Across the Pacific

She lived on the west coast and he lived on the east. He couldn’t manage her so he married her and then he couldn’t manage her.” When Amelia Earhart rented a house in California in the fall of 1934 this comment by a colleague was not entirely off the mark. The move indicated the end of one phase in Amelia’s partnership with George Palmer Putnam. The young woman G. P. had both managed and manipulated back in 1928—with her knowledge and consent—had needed him more than he needed her. During the six years that followed, more than three of which she was married to him, Amelia had changed. The Boston social worker Putnam made a celebrity was now more skillful than he in handling the press and certainly more popular. Reporters were frequently irritated by him, a manager who seemed to promote himself as much as his client. They called him “the lens louse,” because he wanted to be in every photograph taken of Amelia. But they seldom found fault with her.

Nevertheless, G. P. remained her manager and she continued, for the most part, to follow the agenda he set for her, signing the contracts and making the appearances he wanted, working at the frenzied pace he set. She refused only those propositions and schemes she considered too impractical, tawdry, or insulting to the public and press.

On October 3, 1934, while she was still living at Rye, two conflicting reports of her plans for another long-distance flight appeared in the press. The first claimed she would attempt a solo flight across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil to the African coast. The second said she would fly from San Francisco to Honolulu for a prize of ten thousand dollars offered by a group of Hawaiian business men. She denied both stories after a ten-day cross-country drive alone. When she arrived in Los Angeles on November 6, she told reporters her plane had been sent on ahead but when they asked which flight she would attempt she said, “Neither.” She was “on vacation” for a month.

In one sense she was. She was back in the place she loved, the land of hot sun and blue skies that had first enchanted her as a determined, impetuous, and often foolhardy twenty-four-year-old student pilot. At thirty-six, she checked her fuel gauge before a flight and resisted the impulse to fly between high voltage wires just to shorten a landing. But, if less impetuous, she was even more determined to make a flight no person had ever made before—not a woman’s record but a world record. Her denial to the press of either plan was truthful. She intended to reverse one of the predicted courses, flying from Honolulu to San Francisco, because, she told G. P., it was “easier to hit a continent than an island.”

The plan suited them both. He could make commitments for advertising endorsements, lectures, and articles and be certain of an initial ten thousand dollars to finance the flight. She could attempt to become the first person, man or woman, to fly alone over the twenty-four hundred miles of open water in a single-engine plane. The night she arrived in Los Angeles she went to a dinner given for Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, who had crossed the Pacific in 1928 while she was waiting at Trepassey for the flight of theFriendship to London, and who had just flown from Sydney to Los Angeles. She would be repeating the Honolulu leg of his flight but he had been accompanied by a navigator and she would make it alone. She told no one at the dinner of her plans.

The next day she was at Burbank, ready to work with Paul Mantz, the man she had chosen to overhaul her Vega at United Airport in Burbank, now the Glendale-Pasadena-Burbank Airport. Stunt pilot, engineer, businessman, speed-record contender, and president of the Motion Picture Pilots’ Association, Mantz was six years younger and no taller than Amelia, a dapper, well-built, compact man with a pencil-line moustache and hair slicked back from a high forehead. Assertive and articulate, he enjoyed telling stories about the motion picture celebrities he flew on his charter service, United Services, Ltd. Mantz owned six planes, two of them Lockheeds, and was a pioneer in filming combat scenes in the air. On one occasion he cut a hole in the side of a plane and mounted a camera there to photograph simulated combat from close range. He was as meticulous as he was imaginative in his preparations. “I am not a stunt pilot,” he told a business partner. “I am a precision flier.”

In spite of the business-like image he cherished, the thirty-one-year old flier was not as staid as he claimed. He was cashiered from the Army’s Air Service the day before graduation for “buzzing” a train. A month before he started work on Amelia’s Vega he was cited by the Bureau of Air Commerce for diving within a few feet of the rooftops of Redwood City, in a salute to his bedridden mother. Soon after, while testflying Amelia’s Vega, Mantz buzzed the ranch of Western screen star William S. Hart. He “damned near shook the bricks out of the chimney,” Hart complained. The Department of Commerce traced the plane to Amelia, who went with Mantz to apologize.

