Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 28, 1974) (nicknamed "Lucky Lindy" and "The Lone Eagle") was an American aviator, author, inventor and explorer. By the late 1930s, he had become a prominent non-interventionist, opposed to United States involvement in World War II.
On May 20–21, 1927, Lindbergh emerged instantaneously from virtual obscurity to world fame as the result of his piloting of the first solo nonstop Transatlantic flight from New York (Roosevelt Field) to Paris (Le Bourget Field), in the single-seat, single-engine monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh was awarded the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, in 1927 for his exploit.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lindbergh used his fame to relentlessly help promote the rapid development of U.S. commercial aviation. In the later 1930s and up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh was an outspoken advocate of keeping the U.S. out of the world conflict (as was his Congressman father during World War I) and became a leader of the anti-war America First movement. Nonetheless, he supported the war effort after Pearl Harbor and flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater as a civilian consultant, even though President Roosevelt had refused to reinstate his Army Air Force commission as a colonel that he had resigned earlier in 1941.
In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and active environmentalist.
From an early age Charles Lindbergh had exhibited an interest in the mechanics of motorized transportation including his family's Saxon "Six" automobile, later his Excelsior motorbike, and by the time he enrolled as a mechanical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1920, he had also become fascinated with flying even though he "had never been close enough to a plane to touch it. Lindbergh dropped out of the engineering program in February 1922, and a month later headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, to enroll as a student at the flying school operated by the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation. Arriving on April 1, 1922, he flew for the first time in his life nine days later when he took to the air as a passenger in a two-seat Lincoln-Standard "Tourabout" biplane piloted by Otto Timm.
A few days later Lindbergh took his first formal flying lesson in that same machine with instructor pilot Ira O. Biffle, although the 20-year old student pilot would never be permitted to "solo" during his time at the school because he could not afford to post a bond which the president of the company, Ray Page, insisted upon in the event the novice flyer were to damage the school's only trainer in the process. Thus in order to both gain some needed experience and earn money for additional instruction, Lindbergh left Lincoln in June to spend the summer and early fall barnstorming across Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana as a wing walker and parachutist with E.G. Bahl, and later H.L. Lynch. During this time he also briefly held a job as an airplane mechanic in Billings, Montana, working at the Billings Municipal Airport (later renamed Billings Logan International Airport). When winter came, however, Lindbergh returned to his father's home in Minnesota and did not fly again for over six months.
Lindbergh's first solo flight did not come until May 1923 at Souther Field in Americus, Georgia, a former Army flight training field to which he had come to buy a World War I-surplus Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane. Even though Lindbergh had not had a lesson (or even flown) in more than half a year, he had nonetheless already secretly decided that he was ready to take to the air by himself. And so, after just half an hour of dual time with a pilot who was visiting the field to pick up another surplus JN-4, Lindbergh flew on his own for the first time in the Jenny that he had just purchased there for $500. After spending another week or so at the field to "practice" (thereby acquiring all of five hours of "pilot in command" time), Lindbergh took off from Americus for Montgomery, Alabama, on his first solo cross country flight, and went on to spend much of the rest of 1923 engaged in virtually nonstop barnstorming under the name of "Daredevil Lindbergh." Unlike the previous year, however, this time Lindbergh did so in his "own ship" — and as a pilot. A few weeks after leaving Americus, the young airman achieved another key aviation milestone when he made his first nighttime flight near Lake Village, Arkansas.
Lindbergh damaged his "Jenny" on several occasions over the summer, usually by breaking the prop on landing. His most serious accident came when he ran into a ditch in a farm field in Glencoe, MN, on June 3, 1923, while flying his father (who was then running for the U.S. Senate) to a campaign stop which grounded him for a week until he could repair his ship. In October Lindbergh flew his Jenny to Iowa where he sold it to a flying student of his. (Found stored in a barn in Iowa almost half a century later, Lindbergh's dismantled Jenny was carefully restored in the early 1970s and is now on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum located in Garden City, L.I., NY, adjacent to the site once occupied by Roosevelt Field from which Lindbergh took off on his flight to Paris in 1927.) After selling the Jenny, Lindbergh returned to Lincoln by train where he joined up with Leon Klink and continued to barnstorm through the South for the next few months in Klink's Curtis JN-4C "Canuck" (the Canadian version of the Jenny). Lindbergh also "cracked up" this plane once when his engine failed shortly after take off in Pensacola, FL, but again he managed to repair the damage himself.
