2004-04-30 / Editorial/Opinion

The Forgotten Jewel Of Rockaway’s History

The Forgotten Jewel Of Rockaway’s History

Few in Rockaway know that an event happened in Rockaway 85 years ago next week that helped to change the world as it was then known and to help to move America into a new era of transportation dominance. On May 8, 1919, three Navy NC flying boats took off from Naval Air Station, Rockaway, what is now part of Riis Park. The three flying boats had been designed for anti-submarine patrol duty during World War I, but came along too late to have any real impact on the war. Their new role, however, was far more historic. They were to make the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean. One of the major supporters of the flight was a Navy Undersecretary named Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR came to Rockaway to look at the planes and wound up taking a short, 15-minute hop in the NC-3. It was an historic first for a man who was to become the first President of the United States to fly. NC-1 and NC-3 eventually faltered along the way, The NC-1 eventually sank into the ocean while under tow by a Greek freighter that rescued its crew. The NC-3, forced to put down at sea, eventually floated, reportedly backwards, into a harbor in the Azores. The NC-4, however, after stops in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and The Azores, made it to Lisbon, Portugal on May 27. When Charles Lindbergh made his historic solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1927, he praised the aviators of the NC-4 and was quoted as saying that their flight was much more difficult and much more perilous than his own. With time, Lindbergh’s flight became the historical landmark for crossing the Atlantic rather than the NC-4. The NC-4’s story, however, is the forgotten jewel in the crown that is Rockaway’s history. In next week’s Wave, we will present a four-page paean to the NC-4 and the men who flew across the Atlantic. We hope you find it both entertaining and enlightening. As you read, give thought to those who risked their lives crossing the Atlantic.

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