7 December 1941: The Pacific Clipper makes a dangerous escape!

Fascinating! This would make a great movie.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JARay says:

    I found this fascinating. Although not quite the same, during WW II, the Royal Australian Air Force used to fly, on a daily basis, from Perth to Sri Lanka and thence on to England using Catalina amphibious aircraft. And they used to return the same way.

  2. Thomas Sweeney says:

    Years ago I read a biography of Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airways. He was quite a guy, obviously a visionary and one who overcame many obstacles to make his dream come true. One obstacle that I remember was on Wake Island. The island was a refueling stop on the way to Manila, but the only landing area was full of coral reefs. If I remember correctly, he hired some college swimmers on their summer vacation to plant dynamite charges to blow up the coral.

  3. jflare says:

    That would’ve been a very anxious trip, I think. I agree, it would make a fascinating historical movie. …’Course, being the aviation nut that I am, I could easily be enthralled by movies about Lucky Lindy, Amelia Earhart, and others as well. Would they be successful films? Hard to tell.
    Incidentally, I suspect there are several hundred commercial pilots who can relate to this situation quite well today. Imagine going to work one day, expecting to do a typical hop, then receiving directions from ATC when you’re at 40,000 feet to land immediately. ….Anywhere! For that matter, I expect a large number of flight controllers and airport managers had a very difficult time too. Imagine trying to make sense of where to place a few thousand airliners without allowing them to run into each other, either in the air, or on the ground.

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    That was waaaaay too cool.

    Classic lines:
    …flying low due to bad fuel and shot at by a Jap submarine.

    …almost shot down near Mecca by angry followers of Allah.

  5. LuraV says:

    So, tell me, what do you know and when did you first know it?
    I know a guy in the movie biz and he is working on just such a project.
    Your spies are everywhere.

  6. stuart reiss says:

    Ceylon old chap…Sri Lanka only since 1977…I was born in Kandy around that time…my grandfather died when the Japs bombed Trincomalee harbour…they wanted to invade Ceylon and use it as a stepping stone to attack India…the invasion fleet was spotted by a Canadian pilot Cmdr Leonard Birchell on a routine patrol in a Catelina. He needed to get a better view of the size of the battle group, led by admiral Nagamucho, the same that had attacked pearl harbour. But getting closer meant he would loose radio contact and certainly no fuel to make it all the way back to base. Yet he did it, and then had to dodge the Zeros scrambled out of the four aircraft carriers, until he got back into radio range. He was shot down eventually and spent the war as a POW but his message got through. And the invasion was repealed. This saviour of Ceylon was greeted during the 50 th anniversary of the bombing. Now THAT is a movie.

  7. stuart reiss says:

    See my note above

  8. stuart reiss says:

    Surely not by followers of the religion of peace? I think that was a gross mistake in the narrative. And in the name of all things decent and PC an apology is needed.

  9. stuart reiss says:

    Ps. Thomas Cardinal Cooray the wartime predecessor of Cardinal Ranjith (we’ve only ever had two cardinals on our history) consecrated Ceylon to Our Blessed Mother, to save the country from the Japs. And built a basilica in her honour.

  10. JARay says:

    Thank you Stuart. Most interesting. Yes, it was indeed Ceylon then, not Sri Lanka.

  11. bookworm says:

    “Imagine trying to make sense of where to place a few thousand airliners without allowing them to run into each other, either in the air, or on the ground.”

    Isn’t that, sorta, what happened on 9/11 when U.S. airspace was closed? One of my favorite books on this topic is “The Day The World Came To Town,” an account of all the planes that suddenly had to land in Gander, Newfoundland, the travelers that were stranded there for several days, and the extraordinary hospitality shown to them by the residents.

  12. Semper Gumby says:

    Stuart Reiss wrote: surely not…by the religion of peace.

    Good one. And interesting comments by you and others here.