Following a few months of barnstorming through the South, the two pilots parted company in San Antonio, Texas, where Lindbergh had been ordered to report to Brooks Field on March 19, 1924, to begin a year of military flight training with the United States Army Air Service both there and later at nearby Kelly Field. Late in his training Lindbergh experienced his worst flying accident on March 5, 1925, when he was involved in a midair collision eight days before graduation with another Army S.E.5 while practicing aerial combat maneuvers and was forced to bail out. Only 18 of the 104 cadets who started flight training remained when Lindbergh graduated first overall in his class in March 1925 thereby earning his Army pilot's wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service Reserve Corps. With the Army not then in need of additional active duty pilots, however, Lindbergh immediately returned to civilian aviation as a barnstormer and flight instructor, although as a reserve officer he also continued to do some part time military flying by joining the 110th Observation Squadron, 35th Division, Missouri National Guard, in St. Louis in November 1925 and was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
Lindbergh later noted in "WE", his best selling book published in July 1927, just two months after making his historic flight to Paris, that he considered this year of Army flight training to be the critically important one in his development as both a focused, goal oriented individual, as well as a skillful and resourceful aviator.
"Always there was some new experience, always something interesting going on to make the time spent at Brooks and Kelly one of the banner years in a pilot's life. The training is difficult and rigid but there is none better. A cadet must be willing to forget all other interest in life when he enters the Texas flying schools and he must enter with the intention of devoting every effort and all of the energy during the next 12 months towards a single goal. But when he receives the wings at Kelly a year later he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has graduated from one of the world's finest flying schools.
Twice during the 10 months that he flew CAM-2, Lindbergh involuntarily lost custody and control of the mail when he was forced to bail out of his mail plane owing to bad weather, equipment problems, and/or fuel exhaustion. Both incidents came while he was approaching Chicago at night: first near Ottawa, IL, on September 16, 1926, and then near Covell, IL, on November 3, 1926. After landing in rural farm fields by parachute, his first concern on both occasions was to immediately locate the wreckage of his crashed mail planes, make sure that the bags of mail were promptly secured and salvaged, and then to see that they were entrained or trucked on to Chicago with as little further delay as possible. Lindbergh continued on as chief pilot of CAM-2 until mid-February 1927, when he left for San Diego, California, to oversee the design and construction of the Spirit of St. Louis.
Although Lindbergh never returned to service as a regular Air Mail pilot, for many years after making his historic nonstop flight to Paris he used the immense fame that his exploits had brought him to help promote the use of the Air Mail service. He did this by giving many speeches on its behalf, and by carrying souvenir mail on both special promotional domestic flights as well as on a number of international flights over routes in Latin America and the Caribbean which he had laid out as a consultant to Pan American Airways to then be flown under contract to the Post Office Department as Foreign Air Mail (FAM) routes. At the request of Capt. Basil L. Rowe, the owner and Chief Pilot of West Indian Aerial Express and a fellow Air Mail pioneer and advocate, in February 1928, Lindbergh also carried a small amount of special souvenir mail between Santo Domingo, R.D., Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Havana, Cuba in the Spirit of St. Louis. Those cities were the last three stops that he and the Spirit made during their 7,800-mile, 13-nation "Good Will Tour" of Latin America between December 13, 1927, and February 8, 1928. The final two legs of the 48-day tour were also the only flights on which officially sanctioned, postally franked mail was ever carried in the Spirit of St. Louis. Exactly two weeks later, Lindbergh also "returned" to flying CAM-2 for two days so that he could pilot a series of special flights (Northbound on February 20; Southbound on February 21) on which many tens of thousands of self-addressed souvenir covers sent in from all over the nation and the world were cacheted, flown, backstamped, and then returned to their senders as a further means to promote awareness and the use of the Air Mail service.
Designated to be awarded to the pilot of the first successful nonstop flight made in either direction between New York City and Paris within five years after its establishment, the $25,000 Orteig Prize was first offered by the French born New York hotelier (Lafayette Hotel) Raymond Orteig on May 19, 1919. Although that initial time limit lapsed without a serious challenger, the state of aviation technology had advanced sufficiently by 1924 to prompt Orteig to extend his offer for another five years, and this time it began to attract an impressive grouping of well known, highly experienced, and well financed contenders. Ironically the one exception among these competitors was the still boyish, 25-year old relative latecomer to the race — Charles Lindbergh — who, in relation to the others, was virtually anonymous to the public as an aviation figure, had considerably less overall flying experience, and was being primarily financed by just a $15,000 bank loan and his own modest savings.
The first of the well known challengers to actually attempt a flight was famed World War I French fighter ace René Fonck who on September 21, 1926, planned to fly eastbound from Roosevelt Field in New York in a three-engine Sikorsky S-35. Fonck never got off the ground, however, as his grossly overloaded (by 10,000 lbs) transport biplane crashed and burned on takeoff when its landing gear collapsed. (While Fonck escaped the flames, his two crew members, Charles N. Clavier and Jacob Islaroff, died in the fire.) U.S. Naval aviators LCDR Noel Davis and LT Stanton H. Wooster were also killed in a takeoff accident at Langley Field, VA, on April 26, 1927, while testing the three-engine Keystone Pathfinder biplane, American Legion, that they intended to use for the flight. Less than two weeks later, the first contenders to actually get airborne were French war heroes Captain Charles Nungesser and his navigator, François Coli, who departed from Paris - Le Bourget Airport on May 8, 1927, on a westbound flight in the Levasseur PL 8, The White Bird (L'Oiseau Blanc). All contact was lost with them after crossing the coast of Ireland, however, and they were never seen or heard from again.