Nevertheless, Mantz could be a perfectionist and a hard taskmaster. One associate said, “He wanted someone to back him up, not second-guess him. Too many pilots … assert their ideas, telling other pilots how to fly. You didn’t do that with Paul.”* Amelia didn’t. She was an eager, attentive pupil. Although six years Mantz’s senior, she had not learned to fly until she was twenty-three. All of her training was haphazard, taken between jobs and, later, between public appearances. Mantz, who learned at sixteen, had flown for fifteen years. Amelia gave him the respect he demanded.

For the flight, Mantz stripped the Vega of its ten seats and installed fuel tanks, increasing fuel capacity to 470 gallons of gasoline and 56 gallons of oil. In the cockpit he installed and checked magnetic and aperiodic compasses, a directional bank and turn indicator, an ice-warning thermometer, fuel and temperature gauges, a tachometer, and a supercharger pressure gauge. The engine, the same Pratt & Whitney S1D1 Amelia had used to cross the Atlantic, was overhauled by Mantz’s chief mechanic, Ernest Tissot.

With the plane in good hands, Amelia juggled a half-dozen other preflight tasks. While she looked for a house to rent, she stayed with Jack Maddux, most of her time there spent in a one-room building behind the main house, poring over maps with Maddux and Clarence Williams, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who was charting her course for her. On November 21, a permit for a radio was issued her in Washington, one that could be used “only for communication with ships and coastal stations when in flight over the sea.” In New York, G. P. denied to reporters that she was planning an overseas trip, saying she wanted it for experimental radio work. A month later Amelia was licensed as a third-class operator of a radio telephone, hardly the degree of expertise warranting experimental radio work.

After Amelia moved into the house she had rented at 10515 Valley Spring Road in the Toluca Lake district of Hollywood, she sent for her mother to come and stay with her. G. P. joined them in mid-December. Amelia spent most of her time at United Airport in or near Mantz’s shop, watching him work on the Vega and listening to his detailed instructions, but was relaxed enough to enjoy the company of other pilots at the field, among them Bobbi Trout. Trout introduced Amelia to the joys of motorcycle riding, and they raced up and down the airstrip on two Indian Pony bikes.

In early December Amelia was in Oakland, where she had her picture taken with Flight Lt. Charles T. P. Ulm, who intended to fly from Oakland to Australia. He took off for Honolulu on December 3 but didn’t make it. Forty-eight hours later an extensive search near the Hawaiian Islands began for Ulm and his two companions. They were never found. The news did not change Amelia’s plans, which were still supposed to be very secret.

It was a strangely kept secret. On December 22 Amelia boarded the Matson Line’s luxury liner, Lurline, for Honolulu. With her were G. P., Paul Mantz and his wife, Myrtle, mechanic Ernest Tissot, and the Lockheed Vega, NR965Y, lashed to the aft tennis deck.

On the day after Christmas Amelia wrote a long letter to her mother. It began with an apology for the formula Christmas greeting cabled her, one sent to a long list of people and signed “Amelia and George.” Amy was number seventeen on the list. Amelia also apologized for what was obviously a miserable evening for everyone the night before her departure. “My indisposition of the night before leaving wrecked everything the last hours.” Before every long flight Amelia was always tense in the company of close friends or family members, yet among strangers able to sleep. She had slept in a hotel room in Boston before the 1928 flight but with Amy in the house this time she could not. So deaf that she could not take part in a normal conversation and shunned by many, Amy was querulous and stubborn, an unhappy, frustrated woman with a younger daughter who needed her too much and an older one who didn’t need her at all. In her letter Amelia told her, “Please try to have a good time. You have had so many squashed years, I know its hard to throw them off. But it can be done. I’d like you to take this trip and I am going to plan to that end.” G. P., Amelia wrote, “said you were an awfully good sport to stay alone in the little house. I said I had known that a long time.”

For the first time Amelia also gave Amy details of her plans. She wrote that she had used the radio on the plane, picking up airway stations, one as far away as Kingman, Arizona. If all went well, the Mantzes would be back in Hollywood in ten days. (The Mantzes were neighbors who would help Amy if she needed it.) Amelia would have G. P. cable when she actually started, but Amy might not see her on her return if she decided to fly on to Washington. Amelia also included her customary instructions to Amy on how to deal with reporters. “Reporters may call you. If so, be pleasant, admit you’re my mother if you care to, and simply say you’re not discussing plans. If they ask you what you think of my doing such things, say what you think.” This is followed by Amelia’s saying what Amy ought to think: “It is better to do what want [sic]—etc.”

