An epic feat from an era in which radio was still newfangled and many people “had never seen an airplane, except in pictures.”
In fact, the U.S. Army aviators chosen for this 1924 expedition left radios behind—along with life preservers and parachutes—to lighten the load on their planes (they did take a pair of stuffed toy monkeys). Fortunately, as Grove, a Smithsonian educator, makes clear in a meticulous account based on journals and other documentary evidence, not only were diplomatic and other preparations made for each planned stop on the carefully mapped course, but the Navy provided near-continual monitoring. Not that the flight went smoothly: One of the four planes crashed into an Alaska mountain, and another sank in the North Atlantic. Along with awful weather (“The Aleutians have but two kinds of weather it seems, bad and worse,” wrote one pilot) and multiple forced landings, so rickety were the aircraft in general that wear and tear required multiple full engine replacements along the way. The flight took 150 days, and the aviators lost a bet with the Prince of Wales that he could beat them across the Atlantic by boat. Of six nations competing to be first to circle the globe, only the U.S. team was able to finish. It’s a grand tale, set handsomely here amid sheaves of maps, short journal passages and contemporary photos.
A high spot in aviation history, particularly noteworthy for the rugged perseverance of those who achieved it. (endnotes, summary charts, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)