Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Elton Blackburn Long


Credited with 100 combat missions
Went on to post war fame as an engineer and inventor with Case:
The man who started at Case as Chief Product Engineer for the loader/backhoe, and retired 29 years later as Vice President of Construction Equipment Engineering worldwide.

Born in 1921, in Springfield, Illinois, Elton was the second of four children: three sons and a daughter. His father was an electrician. Returning home in after the end of the war, Elton had decided upon a career in mechanical engineering, and enrolled in the University of Illinois as a mature student. A year later, he met this future wife, Mae Sue Spengler, on a blind date. They were married in 1947 while Elton was still an undergraduate. In order to support this family, Elton worked in a drawing office by day, and studied by night. Nevertheless, he completed the course in three years, graduating in 1949.

Now it was time to look for a ‘real’ job, so Elton joined the engineering department of Baker Manufacturing in his home town of Springfield, Illinois. Baker was a builder of attachments for construction equipment including dozer blades and snow ploughs.
The company changed owner ship twice during Elton’s time there: first being taken over in 1955 by Allis Chalmers, then again when Alliss old the division onto American Tractor Corporation, of Churubusco, Indiana. ATC was a builder of crawler tractors, and wanted its own ‘in house’ attachment supplier. So Elton moved his family to Indiana, and as a project Engineer, one of his first tasks was to develop a hydraulically-activated angle-dozer blade.
Other projects followed, and Elton and his fellow engineers were already developing an integrated loader backhoe when Case started to show interesting ATC, leading in 1956 to the two companies merging. In addition to arrange of small crawler tractors, Case also gained ATC’s engineers, and a prototype loader backhoe. Marc Rojtman, President of ATC who transferred to Case as Executive Vice President, had already realized the potential of this product, and supported it fully. It was decided to base engineering and production at Burlington, Iowa, a move which saved the plant from a threatened closure. Elton was installed as Chief Product Engineer, meaning another move for the Long family.

Once he got to Burlington, Elton had found his dream situation: an engineering department of his own, which he built up from scratch; prototype-building facilities; an adequate budget; and even a proving ground to test out new designs.

Over a span of almost 30 years, together with his team, Elton developed more than 40 models of loader backhoe. He passed up several chances of promotion in order to remain in his fiefdom of Burlington, but eventually, in 1981, when appointed Director and then Vice President of Construction Equipment Engineering Worldwide, he was forced to move to Racine. Yet he still kept the house in Burlington, and moved back there when he retired in1984. His health and quality of life declined in the early 1990’s, and though he survived a further 10years, he finally passed away in April 2003, aged 81. His funeral brought friends and colleagues from far and wide, and messages came from all over the world. The Father of the Backhoe was buried with military honours in Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington. A scale model of the Case 580C is buried with him.


Units served with

Associated Place

  • Winkton

    Military site : airfield
    Prepared as an RAF Advanced Landing Ground in 1943, the land was released for grazing before it was again selected for aircraft use, and improved for the Ninth Air Force in 1944. Used briefly by the 404th Fighter Group, it was then abandoned,...


Event Location Date
Born Springfield, IL, USA 6 June 1921
Enlisted Peoria, IL, USA 17 August 1940
Graduated Champaign, IL, USA 1949

University of Illinois
Mechanical Engineering

Died Des Moines, IA, USA 6 April 2003

Mr Long graduated from Springfield, ILL High School in 1939 and enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was a P-47 pilot in the 404th Group, 508th Squadron in the European Theater with 100 missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and 16 Air Medals.He was famous and was known nation wide as the "Father Of The Backhoe". He joined the J.I.Case Company in 1957 and it was his work that took the loader, the backhoe and the tractor and integrated them into and marketed it as a single product. Over the years as Cheif Engineer and finally as Vice President of Engineering for the company he funded and continually redesigned this product until his retirement in 1984.

Buried Des Moines, IA, USA 9 April 2003

Aspen Grove Cemetery
Des Moines County
Iowa, USA
Plot: Block 343, Lot 5


Date Contributor Update
22 August 2015 05:26:24 466thHistorian Changes to events

466th BG Historian

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2015 05:25:33 466thHistorian Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations and media associations