Lindy Comes to Town


Lindbergh, Charles A. (1902 - 1974)

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born on February 4, 1902 in Detroit, Michigan. He was raised in Little Falls, Minnesota. His father, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Sr., was Republican congressman for the Sixth District of Minnesota 1907-1917.

He learned to fly in 1922, and spent the next years honing his skills as an airmail pilot and barnstormer.

In late 1926, Lindbergh developed an interest in pursuing the Ortieg Prize, a $25,000 award offered to the first person to cross the Atlantic in a heavier then air land or water aircraft alone. A coalition of St. Louis businessmen became involved, and skilled public relations were employed to promote the flight. A specially designed aircraft (to be named "The Spirit of St. Louis") was commissioned from the Ryan Aircraft Company of San Diego, California.

Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field, Long Island at 7:52am on May 20, 1927. He set down in Paris at Le Bourget Airport 33 1/2 hours later (10:22pm. May 21). It was dark when he landed, the group of witnesses was relatively small, and no photographs taken of the event. A few days later, when he arrived at Croydon Airport, London, the crowds and the photographers were waiting. He became "the lone eagle" in the eyes of the world, and an international hero and celebrity.

In 1929 he married Anne Spencer Morrow, the daughter of U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow.

On June 22, 1930 the Lindbergh's first child (Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr.) was born. On February 29, 1932 the child was kidnapped from their new home near Hopewell, New Jersey. The newspapers followed the story doggedly, and the public demanded articles on a daily basis. On May 12, 1932 the child's body was found in a shallow grave in the woods off the Hopewell-Princeton road. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed in 1936 after being convicted of the crime. The publicity eventually forced the Lindberghs to seek refuge in Europe.

Although it is not generally known, Hauptmann was not actually executed for the kidnapping; kidnapping was not a capital offense in New Jersey at the time. They couldn't convict him for ordinary murder because that requires showing an intent to kill, and the evidence indicated that the child's death was accidental during the commission of the crime.

There's a doctrine called "felony murder," which provides for prosecuting a killing as a murder, even if it occurs accidentally, in the course of the commission of a felony. This did not appear to help the New Jersey prosecutors, however, because kidnapping was not a felony in New Jersey at the time. Hauptman could still be convicted for kidnapping, but the most that that would get him was a prison term.

The prosecutors and the public, however, were calling for the death penalty. Despite the fact that kidnapping was not a felony, Hauptmann was eventually convicted of murder on the felony murder doctrine. The felony was that he broke and entered the Lindbergh residence and stole the child's pajamas (which the child just happened to be wearing at the time of the kidnapping). Stealing pajamas was a felony, even if kidnapping wasn't.

In June of 1936, Lindbergh was invited by the German government to inspect their air establishments. Mindful of the potential propaganda value the opinion of a highly thought of expert in aviation could have, he was treated as a celebrity and the Luftwaffe was presented in the best possible light. Because of this, Lindbergh became convinced that Germany had the best air force in Europe by an order of magnitude. It was reported that he claimed "the German air fleet could whip the Russian, French and British air fleets combined". He also admired the Germans as a people, and shared to some extent the Nazi's distaste for the Jews.

On October 18, 1938 Goring presented Lindbergh with the Verdienstkreuz der Deutscher Adler (Service Cross of the German Eagle) for "services to aviation of the world and particularly for his historic 1927 historic solo flight across the Atlantic". His acceptance of this medal, and his refusal to return it when German storm troopers rounded up Jews and smashed their shops 3 weeks later damaged his heretofore sterling image. His wife termed the decoration "the Albatross".

In 1940 he began speaking out against US involvement in WWII, which in and of itself was not an entirely unpopular sentiment at the time. His statements, however, were tinged with an anti-Semitism that would haunt him in later years. President Roosevelt's criticism of Lindbergh's public statements caused him to resign his commission in the air corps reserve in 1941.

When the US entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and Secretary for War Henry L.Stimson denied Lindbergh's request to serve in a military capacity. He did, however, serve as a civilian aircraft consultant for Ford Motor Company and United Aircraft Corporation. It was in his capacity as a consultant with UAC that he flew 50 missions against the Japanese, and logged 179 combat hours.

He was appointed brigadier general in the air force reserve by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.

Charles A. Lindbergh died August 26, 1974 in Maui, Hawaii.