Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974)
was a pioneering United States aviator famous for piloting the first
solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.
Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Swedish immigrants.
He grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota. His father, Charles August
Lindbergh, was a lawyer and later a U.S. congressman who opposed
the entry of the U.S. into World War I; his mother was a chemistry
teacher. Early on he showed an interest in machines. In 1922 he quit
a mechanical engineering program, joined a pilot and mechanist training
with Nebraska Aircraft, bought his own airplane, a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny",
and became a stunt pilot. In 1924, he started training as a U.S.
military aviator with the United States Army Air Corps. After finishing
first in his class, he worked as a civilian airmail pilot on the
line St. Louis in the 1920s.
In April 1923, while visiting friends in Lake Village, Arkansas, Lindbergh
made his first ever night-time flight over Lake Village and Lake Chicot.
First solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean
Lindbergh gained sudden great international fame as the first pilot
to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, flying from Roosevelt
Airfield (Nassau County, Long Island), New York to Paris on May 20-May
21, 1927 in his single-engine airplane The Spirit of St. Louis which
had been designed by Donald Hall and custom built by Ryan Airlines
of San Diego, California. He needed 33.5 hours for the trip. (His grandson
Erik Lindbergh repeated this trip 75 years later in 2002.) Although
Lindbergh was the first to fly from New York to Paris nonstop, he was
not the first to make a Transatlantic flight. That had been done first
in stages by the crew of the NC-4 in May 1919, with the first non-stop
flight made by Alcock and Brown in June 1919.
Lindbergh's accomplishment won him the Orteig Prize of $25,000 on
offer since 1919. A ticker-tape parade was held for him down 5th Avenue
in New York City on June 13, 1927. His public stature following
this flight was such that he became an important voice on behalf of
aviation activities until his death. He served on a variety of national
and international boards and committees, including the central committee
of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the United States.
On March 21, 1929 he was presented the Medal of Honor for his historic
Lindbergh is recognized in aviation for demonstrating and charting
polar air-routes, high altitude flying techniques, and increasing aircraft
flying range by decreasing fuel consumption. These innovations are
the basis of modern intercontinental air travel.
Marriage, children, kidnapping
He married Anne Morrow Lindbergh, an author, in 1929. He taught her
how to fly and did much of the exploring and charting of air-routes
together with her. The two had six children: Charles Augustus, Jr.(born
1930), Jon (1932), Land (1937), Anne (1940), Scott (1942) and Reeve
Their son Charles Augustus, 20 months old, was abducted on March 1,
1932 from their home. The boy was found dead on May 12 in Hopewell,
New Jersey just a few miles from the Lindbergh's home, after a nation-wide
ten week search and ransom negotiations with the kidnappers. More than
three years later, a media circus ensued when the man accused of the
murder, Bruno Hauptmann, went on trial. Tired of being in the spotlight
and still mourning the loss of their son, the Lindberghs moved to Europe
in December 1935. Hauptmann, who maintained his innocence until the
end, was found guilty and was executed on April 3, 1936.
World War II
In Europe during the rise of fascism, Lindbergh traveled to Germany
several times at the behest of the U.S. military, where he reported
on German aviation and the Luftwaffe (air force). Lindbergh was intrigued,
and stated that Germany had taken a leading part in a number of aviation
developments, including metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles,
and Diesel engines. Lindbergh also undertook a survey of aviation in
the Soviet Union in 1938.
The Lindberghs lived in England and Brittany, France during the late
1930's in order to find tranquility and avoid the celebrity that followed
them everywhere in the United States after the kidnapping trial. In
1938 the American ambassador to Germany, Hugh Wilson invited Lindbergh
to a dinner with Hermann Göring at the American embassy in Berlin.
The dinner included diplomats and three of the greatest minds of German
aviation, Ernst Heinkel, Adolf Baeumaker, and Dr. Willy Messerschmitt.
Göring decorated Lindbergh with German medal of honor (the Verdienstkreuz
Deutscher Adler) for his services to aviation and particularly for
his 1927 flight. Lindbergh's decoration later caused an outcry in the
United States, when Lindbergh's closeness to the Nazis was criticized.
Lindbergh's letters and diaries of the time indicate that he approved
of Nazi policies and of Hitler's leadership. Lindbergh declined to
return the medal to the Germans because he claimed that to do so would
be "an unnecessary insult" to the Nazi leadership. He would
return to the United States as war broke out in Europe.
As Nazi Germany began World War II, the Republican Lindbergh became
a prominent speaker in favor of isolationism and pro-German policies,
going so far as to recommend that the United States negotiate a neutrality
pact with Germany during his January 23, 1941 testimony before Congress.