American air racer Clarence D. Chamberlin and Arctic explorer CDR (later RADM) Richard E. Byrd were also in the race. Although he did not win, Chamberlin and his passenger, Charles Levine, made the far less well remembered second successful nonstop flight across the Atlantic in the single engine Wright-Bellanca WB-2 Miss Columbia (N-X-237) leaving Roosevelt Field two weeks after Lindbergh's flight on June 4, 1927, and landing in Eisleben, Germany near Berlin 43 hours and 31 minutes later on June 6, 1927. (Ironically the Chamberlin monoplane was the same one that the Lindbergh group had originally intended to purchase for his attempt but passed on when the plane's manufacturer insisted on selecting the pilot.) Byrd followed suit in the Fokker F.VII trimotor, America, flying with three others from Roosevelt Field on June 29, 1927. Although they reached Paris on July 1, 1927, Byrd was unable to land there because of weather and was forced to return to the Normandy coast where he ditched the tri-motor high wing monoplane near the French village of Ver-sur-Mer.
Six well known aviators had thus already lost their lives in pursuit of the Orteig Prize when Lindbergh took off on his successful attempt in the early morning of May 20, 1927. Dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis, his "partner" was a fabric covered, single-seat, single-engine "Ryan NYP" high wing monoplane (CAB registration: N-X-211) designed by Donald Hall and custom built by Ryan Aeronautical Company of San Diego, California. Although the primary source of funding for the purchase of the Spirit and other expenses related to the overall New York to Paris effort came from a $15,000 State National Bank of St. Louis loan made on February 18, 1927, to St. Louis businessmen Harry H. Knight and Harold M. Bixby, the project's two principal trustees, and another $1,000 donated by Frank Robertson of RAC on the same day, Lindbergh himself also personally contributed $2,000 of his own money from both his savings and his earnings from the 10 months that he flew the Air Mail for RAC.
Burdened by its heavy load of 450 gallons of gasoline (2,385 lbs) and hampered by a muddy, rain soaked runway, Lindbergh's Wright Whirlwind powered monoplane gained speed very slowly as it made its 7:52 AM takeoff run from Roosevelt Field, but its J-5C radial engine still proved powerful enough to allow the "Spirit" to clear the telephone lines at the far end of the field "by about twenty feet with a fair reserve of flying speed. Over the next 33.5 hours he and the "Spirit" — which Lindbergh always jointly referred to simply as "WE" — faced many challenges including skimming over both storm clouds at 10,000 feet and wave tops at as low at 10 ft, fighting icing, flying blind through fog for several hours, and navigating only by the stars (when visible) and "dead reckoning" before landing at Le Bourget at 10:22 PM on 21 May. A crowd estimated at 150,000 spectators stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for "nearly half an hour." While some damage was done to the "Spirit" (especially to the fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters, both Lindbergh and the Spirit were eventually "rescued" from the mob by a group of French military flyers, soldiers, and police who took them both to safety in a nearby hangar. From that moment on, however, life would never again be the same for the previously little known former Air Mail pilot who, by his successful flight, had just achieved virtually instantaneous — and lifelong — world fame.
The French Foreign Office flew the American flag, the first time it had saluted someone not a head of state. Gaston Doumergue, the President of France, bestowed the French Légion d'honneur on the young Capt. Lindbergh, and on his arrival back in the United States aboard the United States Navy cruiser USS Memphis (CL-13) on June 11, 1927, a fleet of warships and multiple flights of military aircraft including pursuit planes, bombers, and the rigid airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), escorted him up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. where President Calvin Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. On that same day the U.S. Post Office Department issued a 10-Cent Air Mail stamp (Scott C-10) depicting the Spirit of St. Louis and a map of the flight. A ticker-tape parade was held for him down 5th Avenue in New York City on June 13, 1927. The following night the City of New York further honored Capt. Lindbergh with a grand banquet at the Hotel Commodore attended by some 3,600 people.
