The name “China Clipper” became synonymous with Pan American’s Martin M-130 clipper, and even, to many people, shorthand for Pan Am flying boats in general. But the China Clipper was an individual aircraft, Construction number 558, Registration Number NC14716, known as “Sweet Sixteen” to Pan Am employees.
The China Clipper was actually the third M-130 laid down by the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company (construction number 558), but it was the first M-130 delivered to Pan American. Although never formally “christened,” the ship was named “China Clipper” by Pan American chief Juan Trippe on October 9, 1935, with Charles Lindbergh at his side.
China Clipper made its most famous flight just six weeks after its delivery to Pan American, when it inaugurated the first scheduled air mail service across the Pacific.
On November 22, 1935, before a crowd of 25,000 people, the China Clipper lifted off the waters of San Francisco Bay to begin its flight to Manila. The aircraft carried 58 mailbags, weighing 1,837 lbs, containing 110,865 specially stamped letters.
After unexpectedly passing underneath the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which was thwn still under construction — the plane was too heavy to fly over the bridge as planned — the China Clipper headed west to Honolulu on its five leg trip across the Pacific:
- San Francisco – Honolulu (Depart 3:46 PM, November 22 – Arrive 10:19 AM, November 23)
- Honolulu – Mdway (Depart 6:35 AM, November 24 – Arrive 2:0o PM, November 24)
- Midway – Wake (Depart 6:12 AM, November 25 – Arrive 1:38 PM, November 26)
- Wake – Guam (Depart 6:01 AM, November 27 – Arrive 3:05 PM, November 27)
- Guam – Manila (Depart 6:12 AM, November 29 – Arrive 3:32 PM, , November 29)
The Clipper crossed the International Date Line between Midway and Wake.
Pan Am pilot Edwin Musick was command of the flight and its seven man crew:
- Captain: Edwin Music
- First Officer: R.O.D. Sullivan
- Second Officer: George King
- Navigator: Fred Noonan
- First Engineer: C.D. Wright
- Second Engineer: Victor Wright
- Radio Officer: William Jarboe
The China Clipper continued to fly the Pacific for the next eight years, until she was transferred to Florida in June, 1943 to begin service on the less glamorous route between Miami and Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo.
On the evening of January 8, 1945, the China Clipper stuck an object in the water and sank at Port of Spain in Trinidad; the crash killed 14 of the 18 passengers, and 9 of the 12 members of the crew.
Over its career, the China Clipper flew more than 2.4 million miles and spent more than 15,000 hours in the air, carrying approximately 3,500 passengers and 750,000 lbs of mail and freight.
PAA Captain John D Steers was my father. On his second flight with Pan American as a Fourth Officer, The Boeing 314 and crew were in Auckland, NZ when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The crew under Captain Robert Ford took the airplane round the world and delivered it safely to LaGuardia’s Marine Air Terminal. If anyone has any pictures of those crew members at work or memorabilia of that journey, I’d be most interested. I’ve collected about all the 314 images on the web already, read books on the flight and have several screenplays written for movie production on the… Read more »
Hi. I recently found this site and saw your info about your uncle & the scrapbooks/photo albums. Don’t know how you’d arrange it, but I’d love to see what you’ve got. I’ve been fascinated with Pan Am’s flying boats for a number of years.
I just came across this website and forum while doing research on the China Clipper for a documentary film. We are especially interested in seeing your photos as well, if at all possible to share.
These are both WWII short snorters but PAA flights. The one with Halsey’s signature is a little difficult for me to pin down with the dates as it looks like he was in the Pacific at the time of this flight – trying to find flight logs but that’s a challenge for military flights.
The second is a 1935A Hawaii Overprint note (would place it after Jan 10, 1942 – but the note itself is not dated and only has two signatures).
If you have any insight through your research, please let me know.
