Charles Augustus Lindbergh (4 February 1902 – 26 August 1974) was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, and activist. He is one of the best-known figures in aeronautical history, remembered for the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Before the United States entered World War II, Lindbergh was an advocate of non-interventionism.
In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist.
Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4, 1902, and spent most of his childhood in Little Falls, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. He was the only child of Charles August Lindbergh (birth name Carl Månsson; 1859–1924), who had emigrated from Sweden to Melrose, Minnesota, as an infant, and Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh (1876–1954) of Detroit. The couple separated in 1909 when Lindbergh was seven years old. His father, a U.S. Congressman (R-MN-6) from 1907 to 1917, was one of the few congressmen to oppose the entry of the U.S. into World War I (although his congressional term ended one month before the House of Representatives voted to declare war on Germany). His father's book Why Is Your Country at War?, which criticized the nation's entry into the war, was seized by federal agents under the Comstock Act. It was later posthumously reprinted and issued in 1934 under the title Your Country at War, and What Happens to You After a War.
Lindbergh's mother was a chemistry teacher at Cass Technical High School in Detroit and later at Little Falls High School, from which her son graduated on June 5, 1918. Lindbergh attended more than a dozen other schools from Washington, D.C., to California during his childhood and teenage years (none for more than a year or two), including the Force School and Sidwell Friends School while living in Washington with his father, and Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, while living there with his mother. Although he enrolled in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in late 1920, Lindbergh dropped out in the middle of his sophomore year and then went to Lincoln, Nebraska, in March 1922 to begin flight training.
On May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field, near New York City, at 7:52 A.M. He landed at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, on May 21 at 10:21 P.M. Paris time (5:21 P.M. New York time). Thousands of cheering people had gathered to meet him. He had flown more than 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) in 33 1/2 hours. Lindbergh's flight thrilled people throughout the world. He was honored with awards, celebrations, and parades. President Calvin Coolidge gave Lindbergh the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On March 1, 1932, the Lindberghs' 20-month-old son, Charles Augustus, Jr., was kidnapped from the family home in New Jersey. About ten weeks later, his body was found. In 1934, police arrested a carpenter, Richard Hauptmann, and charged him with the murder. Hauptmann was convicted of the crime. He was executed in 1936.
The press sensationalized the tragedy. Reporters, photographers, and curious onlookers pestered the Lindberghs constantly. In 1935, after the Hauptmann trial, Lindbergh, his wife, and their 3-year-old son, Jon, moved to Europe in search of privacy and safety. The Lindbergh kidnapping led Congress to pass the "Lindbergh Law." This law makes kidnapping a federal offense if the victim is taken across state lines or if the mail service is used for ransom demands.
In Europe (1936–1939)
While in Europe, Lindbergh was invited by the governments of France and Germany to tour the aircraft industries of their countries. Lindbergh was especially impressed with the highly advanced aircraft industry of Germany. In 1938, Hermann Goering, presented Lindbergh with a German medal of honor. Lindbergh's acceptance of the medal caused an outcry later in the United States. Lindbergh and his family returned to the United States in 1939.
World War II
In 1941, he joined the America First Committee, an organization that opposed voluntary American entry into World War II. Lindbergh became a leading spokesman for the committee. He criticized President Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policies. He also charged that British, Jewish, and pro-Roosevelt groups were leading America into war. Lindbergh resigned his commission in the Army Air Corps after Roosevelt publicly denounced him. Some Americans accused Lindbergh of being pro-Germany because he refused to return the medal he had accepted.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Lindbergh stopped his non-involvement activity. He tried to re-enlist, but his request was refused. He then served as a technical adviser and test pilot for the Ford Motor Company and United Aircraft Corporation. In April 1944, Lindbergh went to the Pacific war area as an adviser to the United States Army and Navy. Although he was a civilian, he flew about 50 combat missions. Lindbergh introduced engine-leaning techniques to P-38 pilots, greatly improving fuel consumption at cruise speeds, enabling the long-range fighter aircraft to fly longer-range missions.
After the War, Lindbergh withdrew from public attention. He worked as a consultant to the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. President Dwight D. Eisenhower restored Lindbergh's commission and appointed him a brigadier general in the Air Force in 1954. Pan American World Airways also hired Lindbergh as a consultant. In 1953, Lindbergh published The Spirit of St. Louis, an expanded account of his 1927 transatlantic flight. The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954.
Lindbergh travelled widely and developed an interest in the cultures of peoples in Africa and the Philippines. In the late 1960's, he ended his years of silence to speak out for the conservation movement. He especially campaigned for the protection of humpback and blue whales, two species of whales in danger of extinction. Lindbergh opposed the development of supersonic transport planes because he feared the effects the planes might have on the earth's atmosphere.
Lindbergh spent his last years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he died of cancer (lymphoma) on August 26, 1974, at age 72. He was buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu, Maui.