In Paris at 10:22 on May 21 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, a one-time Central Minnesota, farm boy, became an international celebrity. A fame enveloped the 25-year-old American that was to last him for the remainder of his life, transforming him in a frenzied instant from an obscure aviator into a historical figure.
The consequences of this fame were to exhilarate him, to involve him in profound grief, to engage him in fierce controversy, to turn him into an embittered fugitive from the public, to accentuate his individualism to the point where he became a loner, to give him a special sense of his own importance, to allow him to play an enormous role in the growth of commercial aviation as well as to be a figure in missile and space technology, to give him influence in military affairs, and to raise a significant voice for conservation, a concern that marked his older years.
All these things were touched off when a former stunt flier and airmail pilot touched down the wheels of his small and delicate monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, on the tarmac of Le Bourget 33 1/2 hours after having lifted the craft off Roosevelt Field on Long Island. Thousands-no one knows how many- trampled through fences and over guards to surround the silvery plane and to acclaim, in a wild outburst of emotion, the first man to fly the Atlantic solo nonstop from the United States to Europe-a feat that was equivalent in the public mind then to the first human step on the moon 42 years later. Icarus had at last succeeded, a daring man alone had attained the unattainable.
What enhanced the feat for many was that Lindbergh was tall, handsome bachelor with a becoming smile, and errant lock of blond hair over his forehead and a pleasing outward modesty and guilelessness. He was the flawless El Cid, the gleaming Galahad, Frank Merriwell in the flesh.
The delirium that engulfed Paris swirled out over the civilized world. banner headlines heralded the event. Medals galore were bestowed on Lindbergh. he was gushed over, adulated worshiped, feted in France, Belgium and Britain. President Calvin Coolidge sent the cruiser Memphis, flagship of the United States Euopean Fleet, to bring him and the Spirit of St. Louis back to the United States and later awarded him the Medal of Honor, previously reserved only for military heroes. And already a captain in the United States Officers Reserve Corps, Lindbergh was jumped to full colonel.
As the cruiser steamed up Chesapeake Bay, she was met by four destroyers, two Army blimps and 40 airplanes from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Debarking at Washington in civilian's blue serge suit, Lindbergh was glorified by the President, who said that the trans-Atlantic flight was :the same story of valor and victory by a son of the people that shines through every page of American history."
The panoplied Washington reception, which was topped by an a war-the first in the nation's history-of the Distinguished Flying Cross, was followed by and even noisier outpouring in New York, where four million people spilled into the streets. Ticher tape and confetti rained on the Broadway parade, and the day was climaxed by a banquet for 4,000 guests. "We measure heroes as we do shops, by their displacement," the bewhiskered Charles Evans Hughs told the multitude. "Colonel Lindbergh has displaced everything."
And then there were triumphal parades and receptions, seemingly endless, in other cities. Lindbergh eventually flew the Spirit of St. Louis to every state in the Union. Everywhere he went a throng collected. Even a supposedly private visit to Orvill Wright, co-inventor of the airplane, was noised about, and crowds appeared.
Lindbergh, at one pint, was "so filled up with listening to this hero guff that I was ready to shout murder."
What the parades, the pandemonium, the oratory, the hero worship obscured was that Lindbergh's epic flight was a most minutely planned venture by a professional flier with 2,000 air hours amassed over five years. "Why shouldn't I fly from New York to Paris?" he had asked himself in September, 1926. "I have more than four years of aviation behind me. I've barnstormed over half of the 48 states. I've flown my mail through the worst of nights."
There had been two previous Atlantic flights-both in 1919, the first when one of three Navy craft flew from Newfoundland to the Azores; and the second when John Alcock and Arthur Brown made it from Newfoundland to Ireland. But no one had made the crossing alone or from continent to continent.
Once he conceived the notion of the flight, Lindbergh, with characteristic energy, began to elaborate the details. He helped design th plane to his specifications, calculating every ounce that went into it. He laid out his route. Every foreseeable circumstance was checked out.
Two elements could not be figured: the weather and his ability to stay awake. With the weather he took a calculated risk. Fighting off sleep proved a problem, and only his indomitable determination overcame that, although he conceded there were moments of touch and go.