[…] Clipper (flying boat) took off from Alameda, California, carrying 100,000 pieces of mail on 1st trans-Pacific airmail […]
In our family lore, one of my cousins is said to have been on the inaugural flight of the Pan American Clipper from California, Hawaii, Guam and Manila. Her husbands business (Glo-Co) was in the Philippines and she made an annual trip to visit. Does anyone have any passenger lists that show the name of Corinne (or Cora) Cromwell? She may have only made one flight as she preferred cruise ships and black-tie dinner every night. I’ve searched online at photos of that flight looking for her photo or name, and no luck so far. It would be great to… Read more »
Great website. Appreciate the history and all the hard work that makes it happen. I am doing some research on the history of the “short snorter” tradition and am looking for a digital image of a snorter signed prior to WW2. Best chance would be a Clipper passenger or crew. Anything out there? Would appreciate being contacted. Thanks and regards, Tom
I am tracing info on a Clipper pilot named Alan Terwilliger and I wonder if he is one of the crew members that autographed your book? Could you send names of the crew members?
As far as I could find, all the wrecked clippers in shallow water were fully salvaged and I didn’t see any evidence to suggest parts or pieces remain. Deep water wrecks are, of course, un-salvaged. There were some clippers sold to Canada that I didn’t trace.
I’m sure salvaged clippers were scrapped or melted- if there were any parts sitting around I think they would have been recognized a long time ago.
i would be interested in what you have found in your research on not only the wreakage brought up at Port-A-Prince (photos, accounts), but what happened to the wreakage?
Is there any wreakage that was saved of any of the clipper flying boats. Are the remains of all clipper flying boats accounted for (that is what happened to any wreakage)?
He is celebrating his 65th wedding anniversary in San Jose, CA 0n Dec 28, 2012
My Uncle Pete Ashen knew your father as a child, Jack
[…] Clipper (flying boat) took off from Alameda, California, carrying 100,000 pieces of mail on 1st trans-Pacific airmail […]
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You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue
with you (not that I actually would want to HaHa).
You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that has been discussed
for years. Great stuff, just wonderful!
Thank you. I could not see your e-mail address. Would you please send me an e-mail at jimbarbmoore at gmail dot com, so I can send my address? Thanks again. Barbara
HERE I AM AGAIN!! WE LIVE IN SACRAMENTO. CALIF.
HELLO MRS. MOORE, I’M SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND. I’M SO GLAD THAT YOU RESPONDED AS I WOULD LOVE TO SEND YOU COPIES OF YOUR FATHERS PICTURS IN THE CREW PHOTOS AND ONE OF THE PLANE HE SIGNED. I’LL TAKE THEM UP TO KIKOS AND GET YOU NICE COPIES. PLS LET ME KNOW WHERE TO SEND THEM AT MY E=MAIL. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANY COST AS I’M HAPPY TO DO THIS FOR YOU. BEST REGUARDS, MARTY
Sorry that I’m late responding but this has been a busy year with my husband dying last September. I would love to have any information you have, and copies. If there is any expense to this please let me know. Where are you located? I am in Monroe, Louisiana. Thanks for responding.
My uncle, Carl “Kid” Rogers was a Pan-Am pilot. He was a passenger (actually, dead-heading) and was killed in the crash. I understand that his body was the only one never found. He died before I was born, so know very little about his years as a pilot. My mother (now 86) was a teenager and remembers all the souvenirs of his travels, but little else.
I have copies of the letter to his widow, my aunt, Ruby Sibole Rogers, informing her of the failure to find his body. I would appreciate ANY information.
Cece Boyer Myers
MY WIFES UNCLE TOM MOFFETT WAS A STEWARD ON THE AMERICAN CLIPPER AND CALIFORNIA CLIPPER IN 1939 AND 1940. HE LEFT A GREAT SCRAPBOOK FULL OF PICTURES HE TOOK OF THE CLIPPER 18602 AND ALSO OF THE CREWS WHO FLEW THEM IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN THIS MATERIAL PLS LET ME KNOW. REGUARDS, MARTY
My father (Capt. John H. Hamilton) said he flew (probably the Philippine Clipper) under the Golden Gate on several occasions.
