"..a tale of resourcefulness, cool competence and courage."
This is the story of the Pacific Clipper, a Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boat, which was the first commercial airliner to fly around the world. In 1941-42, it was stranded in New Zealand after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and made it back to New York, flying west, through Australia, the Dutch East Indies, India, Africa, the South Atlantic, and Caribbean. Captain Bob Ford and the crew overcame lack of support facilities, inferior fuel, engine failure and enemy intrigue to complete their mission.
A new book by Albert S.J. Tucker Jr. and Matthew W. Paxton IV with Eugene J. Dunning, recounts the exploits of Captain Bob Ford and crew of a Pan American Airways flying boat that had to circumnavigate the globe in 1941 just after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The flight was a thirty-four day ordeal. It took over 31,000 miles, 3 oceans, 5 continents, 12 nations, 22 landings, and crossed the equator 4 times.
They had no airways to follow, had to use bad fuel, had no spare parts. They had engine failures, were nearly shot down, and made numerous overloaded takeoffs. With few air navigation aids, Ford was still able to employ precision celestial air navigation. Captain Ford and crew accomplished the impossible and made aviation history.
Four years of research and writing, this incredible and absolutely true story of the Pacific Clipper is a tribute to the greatness of Pan Am, her crews, and is worthy of a Cecil B. De Mille epic movie!
Pearl Harbor Attacked!
A shocking but not altogether unexpected call from Navy Secretary Frank Knox had aroused Juan Trippe from his sick bed that Sunday afternoon on December 7,1941. Despite a bad case of the flu, he raced to his desk at the corporate headquarters of Pan American Airways in the Chrysler Building in the New York City, where he was immediately inundated with urgent official calls from Washington, including one from President Roosevelt. All anyone knew was that a Japanese navy carrier force had attacked Pearl Harbor early in the day, and now all of Washington officialdom needed to learn more. Where would the Japanese navy strike next?
With its large fleet of flying boats operating all over the Pacific Ocean as far as Hong Kong and its efficient radio communications net, the government looked to Pan American to supply vital information as well as to serve as a communications link. Unfortunately, the highly regarded communications network was being taxed beyond its capability and many important Pan Am flight reports were not coming through. A visibly shaken old friend and trusted aide, Harold Bixby, soon joined Juan Trippe at his desk. They were joined by other staff members, all very much in need of encouragement.
Acutely aware of the perils and problems which lay ahead, Tripe rose to the occasion, displaying confidence and optimism that reassured everyone. He emphatically declared that no war with the Japanese or with the Germans, if it came to that, would ever bring down their great airline. There was no reason to doubt the outcome of any war involving our great nation. He made it clear to the assembled staff that some very effective staff work must be accomplished without delay, and that no one could waste time with thoughts of doom and gloom. All personnel selflessly plunged into the urgent task of adjusting the company's vast flight operations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and Central and South America to accommodate the impending and inevitable war.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Albert S.J. Tucker Jr. (Col. USAF Retired) Flew P-38's in World War II and super-sonic jet fighters for a career in the United States Air Force. Began the story of the Pacific Clipper as a screen play and was urged to write the book by his daughter Kathryn. Tucker interviewed many of the participants including the pilot, Capt. Bob Ford. The entire project spans 10 years. Still flying at 82 years old, Tucker is on a mission to edify Pan Am and tell the story of Bob Ford's remarkable round the world flight.
Matthew W. Paxton IV is the publisher of the Lexington News-Gazette in Lexington, Va. Matt is also a pilot, building another of his own planes. A keen historian, Matt bacame interested in the story when Al Tucker asked for some proof reading help. Matt dove in with both feet and became an indispensable member of the team.