One of the attractions for the Paris flight was a $25,000 prize, for which there were several competitors, among them Clarence Chamberlin and Adm. Richard E. Byrd. Lindbgergh, though was confident he could be first and be successful. He was motivated, he told this writer in later years, by a desire to improve his standing as a pilot as well as by eagerness to win the prize. And although there was great interest in him before take-off time (his hope and that of his rivals to fly the Atlantic had excited wide newspaper coverage), Lindbergh had not calculated the response to his achievement the degree to which he would be lionized or the extent to which he would be regarded as public property, especially by reporters and photographers, whom he came quickly to detest.
"The situation I encountered was extraordinary in the extreme, and often fantastic," he recalled, and cited, as an example, a woman who :wanted to rent the hotel room I was leaving so she could take a bath in the same tub."
Overwhelmed, without precedents to guide him, pressed by sizzling demands on his time, Lindbergh was happy to accept an invitation from Harry Gugenheim, a very rich and very conservative financier who was connected with Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, to escape for a while to his Long Island estate. The invitation was at the suggestion of Dwight Morrow, the Morgan banker, who told Mr. Guggenheim, "Harry almost everyone in the country is after this young fellow trying to exploit him. Isn't there something you and the fund can do, to save him from the wolves?"
As Falaise, the Guggenheim castle, which was perhaps the most opulent private him he had stayed in, the aviator was able to catch his breath for three weeks and rewrite the ghostwritten manuscript that became the book "We." He also retained Henry Breckinrighe, a conservative Wall street lawyer, to help handle his affairs. Many of his new associated held conservative views, which his father, a neo-Populist Republican, spent 20 years fighting.
Lindbergh was not conceived of then as possible political figure, but rather as a nice young man, perhaps a little unpolished socially, who deserved the best that could be provided. His new friends were considerate of his strong individualism. they did not impose flattery, they were respectful and , above all, helpful. The income from "We" and from his flight articles in The New York Times made him a millionaire-a considerable eminence for a man accustomed to thinking hard before he spent $5. His friends helped him invest his fortune.
And after Lindbergh made his good will flights around the country and to Latin America in the Spirit of St. Louis, his friends saw to it that he got a job in keeping with his interest in aviation and his status. The position was as an adviser in both Pan American World Airways and the predecessor of Trans World Airlines in laying out trans-Atlantic, transcontinental and Caribean air routes for the commercial aviation that his Paris flight had done so much to popularize.
The conservative views that Lindbergh later articulated, the remarks about Jews that proved so startling when he was opposing American entry into World War II, his adverse opinion of the Soviet Union, his belief in Western civilization-these were all a reflection of a world view prevalent among his friends, which he absorbed over the years. And engineer and aviator of genius, he was, however, not and intellectual, nor a consistent reader, nor a social analyst.
The assumption of this elitism accounted for his conviction that "America should lead the world in the development of flight," that "a conflict between English and German groups of nations would (be) a fratricidal war," that race was a valid judgmental concept and that to accomplish an objective one should deal with "the top people." It also accounted for what many people thought was his anti-Semitism.
Lindbergh did not regard himself as a anti-Semite. Indeed, he was shocked a couple of years ago when this writer put the question to him. "Good god, no," he responded, citing his fondness for Jews he had known or dealt with. Nor did he condone the Nazi treatment of German Jews, much less Hitler's genocidal policies. On the other hand, he accepted as fact that American Jewish groups were among those promoting United States involvement in World War II.
He voiced these views in a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 11 1941. After asserting that those groups responsible for seeking American "entanglement in European affairs" were "the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration," he went on to say:
"It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire to overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with sense of the dignity of mankind can condone th persecution the Jewish race suffered in Germany.
"But no person of honesty and vision can look on their prowar policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy, both for us and for them.
"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. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not. Their greatest danger to their country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government."
The speech evoked a nationwide outcry. Lindbergh, it was said, had not only impugned the patriotism of American Jews, but also had used the word "race," a word many Jews considered both prejorative and inaccurate. Lindbergh never withdrew his remarks, which he considered statements of "obvious fact." "The violence of the reaction to my naming these groups was significant and extremely interesting," he said 25 years later. "in hindsight, I would not change my action."
LIndbergh's attitude toward Jews, was matched by an adamantine stuborness on other matters. These together sometimes cast him in an unfavorable public light.
One example of his unwillingness to concede that he might have acted unwisely involved the Service Cross of the German Eagle, a civilian medal that was awarded him in 1938 by Hermann Goering the Nazi leader, "at the direction" of Hitler. The presentation, a surprise to Lindbergh, was made at a stag dinner in the home of the American Ambassador to Berlin and was, he was told, in recognition of his services to aviation, especially his 1927 flight.