After the flight, Lindbergh became an important voice on behalf of aviation activities, including the central committee of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the United States. The massive publicity surrounding him and his flight boosted the aviation industry and made a skeptical public take air travel seriously. Within a year of his flight, a quarter of Americans (an estimated thirty million) personally saw Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. Over the remainder of 1927 applications for pilot's licenses in the U.S. trebled, the number of licensed aircraft of all types quadrupled, and U.S. Airline passengers grew between 1926 and 1929 by 3,000% from 5,782 to 173,405. Lindbergh is recognized in aviation for demonstrating and charting polar air routes, high altitude flying techniques, and increasing flying range by decreasing fuel consumption. These innovations are the basis of modern intercontinental air travel.
The winner of the 1930 Best Woman Aviator of the Year Award, Elinor Smith Sullivan, said that before Lindbergh's flight, "people seemed to think we [aviators] were from outer space or something. But after Charles Lindbergh's flight, we could do no wrong. It's hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. Even the first walk on the moon doesn't come close. The twenties was such an innocent time, and people were still so religious – I think they felt like this man was sent by God to do this. And it changed aviation forever because all of a sudden the Wall Streeters were banging on doors looking for airplanes to invest in. We'd been standing on our heads trying to get them to notice us but after Lindbergh, suddenly everyone wanted to fly, and there weren't enough planes to carry them.
Although Lindbergh was the first to fly nonstop from New York to Paris, he was not the first aviator to complete a transatlantic flight. That had been done first in stages between May 8 and May 31, 1919, by the crew of the Navy-Curtiss NC-4 flying boat which took 24 days to complete its journey from Jamaica Bay at Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, to Plymouth, England, via Halifax (Nova Scotia), Trepassey Bay (Newfoundland), Horta (Azores), and Lisbon (Portugal).
The first truly nonstop transatlantic flight (over a route a far shorter route than Lindbergh's) was achieved nearly eight years earlier in 1919 by two British flyers, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, in a modified Vickers Vimy IV bomber in which they departed from Lester's Field near St. John's, Newfoundland, on 14 June and arrived at Clifden, Ireland, the following day. A total of 81 people had flown across the Atlantic prior to Lindbergh. However, his was the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. Lindbergh's grandson Erik Lindbergh repeated this trip 75 years later in 2002 in 17 hours, 17 minutes.
After his flight, Lindbergh wrote a letter to the director of Longines, describing in detail a watch which would make navigation easier for pilots. The watch was manufactured to his design and is still produced today.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) was the daughter of diplomat Dwight Morrow whom he met in Mexico City in December, 1927, where her father was serving as the U.S. Ambassador. According to a Biography Channel profile on Lindbergh, she was the only woman that he had ever asked out on a date. In Lindbergh's autobiography, he derides womanizing pilots he met as a "barnstormer" and Army cadet, for their "facile" approach to relationships. For Lindbergh, the ideal romance was stable and long term, with a woman with keen intellect, good health and strong genes. Lindbergh said his "experience in breeding animals on our farm had taught me the importance of good heredity.
The couple was married on May 27, 1929, and eventually had six children: Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. (1930–1932); Jon Morrow Lindbergh (b. August 16, 1932); Land Morrow Lindbergh (b. 1937), who studied anthropology at Stanford University and married Susan Miller in San Diego; Anne Lindbergh (1940–1993); Scott Lindbergh (b. 1942); and Reeve Lindbergh (b. 1945), a writer. Lindbergh also taught his wife how to fly and did much of his exploring and charting of air routes with her.
Assiduous tracing of many $10 and $20 Gold certificates passed in the New York City area over the next year-and-a-half eventually led police to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a then 34-year old German emigrant carpenter, who was arrested near his home in the Bronx, NY, on September 19, 1934. A stash containing $13,760 of the ransom money was subsequently found hidden in his garage. Charged with kidnapping, extortion, and first degree murder, Hauptmann went on trial in a circus-like atmosphere in Flemington, New Jersey on January 2, 1935. Six weeks later he was convicted on all counts when, following just eleven hours of deliberation, the jury delivered its verdict late on the night of 13 February after which trial judge Thomas Trenchard immediately sentenced Hauptmann to death. Although he continued to adamantly maintain his innocence after his conviction, all of Hauptmann's appeals and petitions for clemency were fairly quickly rejected. Despite a last minute attempt by New Jersey Governor Harold Hoffman (who had always expressed doubts that Hauptmann could have acted alone) to convince him to confess to the crimes in exchange for getting his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, the by then 36-year Hauptmann refused and was electrocuted at Trenton State Prison on April 3, 1936.
The Lindberghs eventually grew tired of the never-ending spotlight on the family and came to fear for the safety of their then three-year old second son, Jon. Deciding, therefore, to seek seclusion in Europe, the family sailed from New York under a veil of secrecy on board the SS American Importer in the pre-dawn hours of December 22, 1935. The family rented "Long Barn" in the village of Sevenoaks Weald, Kent, England. One newspaper wrote that Lindbergh "won immediate popularity by announcing he intended to purchase his supplies 'right in the village, from local tradesmen.' The reserve of the villagers, most of whom had decided in advance he would be a blustering, boastful young American, is melting." At the time of Hauptmann's execution, local police almost sealed off the area surrounding Long Barn with "orders to regard as suspects anyone except residents who approached within a mile of the home." Lindbergh later described his three years in the Kent village as "among the happiest days of my life." In 1938 the family moved to Iliec, a small (four-acre) island Lindbergh purchased off the Brittany coast of France.
