Rasmus Christensen journeyed to the United States as a teenager, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the first years of the 20th century, earned his wings as an early naval aviator, and was knighted by the King of Portugal for his role in the world's first transatlantic flight in 1919. To the end of his days, he reflected with humor on how strange it was that a Danish boy ended up a U.S. citizen and a Portuguese knight. He told me his life story—of this flight and many others—during the summers I spent with him in Siesta Key, Florida, a half-century ago. He was my grandfather.
An Unlikely Naval Aviation Pioneer
Trained as an apprentice machinist in Germany, a teenage Scandinavian joined the U.S. Navy early in the 20th century, rising to the rank of chief machinist's mate on ships before turning his attention skyward.
By Rear Admiral Ernest E. Christensen Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)