The award was reported briefly in the newspapers and stirred little criticism. However, the night of the award Mrs. Lindbergh told her husband that it was "the albatross," and she urged him to return it. lindbergh took the position then and later that to do so would affront the Ambassador and Goering, as well, who was technically his host in Germany.
Although he never wore the medal (he gave it to the Lindbergh collection of the Missouri Historical Society in St Louis, along with other awards and trophies), it became an issue when he opped the American war involvement. It led among other things, to his being called a Fascist sympathizer, particularly when he declines a suggestion in 1942 to repudiate it; and the medal plagued his reputation for the rest of his life.
He disdained the criticism,however saying:
"Personally, I am not at all concerned about any damage that may have been done to my reputation by the presentation of the medal.
"I felt the throwing back of the medal was like taking part in a child's spitting contest. If I must fight, I'll fight; but I prefer not to spit at my enemy beforehand. Also, I felt Goering had given me the medal with good intent and in friendship. Regardless of how much I disagreed with him about other things, or later on, I did not want to throw it back in his face."
Nonetheless, Lindbergh, in his later years, was defensive in reciting the medal episode and sensitive in having it known that his wife was among his critics.
Like most people, LIndbergh was a bundle of unresolved contradictions. Stufforn, proud, unable to see how Jews might be offended by "obvious facts," blind to the villainess of Hitlerism, he was, in his relationships with his few close friends, a considerate, delightful, sensitive, helpfull, unpretentious person who did not obtrude his social and political views, nor make agreeing with them a condition of steadfast friendship.
Although he was the object of much flattery and one who succumbed to some of it,he did not like a fuss made over him. He sometimes sounded pompous in print, but he was not in person. Indeed, he was a man of genuinely simple tastes who was happier in a sleeping bag than in a luxury hotel, who preferred eating wild bear with his fingers in the jungle to dining in expensive restaurants, who found more inner satisfaction with primitive than with sophisticated people and who was more at ease in know about attire than in street dress.
Lindbergh's life, like his personality, was full of shadows and enigmas. born Feb 4, 1902 in Detroit, he was the son of C.A. Lindbergh, a prosperous Little Falls, Minn., lawyer and land speculator, and his second wife Evangeline Longe Land. the elder Lindbergh's first wife had died,leaving him two daughters. Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was born in Detroit because his mother's uncle was a physician there. He was returned to Little Falls six weeks later and lived in that small town, the center of a farming and timbering community with few interruptions until he as 18.
His paternal antecedents were Swedes, who changes their name from Mansons to Lindbergh when they emigrated from Swened in 1860. They had a history of independence and vigor. the Lands, of Irish and English background, arrived in the United States shortly after 1812. Lindbergh's maternal grandfather was C.H. Land, a dentist and inventor. Both Dr. Land and C.A. Lindbergh were strong advocates of free inquiry and individual initiative, and both impressed on young Charles the merits of personal independence.
Lindbergh's youth was spent close to nature. His deep felling for it was incouraged by his father, and these early attitudes surfaced toward the end of his life when he devoted much of his fantastic energies to the cause of conservation. Alos early in life, he showed a marked aptitude for mechanical contrivances. When he was 8 or 9, he worked out an ingenious and complicated system for getting ice from the icehouse into the icebox.
Charles's world was jolted when his father was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served from 1907 to 1917. he wend to Washington, his first venture into a metropolis, and disliked it. About that time, his mother and father ceased living together although for appearance's sake there was no legal separation and both parents took care to give the child a sense of security.
Apart form saying that the separation was "a tragic situation" for his parents, Lindbergh shut his lips about the situation and shied from talking about the psychic hurts that he bore. He was equally taciturn on other personal matters.
The future aviator's interest in flying was sparked in 1908 or 09, when, one day, he heard a buzzing in the sky and climbed out of a dormer window onto the roof of his home to witness a frail biplane skimming through the clouds.
The Fun of Flying
"Afterward I remember lying in the grass and looking up at the clouds and thinking how much fun it would be to fly up there among those clouds," he recalled in later years, adding:
"I didn't think of the hazards-I was just interested in getting up there in the clouds."
But he was torn for a time by a strong yearning to go to Alaska, a land pictured as a wild frontier and the source of mythic Gold Rush tales. For him Alaska was also the scene of Robert W. Service's verso, some of which he memorized so thoroughly that he could recite it faultlessly in old age.
