I’m honored that my recent book First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race has been named a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.
Few people know about this 1924 Army Air Service flight that made front-page headlines in newspapers around the world. Strange how certain events get lost to history. My theory is that the Lindbergh publicity tidal wave three years later may have contributed to this or perhaps the fact that none of the eight Army guys who participated in the flight are a household name.
Four Douglas World Cruiser airplanes, each named for a U.S. city, left from Seattle traveling west. One crashed into a mountain in Alaska, one was stranded for a short time in a lagoon in Indochina, and another sank in the North Sea. All of the fliers survived the nail-biting adventures. They battled delay after delay, stressed because they were racing crews from five other countries who were not about to let the Americans achieve the glory.
Check out two past posts about sites associated with the world flight.
It’s appropriate the the award ceremony will be in Boston. One of the four planes was named the Boston. (Sadly, it sank in the North Sea) The world flight’s route took it to the city on September 6, 1924 where a huge crowd welcomed them. One of the pilot’s later wrote that “every boat and whistle for miles around was saluting us and guns were fired.” The governor and mayor greeted them with a motorcade and police escort to the Massachusetts capitol where they were given the key to the city. Military bands led them through cheering throngs. The Americans had become celebrities during their travels and this was their first taste of America’s appreciation for their sacrifice. In the end they won glory for America: first to circumnavigate the globe by airplane, first across the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea by airplane and first to cross both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by airplane. They showed that the United States could compete with Europe in the skies.