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10 NOVEMBER 1972
FBI IN SWIMMING TRUNKS

 

In 1972, swimming trunks become standard uniform for FBI agents during hijack situations. Three black men, Henry Jackson and his two half-brothers—Lewis Moore and Melvin Cale—hijack Captain William Haas’s Southern Airways Flight 49 out of Birmingham, Alabama. Paranoid that the other male passengers could be concealing weapons, the hijackers have them all strip down to their underwear. The women are ordered to throw their purses into the aisle, during which time dinner is served. The hijack turns into a two-day ordeal across the US, Canada, Cuba and the Atlantic; making nine forced stops, two of them in Havana. During one such stop in Chattanooga, the hijackers demand that money, two dozen buckets of fried chicken, parachutes, seven bulletproof vests, pep pills and a six-pack of beer be delivered to the plane by a FBI agent in his swimming trunks.
It turns out that Jackson and Moore have a bone to pick with the mayor and police of Detroit. They had unsuccessfully sued the city for $4 million on the count of police brutality and could hardly believe it when the city offered to settle for $25: for them, it is clearly a matter of race discrimination. It is so that they decide on their hijack, with a ransom demand of $10 million. They threaten to crash-land into the atomic plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, if their demands are not met.