The Pan American Clipper

The follwing text is from a Pan American Airways brochure of the period. The pictures are from separate sources.

THROUGH four long centuries, man heard no tocsin to spur him on to higher, bolder adventure than that which set him out across the vast Pacific. Nowhere on the face of the globe was there a stage of such proportions, so fit for vivid pageantry. Upon that stage, before that background of an ocean that covers half the world's dimensions, ventured the proud Magellan leading his tiny caravels across an endless Drake fled homeward with the plunder of a mystic continent...roving whalers sought out siren islands of undreamed peace and loveliness...courageous explorers, great men of war, bold men of peace dipped in and out of forbidden ports, sped homeward with tales of magic lands still hid behind the sunset.

Tall-masted Yankee clipper ships, with billowing sails and decks awash, raced half way 'round the globe to win a trade near fable in its richness. Then steam had come and clumsy craft, smoke belching from their towering stacks, ploughed the trackless miles to sweep forever from the seas the proud old clipper ships. Great ocean liners followed - and here the saga was to end. The islands of Hawaii lay no further from our western coast than Europe from our east. And even far-off China was scarcely three weeks distant. Men said that half a world of sea could surely shrink no less than this! Yet, even as they spoke, a winged generation was already moving onto the stage. They had already shrunk the continents to a third their former size. Three weeks to China? World markets and modern industry separated by three costly weeks just because nine thousand miles of ocean intervened? Three weeks was more than ample time to circle all the globe - if only wings were strong enough and man could learn to guide them well across that ocean barrier!

How that bold dream was turned into reality is now a well-known story: a nation's industry joined with pioneers to meet the challenge. Designers labored to bring forth huge-winged clipper ships, greater than any before them; to develop tremendous power plants, propellers, a hundred instruments. Pan American turned the Caribbean into a working laboratory from which to draw men, methods and materials for ocean conquest. Pilots of airplanes became captains of ocean air-liners; masters of celestial navigation, of weather, of seamanship; others became flying engineers to man the power plants; still others perfected radio until it could span an entire ocean with its guiding signals.

Ahead into the Pacific went an army of young Americans to build air bases thousands of miles apart for an aerial highway to the Orient across a trio of almost unknown dots on the ocean's map. While bases still were building, trail-blazing Clippers began to move across the ocean path which no airman had ever ventured. With quiet, effortless precision that thrilled a watching world, flight after flight was made - to Hawaii, to Midway, then to Wake, to Guam, finally, with the first United States Ocean Air Mail, to the far-off Philippines. A hundred trips, a million miles of flying, before the astounding aerial bridge was at last thrown open to passengers. Along it, now, men and mail and merchandise could reach Hawaii overnight; could speed to far-off China in a few hours more than five brief days. In all the stirring history of the great Pacific there can be no more thrilling chapter.

IN ALL the travel wonders of a world now brought within the compass of a few swift days on the fleet wings of the airplane - there is no travel magic to match this aerial voyage to the other side of the world. No cold, prosaic type of the time-table's ordered listing can hide the wonder of it all.

"Leave San Francisco every Wednesday (3:00 P. M.). Arrive Honolulu Thursday (9:00 A. M.). Midway Island...Friday. Wake Islands (here Eastern Hemisphere Time) Sunday...Guam...Monday. Manila...Tuesday. Macao-Hongkong...Wednesday (12:00 Noon)" Hongkong but five and one-half days? Hawaii, overnight?

Fantastic? No, as simple as that! In one long week-end, half the world will pass beneath you. At your wish any part of China, Japan, Indo-China, Batavia, Bali, Malaya, India lies at your feet. Hawaii for a week-end! Half way 'round the world and back again on a simple two weeks' cruise, with every night but two ashore in a different land! Here is a travel-magic Aladdin never dreamed of...a practical, yours-to-command magic that, in the same time you would spend on a hurried motor trip to a nearby resort, will whisk you across the world to the very doorway to the glamorous Orient.

