Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wrong Way Corrigan

Los Angeles, 

On a foggy morning in July 1938, a 31-year-old aircraft mechanic named Douglass Corrigan took off in a jerry-built plane from an airfield in Brooklyn. Disappearing into the haze, he carried with him some chocolate, two boxes of fig bars, one quart of water, and a U.S. map marked with a flight plan to California. Twenty-eight hours later, he landed in Dublin. Since he had repeatedly been denied permission to fly across the Atlantic, Corrigan told the authorities in Ireland that he left New York the previous day heading for the West Coast, but somehow “got mixed up in the clouds and must have flown the wrong way.” He theorized that the low-light conditions might have caused him to misread the compass. That was his story and he stuck to it. 

The daring feat captured the imagination of a Depression-weary public. Hailed in the press as “Wrong Way” Corrigan, the likable Texan became a national celebrity overnight. President Roosevelt even got into the act, saying he never doubted the young aviator's implausible explanation for a minute.

Returning to the United States by sea, America’s newest aviation hero was greeted in New York Harbor by ships blowing their whistles and fireboats pumping streams of water into the air. He was also given a ticker tape parade down Broadway where he was cheered by more than a million people, a number that exceeded the welcome for Charles Lindbergh after his historic flight to Paris eleven years earlier. In September 1938, Corrigan was honored at a luncheon at the Cocoanut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The banquet menu below is printed backwards, employing the same format as the newspaper headlines. What is more, the courses are listed in reverse order and his rickety airplane is shown flying upside down, further embellishing the running joke. 

Corrigan quickly wrote a book which was published in time for Christmas that year and RKO Studios released a movie called “The Flying Irishman.” During all the publicity and forever afterward, Corrigan maintained that he had just done a poor job of navigation, causing him to land more than 5,000 miles from his intended destination. 


Jeanne Schinto said...

Oh, that's a good one, Henry!

Deana Sidney said...

Made me a little dizzy reading it but great good fun as always!!!