Lindbergh, Charles A.


Lindbergh, Charles A.

▪ American aviator
in full  Charles Augustus Lindbergh 
born February 4, 1902, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
died August 26, 1974, Maui, Hawaii
 American aviator, one of the best-known figures in aeronautical history, remembered for the first nonstop solo flight (aviation) across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris, on May 20–21, 1927.

 Lindbergh's early years were spent chiefly in Little Falls, Minnesota, and in Washington, D.C., where for 10 years his father represented the 6th district of Minnesota in Congress. His formal education ended during his second year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, when his growing interest in aviation led to enrollment in a flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the purchase of a World War I Curtiss Jenny, with which he made stunt-flying tours through Southern and Midwestern states. After a year at the army flying schools in Texas (1924–25), he became an airmail pilot (1926), flying the route from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago. During this period he obtained financial backing from a group of St. Louis businessmen to compete for the $25,000 prize offered for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. In the monoplane Spirit of St. Louis (Spirit of Saint Louis) he made the flight in 33.5 hours on May 20–21, 1927. Overnight Lindbergh became a folk hero on both sides of the Atlantic and a well-known figure in most of the world. There followed a series of goodwill flights in Europe and America.

 In Mexico, Lindbergh met Anne Morrow, daughter of the United States ambassador, Dwight Morrow (Morrow, Dwight W). They were married in May 1929. She served as copilot and navigator for him on many flights, and together they flew to many countries of the world. During this period, Lindbergh acted as technical adviser to two airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport and Pan American Airways, personally pioneering many of their routes.

      In March 1932 the Lindberghs' two-year-old son, Charles Augustus, Jr., was kidnapped from their home near Hopewell, New Jersey, and murdered. Partly because of Lindbergh's worldwide popularity, this became the most celebrated crime of the 1930s, and it was a major subject of newspaper attention until April 1936, when Bruno Hauptmann (Hauptmann, Bruno) was executed after being convicted of the kidnap-murder. The publicity was so distasteful to the Lindberghs that they took refuge in Europe.

      After 1936, when he visited German centres of aviation, Lindbergh repeatedly warned against the growing air power of Nazi Germany. His decoration by the German government in 1938 led to considerable criticism, as did the speeches advocating American neutrality in World War II he made in 1940–41 after his return to the United States. Criticism of his public statements by President Franklin D. Roosevelt led Lindbergh to resign his Air Corps Reserve commission in April 1941.

      When the United States entered the war, however, Lindbergh, as a civilian, threw himself into the war effort, serving as a consultant to the Ford Motor Company and to the United Aircraft Corporation. In the latter capacity he flew 50 combat missions during a tour of duty in the Pacific; and later, after the end of the war in Europe, he accompanied a navy technical mission in Europe investigating German aviation developments.

      Following World War II, Lindbergh and his family lived quietly in Connecticut and then in Hawaii. He continued as consultant to Pan American World Airways and to the U.S. Department of Defense. He was a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and served on a number of other aeronautical boards and committees. He received many honours and awards, in addition to the Medal of Honor that had been awarded to him by a special act of Congress in 1927. For his services to the government, he was appointed brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. His book The Spirit of St. Louis, describing the flight to Paris, was published in 1953 and gained him a Pulitzer Prize. He was also the author of We (1927), Of Flight and Life (1948), and, with the French surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel, The Culture of Organs (1938), concerning researches on which he and Carrel had collaborated. His Wartime Journals (1970) is a record (not initially intended for publication) of his life during the years 1938–45.

Additional Reading
Lindbergh's world views and values are the focal point of his memoirs, Autobiography of Values (1978), ed. by William Jovanovich and Judith A. Schiff. Lindbergh describes his famous airplane flight in The Spirit of St. Louis (1953, reprinted 1987), and in “We” (1927, reissued 1955), which also tells the story of his youth. See also The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970), which covers the period from March 1938 to June 1945. Two biographies are Walter S. Ross, The Last Hero: Charles A. Lindbergh, rev. ed. (1976); and Brendan Gill, Lindbergh Alone (1977). Perry D. Luckett, Charles A. Lindbergh: A Bio-Bibliography (1986), is also useful.

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Universalium. 2010.

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