Copyright 2003, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. All rights reserved.
Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974)
Charles A. Lindbergh, America's most famous aviator, was the son of a progressive Republican congressman from Michigan and a science teacher. Although he had little formal education (he briefly attended the University of Wisconsin), he quickly learned to fly. After barnstorming through the South and West in his own plane, Lindbergh enlisted in the Army Air Service, graduating at the top of his class in 1925 and becoming a captain in the Missouri National Guard. Shortly thereafter, he persuaded a group of Midwestern businessmen to finance the construction of an airplane to compete for a $25,000 prize for the first solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris. Lindbergh made the trip in the Spirit of St. Louis to France in May 1927. The flight, taking just over thirty-three hours, made Lindbergh an international figure and he was lionized around the world.
In 1929 Lindbergh married Ann Spencer Morrow and in 1932 their infant son, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., was kidnapped and murdered. The publicity surrounding the tragedy and subsequent trial of the kidnapper, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, caused Lindbergh and his family to seek sanctuary in Europe in 1935 where they remained until 1939. During that time, Lindbergh visited several European countries, including Nazi Germany, to observe aviation developments. His trips convinced him that German military aviation was the best in Europe and might soon approach that of the United States. Because he felt that England and France could not defeat Hitler and that a European war would have catastrophic consequences for western civilization, he advocated military preparedness and avoidance of war for Europe and, as a prominent member of the America First Committee, isolationism for America.
Lindbergh's stance, while not pro-Nazi, nevertheless tarnished his reputation, which never regained its former luster despite his wartime service as a civilian pilot. (He had resigned his commission in 1941 to join America First.) After World War II, Lindbergh continued to be active in military and commercial aviation. In 1954 his commission was restored and President Dwight D. Eisenhower
promoted him to brigadier general. That same year, his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis
, won the Pulitzer Prize. Lindbergh's last years were devoted to conservation and the preservation of endangered species. He also continued to fly and, during his lifetime, logged more than 8,000 hours in more than 250 types of airplanes. Lindbergh died of cancer on the island of Maui in Hawaii in 1974.
Sources: American National Biography Online. Internet on-line. Available From http://www.anb.org; American Council of Learned Societies, The Concise Dictionary of American Biography, vol. I, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997), p. 734; Eric Foner and John A Garraty, eds., Reader's Companion to American History (Boston: Houghton Miffflin, 1991), pp. 665-66.