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Charles Lindbergh: A Short Biography

Famed Aviator and Environmentalist

By Doug West, Ph.D.





Charles Lindbergh: A Short Biography

Famed Aviator and Environmentalist

Copyright © 2017 Doug West

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.


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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1 - Early Life

Chapter 2 - Spirit of St. Louis and the Orteig Prize

Chapter 3 - Scientist and Inventor

Chapter 4 – Crime of the Century

Chapter 5 – Prelude to War

Chapter 6 – World War II

Chapter 7 – The Second Half

Chapter 8 – European Family

Chapter 9 – Lindbergh’s Legacy

Timeline

Acknowledgments

References and Further Reading

About the Author





Preface

Welcome to the book, Charles Lindbergh: A Short Biography. This book is part of the 30 Minute Book Series and, as the name of the series implies, if you are an average reader this book will take around 30 minutes to read. Since this short book is not meant to be an all-encompassing biography of Charles Lindbergh, you may want to know more about this man and his accomplishments. To help you with this, there are several good references at the end of this book. Thank you for purchasing this book. I hope you enjoy your time reading about this legendary aviator.

Doug West

July 2017





Introduction

One way to gain an understanding of a person is to look at the names they are given by different people in their lives. Charles A. Lindbergh was no different, as he was called many things by those who knew him and by those who didn’t — some of the names were enlightening or amusing while others were dark and sinister. “Slim” was the name his friends called Lindbergh as a young man; at six feet two inches tall and all of 150 pounds, that name seemed to fit. As he grew, he learned to fly an airplane and while barnstorming across the middle of America, they started to call him “Daredevil Lindbergh.” In the 1920s, if you were brave enough, or maybe foolish enough to be a wing walker on a World War I era bi-plane during inverted flight, you truly deserved the title of daredevil.

Lindbergh rose to world renown at only 25 years of age when he entered an international aviation contest with a $25,000 prize to fly across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop; previous unsuccessful attempts had cost the pilots their lives. Undeterred by the danger, Lindbergh set out from New York in his custom-built mono-plane for his flight to Paris on a mud soaked runway in the early dawn hours, with four sandwiches in his lunch box. Nearly a day and a half later he arrived in Paris, France, completely exhausted and confused by all the lights of the city below. Was he at the correct airfield or had his crude instrumentation led him completely off course? The sea of lights below turned out to be Parisians who had come to see the historic landing of the brave American lad. From that moment on, the names “lucky Lindy” and “the Lone Eagle” would be forever associated with Charles Lindbergh.

The drums of war grew louder in Europe as Adolf Hitler was pressing for conquest of his neighboring countries and America was reluctantly being drawn into the fray. Lindbergh became part of a vocal group wanting America to remain out of the European war. This view was contrary to President Franklin Roosevelt, who was heard to say in private that Lindbergh was a “Nazi.” This title was truly undeserved as Lindbergh would go on to fly fifty combat missions in the Pacific theater of the war — as a civilian, no less!

After the war ended, America and the world were getting back to a new normal, but Lindbergh began to change. No longer was the advancement of aviation the driving force in his life. As time went by, the title of “environmental activist” became his moniker. During his extensive world travels, he had seen firsthand the impact the human race was having on the fragile planet. He would spend the remainder of his days working to save wildlife and plants from destruction.

Like most men, he was also called “husband," “lover," and “father.” With one wife, three mistresses, and thirteen children, these names were much deserved. Read on and enter the life and times of this fascinating man.





Chapter 1 - Early Life

To be absolutely alone for the first time in the cockpit of a plane hundreds of feet above the ground is an experience never to be forgotten.” - Charles Lindbergh

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born on February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Charles August Lindbergh, had Swedish origins, while his mother, Evangeline Lodge Land, was from Detroit. The couple moved from Detroit to Little Falls, Minnesota, but later relocated to Washington, D.C. When Charles was still a young boy, his parents separated, but remained married for the sake of Charles Sr.’s political career. The senior Lindbergh had been elected Republican congressman for the Sixth District of Minnesota in 1907. There was no question of divorce, for his constituents, many of them Roman Catholic, would have been shocked by a divorce. His mother Evangeline was a chemistry teacher, first in Detroit and later in Minnesota. Lindbergh attended several schools from Washington, D.C., to California as he was often forced to move to spend time with both his parents. He graduated in 1918 from Little Falls High School in Minnesota, the same high school where his mother taught.

In 1920, Lindbergh enrolled at University of Wisconsin-Madison to study engineering. However, he dropped out without graduating in February 1922 to follow his dream of flying. He began flight training in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child, Lindbergh had been fascinated by engines and mechanics, with a special interest in his family’s automobile. Determined to fulfill his dream, he quit college and joined the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation’s flying school. On April 9, 1922, Lindbergh flew for the first time as a passenger, in a biplane trainer. To save money for his flying lessons, he spent his summers working as a wing walker and parachutist across Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, and Colorado.

