Martin, Frederick L. | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Major Frederick L. Martin graduated from Purdue University in 1908 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Major Frederick Martin was the commander of the first around-the-world flight. The aircraft were U.S. Army Air Service Douglas World Cruisers. They were part of a fleet of five big (for the time) double-wing planes built especially for the historic world mission by the then four-year- old Douglas Aircraft Company. The World Cruiser flight crews were Army Air Service officers and enlisted men. Chosen and trained for the mission as carefully as the first U.S. astronauts in the 1960s.
The epic journey took just over six months; four of the World Cruisers took off from Clover Field on March 17, 1924, with one aircraft held in reserve. Two aircraft -- but no crew members -- were lost in the globe-circling mission. The reserve aircraft joined the two surviving planes in Nova Scotia and completed the mission with them. The flight covered more than 26,000 miles with 72 stops along a west-to- east route.
Two of the historic aircraft survive. One, named the "New Orleans," is on display at the place of its birth in Santa Monica. It is a centerpiece exhibit at the Museum of Flying, located on the original site of the Douglas Aircraft Co. at Clover Field, now the Santa Monica Airport. The other holds a place of honor at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Success of the world flight is attributed as much to a carefully planned global support network as to the World Cruiser airplanes and crews. The U.S. State Department obtained clearances for the flight from 15 different governments. Inter-service rivalries were suspended as the U.S. Navy pre-positioned supplies, spare parts and support teams at key way points in various remote areas. Support ships were stationed at intervals along major over-water stretches of the route. The world- wide effort made it one of the most prodigious military logistics operations ever attempted up to that time.