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Melrose man made historic, sneaky flight

    On the morning of Feb. 26, 1949, Lucky Lady II, a Boeing B-50 bomber piloted by Melrose native Capt. James Gallagher, took off from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas.  The bomber carried a large cargo of food, bedding and toiletries for the 14 crewmen who would take the plane on its four-day, 19,642-mile trip. The only thing Lucky Lady II couldn’t carry was enough fuel to keep her airborne for the whole flight.  She was refueled in midair over the Azores, the Sahara, Saudi Arabia, Manila, and Johnstone Island near Hawaii. The purpose of the flight was to show that the United States could carry an atomic bomb to any point on Earth.  It was done with such security that none of the crew members’ families–including Gallagher’s wife, Mary–knew about it until the plane landed in Fort Worth on March 2, two minutes ahead of the estimated time. When  news broke of this first successful nonstop circumnavigation of the globe, it made the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune, which also ran a series of comic strips about the adventure.  A celebration started on May 20, coincidentally the 22nd anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s landing in Paris, when a caravan of cars left Wold-Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis.  Bands accompanied it through St. Cloud. When the caravan arrived in Melrose, it joined a 40-unit parade.  The 28-year-old Gallagher, his wife, and baby daughter, Kathleen, rode in an open car as F-882 fighter planes performed acrobatics overhead.  The day was chilly; beauty queens on floats wore formals, bathing suits and frozen smiles.  Gov. Luther Youngdahl and famed radio personality Cedric Adams led the ceremonies at Legion Park. The only person lacking was Lindbergh, who had been invited but sent regrets. James Gallagher retired from the Air Force in 1972 as a vice wing commander.  In 1984, he received the Jimmy Doolittle Award from the Air Force Association for flight.  He died in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 22, 1985.

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