A small one-engine plane with “The Spirit of St. Louis” painted on the side lands at Le Bourget field, in the midst of thousands of cheering spectators. A tall, thin, sandy haired,
twenty-five-year-old man emerges from the cockpit and timidly smiles. Modestly, he says, “Are there any mechanics here?What this man has just accomplished is something nobody had
done before: fly nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean alone. This was one of the many achievements
of this man we call Lindbergh, who created drama and interest in the lives of many people
On February 4, 1902,Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born to Charles Lindbergh, Sr.,
and Evangeline Land Lodge. His father was a practicing lawyer in Little Falls, Minnesota and later an U.S. congressman. His mother taught chemistry at the local high school. Although he was born in Detroit, he grew up on a farm near Little Falls, Minnesota. He was the son of a Michigan congressman and therefore spent a large amount of his time in Washington, DC.
Lindbergh was also a whiz with mechanics. By age twelve, he was in charge of driving and fixing the car. In high school, he assembled a tractor from a mail order kit. So after he graduated from Little Falls High, Lindbergh entered the University of Wisconsin to study engineering. He found he was more interested in flying, so he enrolled in the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation in March of 1922. He became a barnstormer, which was a pilot who performed daredevil stunts at fairs. In April of 1923 Lindbergh traveled to Americus, GA and purchased his first plane and as soon as the plane was completed he took his first solo flight. Then On March 19, 1924 at the age of 22, Lindbergh enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1925 he graduated as the top pilot in his class and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. April 1926, he began working as a mail deliverer between St. Louis and Chicago.
Lindbergh soon heard of an offer given in 1919 by a hotel owner named Raymond
Orteig. The offer was this: the first aviator to fly nonstop from New York to Paris would receive
25,000 dollars. Nobody had succeeded by 1927, and Lindbergh decided he could do it if he
had a suitable plane. He said, Why shouldnt I fly from New York to Paris? I have more than four years of aviation behind me and close to 2,000 hours in the air. Ive barnstormed over half of forty-eight states. Ive flown my mail thought the worst of nights. He arranged for nine St. Louis businessmen (Harold M. Bixby, Harry Hall Knight, Harry F. Knight, Major A.B. Lambert, J.D. Wooster Lambert, Major William B. Robertson, E. Lansing Ray, and Earl C. Thompson) to help him finance his plane. He chose the company Ryan Airplanes and the Wright Aeronautical Company, in San Diego, to construct the plane which Lindbergh helped design. The final cost of the plane was 10,580 dollars and was completed on April 8, 1927. The plane was named “The Spirit of St. Louis”. A transcontinental record was immediately set in a test run when Lindbergh flew from San Diego to New York City in twenty hours and twenty-one minutes. As he was getting on the plane nine days later to begin his journey, he was given a St. Christopher pendant by a school teacher name Katie Butler. May 20, 1927, at 7:51 a.m., Lindbergh started his thirty-three and one-half hour journey across the ocean. The Spirit was carrying 5,250lbs and had never before carried that much weight so there was much concern to whether it would affect the plane performance or not, but there were no problems.
Will Rogers broadcast that day this quote: No attempt at jokes today; A…slim, tall, bashful, smiling American boy is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, where no human being has ever ventured before…if he is lost it will be the most universally regretted loss we ever had. The whole world was worried about this skinny kid from Little Falls, Minnesota. During the thirty-three and a half hours he was flying, Lindbergh claims he saw phantoms in the rear fuselage around five a.m., and they gave him messages of importance, unattainable in ordinary life. After missing the Le Bourget airport and having to circle back around, he finally landed at 10:24 p.m. Paris time and was met with great crowds of working people. It was said that later after he landed and the plane was put in the hangar, he went to check on it and found pieces had been ripped off as souvenirs but they found that it had not been damaged badly.
