Jimmy Mattern was a popular pilot better known for his aspirations than his accomplishments. He was the focal point of one of the year's biggest human interest stories when his plane disappeared while flying from Khabarovsk, Siberia, to Nome, Alaska, and for several days his fate remained a mystery. Almost a month passed before it was learned Mattern was alive and well in a Russian town called Anadyr, also in Siberia. His plane, however, was wrecked.

The weather on this particular stretch, which was a route used by others who attempted round-the-world flights, was notoriously bad, but Mattern also blamed Russian oil he had added when he refueled in Khaborovsk, saying the oil had damaged his engine.

Mattern was making his second attempt to set a round-the-world speed record. He took off from New York and was on pace to achieve his goal until he reached Russia. He eventually was rescued by a Russian flier, who delivered him to Nome, but not until Wiley Post, who took off a few weeks after Mattern, had overcome his own problems to circle the globe and break his own speed record.


Syracuse American, June 11
MOSCOW (INS) — Many hours after his “Century of Progress” plane had passed Roukhlovo, Siberia, bound bound for Khabarovsk, Jimmy Mattern, round-the-world flier, was unreported last night.

Mattern’s hopes of beating the globe-circling record of eight days, fifteen hours and fifty-one minutes, established by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty, have gone glimmering. He has now been out of New York more than seven days.

Barring an accident, he should have reached Khabarovsk this morning. From that point he planned to fly to Nome, Alaska.


Syracuse Journal, June 12
MOSCOW (INS) — Soviet officials waited anxiously today for word of the progress of Jimmy Mattern’s round-the-world flight in his monoplane, Century of Progress.

Although no word had been received here at 1 p.m. Moscow time (6 a.m., EDT) since he arrived at Khabarovsk, the fact he reached there many hours ago, coupled with the slowness of Siberian communications, led to the supposition he may have already continued on toward Nome.

Mattern arrived at Khabarovsk at 3:20 a.m. Moscow time Tuesday (8:20 p.m., EDT, Saturday) after losing his way.

Details of his arrival at Khabarovsk were slim. They revealed, however, that Mattern was dog-tired when he landed and virtually fell from his plane into a bed at a small hotel.


Syracuse Journal, June 19
NOME, Alaska (INS) — Arctic fog today balked the search for Jimmy Mattern, American round-the-world flier, missing since he hopped off from Khabarovsk, Siberia, Wednesday, in an effort to fly the hazardous 2,400-mile route to Nome.

United States naval vessels prepared to search isolated islands in the Bering Sea as soon as weather conditions would permit.

Islands of the Aleutian chain are without communication except for visits from trading ships. Veteran Alaskan aviators had made forced landings on the islands and had remained unreported for days.

Mattern’s plane did not carry radio equipment.


Syracuse Journal, July 8
International News Service Correspondent

MOSCOW (INS) — Coincident with reports that Soviet rescue planes have already reached James Mattern, long-lost round-the-world flier, at Anadyr in Chukota province, official confirmation was received here today that he wrecked his plane on landing on June 15.

The smiling Texas aviator, it was officially stated, came down at a point approximately 50 miles from the village of Anadyr because of motor trouble. He had taken off the day before from Khabarovsk, Siberia, in the hope of reaching Nome, Alaska, a distance of 2,500 miles, in a single hop.

Reports here stated the engine was completely wrecked, and if he desires to fly out of the eastern Siberian wilderness, Soviet officials are ready to supply him with a new engine or with an entirely new plane.

Soviet frontier guards, it was said, rendered Mattern all possible assistance, but no explanation was given of the three-weeks’ silence that followed his forced landing.


Syracuse Journal, July 19
MOSCOW (INS) — Soviet air ace, Sigizmund Levanevsky, ordered to the rescue of Jimmy Mattern, American round-the-world flier, has landed at Anadyr, Siberia, where Mattern has been stranded for many days, and planned to hop off with Mattern for Nome, Alaska, at 11 a.m. (EST).


Syracuse Journal, July 21
International News Service Staff Correspondent
NOME, Alaska (INS) — After a flight from Anadyr, Siberia, which eclipsed all the thrills of his solo flight around the world, including a crash in wildest Siberia where he nearly starved to death, James ("Smiling Jimmy") Mattern was back on American soil today

“I thought the flight from New York to the point where I crashed in Siberia was full of thrills,” he said today, “but this flight here from Anadyr had them all topped.”

Mattern arrived here last yesterday in a giant Russian seaplane sent by the Soviet Government to effect his rescue. The plane carried two Russian pilots, two mechanics and a navigator in addition to Mattern. Out of gas, it was forced to land six miles west of Nome.

Mattern reached here 47 days after he had set out from New York to encircle the globe, and six hours after Wiley Post, who set out from New York to attempt the same feat 42 days after the Texan had lapped him by passing over Nome.


Syracuse Journal, Monday, July 31
NEW YORK (INS) — James Mattern, round-the-world flier who cracked up in eastern Siberia en route to Nome, was to be welcomed at city hall today by Mayor John P. O’Brien. Flying a borrowed plane, Mattern arrived here yesterday afternoon from Toronto, making the trip in four hours and 11 minutes.

Russian oil, not adopted to his engine, was blamed by the Texas aviator for his interrupted world flight.

Mattern, describing the 19 lonely days he spent in bleak Siberia after his crash, said he could not remember how time passed.

“I kept a diary,” he said, “and according to my records it was June 30 when I came out of Anadyr, but I learned much to my surprise it was really July 5.”


In 1937 Mattern attempted to return a favor when he flew to Siberia in hopes of finding Sigizmund Levanevsky, whose plane went down. Search efforts were unsuccessful, however, and the Russian hero was presumed dead, along with five others who were in the plane attempting to fly over the North Pole.

Unlike a lot of early pilots, Mattern lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1988 at the age of 83.

Though he was often called "Smiling Jimmy," Mattern was not the inspiration for the popular comic strip pilot, "Smiling Jack," introduced to newspaper readers in October, 1933.

Mack Martin was the original name of the hero in the comic strip created by Zack Mosley, who took flying lessons and earned a pilot's license. Mack Martin became Jack Martin, aka "Smiling Jack," and the cartoonist found himself nicknamed "Smiling Zack." The comic strip ran 40 years. "Smiling Jack" reportedly was drawn to resemble Rosco Turner, a famous airplane racer.