Although Lindbergh Sr. led an active and exciting political life as a maverick Republican who battles (and helped to overthrow) the entrenched Establishment in the House, led an assault on "the money trust" and voted against American entry into World War I, his some was bored by politics and all the speeches. The issue that his father exposed in Congress and later as a Farmer-Laborite supporter of Robert LaFollette failed , so the some said, to make any impression on him. His mother, too, eschewed political thinking.
In World War I, Lindbergh operated the family farm, leaving it in the fall of 1920 to study engineering at the University of Wisconsin. His grades were poor and he left after a year and half, but not before learning how to shoot quarters out of the outstretched fingers of his friends at 50 feet with a rifle.
From Wisconsin,he motorcycle to the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation in Lincoln, which was then producing an an airplane and giving flying lessons to promote the product. "I can still smell the odor of dope (cellulose acetate or nitrate) that permeated each breath," he said years later in recalling his first close-up view of an aircraft.
Lindbergh took his first flight April 9, 1922. In succeeding month he learned to fly, to wing-walk and to parachute. Of equal importance, he absorbed all there was to know about the planes of the day and the various styles of flying. And he made friends with fliers who passed through Lincoln and with Harian A. (Bud) Gurney, with whom, among others, he barnstormed over the Midwest. Called Slim by his friends because of his lithe, gangling body and 6-foot-1 1/2 inch height, Lindbergh was billed to the public as "Daredevel Lindbergh" for his stunt feats.
However, he did not solo until April 1923, when he purchased his first plane, a Jenny, in Georgia. Shortly afterward he began to earn his living as a flier by taking up passengers in various towns at $5 a ride. It was all seat-of-the-pants flying and Lindbergh gloried in it; but he gave it up to enlist in the Army in March, 1924, so he could attend the Army flying school a Brooks Field, San Antonio, Tex. For the first time, he found some joy in textbooks and classes.
Chief Pilot on Mail Run
Indeed, he was graduated as the top man in his class, and was commissioned second lieutenant in the ARmy Air Service Reserve in March, 1925. He was by this time an experienced flier. He spent some time as an air circus stunt flier at county fairs and the like before being hired by the Roberstson Aircraft Company of St. Louis as the chief pilot on the mail run to Chicago. he made the first run in April, 1926. It was the only paycheck job in the normal sense of the word that he ever held.
Meantime, he had made a further commitment to the military by joining the Missouri National Guard, where he taught other pilots and became a first lieutenant.
One one of his flights to Chicago in September, 1926, he as musing about the possibilities of long-distance trips and he "startled" himself by thinking "I could fly nonstop between New York and Pari."
In many ways, Lindbergh's life was a series of responses to imperatives. When he became convinced that he "ought" to do something-he ought to oppose entry into World war II, he out to speak out for conservation-he reacted with vigor and dispatch. And virtually immediately he began to plan the details of the trip-getting financial backing, getting a specially designed plane, mapping the route, seeking ot eliminate any chance of failure.
Ultimately, he persuaded a group of St Louie businessmen to put up $15,000 which was one reason why the plane was called the Spirit of St. Louis. After many racking incidents, the Ryan Company, with Lindbergh's help, designed and build a craft tailored for him and the Wright Company built an engine of 223 horsepower to accommodate the plane.
For several years after the Paris flight, Lindbergh lived in the glare of publicity and popping camera flashbulbs. The public would not let him alone. "I recall stepping out of a building on Wall Street, and having almost everyone on the street turn and follow me." he said. He was regarded as a sort of oracle, and his opinion was solicited on every conceivable subject.
He was, moreover, linked falsely in the press with a number of girls. His interest, however, was in Anne Spencer Morrow, the beautiful blue-eyed daughter of Dwight Morrow, then Ambassador to Mexico. The couple met in Mexico City at Christmas time in 1927, when Miss Morrow, then a Smith student, went there for the holidays. They were married in a private ceremony in the Morrow home in New Jersey on May, 27, 1929.
The marriage was a union of opposites. Sensitive, retiring, a poet, Mrs Lindbergh wanted nothing so much as a life of peace and quiet. Seldom coddling her, her husband proved hyperactive, happy as a nomad who was rarely at home for long periods. Yet despite some moments of tension, the marriage was enduring and affectionate one.
