Turls in America
HomeAnalysisNew York-to-Istanbul Fliers: Boardman and Polando

New York-to-Istanbul Fliers: Boardman and Polando

New York-to-Istanbul Fliers: Boardman and Polando

Perhaps one of the most significant events in the history of Turkish-American relations after a 10-year rupture following WWI occurred when a specially modified Bellanca monoplane landed in Istanbul.  On July 28, 1931, two Massachusetts aviators, Russell N. Boardman and John Polando left New York in their monoplane named “Cape Cod” to set and aviation record with a two-day direct flight from the U.S. to the new Republic of Turkey. Istanbul was chosen for the Boardman-Polando flight.

Istanbul Fliers Boardman and Polando landed  with only 15 minutes fuel remaining in their tanks

On July 30, Istanbul Fliers Boardman and Polando landed  with only 15 minutes fuel remaining in their tanks. The flight from New York’s Floyd Bennett Field to Istanbul’s Yeşilköy Airport, which was established in 1912, took 49 hours and 17 minutes, and set an aviation record for the longest continuous distance flown without refueling.

U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew, who was also from Massachusetts, gave them a hand out of the cockpit and introduced them to governor of Istanbul. Polando informed the journalists who were waiting for their landing: “We have crossed the Atlantic. Now the Pacific doesn’t seem so tough.

As soon as they arrived, Polando handed the Governor of Istanbul a letter from President Hoover to President Mustafa Kemal. “Istanbul looks very beautiful to us,” said Boardman, “and we are very happy to be here.” [1]

 

The magnificent achievement of Boardman and Polando opens new horizons to the Turkish mind

stanbul Fliers’ landing in Istanbul received much publicity not only in the American press, but Turkish newspapers also dedicated their full front pages to Boardman and Polando’s achievement. “Our hearts vibrate before this superb victory of science and human will power, and with all our minds and hearts we applaud the intrepid aviators” wrote the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Milliyet newspaper said: “The magnificent achievement of Boardman and Polando opens new horizons to the Turkish mind. When we think of America, we no longer need think in terms of weeks” as Istanbul fliers brought the U.S. and Turkey within less than 50 hours’ distance.[2]

The duo had no clothes except those they arrived in and borrowed pajamas from the American Embassy. After a sixteen-hour sleep at the famous Pera Palace Hotel, that hosted luminaries like Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie, they had found themselves surrounded by a large and cheering crowd.

But the most pleasant surprise in the morning was a percolator filled with steaming American coffee which Fazıla Şevket Hanım, niece of Bedi Bey, counselor to the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C., had especially prepared for them.

After receiving education at the American College for Girls and Mount Holyoke University in Massachusetts, Fazıla Şevket (Giz) Hanım commenced working as a biology teacher at the ACG. Şevket Hanım brought American coffee to their guests as it was thought that Turkish coffee would be too strong for Americans.

 

We are astounded and happy at the reception given us by Turkey

Various U.S. newspapers noted that few high officials or diplomats had ever caused so much excitement and interest in Istanbul as the Boardman and Polando did. As the two took a sight-seeing tour of the city, Turkish people were trying to see them and shake their hands.

Boardman said: “We are astounded and happy at the reception given us by Turkey. We have no intention to beat further records. The rest of our trip will be made by easy stages through the East.”[3]

Two days after their arrival, Boardman and Polando were presented silver plaques. They were also given several valuable rugs by the municipal council of Istanbul. They enjoyed the warm reception they had received from Turkish high officials and the public to the point that they said they would have many regrets at telling Turkey farewell.

Miracle of miracles, the Gazi sent out word that he wishes to receive our noble aviators at Yalova

Aside from the warm welcome and gifts the duo received in Istanbul, President Mustafa Kemal invited them to his summer house in Yalova and instructed the Turkish Aviation League (Türk Hava Kurumu) to prepare two medals to be awarded during their visit.

Surprised by the invitation, Ambassador Grew reported: “Miracle of miracles, the Gazi sent out word that he wishes to receive our noble aviators at Yalova. Foreigners of great distinction, Admirals, Generals, Ministers of State, are often denied access to that sacred sanctum…and at best they are kept waiting for days, but these two American boys immediately summoned so that the great Gazi may promptly do them honor.”