When the Lurline docked in Honolulu on December 27, Amelia gave reporters even less. She brought the Vega along, she said, in case she wanted to use it. “Maybe we’ll use my plane to fly to every one of the islands.” Then again they might take advantage of “the kind invitation of Stanley Kennedy and fly on Inter-Island planes.” If she decided to make a transoceanic flight, she said, she would not take Mantz. She would not “take a cat along.” She insisted she was on a vacation with her husband. Paul Mantz was a family friend. She and G. P. would stay at the Waikiki Beach house of millionaire Chris Holmes, Paul’s friend.

The press notices that first day were filled with conjecture about her plans but warmly welcomed her to the islands. Twenty-four hours later they turned harshly critical. In an era without airmail service the latest issue of Editor and Publisher had arrived along with Amelia on the Lurline. In it was an article claiming that Amelia’s projected flight from Hawaii to California was a stunt to provide publicity for the territory,§ sponsored by the Pan Pacific Press Bureau. The story stated that a confidential memo had been inadvertently sent to Editor and Publisher by Pan Pacific, an organ of an advertising and publicity firm working for sugar interests. The memo said, “Before the time of the flight we will put into circulation rumors that it is to take place and at the same time deny the rumors. This will create a situation of immediate suspense of very high news value.”

Although G. P. had denied more than once that Amelia was planning a long flight, now he denied designing the campaign of rumors and denials. Amelia insisted that she had come to the islands on a vacation. While it was true, she added, that she was equipped for a long-distance flight she did not know if conditions for it would be favorable and to announce flight plans in advance would be foolish. It had been a toss-up, she said, as to whether she and G. P. would fly from New York to Mexico City or visit Hawaii.

A few days later the San Francisco News added to the charges leveled by Editor and Publisher. Pan Pacific’s campaign, the paper said, was part of the fight by Hawaiian sugar interests against quotas on sugar exported from Hawaii to the mainland. G. P. had accepted a payment of ten thousand dollars in exchange for the use of Amelia’s name and her complimentary remarks about the islands. Releases on the flight by Pan Pacific would emphasize the theme of the territory of Hawaii being an integral part of the United States. If so, a quota or tariff on its products would be unfair. Pan Pacific had already released a story stating Amelia was interested in the inauguration of an airmail express service between Hawaii and the mainland because it offered “an opportunity to emphasize … that Hawaii is an integral part of the United States, ready for statehood.” Amelia repeated the theme before boarding the Lurline when she said, “Anything I can do, to help close the time gap between Hawaii as an integral part of the United States, will be work into which I can throw myself heartily.” She had expressed different sentiments to her mother. “I suppose,” she wrote, “… tomorrow we shall slip on grass skirts and never leave the island paradise. (Chamber of Commerce, travel agencies, press are worse than the California species.)”

There was worse to come. John Williams, the reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin who had written the story on the accusations made by Editor and Publisher, followed it with one claiming that “if Amelia Earhart intends to fly solo from Hawaii to the mainland, responsible authorities should stop her.” A single-engine plane was very poor equipment for a transoceanic flight that would prove nothing not already known, he wrote. If she failed, “the ghastly Ulm search would be repeated.” Williams also claimed that Army airmen were uneasy about the flight. He was right. On December 30 Lt. Leroy Hudson cabled the Bureau of Air Commerce in Washington, asking if there were restrictions regarding equipment on transoceanic flights by licensed U.S. pilots. There was, Lieutenant Hudson added, “a rumor of a flight by Amelia Earhart to the West Coast.” The answer was that the bureau had no authority or control over the proposed flight. The Star-Bulletin followed up with an editorial asserting that, although no laws forbad the flight, the concern for Amelia was really a tribute to her and a wish for her to avoid needless risk.

