Guest Blog Post – Attestation
While researching the ‘1st non-stop transpacific flight of October 5, 1931’, I entered “Pangborn Sabishiro” into YouTube’s search box and “UpsideDown Pangborn” popped out. I was acquainted with documentaries on Pangborn and Sabishiro but that title caught my attention. At 41 minutes and 17 seconds into the film appeared a still photo of the two aviators and my dad behind them! I immediately recognized his smile and curly hair! I was stunned. The story of Bill Evans’ involvement with the famous Pangborn/Herndon transpacific flight was well-known in our family but I did not know there was actually a photo existing of the trio. I called the producer of the film, KSPS Public TV in Spokane, WA and connected with Jim Zimmer, Executive Producer who in turn contacted Melanie Wachholder, Curator of Collections at the Wenatchee Valley Museum. Melanie sent me a digital version of the photo. I in turn sent to Melanie a copy of a letter written by Clyde Pangborn (Aug. 15, 1954) attesting to Bill Evans’ involvement.
My grandfather, William Evans, after completing his service with the U.S. Navy settled in Japan in the late 1890’s. Thus, Bill Evans was born in Nagasaki, Japan and was a mining engineer and worked in Japan and Korea. Subsequently, he became a civilian advisor to the U.S. Army before the outbreak of the Korean War. Larry Zellers, author of “In Enemy Hands, A Prisoner in North Korea” says:
“Bill was a colorful figure … born in Japan…had a special interest in aviation, and in 1931 was able to assist Clyde Pangborn to become the first man to make a transpacific non-stop flight from west to east. Japan at that time was ruled by a very militaristic government, and had just invaded Manchuria. Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, his navigator, were accused by the Japanese of flying over military installations on their arrival into that country (Japan). To make matters worse, a Black Dragon Society operated in Japan at that time, one of whose specialities was political assassination. They were accused … of stealing Pangborn’s flight maps from his hotel room. Pangborn was not able to leave without proper maps, and could not obtain others from the Japanese, given the climate of hostility and suspicion that prevailed at that time.
Bill stepped into this emotionally charged climate, and through, speaking the language and knowing the right people, was able (to) make the flight possible. To help compensate for the weight of extra fuel, Pangborn threw out his lunch and boots just before take-off. Then, just before closing the door of the plane, Pangborn unfastened his belt and gave it to Bill. That belt was still with Bill on the Death March (Korean War). Pangborn’s flight took him from Sabishiro Beach, near Tokyo… to Wenatchee, Washington, a distance of 4,600 miles. Bill’s invaluable assistance was confirmed to me by Pangborn in 1953 after my release from captivity.”
A heartfelt thanks to Jim Zimmer and Melanie Wachholder for their help in making a part of my family’s story come alive!
Written by: William H. Evans, PhD, Manassas, VA