Secret Flight
Captain R. Emery Wanless

On December 6, 1941, I was the navigator 2nd Officer on a Pan Am Boeing 314 NC 18612 flying boat commanded by W. M. Masland. He carried secret orders which were not privy to the crew members. It turned out to be a secret flight to Leopoldville on the Congo river in West Africa to pick up uranium which was needed for the atomic bombs which were later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan which ended the war.

With stops at Bermuda and San Juan, Puerto Rico; we taxied into the dock at Port of Spain on December 7, 1941. As we deplaned Pan Am personnel were saying "have you heard the news? Pearl Harbor has been bombed and we are at war with Japan." The following day we flew on to Natal, Brazil, to Horta in the Azores, to Logos, West Africa and arrived at Leopoldville (later Kinsasha). The landing was on the Congo River. Due to the strong river current, one pilot and one Flight Engineer were left aboard in case the anchor gave way and the aircraft went over the falls some distance down river. We crew members were not aware of the cargo loaded aboard, which was uranium.

On the return trip we arrived at Fishermans Lake, Liberia, for refueling. The Pan Am station manager had not been advised, of course, of our arrival. I devised a small parachute with a note which I dropped from a bottom hatch as we flew over the village hoping that someone would contact the station manager. As we circled for a landing we observed a motorboat heading for the landing area. We refueled and took off for Natal and Belem, Brazil on the 15th. With refueling stops at Port of Spain and Miami, we arrived back at Port Washington, New York on the 17th. I found out that our cargo was uranium in 2002.

Captain R. Emery Wanless