History Timeline 1940's

Troops from the United States and other Allied nations land on the beach at Normandy, France in 1944, beginning the western European invasion that would lead to defeat of Nazi Germany.

World War II, Invading Africa

U.S. Timeline - The 1940s

World War II

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  • 1949 Detail

    March 2, 1949 - Captain James Gallagher lands the B-50 Lucky Lady II in Texas after completing the first around-the-world nonstop airplane flight. It was refueled four times in flight.

    First Nonstop Flight Around the World

    The world had been abuzz with news of war for the past decade with World War II just completed with peace treaties only a few years old, and another war brewing in the Orient in Korea, but man continued to test its technology with feats that only two decades past would have seemed impossible.

    It was a mission of the United States Air Force, itself only two years old. The attempt was an intentional statement to the Soviet Union as the Cold War began. If successful, it would prove that the United States, through the air, could attack anywhere in the world. The B-50 Superfortress, constructed by Boeing with twelve thousand horsepower engines, the 4360 Wasp Major radial engines built by Pratt and Whitney, was headquartered at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas. With a crew of fourteen, commanded by pilot James Gallagher, it took off for its around the world flight at 12:31 p.m. on February 26, 1949. There were three pilots on board, extra fuel where the bombs would have been, and a rotating schedule for the crew between four and six hours.

    The flight headed east toward the Atlantic Ocean. It flew for ninety-four hours and one minute and arrived back at the base at 10:31 a.m. on March 2. Flying conditions were clear for almost the entire flight with only four hours of clouds seen. Perhaps partly because of that, the flight arrived early. The predicted flight time had been two minutes later. There were four in flight refuelings on the 23,452 mile flight; near the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Phillippines, and Hawaii.

    Members of the crew included second pilot, 1st Lieutenant Arthur M. Neal, copilot James H. Morris, navigators Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor. Radar operaters for the flight were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey with Captain David B. Parmalee as project officer and chief flight engineer. Other flight engineers included Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Remaining members of the crew were Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy, serving as radio operators, with Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh, Jr., serving as gunners.

    Who was James Gallagher?

    He was a native of Melrose, Minnesota, one of six children of Irish descent. He graduated from high school in 1939 and had been a student at Minneapolis Business School. Gallagher was a pilot in World War II, twenty-eight years old when the secret Cold War mission began.

    After the flight, Captain James Gallagher and the entire crew received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the MacKay Trophy for their feat. The pilot was feated with Gallagher Day in his hometown on May 20, 1949.

    Gallagher continued his Air Force career through 1972 when he retired as a vice wing commander with the rank of colonel.

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    Quotes from Gallagher

    "This just means that man can fly anywhere, anytime," James Gallagher.

    "Boy, I'm sleepy," James Gallagher.

    Photo above: Crew of the First Nonstop Flight Around the World, 1949, U.S. Air Force. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Refueling of the B-50 by B-29M, 1947-9, U.S. Air Force. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons via Popular Mechanics. Info source: "Flashback Friday: Melrose pilot first to fly around the world non-stop in 1949," kstp.com; "Melrose Pilot Made Aviation History in 1949 as Captain of First Nonstop Flight Around the Globe," 2018, Curt Brown, Minnesota Star-Tribune; thisdayinaviation.com; "Around the World in 94 Hours," 2014, Stephen Pope, flyingmag.com; Wikipedia Commons.

    First Nonstop Flight Around the World

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