Williams kept up the pressure. Why, he asked, did the Army let her use Wheeler Field? Why was the plane completely overhauled by Army aviation mechanics? Army radio experts were making radical changes in her radio, work which neither she nor Mantz could direct because they didn’t know enough about it, Williams charged. The Army had installed a sending unit adaptable to telegraph work but Amelia did not know how to send. Quoting “Army experts,” Williams wrote that the plane would have to take off with 450 gallons of fuel over a very rough field, too risky a feat with only one engine. If Amelia were forced down at sea the search could cost a million dollars in taxpayers’ money.

Williams was not the only critic. Others recalled the Dole race of 1927 when only half the eight starters from California reached the islands and two were lost at sea, one of them a woman. On January 6 Capt. Frank A. Flynn, an NAA member, sponsored an open letter to Amelia, asking her to abandon the flight in memory of the ten aviators who had already lost their lives in attempts to fly from California to Hawaii.

Under pressure like this, the businessmen who had put up ten thousand dollars for the flight asked Amelia to reconsider. She would not. At a private meeting she accused them of listening to unsubstantiated rumors regarding political influence that she did not have. Flying, she said, was her business. She had already spent half of the ten thousand on preparations. She would fly to California with or without their support.

While her backers worried and reporters criticized, the University of Hawaii’s students gave her an overwhelming vote of confidence when she gave a lecture at Farrington Hall. Those who could not get a seat in the packed hall listened to the broadcast of the speech on their car radios. Parked outside the hall, they hoped to get a glimpse of her when she left. Aside from this one lecture and a day’s air tour of the islands, she avoided public appearances and refused the invitations of islanders eager to entertain her. While she waited for takeoff, which depended on favorable weather and the delivery of needed fuel, she spent part of each day at Wheeler Field where Mantz worked and G. P. hovered.

G. P. was angry about a delay by Standard Oil in delivering the promised fuel. If the weather cleared Amelia would need to leave within hours, before it closed down again. G. P. held Mantz responsible for this because Mantz had advised using Standard, both for its “fine service” and possible endorsement fees after the flight. As perfectionistic, impatient, and egotistical as G. P., Mantz was annoyed with both Standard and Putnam.

Amelia spent hours walking on the beach near Holmes’s place or stretching out on a beach chair, basking in the hot, tropical sunshine. She no longer worried about the damage already done by sun and wind to her delicate skin. Although her youthful figure belied her age, seen close up, the fine lines at the corners of her eyes and the freckles over her nose and cheeks made her look all of her thirty-six years. Waiting, she thought about death as she always did before each of her long flights. She had already written to her mother, telling her to take possession of the contents of a zipper compartment in her briefcase. “Put it away until I turn up and if I don’t, burn it,” she wrote. “It consists of fragments that mean nothing to anybody but me.”

On January 8 she wrote to G. P., “As you know the barrage of belittlement has made harder the preparations in many ways. I make the attempt to fly from Honolulu to the mainland of my own free will. I am familiar with the hazards.… If I do not do a good job it will not be because the plane and motor are not excellent nor because women cannot fly. Though I have taken off with excessive loads a number of times there is many a slip—well, anyway, here’s hoping and cheerio.”

Preceded by the consignment of very personal papers to her mother, it was a curiously impersonal letter to G. P. and may have reflected her annoyance with his apparently bungled efforts to capitalize on the flight.

Along with G. P.’s letter she left a note to be delivered to a Major Clark at Wheeler Field, only if she did not survive. “If the ‘test take-off’ proves satisfactory,” she wrote, “I plan to try for the mainland.… It is clearly understood that in assisting me the Army is in no way chargeable with any responsibility connected with the flight.… You did for me only what you would do for any other responsible pilot … properly pointing out the risks involved.… The entire responsibility for the flight I assume.”

The “test take-off” was on Friday, January 11. That morning she rested at the Holmes house until noon, when G. P. took her to the house of Lt. and Mrs. George Sparhawk at Wheeler Field. The Army’s radio expert at Wheeler, Sparhawk had invited Mantz and Navy Lt. E. W. Stephens to join them at lunch. A heavy rain, which had started at eleven o’clock, did not let up. Amelia retired for a nap and Stephens, a Navy aerologist, continued to check the weather for her. G. P. rushed back to the field with Mantz to check on the Standard Oil employees. Having finally brought the gasoline, they left the field for lunch in the midst of filling the tanks. Mantz rounded them up but, when the tanks were nearly full, discovered they were short by two drums. Two more were finally produced but G. P. was frantic. Amelia needed a Friday departure and Saturday arrival to make the Sunday papers. She would need the break because the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping of the Lindberghs’ child was claiming the front page of every newspaper in the country.

