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An American saga: Juan Trippe and his Pan Am empire

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An American Saga is the story of the man who virtually single-handedly opened up the world to commercial flight: Juan Trippe. The book reveals how a sky-struck young man of immense ambition and vision took a single-engined seaplane carrying mail 90 miles from Key West to Havana and expanded the operation into the vast worldwide airline that at one time was considered the “chosen instrument” of the State Department abroad. Trippe made his own deals with foreign governments and came to own or control the internal airlines of China and of most Latin American nations. To open up Latin America, deals had to be struck with dictators — and planes named after them. In 1934 to cross the Pacific by air was deemed impossible, but Trippe saw a way to do it. When the first flying boat left San Francisco in 1935, it was given a send-off by 150,000 people and a live nationwide radio audience. This fascinating book brings to life those hazardous early flights — and the struggle to build a unique organization capable of guiding and supporting them. World War II presented new crises. Here for the first time is the story of how Trippe removed a Nazi threat to the Panama Canal, as well as the account of his behind-the-scenes role in Chiang Kaishek’s secret plan to save China from the Communists. Although An American Saga, one of the great aviation epics of this century, is dominated by Trippe, it boasts a remarkable cast of supporting characters, including Charles Lindbergh, Andre Priester, Hugo Leuteritz, Eddie Musick, Bixby and Bond, Sonny Whitney, Joseph Kennedy and Floyd Odlum. Basing his account on extensive interviews with Trippe (who had remained silent for decades) and other participants in this exciting drama, as well as on their private papers and Pan Am files, Robert Daley has created an enthralling narrative. Illustrated with maps and 16 pages of photographs.