A 50-year resident of Alaska, Jim Rearden has written 17 books and more than 500 magazine articles, mostly about Alaska. He was named Alaska's Historian of the Year in 1999. He lives in Soldotna, Alaska.
Former Navy combat pilot "Andy" Anderson pioneered post-World War II bush service to Alaska's vast Koyokuk River region serving miners, natives, sportsmen, geologists, and adventurers.
Andy and his brother enlisted in the Navy five days following the Pearl Harbor attack. Assigned to the Battleship USS North Carolina he still dreamed of being an aviator.
"I requested assignment to the aviation division . Sorry, the personnel officer said. That division is full. What did you do in Civilian life?"
"A Water tender and fire man at a coal mine power plant. Fine, he said. You're now in the engineering division of the North Carolina."
After a torpedo strike the North Carolina headed to Pearl for repairs. Once at Peal Andy was finally admitted to the aviation division.
After six years in the Navy Andy, now a Lieutenant (jg) was headed back to Pennsylvania to his parents farm. This stay was short lived since he had his own way of operating the farm, more modernization and his father had his own, old school by hand.
In 1948 he settled in at Bettles village and purchased a Taylorcraft airplane. The Alaska adventure begins.
James Anderson flew mining equipment, gold, live wolves and sled dogs, you name it, whatever the people needed he flew it. Anderson flew dangerous medical emergency flights when needed and it seemed always in the worst of weather.
Make no bones it takes a special breed of human to live that life, in those times, with that equipment. Anderson really bonded with the people and it was more about blending with them and being there for the villagers.
I have really enjoyed reading about Alaska and the bush pilots. This book was fun to read and easy to follow, a good pace and always interesting. You can easily feel like your sitting by the fire at the lodge listening to the pilots tell their tales.
Andy followed through on his promise to return to the homestead farm in Pennsylvania. Andy's wife did not share his interest in the farm life and decided to remain in Alaska. The children stayed with his wife and the most difficult decision of his life was made, he was headed south in June of 1967.
Andy remarried and spent more than thirty years with Betty, his new Bride.
"The years since I left Alaska have been good ones. Nevertheless, when I see a small plane high in the sky, or when I think of that magnificent land far to the north, contemplate its clear rivers , remember skyscraping, snow covered peaks, abundant wildlife and the wonderful people I once knew, I feel a longing, a homesickness, for the magic years when I flew as an Arctic bush pilot."
James "Andy" Anderson passed in 2007.