Jim Pitts, state government records archivist (and retired U.S. Army officer), brings us this post on the first flight around the world in 1924. Jeff Giambrone assisted with research for the article.
Ninety years ago eight intrepid U.S. Army aviators began the first successful around the world flight. They left Santa Monica, California, on April 4, 1924, enroute to Seattle, Washington, the official starting point. One of those eight airmen was Staff Sergeant Henry Herbert (“Hank”) Ogden from Wilkinson County, Mississippi. He was born in 1900, the fourth of seven children of Edwin D. Ogden and Mary Catherine Ferguson. By 1920, he was in the Army and stationed at Wright Field, Montgomery, Alabama, as an aviation repair sergeant.
Chosen to participate in the 1924 flight, Ogden was assigned as co-pilot and flight mechanic for aircraft number 3, christened Boston, piloted by Lieutenant Leigh Wade. The other three aircraft in the flight were Seattle (number 1, Major Frederick Martin and Staff Sergeant Alva Harvey), Chicago (number 2, Lieutenants Lowell Smith and Leslie Arnold), and New Orleans (number 4, Lieutenants Erik Nelson and John Harding, Jr.).
The flight left Sand Point, near Seattle, on April 6, 1924, heading west to circumnavigate the globe. After losing Chicago in a crash in Alaska, the other three aircraft continued through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, arriving in the Orkney Islands at Scapa Flow, the British Royal Navy’s wartime base in late July. There they waited for improved weather before they tackled the North Atlantic crossing via Iceland and Greenland to Nova Scotia.
The flight resumed in early August but Boston (Ogden’s plane) developed engine oil problems and was forced to land at sea. U.S. Navy ships stationed along the flight path tried to assist Boston but were unsuccessful. After sustaining damage to the left pontoon, Boston took on too much water and was sunk to prevent a menace to shipping. Lieutenant Wade and Staff Sergeant Ogden were taken to Iceland and then to Nova Scotia. In the meantime, the Chicago and the New Orleans had continued the flight.
The original prototype aircraft was now christened Boston II and was flown to Nova Scotia to join Wade, Ogden, and the other two aircraft. The three planes then flew via Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and fourteen other U.S. cities before completing the flight back in Seattle on September 28, 1924, 175 days later. They had covered 27,550 miles (44,337 kilometers) and made 74 stops. The eight crewmen all received the Distinguished Service Medal, the officers were promoted, and Sergeants Ogden and Harvey were appointed Second Lieutenants in the Regular Army.
In 1926, Ogden retired from the Army and continued working in the aviation field, first with the Jacob Kreutzer Aircraft Company. With his brother Perry, Ogden formed the Ogden Aeronautical Company where they developed and produced their own tri-motor light passenger airplane. He also created the Ogden Shuttle Airlines, which operated for a short time in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Ogden and Wade briefly teamed up again in 1926 for an attempt to fly to the North Pole as one of five separate teams that included those of Richard Byrd and Roald Amundsen. In December 1928, he married Ulela Francis Snook in Los Angeles. Ogden continued his aviation career with the Lockheed Aircraft Company and managed the Lockheed aircraft reassembly facility in England during World War Two. Ogden remained with Lockheed as vice president in charge of aircraft servicing until his retirement in 1965. He died in California in 1986.
Pioneers of Flight gallery (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum): http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/pioneers-of-flight/online/military05.cfm
U.S. Air Force Museum fact sheets: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=751
Aviation Research Group Orkney and Shetland: http://www.crashsiteorkney.com/page11.htm
Davis-Monthan Airfield: http://www.dmairfield.org/Collections/Cosgrove%20Collection/World%20Flight/index.html