Round-the-World Flyers


Round-the-World Flyers 

Defense Day 1924 at Bolling Field was truly a cause for celebrating America and its military accomplishments, especially in aviation, for they were many and they were great. But this particular year, the spectators had something to really roar about as they watched the newest and perhaps greatest celebrities of the sky perform for the at their field. These now-famous airmen were the acclaimed "world flyers" and they had stopped at Bolling to participate in the Defense Day activities.

They would soon be on their way to Seattle, Washington, which would mark the end of their monumental flight around the world...the first such flight ever completed.  The quest to conquer the world by air had been attempted previously by five other countries, including France and Great Britain, but each had failed to reach its goal. But victory did not elude America's eight gallant airmen and their four unmistakably American airplanes proudly bearing the names Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Seattle, Douglas aircraft for this flight.  The incredible globe-girdling voyage began on April 6, 1924, when the four planes and eight crew members took off from Seattle.


The adventurous airman were: Lieutenants Leigh Wade and H.H. Ogden, Boston; Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. Leslie P. Amold, Chicago; Lieutenants Eric Nelson and Jack Harding, New Orleans; and Maj. Frederick L. Martin and Sgt. Alva Harvey, Seattle. The flyers were bound for such exotic destinations as Alaska, Japan, China, India, Persia, Turkey and Iceland. Unfortunately, two of the original four planes would never realize their goal of circumnavigating the globe. The Seattle hit a mountain peak in Alaska, leaving its crew stranded in the wilderness for 10 days, but luckily very much alive. Then, the Boston crew was forced to crash land in the North Atlantic, with the plane eventually being replaced by the Boston II and the crew resuming its venture in a matter of days.  Although the rain-soaked and weary crowd, including President Calvin C.  Coolidge and his staff, that gathered at Bolling Field on September 9,1924, would actually witness the return of only two of the aircraft, the enamored crowd would hail each of the original crew of world flyers with equal vigor and pride.

The tireless crowd gazed skyward breathlessly and patiently for hours for the  delayed arrival of their new heroes of  the sky. Finally, at a few minutes before 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the airships Chicago and Boston II soared into view over the Washington skyline and landed at a jubilant Bolling Field. Up to a few hours before, these two planes had been accompanied by the New Orleans, and all three crews had anticipated making the entrance into Washington together. But a few miles short of Baltimore, in Halethorpe, Maryland, the New Orleans had been forced down in a grassy field because of mechanical problems. Fortunately, the repairs were minor and the craft was able to join its sister ships the very next day at Bolling.  All three planes remained at Bolling Field for the duration of Defense Day celebrations and were featured performers during the festivities. The morning of September 13, 1924, the gallant airmen embarked to finish the incredible worldwide journey they had begun almost six months before.

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