For a while Mrs. Lindbergh accompanied her husband on many of his trips-to the Caribbean, where he was laying out air routes; to Europe and to Asia. he had taught her to fly, and she learned to navigate and to operate a Morse Code radio. "North to the Orient" is her chronicle of one of these flights.
Their first child, Charles Augustus 3d, was born June 24, 1930 Twenty months later, when Mrs. Lindbergh was pregnant with her second child the baby was kidnapped from his nursery in his parents' home in Hopewell, N.J. The date was March 1, 1932. On May 12 the baby's body was found in a shallow grave not far from the house.
In between there was a bizarre hunt for the chile that included payment of a $50,000 ransom at a cemetery in the Bronx and a cast of characters that ranged from Dr. John F. (Jafsie) Condon, a school principal, to Gaston B. Means, a swindler. There were false leads and sensations galore, through all of which Lindbergh bore himself with great public stoicism.
His private emotions were never disclosed, and about the only references that he made in later years to the kidnapping and murder were fleeting mentions of "that New Jersey business."
If public attention glared on Lindbergh during the hunt for his son, it positively poured down on him with the arrest and trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a Bronx carpenter, in 1934. The trial, which Lindbergh attended daily, was reported with diligence and sensationalism. Lindbergh received up to 100,000 letters a week, and the Hopewell estate, which he had long since left, was overrun with curiosity seekers, one of whom dup up and lugged off the earth where the baby was found buried.
A Move to England.
After a six-week trial, in which a web of circumstantial evidence was woven about Hauptmann, he was found guilty and executed. Although there were doubts (Hauptmann, the German born father of a son about the age of Lindbergh's son, denied he was guilty), Lindbergh was satisfied that "Hauptmann did the thing."
Meantime there were new threats to kidnap LIndbergh's second son, Jon, and the family was living and abnormal existence. Lindbergh was telling friends that Americans exhibited "a morbid curiosity over crimes and murder trials" and lacked "respect for law, or the rights of others." Against this background, Lindbergh took his family to England to seek a safe, secluded residence away from "the tremendous public hysteria" that surrounded him in the United States.
One result of the case was passage of the so-called Lindbergh law, which made kidnapping a Federal crime. Part of the statue was ruled unconstitutional in 1967.
Before departing, Lindbergh completed a scientific project on which he had been working with dedication and enthusiasm since 1930. It was the design and building of a tissue-perfusion apparatus at Rockefeller Institute (now University) in New York. He was introduced to the project by Dr. Alexis Carrel, who had won the Nobel Prize for development of blood vessel transplant procedures. the French-born Carrel was interested in the thirties in living organs outside the body, and the problem was to devise an instrument to perfuse these organs and keep them alive.
"For me," Lindbergh recalled, "that began and association with an extraordinarily great man. To me, his true greatness lay in the unlimited penetration, curiosity and scope of his mind, in his fearlessness of opinion, his deep concerns about the trend s of modern civilization and their effect on his fellow man."
In addition to perfecting a pump - an important breakthrough in its time - Lindbergh invented a quick way of separating serum from whole blood by means of centrifuge. The Lindbergh-Carrel friendship lasted 14 years until the scientist's death in 1944.
A brilliant investigator, Carrel tinkered with philosophy and other matters; and his thoughts in these areas were sometimes quirky. He believed, for example, in extrasensory perception. He also spoke against "industrial civilization" and suggested that "we ought to try to produce a certain number of individuals above the mental stature we observe in the best." He said, moreover, that "only the elite make the progress of the masses possible."
Some of these notions rubbed off on Lindbergh and were reflected in his little-known book, "Of Flight and Life," in which he inveighed against "scientific materialism." In this 1948 book, he said, "I believe the values of are creating and the standards we are now following will lead to the end of our civilization, and that if we do not control our science by a higher moral force, it will destroy us with its materialistic values."
In his plea for recognition of metaphysical values, Lindbergh wrote:
"To progress, even to survive we must learn to apply the truths of God crib to the actions and relationships of men, to the direction of our science. We must learn from the sermons of Christ, the wisdom of Laotzu, the teachings of Budha."
But Lindbergh, in this book, also espoused a doctrine of American superiority in the world. "For Americans, the doctrine of universal equality is a doctrine of death," he wrote. "If we ever become an equal people among other peoples of the world, our civilization will fall."