After another six months during which he didn’t get the chance to go near an airplane, Lindbergh bought a World War I surplus Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane for $500. The airplane was a tattered craft with a small 90-horsepower engine and a top speed of a meager 70 miles an hour. In May of 1923, he took his first solo flight at a former Army flight training field in Americus, Georgia. After a week of practice, he flew his first solo cross-country flight, from Americus to Montgomery, Alabama, covering a distance of almost 140 miles. He spent most of 1923 barnstorming under the name “Daredevil Lindbergh” and flying mainly as a pilot of his own plane. Shortly after leaving Americus, he flew his first night flight in Arkansas.



Figure – Daredevil Lindbergh

During the following months, Lindbergh ran several emergency flights for a flooding incident in Lone Rock, Wisconsin. He also flew his father during his campaign for the U.S. Senate. In October, however, he sold the Jenny and began barnstorming with one of his friends, Leon Klink, who had his own biplane. The two pilots parted ways after a few months since Lindbergh had decided to join the United States Army Air Service.

Lindbergh began his military flight training on March 19, 1924. One year later, only a few days before graduation, he had his most severe flying accident. During the usual aerial combat maneuvers, he collided mid-air with another plane and had to bail out. Out of the 104 cadets who started flight training at the same time as Lindbergh, only 18 graduated. However, Lindbergh had been an excellent student, which earned him a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Service Reserve Corps. He later confessed that the year spent in the Army was crucial for his personal and professional development as he learned how to become a focused, goal-oriented individual, and a rigorous and disciplined aviator. Since the Army already had enough active-duty pilots, Lindbergh turned to civilian aviation, working mostly as a barnstormer and flight instructor. As a reserve officer, he had the chance to run some military flight operations by joining the Missouri National Guard in St. Louis. For his extraordinary merits, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Lindbergh worked as a flight instructor for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation at the Lambert-St. Louis Flying Field in Missouri. The upstart aircraft company was trying to get into the potentially lucrative business of flying the mail for the U.S. Postal Service. Once Robertson Co. won the government contract, Lindbergh became their chief pilot and was in charge of the newly created St. Louis to Chicago mail route.

Flying the mail was very dangerous business in those days as many pilots lost their lives in crashes. Army pilots call the airmail planes “flying coffins.” Chief Pilot Lindbergh was on a mail flight on September 16, 1926, when his airplane ran out of fuel and he was forced to make an emergency jump from the plane in a blinding snow and rain storm. The plane crashed two miles from where Lindbergh landed, but the mail was undamaged, recovered, and delivered. A few days after the crash, the wreckage was inspected and it was discovered that a 110-gallon fuel tank that had been removed for repair had been replaced with a smaller 85-gallon fuel tank and the mechanic failed to tell the pilots.





Chapter 2 - Spirit of St. Louis and the Orteig Prize

I had four sandwiches when I left New York. I only ate one and a half during the whole trip and drank a little water. I don't suppose I had time to eat any more because, you know, it surprised me how short a distance it is to Europe.” - Charles Lindbergh

After several unsuccessful attempts by early aviators to cross the Atlantic by plane, a French-born New York businessman set up an award for the first successful nonstop flight specifically between New York City and Paris, in either direction. The $25,000 Orteig prize attracted a lot of highly experienced and famous contenders, yet none of them managed to accomplish the mission. Several famous pilots were killed in the attempt. Lindbergh wanted to enter the race but since he was not a known figure in the aviation world, attracting sponsorship for the race proved complicated. However, with his earnings from working as a U.S. Air Mail pilot, a significant bank loan, and a small contribution from his former employer, Robertson Aircraft Corporation, he managed to raise $18,000, which was still considerably less than what his rivals had available.

Lindbergh wanted a custom monoplane, and after thorough research, he found the Ryan Aircraft Company from San Diego, California, which agreed to build the monoplane for less than $11,000. In February 1927, almost a year after executing the Post Office Department’s Oath of Mail Messengers, Lindbergh left for San Diego to devote his time to overseeing the design and construction of his own monoplane, which he named Spirit of St. Louis. The design belonged entirely to Lindbergh and Ryan’s chief engineer, Donald A. Hall. The Spirit of St. Louis was a fabric-covered, single-seat, single engine Ryan NYP high-wing monoplane. Two months after the deal was signed, the monoplane flew for the first time. After a series of test flights, Lindbergh eventually reached Roosevelt Field on New York’s Long Island.

In the early dawn hours of Friday, May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off in his small plane, which was nearly overloaded with fuel, from a mud soaked runway for Paris. He was carrying 450 gallons of fuel, and the total weight of the monoplane was 2,710 pounds. The takeoff went smoothly as the plane gained speed slowly and rose into the air, barely clearing the trees at the end of the runway. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis went through many challenges during the next 33 and a half hours, especially because of the weather. Lindbergh had to fight icing, to fly blind through the thick fog for hours, and to navigate using the crude instrument in his plane and by the stars, when they were visible.


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