In 1923, the U.S. Army Air Service was interested in pursuing a mission to be the first to circumnavigate the earth by aircraft, a program called "World Flight".
Donald Douglas proposed a modified two-place, open cockpit DT biplane torpedo bomber from Douglas Aircraft Company to meet the Army's needs... previously supplied to the Navy, thus shortening production time, the DTs to be modified were taken from the assembly lines at the company's manufacturing plants in Illinois and Ohio.
Douglas promised that the design could be completed within 45 days after receiving a contract.
On 6 April 1924, the four expedition aircraft, named Boston, Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle, departed Seattle, Washington. West across Asia and Europe relying on a carefully planned logistics system, including prepositioned spare engines and fuel caches maintained by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, to keep the aircraft flying. The aircraft continued across the Atlantic to North America, back to Washington and on the World Flight's ceremonial flypast across the United States, returning to Seattle on 28 September 1924
Eddie Rickenbacker, the celebrated flying ace and chair of the welcoming committee, formally requested that the Chicago, as the mission flagship, to remain in its host city, donated to the Field Museum of Natural History.
Upon the request of the Smithsonian Institution, however, the U.S. War Department transferred ownership of the Chicago to the national museum.
Beginning in 1957, the New Orleans was displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The aircraft was on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and was returned in 2005.
Since February 2012, the New Orleans is to be a part of the exhibits at the Museum of Flying, Santa Monica, California.