Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flight of the China Clipper

Alameda Naval Air Base. California Historical Site plaque number 968 is located by the flag pole across the street from Town Hall West, on W. Mall Square in Alameda.

The China Clipper was the name given to the first of three Martin M-130 aircraft built for Pan-America Airways and was the craft that inaugurated commercial transpacific mail and air service. The China Clipper left Alameda Naval Air Station on November 22nd, 1935 and delivered a cargo consisting of 110,000 individual pieces of mail to Manila on November 29th after making stops in Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam. This flight effectively began the era of ocean airmail service and commercial flight across the Pacific.

If you spend some time exploring the Alameda Naval Air Station it's easy to be overwhelmed by its current state of decay and the trash and broken glass that are filling up the lots. What is hard to keep in mind, but should be remembered, is that this site was a bustling Naval station where lots of important events, such as the inauguration of commercial flight across the Pacific, as well as acting as the staging ground for ships and bombers that would play key roles in battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II, took place.

Getting There By Bike...
The plaque is located on W. Mall Square in Alameda, right in the middle of the Alameda Naval Air Station. If you enter the base by way of the north gates off of Main St. you'll be staring right at the Mall lawn. Follow the lawn straight back until you see Town Hall West at the southern end of the field. There are a few historic sites in the immediate vicinity. Opposite the plaque for the China Clipper is the plaque commemorating the original site of the Alameda Terminal, original terminus for the first Transcontinental Railroad. Next to the China Clipper plaque is a time capsule that was put into place in 1996 when the base was closed. The USS Hornet is a stone's throw away from here and sits at the southern end of the base at Pier 3, approximately a five minute bike ride away.

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