At 4:30 Amelia arrived from the Sparhawks. She had obviously said her goodbyes to G. P. earlier, for she scarcely looked at him while she slipped into a fur-lined flying suit and walked to the plane. Mantz had it warmed up for her. She climbed the ladder, slid into the cockpit, listened to the motor, gunned it, and looked at the instrument panel. There were no more than one hundred people there to see her off, most of them Army men and their wives. She did not look down at G. P. who paced below, but grinned at the crowd, then waved at the ground crew to remove the blocks under the wheels. The plane rolled slowly toward the end of the field followed by two cars, G. P. in one and a group of Army officers in the other.

In her own account of the takeoff, she said that while she taxied to the runway she looked out the cockpit window and saw Ernie Tissot running alongside. Mud came up over the tops of his shoes and he looked gloomy, a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, his face “as white as his coveralls.” She also saw three fire engines and one ambulance lined up in front of the hangars, “and all the Army men seemed to be holding fire extinguishers while their wives had handkerchiefs out, obviously ready for an emergency.”

At the end of the rough, sodden field she lined up the cumbersome plane and began her takeoff, the Vega swaying from side to side, its wheels sinking several inches into the mud, the propeller flinging a stream of mud over the fuselage. Three thousand feet down the field, the plane rose, seemed to stall momentarily in midair, then ascended into the grey, cloud-laden sky. She had taken off in half the distance needed by Kingsford-Smith two months earlier.

The flight pushed her to the limits of her courage and endurance. There was almost continuous fog. Banks of clouds rolled in under or over her. A ventilation cover blew off, admitting a continuous, stinging stream of air that blew into her eye. Without equipment for blind flying, and unable to execute celestial navigation, she had nothing but dead reckoning to go on and could not check her course. She was four years older than when she made her last transoceanic flight, she tired more rapidly, and was troubled by what she called a “mental hazard”—the criticism of her reasons for making the flight and of her Vega as inadequate for it.

Two and a half hours out she spoke on her radio to G. P. in Honolulu, reporting that the skies were overcast and she was flying at five thousand feet. She wanted to climb to eight thousand to save fuel but four and a half hours later she was at three thousand in a fog. Seven hours later she radioed she should be halfway. She was actually short of the mark by more than an hour’s flying time.

Her sporadic reports that “everything is O.K.” left Clarence Williams exasperated because she did not give her location. She couldn’t. She could only guess. And everything was not O.K. After eleven hours up she said, “I’m becoming quite tired.”a An hour and a half later she again reported she was “O.K.” and had descended from six thousand feet to seven hundred, a move guaranteed to make her forget her fatigue. Wiping the stream of tears from her swollen eye, she throttled down to conserve fuel.

After sixteen hours out she was certain she must be off course. Williams had marked the standard radio beams for guiding aircraft on her chart but she could not home in on any of them. She leaned to the left to peer out the window and saw a small, perfect circle in a solid cloud bank. In the exact center of the circle of blue water was a ship. She flew down and alongside the ship. It was the S.S. Pierce of the Dollar Line, out of San Francisco. She radioed a request that the ship contact a shore station and ask it to broadcast her location. When the shore station came in she knew for the first time in ten hours her exact position.b Her course verified, the last two and a half hours were easy.

It was 1:31 in the afternoon when she landed at Oakland, two hours behind schedule because she had throttled down to save gas. The crowd at the field had grown to ten thousand, many in it waiting for hours. She surprised her admirers, coming straight in without circling the field for a perfect landing two hundred feet from its center. A roar swept over the rain-sodden field, a mix of cheers, shouts, whistles, and automobile horns, as the crowd broke through police lines and reached the Vega just as the propeller stopped turning. One unfortunate eighteen-year-old freshman from the University of California at Berkeley was knocked down and trampled, suffering a broken elbow and a broken leg. As police succeeded in pushing the crowd back, the isinglass cockpit cover opened and Amelia pushed herself up where the crowd could see her. She smiled and waved, leaning down to take a huge bouquet of roses before airport attendants, fearing she would be manhandled and the aircraft damaged, pushed the Vega backward into a hangar. Inside the hangar her first words were, “I’m tired,” but when someone offered her a chair, she said, “I don’t want to sit down. I’ve been sitting down a long time.”