Who has not dreamed of basking on the romantic beach of Waikiki? Of sampling the seductive lure of these scented islands, with their soft-voiced dancing maidens and the south sea island magic of their moonlight-flooded palms? Of exploring the wonderlands of the lovely Philippines, and the scintillating life of old Manila. Who has never dreamed of seeing China - that treasure-house of travel wonders that no one who lives upon this world should ever fail to see? Once these were so far away that few could ever hope to reach them. No longer!

The travel adventure of a lifetime is yours for the taking. Where can one match the indescribable wonder of reaching the island paradise of Hawaii between a single sunset and dawn? Of stepping ashore in the Philippines one your fifth day from home? Of stepping from your own home into the very heart of the Orient, on the other side of the world, in just five and a half days' travel? Never again will this opportunity offer...the opportunity to experience this new-day miracle of travel while the wonder is still fresh upon it - while the flight across an ocean is still looked upon as reserved for only those who have the world to command. While those unbelievable little mid-ocean islands of Midway, Wake and Guam are still unknown to tourist's tours.

And the manner of your travel is still the greatest wonder of it all...The thrill of soaring majestically through a star-lit night and knowing that an ocean is fleeing beneath your wings...The thrill of seeing fair, far-distant lands rise from beyond the earth's far circle and move beneath your window just for you to look upon...The thrilling experience of being among the first ever to set foot upon the new-found island colonies of the age-old Pacific, which fewer than a score of men had ever seen before the coming of these flying clipper ships...Here, within the time limits of an ordinary vacation, are priceless experiences that will last a lifetime through. At San Francisco, your clipper ship is waiting...!

Overnight to Hawaii

Resting alongside the floating pier, ready for departure, the Clipper looks gigantic. Uniformed attendants are stowing into her forward holds bulging sacks of mail, rushed at the last minute from other airports where overland airliners had sped it from every section of the country. Then boxes of air express - winged envoys for America's billion-dollar trade with the Orient. One bell rings out. The Captain and his five flight officers file up the gangway.

One by one the big engines start, turning their propellers in glistening arcs. Two bells. Passengers aboard! Past a wall of waving handkerchiefs, a chorus of shouted farewells, the Clipper moves slowly out into the bay. A turn into the wind. A muffled roar of the powerful engines. Suddenly, so smoothly that the break is imperceptible, the giant rises easily into the sky. Hawaii - the next stop! Hawaii - twenty-five hundred miles across the ocean - for breakfast!

The Martin M-130 departs San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge under construction below.

Below you, immediately, the whole, colorful panorama of San Francisco - the great bridges, the Golden Gate, the Marina, as the Clipper moves out to sea, and you are cruising a mile or more above the ocean - cruising steadily toward the flaming rays of a setting sun into a world of infinite blue.

Your fellow passengers begin to move about the great airliner, to explore its big compartments, to look through the curtained door into the Navigation Office - and beyond, where the flight officers are going about their many duties with that confident precision gained from long experience that testifies to the complete mastery of their art.



Over tea the steward makes you acquainted with any fellow passengers you have not already met, tells you interesting bits about the ship, the course, the remarkable flight routine. Swiftly, and interestingly, the hours race on. Through your window priceless panoramas of sea and sky are constantly parading for your excited gaze. Fantastic patterns of clouds against the background of sea or sky. Sunset - and, who would not thrill to their first flying sunset a mile or more above the sea? Or to the brilliant canopy of flashing stars just overhead. Or to the flood of moonbeams dancing on the mottled surface of the sea far below. Or to the glittering outline of a steamer overtaken in mid-ocean, her lights full on, her decks crowded with thrilled spectators, her powerful searchlight sending up a shaft of dazzling blue-white light in greeting, as you swiftly pass her by.

Then dinner - served on tables gay with spotless linen, flashing china and silver - in the Dining-Lounge. A game of bridge. A chapter in your favorite book. All too quickly the evening passes. As drowsiness steals over you, the steward arranges your cabin, makes ready your berth, brings your bag to the dressing room.