After this flight, Lindbergh became an international celebrity. He was honored with
awards, celebrations, and parades. When he returned to New York on June 10, 1927, the streets were lined with 3,000,000 – 4,000,000 people coming to see him and welcome him home. Fitzhugh Green said of Lindberghs homecoming, Caesar was glum when he came back from Gaul Napoleon grim; Paul Jones defiant…Lindbergh was none of these. He was a plain citizen dressed in the garments of an ordinary man. He received his 25,000 dollar prize on June 16,1927 and received a similar amount just a few days later from Vacuum Oil Company (this was the oil company that hed used for his plane). Lindbergh was offered many endorsements, which totaled over 5,000,000 dollars, but he turned them all down. Some of his more esteemed awards were the Congressional Medal of Honor (the first time it was ever awarded to someone not involved in a war) and the first ever Distinguished Flying Cross, both given to him by President Calvin Coolidge. Lindbergh was later asked by the United States government if he would fly to various Latin-American countries as a symbol of American good will. Some of the countries were Guatemala, British Honduras, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and perhaps most importantly, Mexico. It was in Mexico that he met Anne Spencer Morrow, daughter of the American ambassador.It was announced on February 12, 1929 that Charles and Anne were engaged and they were then married on May 27 of that year. Charles taught her to fly and they went on many expeditions around the world, charting new routes for
airlines. Anne was also a famous poet and writer.
Anne gave birth to their first son, Charles August Lindbergh, Jr., on June 22, 1930. Once the excitement of the baby had died down the press finally left them alone for a while. Charles could finally go to New York to handle business without being followed by hordes of photographers. The trips were necessary because he was rapidly becoming very busy with various enterprises. Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) hired him as chief technical director at 10,000 dollars a year and also gave him 25,000 shares of stock at half the market price. Pan-American Airways also retained him as a technical adviser at $10,000 a year plus giving him numerous stock options. He made additional money through his association by marriage with he firm of J.P. Morgan, which was able to put a number of lucrative opportunities his way. On his way to becoming a millionaire, Lindbergh hired a family friend of the Morrows, Colonel Henry C. Breckinridge, as his legal and financial adviser. This freed him to attend the numerous conferences concerning TAT transcontinental routes, to fly to South America to check a route for Pan-American Airways, and to work with Dr. Alexis Carrel, a French biologist.
Dr. Carrel had won the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his discovery of a method of suturing blood vessels during surgery. He was currently working on artificial transplants, and Lindbergh began to work with him at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. Annes sister Elisabeth had a heart problem, which doctors had told Lindbergh could not be corrected because her heart couldnt be stopped long enough to perform surgery. Lindbergh wondered if an artificial heart couldnt keep a patient going while surgery was performed. With Dr. Carrel, he began work on a blood pump for an artificial heart, called a perfusion pump. But they didnt get the wanted results so the project was kind of dropped.
Then on March 1, 1932, Charles Augustus, Jr., their twenty-month-old son, was kidnapped. Charles went in to check on the baby but found him not there, when Anne entered the room he told her Anne theyve stolen our baby. He then found a ransom note on the windowsill. Written in pencil, the note read:
Have 50,000 $ redy 25,000 $ in
20 $ bills 1,5000 $ in 10 $ bills
and 10000 $ in 5 $ bills. After 2-4 days
we will inform you were to deliver
We warn you for making
Anyding public or for notify the Police
The child is in gute care.
Indication of all letters are
(The holds were two circles linked
together, with an oval within them.)
But ten weeks later, on May 12, 1932, a truck driver found the childs body. They concluded that the baby had died from an accidental blow to the head as the kidnapper was exiting the window of the house. They wouldnt find the killer/kidnapper for another two years. Finally, in September of 1934, a carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the murder and kidnapping of the baby. The trial began on January 2, 1935, in the Hunterdon County courthouse. It was label The Crime of the Century. Hauptmann of course was found guilty of the crime and was sent to the electric chair at Trenton State Prison on April 2, 1936.
