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Charles Lindbergh

This article is about famous aviator Charles Lindbergh II. For information about son (Charles Augustus Lindbergh III) and his kidnapping and murder, see: Lindbergh kidnapping

Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis

Charles Augustus Lindbergh II (February 4, 1902 - August 26, 1974) was a pioneering American aviator famous for the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 First flight across Atlantic Ocean
3 Marriage, children, kidnapping
4 Second World War
5 Later life
6 External links
7 Sources

Early life

Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan as son of Swedish immigrants. He grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota. His father 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 Service. After finishing first in his class, he worked as a civilian air-mail pilot on the line St. Louis in the 1920s.

First flight across 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 one-motor airplane "The Spirit of St. Louis" which had been custom built by Ryan Airlines of San Diego, California. He needed 33.5 hours for the trip.

This accomplishment, which was the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris and the first solo flight across the Atlantic, won him the Orteig Prize of $25,000. 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, 1928 he was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor for his first trans-Atlantic flight.

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 the author Anne Morrow Lindbergh 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 (1945).

Their two-year-old son Charles Augustus 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. Hauptman, who maintained his innocence until the end, was found guilty and was executed on April 3, 1936. See Lindbergh kidnapping for a more detailed treatment of the case.

In November 2003, it was revelaed [1] that DNA tests had proved that Lindbergh had fathered three illegitimate children, born between 1958 and 1967 in Germany. Their mother was Brigitte Hesshaimer, a Munich hat maker 20 years his junior, whose relationship with Lindbergh started in 1957 and continued until his death. Hesshaimer died in 2001 at the age of 74.

Second World War

In Europe during the rise of Fascism, Lindbergh spent some time in Germany, where he admired the German air force. In 1938, Hermann Göring offered him a German medal of honor, and Lindbergh's acceptance caused an outcry in the United States when Lindbergh's alleged closeness to the Nazis was criticized. Lindbergh himself had seen his mission in providing information about European technological developments, and especially in warning the U.S. of the rise of Nazi air power. As war loomed in Europe he was a prominent speaker in favor of an isolationist policy for the USA. On January 23, 1941 Lindbergh testified before the United States Congress and recommended that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler. Criticism of his position led to his resigning from the Army Air Corps.

However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he assisted 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.

Later life

After World War II he lived quietly in Connecticut as an 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 fully rehabilitated him by restoring 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 and against super-sonic transport planes.

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, 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 Brigitte Hesshaimer had died.

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. 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. -- CAL

The Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport was named after him. San Diego International Airport was also named after him.

External links