Skip to comments.In 1971, Milwaukee's Hijacker Flew Friendlier Skies to Cuba
Posted on 01/21/2007 1:30:51 PM PST by Diana in Wisconsin
We know from the horrifying events of 9-11 what airplane hijackings look like now.
The only successful hijacking of a jet out of Milwaukee - 36 years ago tomorrow - is almost quaint by comparison.
The hijacker, Garland J. Grant, who eventually tired of Cuba and returned to the United States to serve time in prison, walks free in Milwaukee again.
And the 59 passengers, who sat down to a steak dinner and cold beer in Havana and even had a chance to shop, all returned safely and went about their lives.
"It wasn't as petrifying as it would be today," recalled Harold Scheub, a passenger and professor who teaches a popular course in African storytelling at UW-Madison. "Nowadays you don't want to be hijacked at all, because you're not going to make it."
There hasn't been a successful hijacking in the U.S. since four planes were commandeered by terrorists on America's darkest day, according to Lara Uselding, spokeswoman for the federal Transportation Security Administration.
"Our job is to make sure these individuals do not get on the planes," she said.
It was easy for Grant, then 20 years old and a high school dropout, to board Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 334 in Milwaukee on Jan. 22, 1971.
And he got on with a hatchet.
There wasn't much of a no-fly list back then. Grant had been arrested two weeks earlier for threatening to blow up a railroad depot in Milwaukee because they wouldn't hire him, news stories from the time say.
Soon after the Detroit-bound jet took off, Grant stood up with his hatchet and a briefcase - which he said contained a bomb but actually held a can of Right Guard deodorant - and demanded to be flown to Algeria. He would later say he did it because he was mad about "racist Milwaukee police" and that he wanted to help people in Africa grow food.
"It was scary. Hijacking was pretty new at that time," Scheub, now 75, said in a recent telephone interview.
The Boeing 727 landed in Detroit to refuel but stayed in a more remote area of the airport.
"It seemed like every police car in Michigan was there," Scheub said.
The pilot explained to the hijacker that the plane could not reach Algeria, so Grant picked Cuba instead.
He refused to let anyone off the plane, and away they all flew to Cuba. Scheub recalls it being unnaturally silent on the aircraft. A few passengers vomited, but mostly people played cards, tried to read or just kept an eye on Grant.
When the flight landed in Havana, soldiers in Castro-like fatigues took Grant off the plane and whisked him away in a car.
The passengers were asked to present identification to Cuban officials and then were led to a restaurant in the terminal to be fed by waiters in white jackets.
Some passengers bought bottles of Cuban rum for $5 at an airport shop, only to have it confiscated later by customs agents in Miami, where the plane flew after it was cleared to leave. Scheub said the passengers applauded the pilots when they lifted off Cuban soil.
For a while, Cuba was friendlier to people who hijacked their way there, but later took a harder line. Grant spent several years in Cuban prisons, where, he claimed, he was beaten and tortured.
He voluntarily returned to the United States in 1978. He told reporters Cuba was hellish and racist, and he was anxious to go home.
"I think Wisconsin is the greatest state in the Union," he said then. "Believe me, I'm all for the United States now. I'd even wear a Nixon button."
Grant pleaded guilty to interfering with the flight crew and was sentenced in federal court in Milwaukee to 15 years in prison.
Online records show that he was released in 1990.
I tried to reach him at the most recent address I could find, on N. 44th St. His brother, Ross, said Garland didn't live there anymore. He took my number and said he would give it to his brother, but I didn't hear from him.
Ross said his brother, now 56, was doing OK and probably wouldn't want to bring up the past again.
It's good he learned his lesson when he did. Anyone who tries a hijacking now can expect to face a planeload of crazed passengers fighting for their lives with pens, umbrellas, combs - whatever they can lay their hands on.
Professor Scheub never did make it to Ann Arbor to visit family but chose to return to Madison instead.
News travels fast. When Scheub showed up at his office in Van Hise Hall, his colleagues had put up a banner: "Fly the friendly skies."
"Wisconsin History" Ping!
I was an eleven year old kid at the time this happened. We were all glued to the radio and TV that day. It left an impression on me. Never thought I'd look back at the 70's and say, "Ahhhh! Those were the days!" ;)
My great-grandfather was on that flight, on some kind of business trip, and was seated near Grant. According to what he wrote, Grant was a fairly friendly guy before he took over the plane.
I didn't find out he was on the flight until years after he died, but luckily there were numerous newspaper interviews and and an eight page account of the event written by him preserved by the rest of the family.
It really was something for it's time, wasn't it? Glad it had a good outcome.
I caught something on the History Channel about hijackings in America. No body really thinks about it much but Richard Nixon faced more hijackings than any other president. There was even mention of one group who seized a jet and threatened to crash it into a nuclear power plant.
I'm shocked, shocked.
Nothing's changed, as far as the moonbats are concerned.
Only if you have a defeatist attitude like Prof. Scheub's.
Yesterday was not a good day for hijackers. The "Let's Roll!" message seems to have gotten around:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1786014/posts (totally awesome!)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.