend

January 3, 2007

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: The joy of having a book like Touching the Ancient One on the market comes from the people you meet because of it. On page sixteen I mentioned Cline Bates, and the fact that we had joined the Air Force together. He was a neighbor from West Hamlin, friend, and classmate at Marshall. We were in basic training together at Sampson Air Force Base. We lost contact after that. In 1962, I was saddened to learn that Cline had been killed in an industrial accident. Yesterday, I received an email from Doug Bates, Cline’s son, who was two years old when his father was killed. Cline’s brother, Mike Bates, provided Doug with a photograph of Cline and me at Sampson and he has kindly given permission to put it on this web site.

Doug says that his mother, the former Carolyn Black from Myra, WV made sure when he was a child that he stayed in touch with his father’s family.  "She felt it was bad enough that they had to lose a son.  They shouldn’t lose a grandson too," Doug stated.

Over the past ten years our reunion group brought together several people who couldn’t remember their fathers, men I, and the other survivors of the C-47 tragedy knew only briefly. Yet, the fact that we had been near their loved ones in their last moments somehow brought comfort to those families. Doug stated in his note that he felt empathy for others in our group because he too did not remember his father. I was pleased to be able to tell him a little about Cline Bates as I remember him. My father died before my birth, so I know how important every little bit of information becomes––a connecting link with the past. We should do our best to preserve those connecting links.

Click here to see the photograph which I’ve placed in the Miscellaneous Photos folders in the Gallery Pictures link in the sidebar. Clicking on the picture will enlarge it. Cline is on the left.

 Incidentally, Doug runs an internet-marketing consulting firm,, and also helps manage a small biotech contract research firm,, that his wife, Katya, founded.

Everyone have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 08:46AM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | CommentsPost a Comment


December 24, 2006

I talked up WE ARE MARSHALL in recent posts. Now I feel some obligation to add my humble opinion on the movie. Millie and I attended an afternoon showing in Emeryville, California on the 22nd. In all fairness, my thoughts may be biased by several factors: I grew up in the Huntington area (Salt Rock), I’m a Marshall graduate (1957), I know the family of one of the victims of the 1970 crash (Barry Nash), and my own experience as an air crash survivor will, no doubt, color my perspective. Nevertheless, here goes:

WE ARE MARSHALL is an excellent movie. My gut feeling makes me want to shout “great” movie, but for the general audience it falls just short of that. However, for those of us who live close to the circumstances, it is a great movie because we read between the lines––or scenes if you prefer. We can fill in some blanks that the casual moviegoer cannot. An example is the depiction of the community’s grief. That is alluded to and shown briefly in a few individual scenes, but showing the extent of the devastation that tore apart the university and surrounding area falls short. Another shortcoming was the lack of information about most of the victims. A few individuals were shown in depth, and I understand that in telling about a tragedy of this scope you have to choose the things to empathize, but a three-second list of the victims at the end of the movie is really not enough.

Nevertheless, there’s much that is excellent. For those who want an exciting crash scene with slow-motion detail of every angle of a disintegrating aircraft hitting the trees short of the runway––you’ll be disappointed. And that’s a plus. If you expect certain actors to step forward as strong swashbuckling protagonists and antagonists, you’ll also be disappointed. Another plus. Don’t get me wrong––there’s no lack of fine acting in the film, but it’s a dignified, graceful kind of shared presentation. In fact, “dignified” is the word I choose to describe the whole movie. Even the football scenes later in the film, though riveting in themselves and good enough to satisfy the most critical sports fans, possess an overriding statement––that there is more at stake than just winning a football game. Faithfully kept before us is the symbol of  “rising from the ashes.” The real antagonist in the film is DESPAIR and the protagonist is HOPE. For those who understand that, WE ARE MARSHALL is a great movie. It has depth, and as such will probably not lead the way at the box office or attract the attention of the Academy Award folks. However, it will be around for a long time, unlike a couple of the “spectacular” flicks that are playing alongside it. There’s my two cents worth.

On this Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

God bless you all.


Posted on Sunday, December 24, 2006 at 07:54PM by Registered CommenterRupert Pratt in | Comments1 Comment