Miss Veedol Haiku

Get it right first time!

Or Imperial Japan

Will shut that shit down.

My parents are going to be flying over to Taiwan to visit me in mere hours, so here’s a short piece that’s vaguely related.

On October 5, 1931, residents of East Wenatchee, Washington had the privilege of having the Miss Veedol crash land in their hills. Why was that significant? It marked the end of the very first non-stop Trans-Pacific flight, clocking in at forty-one hours and thirteen minutes. The distance was two thousand miles longer than a Trans-Atlantic flight, so eat it, Lindbergh, you awful Nazi fancier.

(Sure, he was brave and faced much tragedy. But he was still a Nazi fanboy. Anyway. I digress.)

Miss Veedol‘s pilots were Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon Jr. The former brought the actual aviation skill – he was a flight instructor in the US Air Force during World War I and afterwards was employed in barnstorming (aerial acrobatics and stunts for the delight and amazement of crowds.) The latter brought the money, as his mother was the heiress of the Tidewater Oil Company that made the Miss Veedol.

Conquering the Pacific was not Pangborn and Herndon’s first goal. They’d originally intended to set a new speed record for a circumnavigation, but all sorts of shit happened. They finally made it to Eastern Russia, found that they were way behind and hadn’t a hope in hell of beating the record that year, and brainstormed what else they could do.

Hey, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper was offering a $25,000 prize for the first non-stop Trans-Pacific flight! Yep, change of plans. Let’s fly down to Japan and get this happening.

Except Herndon, in his puppy dog excitement, took a lot of photos and movies along the way. Including ones of Japanese naval bases. Which made Japanese officials frown, and throw them in the clink. They were let out with a cash payment of $1000 and a warning that they’d see those cells again if they ever came back.

So they basically only had one shot, which was made a longer one than the Black Dragon Society (a super right wing, super nationalist paramilitary group) made off with all their maps. They didn’t want Whitey getting the prize first, see.

But off they went on October 4th. Shortly thereafter, they jettisoned the landing gear to reduce drag (Pangborn had to go out on the wings to finish the job.) There was other drama along the way, but it was mostly due to Herndon – such as when he let the fuel get low because he neglected to pump it, causing the engine to quit. Or when he was told to keep an eye out for Vancouver while Pangborn had a desperately needed nap and missed that city, and Seattle, entirely. But he was the money, so what can you do.

They did nearly run into Mount Ranier, though. Fog is a bitch.

So yep, belly landing in East Wenatchee it was! Pangborn got just a tenth of the prize money. Herndon and Ma got the rest. So Pangborn continued doing what he had been doing, later signing up with the Royal Air Force in 1939 (despite being an American national.) He died in 1958.

The Miss Veedol, then renamed The American Nurse, disappeared in 1932, en route from New York to Rome.

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