When Lindbergh went abroad to live, first in Britain and then in France, he was 33 years old. He was immediately treated with courtesy and respect - and given the privacy he so much desired. His new friends were in the upper reaches of British society and Tory politics.
Moreover, as a distinguished aviator, he was invited to visit airplane factories in France by French Air Ministry. He was also invited by the German Government to inspect the Luftwaffe and warplane factories in Reich. He received the red-carpet treatment, visited many factories and was told repeatedly that the Nazis were eager "to create an air force second to none." He visited Germany several times before 1938 and was increasingly impressed with the quality of the air force.
It seemed to him all the more fearsome by comparison with their air arm in Britain, France and Soviet Union. By 1939 he had concluded that the power of the Luftwaffe was overwhelming, and that the air forces of other European countries were comparatively insignificant. In off-the-record conversations with the leaders of these countries, the Soviet Union excepted, he sought to warn them of the perils they were facing.
Neither then nor later did Lindbergh, according to his journals; believe that German air power would be the decisive factor in a war so much as it would be an essential element. And he sought to impress on France, Britain and the United States the need to bestir themselves.
Lindbergh and his family returned to the United States in 1939 shortly before World War II broke out. He felt he ought to do all he could to prevent American involvement. Not a pacifist nor an isolationist, he was a nointerventionist.
"My opposition to World War II resulted from the growing conviction that such a war would probably devastate Europe, kill millions of men and possibly result in the end of Western civilization," he told this writer a few years ago, adding:
"Under the circumstances of prewar Europe, I concluded that Germany could not be defeated without the active intervention of the United States. I doubted that Germany could be defeated even with American intervention.
"Obviously this depended a great deal on the relationship between Germany and Russia. But if Germany were defeated, it seemed to me almost certain that Russia would be the real victor and that a Stalin-dominated Europe would be even worse than a Hitler-dominated Europe.
" I felt that the wisest policy for Western powers would be to arm, stay neutral and let Germany and Russia clash - and thereafter to feel their way according to the changing circumstances. I still think this would have been the wisest policy."
Lindbergh made his first antiwar speech - a radio talk - on Sept. 17, 1939. It was arranged by Fulton Lewis, a well-known conservative commentator.
In the months that followed, he made other radio speeches and worked actively with other antiwar personalities in public and private life, including Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana; Senator Harry F Byrd of Virginia; former President Herbert Hoover; Senator William Borah of Idaho; Henry Ford; Merwin K hard, an avowed right-winger; William Castle, a diplomat; Dean Carl Ackerman of the Columbia Journalism School; Theodore Roosevelt Jr.; and James E. Van Zandt, head of the American Legion.
Lindbergh spoke and worked under his own auspices until April, 1941 when he joined the national board of the America First Committee, the country's principal antiwar group. Although its membership was heterogeneous, its effective leadership rested with Robert E. Wood, board chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Co., and Robert R. McCormick, publisher of The Chicago Tribune. Both were arch conservatives and zealous haters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
America First was strongest in the Midwest, the traditional seat of the nation's isolationist attitudes; but it was also a powerful force in New York and Boston. Popular support for its antiwar objectives was widespread, and Lindbergh epitomized that support. He rallied millions to the cause with such effectiveness the Roosevelt considered him a major threat.
The President vented his anger at a news conference in April, 1941. Roosevelt was asked why he did not call Lindbergh an Army officer, into uniform. the reason, he replied, was that Lindbergh was a defeatist and he went on to compare him with Representative Clement L. Vallandigham, a Civil War Congressman from Ohio, the chief spokesman of a group called the Copperheads, who said the North could never win. Rossevelt's attack was perhaps set off by a Lindbergh magazine article that declared, "While our leaders have shouted for peace, they have consistently directed us toward war."
'Insult From Roosevlet'
Considering his honor impugned, Lindbergh resigned his commission. "If I did not tender my resignation," he said in the published version of his "Wartime Journals" "I would lose something in my own character that means even more to me than my commission in the Air Corps.
"No one else would know it, but I would. And if I take this insult from Roosevelt, more, and worse, will be probably forthcoming."
Thirty years later Lindbergh still felt wronged by the President, and professed not to see that he himself had questioned roosevelt's integrity.
With Pearl Harbor, America First collapsed and Lindbergh sought to join the armed forces. "Now that we are at war I want to contribute as best I can to my country's war effort," he wrote. "It is vital for us to carry on this was as intelligently, as constructively, and as successfully as we can, and I want to do my part."