ME AGAIN I JUST NOTICED YOUR FATHER IS ALSO IN THE SECOND SURVEY CREW WITH CAPT MC GLOWN. AND 9 OTHERS. HE SIGNED THE PICTURE W WITH AN A IN THE MIDDLE OF THE W AND CLUTHE. I REALLY THINK THIS IS GREAT. AGAIN LET ME KNOW IF I CAN SEND YOU COPIES. REGUARDS, MARTY
MY WIFES UNCLE WAS TOMMY MOFFATT WHO WAS A STEWARD WITH YOUR FATHER’S CREW FIRST SURVEY. I HAVE A PICTURE OF ALL THE CREW INCLUDING CAPT TILTON AND YOUR FATHER CAPT BILL CLUTHE. THERE ARE 11 IN THE PHOTO AND I ALSO HAVE THE PICTURE OF THE SECOND SURVEY CREW. ALSO A PICTURE OF THE THIER CLIPPER WITH EVERYONE’S SIGNATURE. I JUST FOUND THIS IN MY IN-LAWS ESTATE, I WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEND YOU A COPY IF YOU WOULD LIKE. BEST REGUARDS MARTY
I really enjoy the blog article.Thanks Again. Really Great.
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Here is the website…
Can anyone tell me what type of flying boat the logo (top left) on this website is showing? I am interested in the model and year.
I cant offer a prize for the quickest answer (and most accurate), but I can offer up a hole heap of thanks.
It was the golden gate the clipper flew under, 2 years ago I purchased from an estate sale a scrap book of the history of the China Clipper that the owner had since the 30s when he was a young kid. This guy saved so much info and pictures of its hay day, one of the many pictures are the Clipper flying under the Golden Gate and it’s backed up by news paper accounts of what happen that day. The plane had a air force escort who with quick thinking saw that the cables that were being used to build… Read more »
Actually there a few of the WWII era flying boats in existence. The Pensacola Naval Air Museum has a Consolidated Coronado which they are restoring. This one survived only because Howard Hughes bought it and kept it maintained. The New England Aviation Museum near the Hartford airport has a Sikorsky VS44 that was restored with the help of Maureen O’Hara whose husband flew it. Two of the Martin Mars flying boats are still in working order in Vancouver, B.C. and have been used as fire fighting tankers. These two may go to museums someday. The Pensacola museum wants one and… Read more »
It is the same Noonan. He apparently enjoyed his cocktails and Pan Am let him go.
I was at Wake in October 1955. It was operated by USAF, primarily as a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) stop between Oahu and Japan. I was aboard a Marine R5D bound from Atsugi NAS to Barber’s Point, on my way to Treasure Island for discharge from the USN after a four-year hitch. Got a tour of the island–I was of a generation that remembered the battle of Wake. We were shown foundations of the PanAm hotel as well as military sites.
The University of Miami (FL) was the recipient of the Pan Am archive. They may have info on Pan Am employees. Look them up on the internet.
The pictures are of the wreckage after it was brought up from the bottom. I am happy to send you copies of the pics, but not over the internet . . . I have dial-up service and it would take a week to get them all sent. However, if you are interested I can scan the photos and send you copies via snail mail.
He mentioned once that they sometimes hauled secret cargo back to the States from the (then) Belgian Congo. Other PanAm types have mentioned the uranium connection.
Apparently not that much uranium . . . in weight . . . was required. Also the route from Miami to Belgian Congo had shorter legs apparently compared to the transpacific route. The itinerary for China Clipper that last flight was Miami-Puerto Rico-Trindad-Natal-Liberia-Belgian Congo.
I’m doing a project for a course I’m taking- the project will be on the submerged remains of flying boats. Would you be willing to send me the pictures your father-in-law had of the wreckage site?
I am very interested in your father-in-law’s story. Especially about the return trips with uranium ore. There are some legends that the Clipper carried most of the ore. Of course that plane could not carry the huge tonnage. Could you tell us a little more?
The American Air Mail Society has a five volume catalog of airmail covers. The first China Clipper flights carried thousands of covers. The catalog lists them as about $8-10. On eBay they seem to go for about $20 or so. Some are router were not so common.
About your Father In Law. How much did he tell you about the uranium on the China Clipper?
