Evacuated by Clipper in the South Pacific

By Marion Barton

July 2016

Our family arrived in Noumea, New Caledonia, in April 1941. My father, Folger Athearn, was the station manager for Pan Am, where the Boeing 314 would land en route to Auckland, New Zealand, the final stop on the South Pacific route (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Canton Island, Suva in Fiji, then Noumea).

On Dec. 8, 1941 (not the 7th, as we were across the International Date Line), the Clipper had left Noumea on the final leg of its journey to Auckland when the captain got word that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. His top-secret orders were to continue to Auckland and await word.

After about two weeks, the Boeing 314 returned to Noumea to evacuate us and some other Pan Am expats. After leaving us in Gladstone, Australia, the Clipper continued around the world the wrong way, arriving in LaGuardia about a month later. Quite an escape!