Remembering LA's 'Wrong Way' Corrigan on St. Patrick's

Angelenos marking St. Patrick's Day today can also celebrate the gall of Irish American Douglas `Wrong Way' Corrigan, whose explanation for ending up in Ireland on what should have been a flight to Long Beach may be one of history's most brazen displays of blarney.

Corrigan, a Southland resident, flew from Long Beach to New York in July 1938, then famously claimed he got his bearings crossed on his return trip. He ended up 27 hours later outside Dublin in Ireland – after having his request to fly there denied by American authorities who said his 1929 Curtiss Robin monoplane was unsafe.

Until he died in 1995, Corrigan claimed his transatlantic flight had been a mistake resulting from cloud cover and a broken compass. But some of his acquaintances told journalists that Corrigan had always wanted to emulate Charles Lindbergh.

Corrigan was born in Texas in 1907, son of a railroad engineer and a school teacher. His parents divorced and his mother brought him to Los Angeles in 1922.

Five years later he was working as an aircraft mechanic at Ryan Airlines in San Diego, where he helped put together Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis."

The mechanic and the pilot became friends, and when Lindbergh made the world's first New York-to-Paris flight in 1927, Corrigan determined to try his own transatlantic first.

Eleven years later came the stunt that made him instantly famous in Ireland and around the world.

"Honest, I meant to go to California," Corrigan said in a radio interview in Ireland.

He sailed back to New York and a tickertape parade. He also was greeted by thousands when he flew back to Long Beach, and a parade in his honor was staged in Los Angeles as well.

A year later, Corrigan starred as himself in the 1939 film "Flying Irishman," but the movie tanked and so did his acting career, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He eventually settled on a 20-acre orange grove in Santa Ana, where he and his wife reared three sons and he kept his old plane "Sunshine" in the garage.

In 1988, an Irish airline flew him back to Ireland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his "wrong way" flight.

Though he reveled in his Irish-American ancestry, it's open to debate whether Corrigan would approve of alcohol-fueled St. Patrick's Day celebrations. According to The Times, Corrigan was a teetotaler who ran on a Prohibition Party ticket in 1946 with the platform slogan "Soak the Drunks With Higher Taxes."

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