Skip to comments.This Plane Accidentally Flew Around the World
Posted on 11/09/2019 1:22:57 PM PST by ameribbean expat
Whats up Gene?! Asked Rod Brown the planes Second Officer, whod been close enough to witness the radiomans reaction and now moved to his side.
The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbour! Youve got to be kidding.
No! No! Leach insisted, Just now they bombed Pearl Harbour! No joke man!
Seeing the expression of horror on Leachs face soon dispelled any doubt in Browns mind. And then the reality of what this meant hit him: if the Pacific was no longer a friendly sea then they were cut off. They had no route home.
Brown headed towards the cockpit to warn the Captain. Ford took the news quietly and calmly.
Youre sure about that? You better confirm it.
Leach was already attempting to do exactly that and soon he had managed to lock onto the long-range signal from the Pan Am ground station in Noumea, New Caledonia, from whence they had just departed. The station was broadcasting morse code on a constant loop, itself a bad sign, and the translation left no room for doubt.
PEARL HARBOUR ATTACKED. IMPLEMENT PLAN A.
For a moment there was silence on the flight deck. Then Ford reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a sealed brown envelope, breaking the spell. He was the only member of the crew to whom the last part of the coded message made any sense. It meant it was time to break open the envelopes that he, and every other Clipper Captain, had been secretly issued on every flight for a number of weeks now since Pan Am decided to prepare for a war.
Inside, Ford found he had new orders. To: Captain, PAA Flight 6039 SFO-LAX-HNL-CIS-SUV-NOU-AUK and return flight 6040. From: Division Manager, Pacific Division Subject: Special instructions to avoid hostile military activity.
Pan American Airways, in cooperation with the Chief of Staff, United States Army, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet Operations, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of State, has agreed to place its fleet of flying boats at the disposal of the military for whatever logistical or tactical purpose they may deem necessary at such time as hostilities break out between the United States forces and the military forces of the Imperial Japanese government.
In the event that you are required to open and read these instructions, you may assume that hostilities have already occurred and that the aircraft under your command represents a strategic military resource which must be protected and secured from falling into enemy hands
Ford read on. Plan A, for the California Clipper, meant continuing on to the nearest friendly Pan American base known to be unoccupied by the Japanese, doing everything possible to avoid any contact with enemy forces. This meant continuing to Auckland. Ford had been a Navy pilot before joining Pan American. He knew exactly what to do. They needed to get away from their regular route it was the first place any Japanese forces would sweep and find a new path to Auckland. Rod Brown was dispatched to the map table to do so, and Leach was ordered to shut down the radio. From now they would continue in radio silence.
This done, the rest of the crew were filled in on events, and all lights were extinguished. Finally, Ford unlocked his flight case and pulled out his .38 revolver. He strapped it to his hip.
The California Clippers war had begun. And she was a long, long way from home.
This is an amazing story. “The History Guy” on YouTube has an episode about it.
Thanks for posting this!
Need a movie about this.
Absolutely. Can offset the Chicom “Midway” BS in theaters.
I knew of this flight, but WOW! thanks for posting this and putting flesh and blood on the story!
Action scenes I was told were pretty good but disjointed, no connectivity as though each one was a separate action. I liked this version on Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd8_vO5zrjo
On youtube there is an original 1943 recreation of the Clipper’s circuitous route home. It begins with the radioman picking up traffic that Pearl Harbor was bombed, then the captain orders the passengers woken & to assemble in the dining saloon where he gives them the news of war breaking out.
What is amazing even now was Pan Am’s global communications network and how the Clipper was able to find refueling points all the way to New York.
I just toured the National Air & Space Museum in Washington and spent a lot of time with the exhibits on the development of aviation from 1903 through today. Theres a great exhibit on the development of navigation together with the aircraft. It was an amazing period of tech progress, bold executive leadership, great airmen (and women) and the formation of huge companies. I really enjoyed the exhibit about the Lindberghs and especially learning about Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I had no idea that the Pan Am created Plan A to prevent their Clippers from falling into enemy hands. What this crew did to bring their aircraft home WESTWARD from Caledonia is astonishing.
Thanks, will check that out.
Good story, but New York is is 3,000 short of around the world.
And why did they need to go all the way to NYC if corporate headquarters were in Miami?
Would you know? Did the plane continue on to Khartoum and then to Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo? That flight also went around the world, and had a terrifying takeoff on both the Nile and Congo rivers.
Great story to read again.
That was an amazing story that I had to read to the very end.
That was one hell of a nail biting journey that even today would be a hell of an experience to take.
My thanks to the Crew who flew the plane and the author of the article. Without the article I probably would have never known about that astounding flight.
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