Lindbergh was also the major spokesman for America First providing
many speeches during 1940-1941. Lindbergh stated he would publicly
name "the groups that were most powerful and effective in pushing
the United States towards involvement in the war". At an America
First rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941, he made an
infamous speech titled: "Who Are the War Agitators?". In
it, he claimed that Americans had solidly opposed entering the war
when it began, and that three groups had been "pressing this country
toward war" -- the Roosevelt Administration, the British, and
the Jews, and complained about what he insisted was the Jews' "large
ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio
and our government." In the same speech, Lindbergh clearly communicated
that he considered Jewish-Americans to not be patriotic when he said; "But
I am saying that the leaders of both the British and Jewish races,
for reasons which are 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
people to lead our country to destruction." He also made an implicit
threat against them, stating: "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."
Lindbergh resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Corps when
President Franklin D. Roosevelt openly questioned his loyalty.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Lindbergh attempted to return
to the Army Air Corps, but was denied when several of Roosevelt's cabinet
secretaries registered objections. He went on to assist with the war
effort by serving as a civilian consultant to aviation companies and
the government, as well as flying about 50 combat missions (again as
a civilian) in 1944 in the Pacific. His contributions include engine-leaning
techniques that Lindbergh showed P-38 Lightning pilots. This improved
fuel usage in cruise, and enabled aircraft to fly longer range missions
such as the one that killed Admiral Yamamoto. He also showed Marine
F4U pilots how to take off with twice the bomb load that the aircraft
was rated for.
After World War II he lived quietly in Connecticut as a consultant
both to the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force and to Pan American
World Airways. His 1953 book The Spirit of St. Louis, recounting his
non-stop transatlantic flight, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. Dwight
D. Eisenhower restored his assignment with the Army Air Corps and making
him Brigadier General in 1954. In the 1960s, he became a spokesman
for the conservation of the natural world, speaking in favor of the
protection of whales, against super-sonic transport planes and was
instrumental in establishing protections for the primitive Filipino
group the Tasaday.
From 1957 until his death in 1974, Lindbergh had an affair with a woman
24 years his junior, the German hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer. They had
three children together: Dyrk (born 1958), Astrid (born 1960), and David
(born 1967). The two managed to keep the affair completely secret; even
the children did not know the true identity of their father, whom they
met sporadically when he came to visit. Astrid later read a magazine
article about Lindbergh and found snapshots and more than a hundred letters
written from him to her mother. She disclosed the affair in 2003, two
years after both Brigitte Hesshaimer and Anne Morrow Lindbergh had died.
DNA tests have confirmed the truth of these assertions.
Besides, Lindbergh had sexual relationships with Brigitte Hesshaimer’s
sister Marietta (with two children, Vago, born 1962, and Christoph,
born 1966) and with his private secretary Valeska (again with two children,
a son, born 1959, and a daughter, born 1961). So Lindbergh had in all
seven children out of wedlock, a fact that has been connected with
his statement after the murder of his son, "that there will still
be many Lindberghs". Indeed, many believe that the tragic kidnapping
and death of his son Charles Augustus psychologically influenced him
to foster these children in secret so as to compensate for his terrible
Lindbergh spent his final years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where
he died of cancer on August 26, 1974. He was buried on the grounds
of the Palapala Ho'omau Church in Hana Maui. His epitaph, 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.
The Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
was named after him and a replica of The Spirit of St. Louis hangs
there. He also lent his name to San Diego's Lindbergh Field, which
is also known now as San Diego International Airport. The airport in
Winslow Arizona has been renamed Winslow-Lindbergh Regional. Lindbergh
himself had designed the airport in 1929 when it was built as a refueling
point for the first coast to coast air service. The airport in Little
Falls Minnesota where he grew up has been named Little Falls/Morrison
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.
Lindbergh in fiction
A fictional version of Lindbergh is a major character in Philip Roth's
2004 counterfactual alternative history novel, The Plot Against America.
In Roth's narrative, Lindbergh successfully runs against Roosevelt
in the 1940 US presidential election, and aligns his country with the
Nazis. This portrayal engendered considerable controversy.
Another alternative history novel Robert Harris' Fatherland published
in 1992 has Lindbergh as the American Ambassador in 1964 Nazi Germany.
The Agatha Christie book and movie Murder on the Orient Express begin
with a fictionalized depiction of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
James Stewart played Lindbergh in the biographical The Spirit of St.
Louis, directed by Billy Wilder. The film begins with events leading
up to the flight before giving a gripping and intense view of the flight
Shortly after Lindbergh made his famous flight, the Stratemeyer Syndicate
began publishing the Ted Scott Flying Stories by Franklin W. Dixon
wherein the hero was closely modeled after Lindbergh.