Is this navigator Fred Noonan the same one who disappeared with Amelia Earhart? I worked supporting rocket firings from Wake Island to Kwajelein in the 1970s. Visited the shelled-out foundation of the hotel for the China Clipper passengers, saw the prisoner rock, and the bunkers the Japanese built while waiting for an invasion that never happened.
My late father-in-law, John Walsh Morse, was on the last flight of “China Clipper” in January 1945. He is listed in the crew/passenger manifest as a flight engineer. He went to work for Pan Am in 1942 at Miami Beach and apparently was deeply involved in efforts to improve fuel consumption on various types of aircraft flown by Pan Am including DC-3s, the Boeing Stratocruiser, and the Martin 130. He made several flights to Leopoldville. Sometimes on their return flights they brought back uranium. He survived the crash and went on to be Pan Am station manager at Port-au-Prince. Among… Read more »
I have a piece of mail from the first Clipper flight. Is it valuable?
Hi Don, I’m an American living in Ireland and I love flying boats. The romance of the time, the manners, the slower pace of life, etc., etc. Anyway I am starting a coffee company here and am thinking about using flying boat images for my theme. On the labels of my bags I was thinking about using images of some of the old posters and postcards from the 30s showing Boeing, Martin, and Sikorski flying boats in exotic (coffee growing) locales. To that end I am trying to build up a photo library because I want to support the brand… Read more »
I live in Ireland and we have the Foynes Air Museum here and they have what is supposed to be the only 314 still in existence. I just learned about the museum and plan to travel down there sometime in September (they are closed from late October through March I think). It is located south of Limerick if you are familiar with Ireland, right on the water.
I’ll try and post my notes about my trip when I get back.
Hi David, I’m an American living in Ireland and I love flying boats. The romance of the time, the manners, the slower pace of life, etc., etc. Anyway I am starting a coffee company here and am thinking about using flying boat images for my theme. On the labels of my bags I was thinking about using images of some of the old posters and postcards from the 30s showing Boeing, Martin, and Sikorski flying boats in exotic (coffee growing) locales. To that end I am trying to build up a photo library because I want to support the brand… Read more »
I recently purchased a old silver seaplane pin at an antique store in my town. The owner didn’t know what the model of the plane was. I work for an Aerospace company and thought it would look nice on my badge necklace. I did some research on passenger seaplanes from the 30’s and it turns out that my pin is the Martin M-130. It is really a neat little pin. Although worn down a bit you can still see the Pan Am logo. Nice find, I love it, but was disappointed that out of the 3 built none survived, but… Read more »
Thanks for good memories. I am the daughter of William A. (Bill) Cluthe (pronounced cluth-e). After the first air mail was flown to Manila, my father completed the last leg of the air mail flight to China. He was in the first graduation class of Navy aviators in Pensacola, and was hired by Pan American around 1931. I was told he was the fifth pilot they hired. After living in Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Miami, he transferred to San Francisco in 1937, where the flights flew from Alameda, later from Treasure Island in the Bay. His good friends were Ken… Read more »
I was a child in Manila when the first China Clipper came. I have photos of my mother with my brother and me with the first China Clipper, and one of it being serviced in Manila Bay. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to attach the photos.
The PanAm seaplanes, of course, landed in the ocean — Manila Bay.
I was told that my grandfather,a native of guam and saipan,worked for pan am and on the clipper in the 1930’s or 40’s.His name is Juan Cruz Matagulay.Anybody have any way to confirm or any information on his service would be greatly appreciated.
honolulu has a seaplane tour,not sure if its vintage though.maui has a vintage style restraunt called ruby’s that is decorated with pan am clipper memorabilia.
My father, Lee Leong, will turn 92 in June of 2011. He was a crew chief for the clippers on T. I. Tonight, we heard a talk by Ann Schnoebelen, of the Treasure Island Museum Association. My father reminds me that the starting salary was $0.62/hour.
I have a photo of him and his crew in front of the China Clipper. It looks like the plane is being prepared to be shipped away from T.I. I cannot attach it here, but contact me if interested.