Soon you have slipped into a restful, unbroken night's slumber. Broad daylight again, when you are awakened. Time to dress, for a cup of coffee, before your first, thrilling glimpse of the Hawaiian Islands! From beyond a blue horizon the majestic form of Mauai first rises out of the sea! Then the mountains of Molokai. Through the purple distance the big island of Hawaii suddenly looms. Ahead, Oahu quickly grows into sharp focus - vivid green mountains, mottled fields, patches of reddish brown earth, glistening white beach set off by rich foliage, all in sharp contrast to the delicate shading of rapidly shallowing waters. Beyond one wing is Makapu, the famous lighthouse, and the powerful Direction-Finding station that has been drawing the Clipper steadily through the night. Beyond the other wing, famed Diamond Head. Waikiki Beach and its rolling surf. The picture city of Honolulu itself. The Pali. Pearl Harbor, as the Clipper circles gracefully toward her landing channel. Another moment and colorful, fragrant leis of exotic island flowers, soft, rhythmic music of guitars, and soft-sung songs of dancing Hula girls bid you Aloha - the age-old welcome to Hawaii, island paradise of the Pacific. But who can describe the alluring charm of these lovely islands? They are now just overnight from California - but one day and one night from any city in the United States - on the skyroad to the Orient!

Along the Islands to Midway

From Honolulu westward to speed into a travel world where, until the coming of the flying clipper ships, scarcely a hundred white men, in all recorded history, ever set adventurous foot. As you leave Honolulu on your second day's aerial voyage of discovery, the Clipper's course affords a colorful panorama of the western and northern sections of the island of Oahu - lovelier than ever from the air with its mottled fields of sugar-cane, its forests of stately palms, its foliage-covered hills and glistening arcs of beach.

Then through the morning a score of islands pass in review below - each different, each in a magnificent setting of brilliant iridescent waters, crystal clear to the shelving ocean's floor beneath. Nihoa, where the crumbling walls of a prehistoric settlement add an intriguing element of age-old mystery to your exciting exploration ... one - a private domain, where one family through generations has ruled like the royal dynasties of old, where radio, telephone, motion pictures and automobiles are unknown - and unwanted. Smaller and smaller the islands become. Gardiner Pinnacles, that passengers so often - and excitedly - hail as a sailing vessel, so much like a tall-masted schooner do these perfectly shaped rocks, with their pure white crests, appear from a distance. French Frigate shoals - a wide arc of barrier reef where the pounding surf hurls up sprays of foam. Then, not long after luncheon, off in the distance there comes into view a circle of white with two dark spots within the ring - Midway Islands!

Soon the Clipper is circling over the little atoll - a circular lake, eighteen miles in circumference, astoundingly set here in the middle of the ocean. Against white coral sand and clumps of green magnolia trees, the neat, sturdy buildings of the Pan American Base stand out. There is a golf course in the sand! Beyond, a dozen buildings - quarters for the staff, a power house, a refrigeration plant and warehouse, the well-kept compound of the cable relay station. Tall windmills. The substantial-looking V-shaped hotel. A long pier.

A launch standing beside the mooring line at the landing float, waiting to take passengers ashore. Automobiles at the end of the pier to transport you to the hotel. And thousands of beautiful broad-winged birds wheel excitedly over the island to bid you a noisy welcome. At the hotel - astonishingly well appointed - you are assigned to your private room and bath while uniformed attendants care for you luggage.

With the early start from Honolulu, and the short nine-hour flight, you are probably ready for a second luncheon - since, with the change in time, it is scarcely two o'clock by the time you reach the islands.

From then on there are a hundred lures for your time. Perhaps a swim in the sheltered, crystal-clear water ... a stretch under the sun on the finest beach in the world - soft, porous, always cool coral sand, as smooth as a table and as soft as a feather mattress. Or a tour of exploration around the island itself. Perhaps to search for a memento of one of the ancient wrecks ... it was on Midway that the Wandering Minstrel, which inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Wrecker," crashed herself on the reefs - as have other luckless sailing vessels in days gone by. Or a round of golf on the Pacific Cable Company's unique gold course, measured out in the sand, with carpet tees and red golf balls. Or an hour or two of fishing in the lagoon or out on the open sea beyond the reefs. As small as it is, there is enough to do on Midway Islands to keep you pleasantly engaged for two exciting weeks. Your afternoon enables you to sample a few of its many attractions. Even if you do elect to spend the entire time in the company of the interesting - and always interested - Gooney Birds, famous for their song-and-dance act, you are sure of an unforgettable experience.