On August 16, 1932 the Lindberghs finally had some joy in their lives. Anne gave birth to their second son and they named him Jon. After the kidnapping in 1932 the pestering media and publicity was to much for Charles and Anne, they felt it wasnt a good environment for their new son, Charles issued a statement to the press:
Mrs. Lindbergh and I have made our home in New Jersey. It is natural that we should wish to continue to live there near our friends and interests. Obviously, however, it is impossible for us to subject the life of out second son to the publicity which we feel was in large measure responsible for the death of our first. We feel that out children have the right to grow up normally with other children. Continued publicity will make this impossible. I am appealing to the Press to permit our children to live the lives of normal Americans.
One of the first things Charles did after the birth of Jon was buy a huge German Shepherd, which they called Thor, as a watchdog. Thor could open and close doors on command, take orders in a whisper, carry messages back and forth between Charles and Anne, retrieve objects, take the other family dogs of a walk with a leash, leap fences, and, most importantly, guard the family. The dog was very protective of Anne and the baby. The dog had been bought to protect the family at the Hopewell house in New Jersey, but the house held to many painful memories; so they eventually gave it to the state as a home for boys. They moved in with Annes mother Mrs. Morrow, but quickly realized it would only be a temporary stop, since both Charles and Anne needed privacy and a home of their own.
In the summer of 1933, they left on a Pan-American Airways flight to the North Atlantic. The purpose of the flight was to provide the scientific data necessary to help Pan-America plan regular passenger service across the Atlantic. The Lindberghs were gone for almost six months. They went to Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Russia, and Britain, They then flew to Spain, West Africa, Brazil, and across the Caribbean to Miami and then New York. Despite their difficulties, the flight was beneficial because it was the first time that Anne Lindbergh was able to shake herself out of the lethargy and sadness she had felt since the death of the baby. As an expert radio operator Anne was an enormous help to Charles, and she later chronicled their experiences in a book titled Listen! The Wind.
On December 22, 1935 Charles and Anne moved to Europe. While there Charles made three visits to Nazi Germany, flight-tested Luftwaffe aircraft, and received a medal from Hermann Goering. After returning to the United States in 1939, Lindbergh became a prominent advocate of American isolationism and was a member of the America First Committee. He laid full blame for the war on big business, and argued that the strife was none of America’s business. He was criticized as being pro-German and was forced to resign his commission in the air corps reserve and his membership in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Ironically, an America First Rally was taking place the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. During World War II Lindbergh was a civilian consultant to aircraft manufacturers and was sent on overseas missions for the U.S. Army Air Force. By the end of the war, he had secretly flown fifty combat missions in the Far East, and shot down a Japanese fighter; he also proved that the combat radius and bomb-load capacity of several U.S. fighter aircraft could be increased.
While on a trip to Kenya in 1964Lindbergh said this: Lying under an acacia tree, with sounds of dawn around me, I realized more clearly, in fact, what man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane, for instance, is simple when compared with the evolutionary achievement of a bird; that airplanes depend upon 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. I began to question the definition of assigned progress. Lindbergh had been in New York, meeting with representatives from Curtiss-Wright, General Electric, and Pratt and Whitney. They were discussing the Concorde and debating what kind of supersonic plane America should build. During the meeting he suddenly felt the urge to leave and left the meeting and flew to Kenya. As he looked around him he realized that advancement of civilization was not that important and he began to focus on conservation issues more and more. Upon his return to the U.S. he became a member of the World Wildlife Federation and a year later was on its board. He also joined the National Union for the Conservation of Nature and through this organization became interested in the plight of blue and humpbacked whales. He helped many organizations with his reputation and influence and therefore saved the lives of many animals.
It was in the summer of 1974 Lindbergh discovered that he had lymphatic cancer he immediately said he wished to die in the home that he and Anne had built in Maui, and he was flown there in August 1974. As he left the hospital for the airport, doctors followed him to the door, protesting that he should not leave. One doctor cried out, But youre abandoning science! Lindbergh quietly but humorously replied, No. Science has abandoned me. He died in Maui a week later, on August 25, 1974, and was buried in the local churchyard.
The achievements of Charles Lindbergh were many. They ranged from setting world records to assembling farm supplies at a young age to helping in the advancement of science. I am glad that I was able to learn about these things, and I am glad to know that a man that has done so much will not be forgotten, but will be remembered through his accomplishments.