In 1930, Lindbergh's sister-in-law developed a fatal heart condition. Lindbergh began to wonder why hearts couldn't be repaired with surgery. When living in France, Lindbergh studied on perfusion of organs outside the body with Nobel Prize-winning French surgeon Dr. Alexis Carrel. Although perfused organs were said to have survived surprisingly well, all showed progressive degenerative changes within a few days. Lindbergh's invention, a glass perfusion pump, named the "Model T" pump, is credited with making future heart surgeries possible. However, in this early stage, the pump was far from perfected. In 1938, Lindbergh and Carrel summarized their work in their book, The Culture of Organs describing an artificial heart. but it was decades before one was built. In later years, Lindbergh's pump was further developed by others, eventually leading to the construction of the first heart-lung machine.
Lindbergh and Carrell discussed eugenics.
Lindbergh toured German aviation facilities, where the commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring convinced Lindbergh the Luftwaffe was far more powerful than it was. With the approval of Goering and Ernst Udet, Lindbergh was the first American permitted to examine the Luftwaffe's newest bomber, the Ju 88 and Germany's front line fighter aircraft, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Lindbergh received the unprecedented opportunity to pilot the Bf 109. Lindbergh said of the fighter that he knew "of no other pursuit plane which combines simplicity of construction with such excellent performance characteristics." Colonel Lindbergh inspected all the types of military aircraft Germany was to use in 1939 and 1940.
Lindbergh reported to the U.S. military that Germany was leading in metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles and diesel engines. Lindbergh also undertook a survey of aviation in the Soviet Union in 1938. Lindbergh's findings found their way into air intelligence reports to Washington long before the European war began.
The American ambassador to Germany, Hugh Wilson, invited Lindbergh to dinner with Göring at the American embassy in Berlin in 1938. The dinner included diplomats and three of the greatest minds of German aviation, Ernst Heinkel, Adolf Baeumaker and Dr. Willy Messerschmitt. For Lindbergh's 1927 flight and services to aviation, on behalf of Adolf Hitler, Göring presented him with the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle (Henry Ford received the same award earlier in July). However, Lindbergh's acceptance of the medal caused controversy after Kristallnacht. Lindbergh declined to return the medal, later writing (according to A. Scott Berg): "It seems to me that the returning of decorations, which were given in times of peace and as a gesture of friendship, can have no constructive effect. If I were to return the German medal, it seems to me that it would be an unnecessary insult. Even if war develops between us, I can see no gain in indulging in a spitting contest before that war begins." During this period, Lindbergh was back on temporary duty as a colonel in the Army Air Corps assigned to the task of recruitment, finding a site for a new air force research institute and other potential air bases. Another role that he undertook was in evaluating new aircraft types in development. Assigned a Curtiss P-36 fighter, he toured various facilities, reporting back to Wright Field.
Some military historians argue Lindbergh was basically accurate and his warnings helped save Britain from likely defeat. Others say his actions were beneficial to the Third Reich's war effort.
In a controversial 1939 Reader's Digest article, Lindbergh said, "Our civilization depends on peace among Western nations... and therefore on united strength, for Peace is a virgin who dare not show her face without Strength, her father, for protection. Lindbergh deplored the rivalry between Germany and Britain but favoured a war between Germany and Russia. There is some controversy as to how accurate his reports concerning the Luftwaffe was, but Cole reports the consensus among British and American officials was it was slightly exaggerated but badly needed.
Lindbergh argued that America did not have any business attacking Germany and believed in upholding the Monroe Doctrine, which his interventionist rivals felt was outdated. According to Lindbergh historian Scott A Berg, Lindbergh said before World War II:
“the potentially gigantic power of America, guided by uninformed and impractical idealism, might crusade into Europe to destroy Hitler without realizing that Hitler’s destruction would lay Europe open to the rape, loot and barbarism of Soviet Russia’s forces, causing possibly the fatal wounding of western civilization.”
During his January 23, 1941, testimony before The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Lindbergh recommended the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Germany.
In a speech at an America First rally in Des Moines on September 11, 1941, "Who Are the War Agitators?" Lindbergh claimed the three groups, "pressing this country toward war [are] the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration" and said of Jewish groups,
"Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation.In the speech, he warned of the Jewish People's "large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government," and went on to say of Germany's Antisemitism, "No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany." Lindbergh declared,
"I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war. We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction."
