Instead of heading home by going east, they took the massive Boeing 314 in the opposite direction, flying blind with no charts and no support from the airline. They were shot at twice, narrowly escaped getting blown up and otherwise avoided disaster while piloting the first commercial flight to circumnavigate the globe.

Jack Poindexter walked briskly into the Liberty, House department store on King Street in downtown Honolulu. It was Dec. 2, 1941, and palm trees swayed to the gentle rhythm of the trade winds that sunny Tuesday morning, the Washington Post writes.

The chief flight radio officer on Pan Am Flight NC18602 needed a spare shirt. He had left California unexpectedly the day before as a stand-in for an ill radio man onboard the Pacific Clipper, a large flying boat — essentially a seaplane on steroids.

Poindexter had no clean clothes for the flight, which still had to make another stop in Auckland, New Zealand, and was not scheduled to return to San Francisco until Dec. 10. He had only a few dollars in his wallet, so this extra shirt was going to have to last him until then. Little did he know it would be the only change of clothing he would have for more than a month.

The return flight from New Zealand to San Francisco via Honolulu was interrupted by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 — “A date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt termed it. That event, 80 years ago Tuesday, propelled the United States into war and forced the Pacific Clipper’s crew of 12 to make a dangerous — and historic — detour from their scheduled flight plan.

Instead of heading home by going east, they took the massive Boeing 314 in the opposite direction, flying blind with no charts and no support from the airline. They were shot at twice, narrowly escaped getting blown up and otherwise avoided disaster while piloting the first commercial flight to circumnavigate the globe. They flew more than 30,000 miles over vast expanses of empty oceans and remote landscapes on five continents while crossing the equator four times.

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