This invitation was in fact a proof of the importance attached to civil aviation by Ataturk, who once said “the future is in the sky.” When Boardman and Polando reached the Yalova wharf, they were greeted by hundreds of Turkish peasants villagers who shouted “Hurrah for the American aviators!”

“Turkey rejoices in your success as if it were her own”

Decorated by Prime Minister İsmet İnönü with special medals of honor in a brief ceremony attended by most of the Turkish high officials at the Yalova clubhouse, Boardman and Polando were then taken to meet President Mustafa Kemal who had scarcely talked of anything else since he heard the fliers had landed.

In his speech at the reception, Mustafa Kemal expressed his appreciation for Istanbul fliers’ achievement, and indicated his vision regarding science, technology, world peace and signaled a new era in Turkish-American relations. He said: “Turkey rejoices in your success as if it were her own. From the point of view of science, technique, capacity and courage, yours is an unprecedented victory of human power. Bringing continents together, you bring nations together. Heroes like you transform nations into families whose members are mutually concerned about each other’s happiness and sorrow… Your flight brought the hearts of Americans and Turks nearer.”[4]

Impressed with the reception by the Turkish President Boardman said: “We are absolutely overwhelmed by the greatness of Turkish hospitality. We never expected so much honor. I was deeply impressed by the opportunity of meeting Mustafa Kemal, Turkey’s great leader whose force and vision created the new Turkey.”[5]

I wish to express my sincere appreciation of the courtesies which you have shown the American fylers

Two days after the reception in Yalova, President Herbert Hoover sent a message to President Mustafa Kemal for the appreciation of the courtesies shown to Istanbul Fliers. He cabled: “I wish to express my sincere appreciation of the courtesies which you have shown the American fylers, Boardman and Polando, following their successful flight from New York to Istanbul.”[6]

On August 9, 1931, Boardman and Polando flied from Istanbul to Marseilles where they embarked on the steamer Excalibur for the U.S. After their arrival in New York with their Cape Cod, the two “Boston boys” headed to Boston the next day with their plane where they were received like heroes with a parade of automobiles. Besides numerous awards bestowed upon them, their record was recognized by Congress a year later. Boardman and Polando walked from the White House carrying distinguished flying crosses pinned upon their breasts by President Hoover.

Boardman and Polando’s flight from New York to Istanbul not only set a new aviation record, also it turned out to be a significant public diplomacy achievement for both Turkey and the U.S. In 1981, on the 50th anniversary of their record flight, Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, Massachusetts added Boardman-Polando Field to its name to recognize their accomplishment.

 

 

Photo credits and explanations:

  1. Russell N. Boardman and John Polando with plane Cape Cod in East Boston with their Turkish Aviation League badges and the medals they were awarded in Yalova, Turkey. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection
  2. Russell N. Boardman and John Polando in front of Taksim Republic Monument, Istanbul. From the archives of Atilla Oral
  3. Russell N. Boardman and John Polando in Yalova wharf before their meeting with President Ataturk. From the archives of Atilla Oral
  4. Russell N. Boardman, John Polando, President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew and Turkish officials in Yalova, Turkey. From the archives of Atilla Oral
  5. Russell N. Boardman, John Polando, President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew and Turkish officials in Yalova, Turkey. From the archives of Atilla Oral
  6. Russell N. Boardman and John Polando in the cabin of Cape Cod, from the cover illustration of the book Wings over Istanbul

[1] Detroit Free Press, July 31, 1931.

[2] St. Louis Post-Dispatch July 31, 1931.

[3] Courier-Post, August 01, 1931.

[4] Şuhnaz Yılmaz, Turkish American Relations, 1800-1952.  New York: Routledge, 2015.

[5] Great Falls Tribune, August 2, 1931.

[6] The Baltimore Sun, August 5,  1931.

[7]  www. globaldailynews.cohttps://www.globaldailynews.com/global-opinion/istanbul-fliers-boardman-and-polando/m

Share With:
Rate This Article

isilacehan@turksinamerica.com

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.