“Sabotage or Aerial Piracy Suggested in Clipper Plane Mystery”


Seen here is a photo of the REAL Hawaii Clipper Aircraft Logbook taken recently on my trip to Florida. This, and many others like it, led me to a story written by journalist Walter Fitzmaurice soon after the disappearance. It marks the first time the worlds “air piracy” were used in reference to the mysterious vanishing of the massive Pan Am flying boat.



—The bureau of air commerce dispatched its crack inspector to Alameda, Cal., to launch a federal investigation immediately upon establishment of the Hawaiian Clipper’s fate, Bureau officials said once the navy search of Philippine waters has confirmed mounting fears the $450.000 Pan-American flying boat is sunk. The federal probe, “ as a matter of course,” will be brought to bear on the possibility of sabotage. Present among the 15 persons aboard was Wah Sun-Choy, Chinese restaurant owner of Jersey City, N. J., which raised the question whether his reported mission of money carrier for the Chinese nationalist government may have provoked the first suspected case of transoceanic air piracy. Federal agents reported they were instructed to determine, first, what Sun Wah was carrying, and second who, if anyone, outside the circle of Chinese said to have contributed it knew he was carrying it back to China on the clipper.

A bureau official said the thought of killing 14 wholly innocent persons to thwart Wah’s supposed mission “seemed incredible,” but added that “war breeds ghastly expedients.” The reported fund presumably was raised to help China fight the Japanese. The routine final entry on the clipper’s radio log. Containing the operator’s matter-of-fact report of its position, altitude and 12-mile an hour ground speed, led officials to believe the disaster, if there was one, came without warning. Pan-American crews, officials pointed out, have strict orders instantly to report mechanical trouble; leading them to believe the operator would have shouted a few hasty words into his wireless telephone had engine or structural failure brought the craft down.

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