The speech was heavily criticized as being anti-Jewish. In response Lindbergh noted again he was not anti-Semitic, but he did not back away from his statements.
Interventionists created pamphlets pointing out his efforts were praised in Nazi Germany and included quotations such as "Racial strength is vital; politics, a luxury". They included pictures of him and other America Firsters using the stiff-armed Bellamy salute (a hand gesture described by Francis Bellamy to accompany his Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States); the photos were taken from an angle not showing the American flag, so to observers it was indistinguishable from the Hitler salute.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt disliked Lindbergh's outspoken opposition to intervention and Roosevelt's policies such as the Lend-Lease Act. FDR said to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau in May 1940, "if I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this, I am absolutely convinced Lindbergh is a Nazi. To discredit Lindbergh's moral character FDR directed the FBI to investigate his personal life even though Lindbergh had a reputation as a decent, moral man.
Lindbergh's reaction to Kristallnacht was entrusted to his diary: "I do not understand these riots on the part of the Germans," he wrote. "It seems so contrary to their sense of order and intelligence. They have undoubtedly had a difficult 'Jewish problem,' but why is it necessary to handle it so unreasonably?
In his diaries, he wrote: “We must limit to a reasonable amount the Jewish influence… Whenever the Jewish percentage of total population becomes too high, a reaction seems to invariably occur. It is too bad because a few Jews of the right type are, I believe, an asset to any country.”
Lindbergh's anti-Communism resonated deeply with many Americans while eugenics and Nordicism enjoyed social acceptance, with enthusiasts such as Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and George S. Patton.
Although Lindbergh considered Hitler a fanatic and avowed a belief in American democracy, he clearly stated elsewhere that he believed the survival of the white race was more important than the survival of democracy in Europe: "Our bond with Europe is one of race and not of political ideology," he declared. He had, however, a relatively positive attitude toward blacks (something that was scheduled to be fully revealed in an undelivered speech interrupted by the events that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor). Critics have noticed an apparent influence of German philosopher Oswald Spengler on Lindbergh. Spengler was a conservative authoritarian and during the interwar era, was widely read throughout Western World, though by this point he had fallen out of favor with the Nazis because he had not wholly subscribed to their theories of racial purity.
Lindbergh developed a long-term friendship with the automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who was well-known for his anti-Jewish newspaper "The Dearborn Independent." In a famous comment about Lindbergh to Detroit's former FBI bureau chief in July 1940, Ford said: "When Charles comes out here, we only talk about the Jews.
Lindbergh considered Russia to be a "semi-Asiatic" country compared to Germany, and he found Communism to be an ideology that would destroy the West's "racial strength" and replace everyone of European descent with "a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown." He openly stated, if he had to choose, he would rather see America allied with Nazi Germany than Soviet Russia. He preferred Nordics, but he believed, after Soviet Communism was defeated, Russia would be a valuable ally against potential aggression from East Asia.
Lindbergh said certain races have "demonstrated superior ability in the design, manufacture, and operation of machines." He further said, "the growth of our western civilization has been closely related to this superiority. Lindbergh admired, "the German genius for science and organization, the English genius for government and commerce, the French genius for living and the understanding of life." He believed, "in America they can be blended to form the greatest genius of all." He planned to voice his opposition to the Jim Crow laws. As an advocate of political realism and a cultural pessimist, he may have felt that state-enforced racial segregation had become untenable and counterproductive. His message was popular throughout many Northern communities and especially well-received in the Midwest, while the American South was Anglophilic and supported a pro-British foreign policy.
Holocaust researcher and investigative journalist Max Wallace, agrees with Franklin Roosevelt's assessment that Lindbergh was "pro-Nazi" in his book, The American Axis. However, Wallace finds the Roosevelt Administration's accusations of dual loyalty or treason as unsubstantiated. Wallace considers Lindbergh a well-intentioned but bigoted and misguided Nazi sympathizer whose career as the leader of the isolationist movement had a destructive impact on Jewish people.
Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, A. Scott Berg, contends Lindbergh was not so much a supporter of the Nazi regime as someone so stubborn in his convictions and relatively inexperienced in political maneuvering that he easily allowed rivals to portray him as one. Lindbergh's receipt of the German medal was approved without objection by the American embassy; the war had not yet begun in Europe. Indeed, the award did not cause controversy until the war began and Lindbergh returned to the United States in 1939 to spread his message of non-intervention. Berg contends Lindbergh's views were commonplace in the United States in the pre-World War II era. Lindbergh's support for the America First Committee was representative of the sentiments of a number of American people.
Berg finds Lindbergh believed in a voluntary rather than compulsory eugenics program.
