Walter’s tour here was from May, 1943 to April, 1944
From the book, “An American Saga; Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire” by Robert Daley
“In June of 1941 Trippe had accepted an invitation to give the annual Wilbur Wright
Memorial lecture, a prestigious event in aviation circles, before the Royal Aeronautical
Society in London.”
“His subject was long-distance flight, and when he finished, high-ranking RAF officers
crowded around him. General Rommel's panzers were at large in the Sahara at that
time; they threatened Egypt and the Suez Canal, and had cut British troops off from
their sources of supply. Could Trippe think of a way to supply those desert troops,
the air officers asked. He began a second lecture, using the map on the wall. He
showed how to fly south to Liberia in long-range flying boats, and from there across
the Sahara and the Sudan via an airway that could be set up.”
A plan was put in place but, “The more Trippe watched his new African empire take
shape, the more he realized it was improperly anchored on the west coast. Portuguese
Guinea and British Gambia were both too close to Dakar. The Germans could send Messerschmitts
from Dakar and shoot down whatever flew out of either place.”
“About eight hundred miles south of Vichy-controlled Dakar, what appeared to be a
lake was spotted behind the coastal dunes. It wasn't really a lake but, rather, a
bay almost entirely cut off from the sea.....it was called Fishermen's Lake....”
Walter with his favorite cat.
From the book, “On November 20, 1941, the Capetown Clipper, under the command of
Captain Harold Gray, put down on Fishermen's Lake for the first time and glided to
a stop on the water.” This is the same pilot, Gray, shown on the Eric Sloane artwork.
Also from the book, “...made their way to the mission on the edge of the lake to
talk to the Episcopal minister Harvey Simmons and his wife.” I’m not sure that’s
who’s in this photo but they sure don’t look like Pan Am employees. That’s my Dad
on the right.
Walter’s favorite cat.
From the book, “...They built eight houses, each containing seven double rooms and
a bathroom, with screened-in porches running completely around the outside. They,
and the men who followed, built a mess hall, a recreation hall, storage buildings,
a hospital and laundry. They built a control tower, an adcock (navigational aid),
a marine runway and then a land one.”
All that was ready when the Pan Am staff got there. Note the screened-in porch on
the building in back.