“Are you going on to Chicago or Washington?” a reporter asked. She shrugged. “I’ll have to check the weather,” she replied. A few moments later when a mechanic asked her about refueling, she said, “No, not yet,” and moved toward the exit where a police escort waited to accompany her to a hotel. There she again refused to sit down while she answered reporters’ questions. She was swaying with fatigue. At the airport she had said she was so dirty that, given a choice between a bath or sleep, she would take the bath. But as the reporters were leaving she said, “I want to sleep more than anything.”

There remained one more task, to write her own account of the trip for the North American Newspaper Alliance.c A doctor who arrived to examine her declared she was exhausted and her eyeball was bruised but her general physical condition was excellent. Always airsick from gasoline fumes, she had eaten only one hardboiled egg during the previous twenty-four hours. In her room she had a bowl of chicken broth, muffins, and a glass of buttermilk, wrote the NANA story, and went to bed.

By ten o’clock the next day she was at the field checking the weather. She was out of luck. Storms covered the Midwest. Still determined to prove that a flight from Honolulu to Washington could be made with only a one-night stop, she decided to fly to Los Angeles and check weather conditions over Arizona and New Mexico. When she tried to take off from Oakland the wheels of the Vega bogged down in mud over the hubcaps and a tractor had to be used to haul it to another runway. She made it to Los Angeles but there was a blizzard raging over Arizona. Still hoping to make the flight, she gave instructions to mechanics to tune up the motor and fill the tanks, then left the field. Reporters assumed she would go to the house on Valley Spring Road where Amy was waiting but she did not, not at least for the next few hours. No one knew where she went. Amy may have been deeply hurt, although it is possible she realized Amelia was trying to conserve her energy for the next flight and reporters were besieging the house. There was no onward flight. Storms continued all across the country and by the next morning she was home with Amy telling newsmen that it would be foolish of her to continue the flight because the stopover had already been too long to demonstrate “how easy and little fatiguing such a trip would be … to link the Hawaiian capital with the national capital.”

The national capital was waiting for her. Eleanor Roosevelt cabled the day after the flight that she was “so relieved to have you back safely.” A second cable invited Amelia, and G. P. if he were with her, to stay at the White House when she arrived in Washington. The First Lady’s interest filtered down. Rex Martin, acting director of the Bureau of Air Commerce, asked her to advise him if she did decide to come to Washington so that official arrangements could be made for her reception. The bureau’s man at Los Angeles was instructed to send word when she took off and to report her bearings all during the flight. Delayed in California, Amelia was feted a week after her flight at a dinner in Oakland. At the speakers’ table were former president Herbert Hoover and Mrs. Hoover, California governor Frank Merriman and Stanford University president Lyman Wilbur. After dinner, a letter from FDR was read, lauding Amelia for proving that “aviation is a science which cannot be limited to men only.” He called her a trailblazer like those pioneers who opened the West, women who “marched step in step with men.”

Praise like FDR’s was not universal. When Kingsford-Smith was asked for a comment he said it was “wonderful” but followed immediately with, “at the same time a man is a fool to fly an ocean in a single engine plane.” Presumably a woman would be, too. He said he had done it the preceding November because he was broke and trying to sell his Lockheed Altair, the Lady Southern Cross. It was the only way he could get to the States and find a buyer, but he took a navigator along.d

A week after the flight Newsweek magazine commented, “Every so often Miss Earhart, like other prominent flyers, pulls a spectacular stunt to hit the front pages. This enhances a flyer’s value as a cigarette endorser, helps finance new planes, sometimes publicizes a book.”

