Lindbergh, Charles Augustus (1902-1974), American aviator,
engineer, and Pulitzer Prize winner, who was the first person to make a
nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born February 4, 1902, in Detroit
and was delivered by his great-uncle. When he was three years old, his
three-story house burned down and a simpler home was built in its place.
From the age of six he had his own gun and soon became an expert
marksman. His mother, Evangeline Lindbergh, first enrolled him in
school in Washington when he was eight, but he was not a pupil that
paid attention. He would attend eleven schools within a ten-year period
but would never finish a full academic year in any of them. Charles just
never learned to enjoy sitting in a classroom. Charles developed and
constructed a system for moving the ice from the icehouse to the icebox
when he was nine years old. When he was ten years old, his father
arrived from Washington one summer behind the wheel of a Model T
Ford, As soon as Charles was tall enough to reach the pedals, he quickly
became a better driver than either of of his parents and drove his mother
all over the place. He attended the University of Wisconsin for two years
but withdrew to attend a flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lindbergh made his first airplane flight on April 9, 1922 and four
years later he piloted a mail plane between St. Louis, Missouri, and
Chicago. He decided to compete for a prize of $25,000 offered in 1919 by
the Franco-American philanthropist Raymond B. Orteig of New York City
for the first nonstop transatlantic solo flight between New York City and
Paris. In his single-engine monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh left
Roosevelt Field at 7:52 AM on May 20, 1927. After a flight of 33 hours 32
minutes, he landed at Le Bourget Airport near Paris. Twenty thousand
men and women were at the airport waiting for hours to see the man who
flew across the Atlantic. As soon as Lindbergh stood up in the cockpit, the
cheers of 20,000 voices were raised: "Lindbergh! Lindbergh! Lindbergh!"
His achievement won the enthusiasm and acclaim of the world, and he was
greeted as a hero in Europe and the U.S. He was later commissioned a
colonel in the U.S. Air Service Reserve and was a technical adviser to
commercial airlines. He made "goodwill tours" of Mexico, Central America,
and the West Indies. Lindbergh flew over Yucatan and Mexico in 1929 and
over the Far East in 1931, and in 1933 he made a survey of more than
30,000 miles for transatlantic air routes and landing fields. Lindbergh also
collaborated with the French surgeon Alexis Carrel in experiments to
develop an artificial heart pump. Despite early promising results the
experiments were finally given up without entirely achieving their purpose.
The two men were co-authors of The "Culture of Organs" in 1938.
On a Tuesday night, March 3, 1932 Charles returned from New York
and had dinner with his wife, Anne. She and the nurse, Betty Gow, had
earlier put the baby to bed, Charles' first child. Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr.,
his 19-month-old son, slept in a second-floor bedroom. After dinner the
three searched the house where the child was nowhere to be found. He
then found a ransom note on the window sill demanding $50,000 and
where to deliver it. This kidnapping attracted nationwide attention.
Lindbergh received another note from the kidnappers, complaining about
the publicity and warning that nothing would happen until everything
calmed down and they also raised the ransom demand to $70,000. John
Codon, a volunteer middle-man for Lindbergh to deal with the kidnappers,
exchanged the money at a nearby cemetery with a kidnapper's contact for
an envelope telling them where to find the child. The directions were fake
and Lindbergh was tricked. Several weeks later Charles got word that the
baby's body had been found in the woods. He identified the body and
became determined to find the killers. A German-born carpenter, Bruno
Richard Hauptmann, was later found guilty of the crime and was executed.
To avoid further publicity, the Lindberghs moved to Europe in 1935.
Lindbergh toured the Continent and studied the air forces of various
countries. He accepted a decoration from Adolf Hitler and praised the
German air force as superior to that of any other European country. On his
return to the U.S. in 1939, Lindbergh toured the country and made a series
of antiwar speeches. He was criticized as being pro-German and was
forced to resign his commission in the air corps reserve and his
membership in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. During
World War II, Lindbergh was a civilian consultant to aircraft manufacturers
and was sent on missions to the Pacific area and to Europe for the U.S. Air
Force. He died on August 26, 1974, on Maui, Hawaii.