Hid bid to soldier was rebuffed, however, an action for which he blamed Roosevelt personally. Lindbergh, then 39, joined the Ford Motor Company as a consultant, working at the Willow Run plant in Michigan, which was producing bombers. Later he was a consultant to the United Aircraft Corporation, attached chiefly to its Vought-Sikorsky Division in Stratford, Conn. Vought was producing the Navy Corsair F4U. As part of his job, he traveled to the Pacific war area in 1944 to study the Corsair under service conditions, and as a civilian, flew 50 missions against the Japanese.
The flier had at least one very close brush with death in a dogfight near Biak Island. He described this and other episodes in "The Wartime Journals," and they constitute the best writing in the book.
After the war, Lindbergh went to Germany for the Naval Technical Mission in europe to study developments in Nazi aircraft and missiles. He had been interested in rocketry since 1929, when he sought out Dr. robert Goddard, then an obscure physics professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. (Goddard, who had been ridiculed for his ideas, has since been recognized as a space flight pioneer.)
Lindbergh was always proud of his association with Goddard and of having raised money to fund his experiments. For 16 years until his death in 1945, Goddard, also a loner, received Lindbergh's help and encouragement; and Goddard's basic rocketry patents were used in the development of United States missiles after the war. The aviator's crucial assistance to Goddard did not become well known until Goddard's own biography was published in 1963, a book for which Lindbergh wrote an introduction.
For more than 15 years after the war. Lindbergh virtually disappeared from the news. He was a member of Army Ordnance's CHORE project at the University of Chicago; and he was a member of scientific ballistic-missile committees on the Air Force and the Defense Department. In 1954, he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve.
Much of the aviator's work in these years death with security-classified projects; but it is believed that he was active in rocketry and space flight programs, where his technical expertise was valuable. He enjoyed top-secret clearance, and spoke of his takes as having to do with security.
In this period, LIndbergh completed his autobiographical account of his 1927 flight, which had been written in bits and pieces in various parts of the world over 14 years "The Spirit of St. Louis," published in 1953, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1954 and was made into a movie three years later, with James Stewart as the lead. The book was intended to supercede "We" which, was written in haste, had never satisfied the aviator as an accurate account of his flight.
Starting sometime after the war he rejoined Pan American as a consultant for the nominal fee of $600 a month. The job, which eventually led to his working on the design specifications for the Boeing 747; allowed him great freedom to travel and to develop any interest he choose. And travel he did, seemingly having no settled abode.
In Africa, in 1964, he found an interest that was to occupy his last years and to bring him out of his public reticence and reclusiveness. The issue of conservation.
"Lying under an acacia tree with the sounds of the dawn around me." he recalled, " I realized more clearly the facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane for instance, is simple when compared to the evolutionary achievement of a bird; that airplanes depend on advanced civilization, and that where civilization is most advanced few birds exist."
"I realized that if I had to choose I would rather have birds than airplanes."
He concluded, he said, "that I ought to do something."
Concern for Enviroment
That imperative, which unfolded slowly, led him to activity in conservation organizations, to having a large hand in saving the humpback and blue whales, to concern for endangered species and to public advocacy of steps to save the world's enviroment.
He made his first public speech in 1968 - the first since 1941 - to the Alaska Legislature. The following year he granted what amounted to his first newspaper interview in 35 years. this was to The New York Times and this writer, the occasion being his conservation activity in Philippines, but centering on his concern for primitive peoples. And again in 1971, he took this writer with him on a long American conservation tour, which was also a journey backward in time to his boyhood home in Minnesota.
Lindbergh said that he had unveiled himself because he thought the cause of conservation so urgent. I have had enough publicity for 15 lives," he said, " and I seek no more of it, but where I can accomplish a purpose I will do things I otherwise abhor."
Even though he was talking to a generation born long after his Paris flight, his person and his name evoked a tangible response. He did not pretend to be an expert, but had a singular ability to stir response and activity to enunciate general principles and to cheer people on.
It did not appear to matter that he had published his bulky "Wartime Journals" in 1970 to general critical dispraise. What seemed to count was that he was Charles Augustus Lindbergh, the hero still of 1927, whose smile was imagining , whose manner was simple and whose message was forceful.
This was, perhaps the ultimate enigma of his life; for beneath his outer coating was a man who kept more to himself (and perhaps to his wife) that he ever gave to the public. << Return to Article Index
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