In Pat Buchanan's book entitled A Republic, Not An Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny, he portrays Lindbergh and other pre-war isolationists as American patriots who were smeared by interventionists during the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. Buchanan suggests the backlash against Lindbergh highlights "the explosiveness of mixing ethnic politics with foreign policy. The views expressed in the book caused considerable controversy that eventually led to Buchanan's departure from the Republican Party.
Lindbergh always preached military strength and alertness. He believed that a strong defensive war machine, as well as his views about race, would make America an impenetrable fortress and defend the Western Hemisphere from an attack by foreign powers, and that this was the U.S. military's sole purpose.
Many acknowledge Lindbergh helped keep American public opinion isolationist until 1941 by advancing the movement to keep America out of the war for as long as possible. At the same time, some praise Lindbergh for his prediction that an Iron Curtain descended upon Europe; many of the predictions which Lindbergh made about the war came before Hitler violated his non-aggression pact with Stalin and launched Operation Barbarossa. Berg reveals that, while the attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shock to Lindbergh, he did predict that America's "wavering policy in the Philippines" would invite a bloody war there, and, in one speech, he warned that "we should either fortify these islands adequately, or get out of them entirely". Cole, Wallace and Buchanan all believe that Lindbergh was highly influential in ensuring that Hitler's war machine would advance toward the Eastern Front and inflict the most devastation there.
Unable to take on an active military role, Lindbergh approached a number of aviation companies, offering his services as a consultant. As a technical adviser with Ford in 1942, he was heavily involved in troubleshooting early problems encountered at the Willow Run B-24 Liberator bomber production line. As B-24 production smoothed out, he joined United Aircraft in 1943 as an engineering consultant, devoting most of his time to its Chance-Vought Division. The following year, he persuaded United Aircraft to designate him a technical representative in the Pacific War to study aircraft performances under combat conditions. He showed Marine F4U Corsair pilots how to take off with twice the bomb load that the fighter-bomber was rated for and on May 21, 1944, he flew his first combat mission: a strafing run with VMF-222 near the Japanese garrison of Rabaul, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea.
In his six months in the Pacific in 1944, Lindbergh took part in fighter bomber raids on Japanese positions, flying about 50 combat missions (again as a civilian). His innovations in the use of P-38 Lightning fighters impressed a supportive Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Lindbergh introduced engine-leaning techniques to P-38 pilots, greatly improving fuel usage at cruise speeds, enabling the long-range fighter aircraft to fly longer range missions. The U.S. Marine and Army Air Force pilots who served with Lindbergh praised his courage and defended his patriotism.
On July 28, 1944, during a P-38 bomber escort mission with the 475th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force, in the Ceram area, Lindbergh shot down a Sonia observation plane piloted by Captain Saburo Shimada, Commanding Officer of the 73rd Independent Chutai.
After the war, while touring the Nazi death camps, Lindbergh wrote in his autobiography that he was disgusted and angered.
A 2005 book by German author Rudolf Schroeck, Das Doppelleben des Charles A. Lindbergh (The Double Life of Charles A. Lindbergh), claims seven secret children existed in Germany. It says Lindbergh "came and went as he pleased" during the last 17 years of his life, spending between three to five days with his Munich family about four to five times each year. "Ten days before he died in August 1974, Lindbergh wrote three letters from his hospital bed to his three mistresses and requested 'utmost secrecy'," Schroeck writes, whose book includes a copy of that letter to Brigitte Hesshaimer.
Two of the seven children, were from his relationship with the East Prussian aristocrat Valeska, who was Lindbergh's private secretary in Europe. They had a son in 1959 and a daughter in 1961. She had been friends with the Hesshaimer sisters and was the one who introduced them to Charles Lindbergh. In the beginning, they lived all together in his apartment in Rome. However, the friendship ended when Brigitte Hesshaimer became pregnant from him as well. Valeska lives in Baden-Baden and wants to keep her privacy, as mentioned in many German and International Reuter's newspaper articles, in Rudolf Schroek's book and a TV documentary by Danuta Harrich-Zandberg and Walter Harrich.
In April 2008, Reeve Lindbergh, his youngest daughter, published Forward From Here, a book of essays that includes her discovery in 2003, of the truth about her father's three secret European families and her journeys to meet them and understand an expanded meaning of family.
Lindbergh's speeches and writings later in life emphasized his love of both technology and nature, and a lifelong belief that "all the achievements of mankind have value only to the extent that they preserve and improve the quality of life." In a 1967 Life magazine article, he said, "The human future depends on our ability to combine the knowledge of science with the wisdom of wildness."
In honor of Charles and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh's vision of achieving balance between the technological advancements they helped pioneer, and the preservation of the human and natural environments, the Lindbergh Award was established in 1978. Each year since 1978, the Lindbergh Foundation has given the award to recipients whose work has made a significant contribution toward the concept of "balance."
