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“I GOT this great screenplay! It has everything. Action. Glamor. International rivalry. Airplanes for the guys. Romance for their girlfriends.”
“Wait! There’s this World War I pilot who’s a Kiwi. Get the Hobbit angle?”
“Sorry. It’s already been done.”
“Listen—then this Kiwi goes barnstorming across America, but ends up in Honduras where he loses an eye. Geez, he could even wear an eyepatch.…”
“Yes, I know. His name is Lowell Yerex—and he was a real person.”
On the other hand, as Oscar Wilde noted, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”
And life isn’t always definitive on details. My primary sources for what follows in Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow, are the newspaper report, “Touring with Pyle,” by famed U.S. war correspondent Ernie Pyle, and academic research by Erik Benson, “The Man Without a Country: Lowell Yerex, His Airline, and U.S. Policy Concerning International Commercial Aviation, 1939-44.” and “Aviator of Fortune: Lowell Yerex and the Anglo-American Commercial Aviation Rivalry, 1931-46.” The international rivalry angle is contested a bit in Robert Greehill’s review of Benson’s work. And there are differing details offered in cronicasdehonduras.blogspot.com. Last, there’s mention of Lowell Yerex, spelled Yerez, here at SimanaitisSays in discussing Harry Franck’s Pan American Highway book.
Lowell Yerex was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1895 to a family with ardent American feelings. He and several siblings were named after Yanks; might he (like one of my nephews) have been named for American astronomer Percival Lowell? In any case, he emigrated to the United States where he attended Valparaiso University in Indiana. In 1916, Yerex earned a degree from its College of Business.
Like others of his generation, Yerex was keen on aviation. Given the war and his British dominion heritage, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Yerex learned to fly, earned the rank of Lieutenant, engaged in World War I combat, and soon rose to Captain.
After several enemy kills, late in the war Yerex was shot down and spent four months in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Upon release, he returned to the U.S. where he followed a pattern of other WWI pilots exercising his piloting skills barnstorming in a “flying circus.”
Tomorrow, we’ll learn that Yerex’s adventures were just off to a good start. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018