The Nation magazine proved the fiercest critic, expanding on previous accusations of Amelia’s working for Hawaiian sugar interests. An article entitled “Flier in Sugar,” written by a “well-known author” under the pseudonym, Leslie Ford, claimed a campaign against a sugar tariff was being waged by a public relations firm, Bowman, Deute, Cummings, Inc., which in turn created the Pan Pacific Press Bureau. Its clients included the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association, the Matson Line, the Hawaii Tourist Bureau, and the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. “A transoceanic flight,” Ford wrote, “especially by our foremost woman aviator, is front-page news. From it flow publicity releases, personal interviews, signed stories, lectures, radio broadcasts—and in this case a possible motion picture featuring Miss Earhart and built around her flight by her husband, George Palmer Putnam of Paramount.”

Although all these were legitimate byproducts of the flight, the propaganda for the sugar interests that ran through them was not. Ford wrote that although Amelia was unquestionably more interested in aviation than in sugar, she mentioned more than once the leit-motif of “Hawaii as an integral part of the U.S.” and in her NANA story on the flight she called Hawaii “the alluring southwest corner of the United States.”

Ford claimed that the reason the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the San Francisco News had urged her to abandon the trip was because they knew it was a publicity stunt. The most nervous persons during the eighteen-hour flight, he wrote, had to be publicist Bowman and husband Putnam who made the arrangements for it. “Luck,” Ford said, “was with them. The newspapers, knowing the truth, had been kind enough not to mention it in their stories on the flight.”

How much of Ford’s criticism was warranted and by whom is impossible to assess. Amelia certainly did not think of the trip as a stunt but she had to know that G. P. was not getting all those flattering press releases put out by Pan Pacific without giving something in return. And she did refer to Hawaii as part of the U.S. on several occasions.

The British weekly, The Aeroplane, which had bitterly criticized her two Atlantic flights, called this one “A Useless Adventure.” “She is thirty-six years old and ought to know better,” the writer claimed. Why didn’t she? Certainly not because she was an unattractive woman seeking fame or notoriety, he wrote. She was attractive and had already proven her courage and ability. The answer, he claimed, lay in “boredom—a dangerous feature of modern life.”

In a sense he was right. Amelia revealed in her poem “Courage” her fear of a life squandered on “little things,” lived in “dull, grey ugliness.” Loving life intensely, she was willing to risk it in order to enhance it. In her pursuit of that state of ecstasy she called “peace,” the romantic poet of the previous decade had imagined paying for it with “vivid loneliness” and “bitter joy.” These she experienced, but they were not enough. The ultimate price was as mundane as the world she tried to escape—the need for money.

By January of 1935 she had become the first person to fly solo between Honolulu and California, in either direction. She was also the first person to cross the Atlantic twice in an airplane, the first woman to fly it solo, and the first woman to fly an autogiro, the first to make a solo crossing of the continent, the first to cross it nonstop. To reach out for the unknown again she needed cash. She was in hot pursuit of it within days of her Pacific flight, on a course laid out by that master of promotion, George Palmer Putnam.

* Mantz died in a crash, on July 8, 1965, flying a makeshift stuntplane as a double for actor James Stewart.

Ulm, one of Kingsford-Smith’s crew in the 1928 Pacific flight, had also accompanied three other men in 1933 on a flight from England to Australia.

On December 20 Amelia was named one of the ten best-dressed women in America by the Fashion Designers of America. Others were First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, film star Kay Frances, society matron Mrs. Robert H. McAdoo, hostess Elsa Maxwell, stage actress Ina Claire, sportswoman Mrs. John Hay Whitney, singer Gladys Swarthout, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and author Fannie Hurst.

§ Hawaii did not become a state until 1959.

Stephens was to regret it later, writing to Mantz that the U.S. Weather Bureau in San Francisco “raised hell” about his forecast, claiming the Navy was meddling. He wanted a letter from Amelia to Admiral Yarnell citing the forecast as satisfactory.

a Later she insisted she had been misunderstood; she had actually said “I am getting tired of the fog.”

b After she told her friend Eugene Vidal the story he said, “I knew she felt it unbelievable that a hole should open in the clouds directly over a ship just when she was becoming anxious.”

c Her complete account appeared in National Geographic 67, no. 5 (May 1935).

d Two months later Kingsford-Smith attempted to fly from England to Australia after he failed to sell the Altair. Accompanied by a navigator, he was lost somewhere between the Burma and Australian coasts.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!