Lindbergh's final book, Autobiography of Values, based on an unfinished manuscript was published posthumously. While on his death bed, he had contacted his friend, William Jovanovich, head of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, to edit the lengthy memoirs.
Lindbergh spent his final years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he died of lymphoma on August 26, 1974. He was buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu, Maui. His epitaph on a simple stone which quotes Psalms 139:9, reads: Charles A. Lindbergh Born: Michigan, 1902. Died: Maui, 1974. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea. — CAL
Because of earthquake damage to Hawaii State Highway 31, Lindbergh's final resting place is presently accessible by land only via State Highway 360, the so-called Road to Hana.
The Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport was named after him, and a replica of The Spirit of St. Louis hangs there. Another such replica hangs in the great hall at the recently rebuilt Jefferson Memorial at Forest Park in St. Louis. The definitive oil painting of Charles Lindbergh by St. Louisan Richard Krause entitled "The Spirit Soars" has been displayed there.San Diego's Lindbergh Field, which is also known as San Diego International Airport was named after him. The airport in Winslow, Arizona has also been renamed Winslow-Lindbergh Regional. Lindbergh himself designed the airport in 1929 when it was built as a refueling point for the first coast-to-coast air service. Among the many airports and air facilities that bear his name, the airport in Little Falls, Minnesota, where he grew up, has been named Little Falls/Morrison County-Lindbergh Field.
The original "The Spirit of St. Louis" currently resides in the National Air and Space Museum as part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1952, Grandview High School in St. Louis County was renamed Lindbergh High School. The school newspaper is the Pilot, the yearbook is the Spirit, and the students are known as the Flyers. The school district was also later named after Lindbergh. The stretch of US 67 that runs through most of the St. Louis metro area is called "Lindbergh Blvd." Lindbergh has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In Lindbergh's hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, one of the district's elementary schools is named Charles Lindbergh Elementary. The district's sports teams are named the "Flyers" and "Lindbergh Drive" is a major road on the west side of town, leading to Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. The Lindberghs donated their farmstead to the state to be used as a park in memory of Lindbergh's father. The original Lindbergh residence is maintained as a museum, the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
United States Awards
Citation: For displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane, the "Spirit of St. Louis," from New York City to Paris, France, 20-21 May 1927, by which Capt. Lindbergh not only achieved the greatest individual triumph of any American citizen but demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible.
Note: Until World War II, the Medal of Honor was also authorized to be awarded for extraordinarily heroic actions by active or reserve service members made during peacetime as well as in combat.
Lindbergh's life has spurred the imaginations of many writers and others; the following list provides a summary of notable popular cultural references:
In addition to aviation, Lindbergh also wrote prolifically over the years on other topics of interest to him including science, technology, nationalism, war, materialism, and values. Included among those writings were five other books: The Culture of Organs (with Dr. Alexis Carrel) (1938), Of Flight and Life (1948), The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970), Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi (1972), and his final book, Autobiography Of Values, which was published posthumously in 1978.
Lindbergh also influenced or was the model for characters in a variety of works of fiction. Shortly after he made his famous flight, the Stratemeyer Syndicate began publishing a series of books for juvenile readers called the Ted Scott Flying Stories (1927–1943) which were written by a number of authors all using the nom de plume of "Franklin W. Dixon" in which the pilot hero was closely modeled after Lindbergh. (Ted Scott duplicated the solo flight to Paris in the series' first volume entitled Over the Ocean to Paris published in 1927.) Another fictional literary reference to Lindbergh appears in the Agatha Christie book (1934) and movie Murder on the Orient Express (1974) which begins with a fictionalized depiction of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
In Eric Norden's alternate history novel The Ultimate Solution (1973), Norden speculates that Lindbergh would have been president of a Nazi-occupied American puppet state. The Philip Roth novel The Plot Against America (2004) is a speculative fiction novel which explores an alternate history where Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the 1940 presidential election by Charles Lindbergh, who allies the United States with Nazi Germany.
Four years after its 1953 publication, Lindbergh's second book about his flying "partner" served as the basis for the namesake major Hollywood Cinemascope motion picture The Spirit of St. Louis directed by Billy Wilder and released on April 20, 1957, one month short of the 30th anniversary of the flight to Paris. The Spirit was "portrayed" in the film by three flyable replicas of the Ryan NYP, while Lindbergh was played by veteran American actor and fellow former Army aviator James Stewart.
Lindbergh has also been the subject of numerous screen, television, and other documentary films over the years including Charles A. Lindbergh (1927), a UK documentary by De Forest Phonofilm based on Lindbergh's milestone flight, 40,000 Miles with Lindbergh (1928) featuring Charles A. Lindbergh, and The American Experience – Lindbergh: The Shocking, Turbulent Life of America's Lone Eagle (1988) PBS documentary directed by Stephen Ives.