Across the International Date Line to Wake Islands

Speeding out of the lovely lagoon at Midway, your Clipper turns from the flood of early morning sun and cruises leisurely westward. The second flying day out from San Francisco takes you past the world's half-way meridian, the queer "Date Line" where international custom projects a traveler arbitrarily from one day to the next without a second's passing. Then on to the most unique of all communities - the tiny islands known as "Wake". Over an unbroken expanse of sea and sky and fairy-land cloud formations, you enjoy a mid-morning nap, a game of bridge, luncheon.

Then far ahead a horseshoe of bright turquoise, framed in flashing white, stands sharply out against the indigo blue of encircling ocean. Wake Island! A tiny pin point on the vast Pacific's map - five thousand miles from America's mainland. A land unheard of until a few years ago - uninhabited, until the coming of the airway pioneers - became the scene of one of the most dramatic struggles in the history of American transportation. Here hardship, toil and thrilling courage overcame tremendous odds to set in final place four thousand tons of materials.

Scarcely eight hours from Midway - another change in time - you are ashore in the early afternoon and the island is yours to explore. Barely a mile long, less than half a mile wide, Peale Islet, on which the base is located, is an exciting spot. From the cool veranda of the hotel you look across the beautiful lagoon, whose lovely colors change constantly before your eyes. Beyond, the fascinating crest of the surf beats high as it dashes itself on the barrier reefs.




Down paths lined with magnolia are living quarters for the base staff, the power plant, the big refrigerators, a little hospital, a pergola where you will find an unusual collection of the little atoll's lore - bits from ancient sailing craft that came to grief on the treacherous reefs that so effectively shelter the lagoon's water for the flying clipper ships; heaps of coral in fantastic designs; sea shells of every form. Along the arcs of glistening beach you can find all these for yourself - and perhaps a dozen little hollow balls of glass - floats from Japanese fishing nets that have drifted half way across the Pacific. Through crystal clear water so ideal for bathing, you can see literally hundreds of tropical fish, in a brilliant array of colors, darting about the coral heads, themselves intriguing.

If you wish, attendents will provide you with a glass-bottom "bucket" through which to watch this interesting sub-sea life. Or with a pair of bamboo framed goggles, a bow and arrow, or a spear you can try your own Kanaka under-sea fishing.

Overhead, birds of brilliant plumage - bos'un birds, frigates, man o' war birds, the lovely snow-white terns - are fascinating to watch.

The picture on the right shows the Pan American Airways dock on Wake Island and the many support buildings. Up and to the right from the M-130 dock are 12 U.S. Navy Catalinas all in a row.

Across the lagoon, you may ride on the famous "Wilkes Island Rail Road," two city blocks in length, over which all Wake's buildings and supplies were hauled from the sea-landing to the lagoon for ferrying to Peale Island. Or you may board the big sea-going launch for some deep sea fishing in this angler's paradise where almost all species of the world's finest big game fish are found in abundance.

Wake Island, so newly added to the world's travel map, is already becoming a favorite vacation spot for travel-wise voyageurs. A beautiful, unspoiled land a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. A land reserved to those who fly, where every comfort and convenience, excellent food and expert attention are as much a part of your stay as the breath-taking sunsets, the soft thundering of the sea and its magnificent thirty-foot surf. Not soon can one forget these rainbow waters, soft deep sands, the friendly sun, the cool sweet trade winds blown from across the broadest sea.

From Wake Island you will leave the next day for Guam and then on to the Philippines. There you will land by Cavite Island in Manila Bay near Manila City. If your destination is China, the next day the Clipper leaves Manila for Hong Kong.

This is a picture of a M-130 Clipper over Macao in 1937, where Pan Am Clippers landed until the arrangements at Hong Kong were complete


Each Day one plane travels East to West while another travels West to East as Pan American Airways provides its customers with its reknown Clipper service.

For a map of the Pacific Clipper Routes >

Return to Wake History >