  13. gracie says:

    From the memoirs of Aline Griffith, OSS operative, who in 1942 entered Europe aboard another Pan Am Clipper:

    “Lisbon lay below, dazzling in a diamond horseshoe of lights. It was as if we were arriving at a gigantic party in full swing; gaiety seemed to beckon in the velvet night from the shimmering bay. Perhaps it was the contrast with the blackout in the United States or that this was my first plane trip, but I was spellbound as I stood in the Captain’s cockpit watching the Clipper descend into the water, splitting the waves into peaks of creamy froth . . . “Look!” Larry Melton pointed to some rowboats nearby. “The Japanese. Their intelligence center operates out of Lisbon and Madrid. When a Pan Am Clipper crashed a month ago, the Japs were cruising the wreckage before anyone could get to the scene, picking up pouches destined for Allied embassies, leaving wounded passengers to drown while salvaging top-secret documents.”
    – from ‘The Spy Wore Red’

  14. stuart reiss says:

    Cmdr Leonard Birchell…a true hero..
    And it’s Vice admiral Nagamu….not Nagamucho….

    semper…thank you for comment…fr z digs up amazing stuff..and then a great com thread starts..I now live in London, but proudly Ceylonese…my paternal Grandfather died when the japs bombed Ceylon, and my maternal Grandpa shot a Jap pilot, when he failed to commit Harakiri after he was captured..heat of battle..red mist..the Devil must’ve had a field day…during wwii…men were men..and did what they had to…

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Stuart: Cmdr. Birchell certainly had a tale told well with that video. That old saying “Wooden Ships and Iron Men” could be updated for WWII. Something like aluminium aircraft and…well, you get the idea.

    If I remember right, after attacking Pearl Harbor, Nagumo took his carriers, after raiding Wake Island en route, to the Singapore/Malaysia area but fortunately the Pacific Clipper should have already passed through that area.

    Quite a tale about your relatives, that was a desperate time in that part of the world. A Filipino-descent Marine lieutenant I spent time at sea with a few years back told me about his relatives in the Philippines during occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army. Unpleasant stuff. But there was a victory at times for the Filipino guerrillas in the hills.

    I had a relative, a couple generations ago, serve on the battleship Pennsylvania, though he didn’t get onboard until after it was repaired in 1942. They delivered alot of broadsides against Japanese-held islands. At the Battle of Surigao Strait and the “crossing the T” night action in Oct. 1944, they didn’t shoot much due to maneuvering in the Strait. I think this may have been the last battle of battleships.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Gracie: the book sounds interesting. My collection of WWII books must always increase. Speaking of Lisbon, did the author have any doings with the British agent “Tricycle” who frequented Lisbon? Books have been written about that character, and he was involved in Pearl Harbor intrigue in early 1941, and eventually with the D-Day deception campaign.

  17. gracie says:

    Semper Gumby,

    “The Spy Who Wore Red” is a fun read. Aline Griffith was a 20 year old woman who wanted to serve her country as her 2 brothers were doing in the military. She had tried different avenues and being recruited by the OSS was purely via a chance meeting at a party she almost didn’t attend. I don’t remember if she mentioned “Tricycle” – it’s been awhile since I last read the book – but as she says in the prologue, she disguised some persons and situations, including changing code names, in order to protect identities. At the same time, she reveals who many of them were. The story’s told through the eyes of a young woman of that period, with all the dreams that girls of that era had – this may seem a bit quaint in our hyper-sexualized time but Ms. Griffith isn’t trying to make herself out to be a Mata Hari. (And surprise, surprise, she’s a Catholic! although she may not mention it in that book).

    A book that you’d really enjoy reading is “The Lisbon Route” by Ronald Weber. It’s a non-fiction account of the unique role that Lisbon played in World War II. As Mr. Weber reminds us, the goal of Victor and Ilsa Laszio was not “Casablanca” but Lisbon, which was the last open port in Europe after the fall of France. It’s a real page turner. You will thoroughly enjoy reading it!

  18. gracie says:

    I just realized I wrote the title (second time) incorrectly. It is: “The Spy Wore Red”.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Gracie: Both of those books sound interesting, I’ll have to read them.

    Quaintness is often marginalized by certain people these days- to their detriment in my opinion. They are missing out not only on great reading, but on great tales of faith, fortitude, discipline, hope, and courage. The memoirs written by the Coastwatchers, the Long Range Desert Group, and the OSS and MI-6 teams in Occupied France are timeless.

    Rick in Casablanca would never admit that to Capt. Renault, but I think he would agree.

  20. stuart reiss says:

    Gracie: buying both on Amazon via fr z of course…thanks for the review..

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