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Lindbergh's Stay in Nanking, September 1931 by Damaris Peck Reynolds

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In late summer 1931 the Yangtse Valley of China suffered the worst flooding in decades.

Images of flood damage taken by Col. Lindbergh
Whole villages were inundated and thousands of acres of farmland were under water. As the Lindberghs flew over the countryside from the coast to Nanking, they were appalled at the devastation. They were scheduled to land on the Yangtse river at Nanking, at that time the Capital of China, but as he flew over the river and saw how crowded it was, Lindbergh radioed the US gunboat in the river requesting permission to land instead on the large lake just outside the city wall, Lotus Lake. There were hurried communications between the gunboat, the US Embassy and Chinese government officials and permission was granted.
Anne and Charles Lindbergh,
September 1931, Nanking, China

Drove out to Lotus Lake to greet the Lindberghs

I was visiting my parents, Alice and Willys Peck, that summer. My father was the Counsellor of Embassy, the ranking American official in Nanking. We hurriedly changed our plans and drove out to Lotus Lake to greet the Lindberghs. Many Chinese officials joined us there. There was no suitable dock so as Lindbergh anchored the plane out in the lake, small boats loaded with well wishers went out to the plane and the Lindberghs were quickly brought ashore.

My parents had invited the Lindberghs to stay with them

Lindberghs w/Willys Peck (right)

Boating out to plane

Lindbergh posing

Gen Whang, Miss Li, Conrad Djung, Anne Lindbergh, Damaris Peck, Willys Peck, Charles Lindbergh
My mother had planned a large reception for them with a guest list of the diplomatic community and Chinese government officials. Lindbergh said "No." He wanted no festivities and wanted to spend his time doing what flood relief work he could. Since the plane held only two people, Mrs. Lindbergh stayed behind while her husband and Dr. J. Hung Liu, head of the Chinese Public Health Service, made their flights. The first day or so Lindbergh spent photographing and mapping the flooded areas, then they took relief supplies of food and medicines to the isolated villages. They came back from one mission quite shaken; a lot of small boats had crowded so close around the plane Lindbergh was afraid the plane would be damaged, and they had gotten away with great difficulty.

A crowd of people climbing all over the plane

Plane on Lotus Lake

Plane taxiing, city wall in background

View of plane & lake

Lindbergh securing plane

Boating out to plane

Preparing to disembark
On another occasion, I went out to the plane with the Lindberghs to perform some chore. As we approached we saw a crowd of people climbing all over the plane. I let loose a string of profanity, in Chinese, that I didn't know I knew, and the crowd quickly dispersed!

My mother took Anne Lindbergh to see some of the sights

While Lindbergh was away, my mother took Anne Lindbergh to see some of the sights, one being mills where Chinese women still used looms hundreds of years old to weave the beautiful brocades for which Nanking was famous. One day they went shopping and Mrs. Lindbergh bought a pair of little red silk embroidered shoes for her infant son, remarking how much she missed him.

A reception with Chiang Kai Shek

Gen & Mme Chiang Kai Shek, Col & Mrs. Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh with medal

Mr Jackson, Mr& Mrs Peck , Mrs Jackson, Mrs & Col Lindbergh at city gate.
The only official function was a reception when Chiang Kai Shek, at that time President of China, pinned a medal on Lindbergh. One day my Mother planned a picnic to see some ancient stone animals, known as the "Lions of Liang", as a day of relaxation. She invited Russell Jackson, the local head of Standard Oil, and his wife to accompany us. We left the cars just outside the city gate and walked the couple of miles to the site, on the way going through a small village. Nobody paid any attention to us. Lindbergh remarked that it was the first time since his trans-Atlantic flight that he had not been followed by a crowd. I think they thoroughly enjoyed their few days in Nanking and being, on the whole, just part of a family.

Change of Plans...

Plane on Lotus Lake

Col. Lindbergh & Damaris Peck

Lindberghs refueling their plane

Tom Wailes & Lincoln Reynolds (members of Embassy staff), Ed Howard (US Dept of Commerce in charge of aviation), Damaris Peck, Charles & Anne Lindbergh, Alice & Willys Peck (Counsellor of the Embassy), Paramount News representative

The Lindberghs with Chinese military officers.
They expected to return to Nanking after the visit to Hangkow, but the damage to the plane and the death of Mrs. Lindbergh's father changed their plans. They left some of their emergency equipment in Nanking and I can't remember today what happened to most of it. Probably it was mailed to them in the US. But, I have a small container that I think was meant to be a waterproof match container and an aluminum container which might have held emergency rations.

Damaris Peck Reynolds Copyright

All rights to use of these photos and accompanying text belong to Damaris Peck Reynolds. Copyright 2003, Corvallis, Oregon.

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