Sand Point NAS - Seattle
THE BEGINNING   1920  -  1931

Page 13 & 14

Around the World Flight
.....Adm. William a. Moffett, chief of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics, announced May 6, 1923, that NAS Seattle would be the starting and finishing point for the first United States flight circling the world.
.....At that time, NAS Seattle was a primitive path hacked through dense woods and undergrowth, with a mud and grass strip that was far from world class. The admiral was not dismayed by mere difficulties. By the end of the year he had dispatched Lt. Theo Koenig and an attack squadron to the base. Landing lights and a wind sock were placed on the landing field by the time Lt. Koenig arrived to test the facilities.
.....The admiral worked from two agendas: he wanted the United States to mount the first around-the-world flight. He also wanted a base in the Pacific Northwest for his beloved lighter-than-air airships. Sand Point, he reasoned, could be both.
.....The field at Sand Point was so muddy that it was unusable during much of the rainy season. Government funds were in short supply, and it wasn't until Clarence Blethan, of the family that owned the Seattle Times, wrote a check for $500 that piping and ditching of the field was completed.
.....The Times trumpeted on March 16, 1924, "Seattle's bravest pilots were flying huge bird ships up the coast from Los Angeles to land at Sand Point." Huge crowds swarmed around the four planes after they landed at Sand Point March 20.
.....During the next two weeks the four Douglas world cruisers were outfitted, the crews were prepared, and floats replaced wheels. Boeing Co. crews did much of the conversion. Among the Boeing crew assigned to the project were Les Hubble and Mike Pavone. Pavone now restores airplanes at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Group leader was Army Maj. Frederick L. Martin, a skilled pilot and head of an Army Signal Corps aerial technical school. He flew with Sgt. Alva Harvey in the flagship of the fleet, the Seattle. The New Orleans was piloted by the only naturalized citizen on the expedition, Lt. Eric Nelsen, originally from Sweden. His co-pilot was Lt. John Harding, of Nashville, Tenn. Lt. Lowell Smith was the pilot of the Chicago with Lt. Leslie Arnold as co-pilot. Smith was a direct descendent of Daniel Boone, and had flown against Pancho Villa in Mexico. He had flown the first plane ever to have been refueled in flight.

Maj. Frederick Martin commanding officer of the around-the-world flight, congradulates Lt. Lowell Smith of the Chicago.

.....The Boston was piloted by Lt. Leigh Wadem with Sgt. Henry Ogden as co-pilot. Nelsen and Harding later joined the Boeing Co.
Supply parties had already provisioned bases all along the route: spare 450 hp Liberty engines (an engine then only lasted about 100 operating hours), fuel, food, clothing and a host of other vital materials.
.....Three of the planes lifted off on schedule April 7, 1924. The fourth made several attempts, but could not get off the water. It returned to the beach, and several extra (and unauthorized) boxes of tools and a case of Scotch were removed. the pilot then launched, and caught up with the flight before Prince Rupert.
.....The Seattle damaged a fuel tank, and spent a night drifting around a dark bay before daylight allowed repairs. They stopped in Sitka for engine work, and then attempted the leg to Dutch Harbor. The Seattle crashed in the rugged mountains of the island chain stretching out from the Alaska mainland where Martin and Harvey struggled for ten days to walk out. For them the flight was over, but Lt. Smith took over as flight commander under orders of Gen. M.M. Patrick and the three pushed on to Attu.
.....Weather dictated their next stop, and they landed at Komandorskies in the Soviet Union. The United States had not recognized the U.S.S.R. then, and the party was not well received. The fliers spent the night on an Alaska Fisheries Bureau boat and left early the next morning. Japan was different, with an extravagant reception and honors.
.....The flight to Indochina was uneventful, but the fliers -- to make up for lost time -- made a daring crossing of the Southeast Asian peninsula and on to Allahabad, India.
.....They winged over the deserts of the Middle East, to huge celebrations in Paris and London.
.....Near-tragedy struck on the Atlantic crossing: the Boston was forced down and lost off Iceland. Both members of the crew were rescued, and they changed to the Boston II upon landing in Nova Scotia.
.....The landing at Boston was gigantic, matched by the crowd at Long Island where the six were met by the President of the United States and the Prince of Wales.
.....They took the long path back across the United States, stopping in major cities in a hopscotch pattern from east to west. The flight ended in Seattle Sept. 28, 1924, with the  three surviving planes touching down at Sand Point.
..... The expedition covered 26,345 miles in 363 hours and seven minutes. Average flight speed was only 72 mph.

A crowd estimated at 50,000 met them at Sand Point. A huge parade through Seattle followed. A marker was placed on the station in October, commemorating the first global flight.