Nice precis! It was indeed the San Francisco-Oakland bridge that Musick flew under. Treasure Island did not exist in 1935. it was built for the SF Expo of 1939. China Clipper only remained in the Pacific for a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. Like most of Pan Am’s trans-ocean flying boats she was purchased by the government in mid-December 1941 and was moved to Miami in early 1942 to support the ongoing South Atlantic ferry operations. During her government service, China Clipper was flown by Pan Am pilots and crews. By a whim of fate, China Clipper made both the… Read more »
Unfortunately no clipper flying boats still remain.
I don’t know for sure but I think you’re right abut this. Somehwere in my dimmed memory I even see a photo of the Clipper going under an unfinished GG bridge. I think Pan Am’s base was on T-island and they loaded passengers and freight there. I don’t think the bay bridge is tall enough, or has clearance with the water that’s sufficient to a non-nail biting take off underneath it. Your idea makes sense too because they would have had to Taxi the Clipper a long way down the bay to get her in position for a TO in… Read more »
My father and his brother worked for Pan American at that time in Port of Spain Trinidad. My father was off that night but my uncle was working the night she crashed in port of Spain.
I grew up on Pan Am with fond memories.
I have a seat from a china clipper but would like more information on what people remember. The seat i have is rattan with hold for seatbelts, does that sound fiamilar?
Please email me if you have any information.
are there any vintage seaplanes still flying in Honolulu or Maui?
I have an envelope in pristine condition from the maiden voyage from Manila to SF.
An uncle in the USN was stationed in the PI. His wife sent to my father.
Dear Sir or Ms. — As a boy growing up on Oahu we watched the China (M-130) clipper’s initial arrival (along with the S-42). Shortly after the outbreak of the War my brother and I were able to escape the onrushing Japanese aboard the Honolulu Clipper (the first of the B.314s). Some years later I learned that the S-42 was “a real pig in the air,” no doubt in large part because of its size and want of boosted controls. Note: an ex-captain complained that the B.314 he flew was a miserable, sloppy tub, or words to that effect but… Read more »
Are there any Pan Am China Clippers in California to see? Thanks, Joe
I have a airborne photo of NC14716. It is posed flying over Fort McHenry, Balitmore, MD. It has a small oval drawing of a Sailing Clipper ship in the lower right hand corner and it is titled
“Clipper Ships ~ Yesterday and Today”
It is a large 17 X 22 advertizing photo copyrighted 1936 by “Fidelity and Guaranty Fire Corporation Baltimore”
I found it at a garage sale this past summer in Grand Forks, ND. it cleaned up well and looks great on my TV room wall.
Ive been to Manila, and the old Manila Airport building sits at the corner of Ayala Ave and Makati Ave in the tall business district of Manila. Is this the airport that these planes flew into ? I have been told that the runway to this historic airport is where Ayala Ave currently is located. You can visit the old small airport terminal building, ( now in a yellow and green paint scheme) it is now preserved through the local historical society there in Manila. Ive always been a true admireer of these big planes. Thanks for this site, much… Read more »
Here is my web site…minus the Pam Am ship. Enjoy your visit to my hometown.
I have aa original photograph taken in Cuba of NC14716. If interested in obtaining this write to my email. This a a b/w photo and it is beautiful…..\\
Don Barker; 304 3rd St SE, Conover NC 28613
Hello, for about 20 years or so I’ve owned a book called the ‘Inauguration of Trans-Pacific Air Mail Service. Its 12 1/2″ high by 9 3/4″wide. It has a map that shows the route and a blue stamp like the one you have on this page. It appears to have been put together in sections, with each section having typed pages of the events that took place in route, along with pictures of the plane, crew and dignitaries It has autographs of the following, Wallace Alexander; J.R. Knowland; Manuel L. Quezon (the President of the Philippines); all seven members of… Read more »
Would it not have flown under the Golden Gate Bridge? Or was the take off not done from Treasure Island for that flight. I spent a year at Treasure Island in the early 60’s and it is between the bay bridge and the GG bridge. Take off into the wind should have been heading right for the Golden Gate. There was also part of a runway on Treasure island still there at the time pointed straight out the Golden Gate.