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Lindbergh, Charles A. (1902–1974)

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Black and white photograph of Colonel Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1928.

Colonel Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1928.

Charles A. Lindbergh, a native of Little Falls, became a world-famous aviator after completing the first nonstop, solo transatlantic flight in May 1927.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1902. He grew up outside Little Falls on a 110-acre farm on the banks of the Mississippi River. Though they never divorced, Lindbergh’s parents, Charles August (C. A.) and Evangeline, were estranged. After the complete loss of their home to fire in 1905, they lived in separate homes.

The Lindberghs built a smaller home on the original’s foundation. It became a summer residence for Lindbergh and his mother, who traveled to Washington, D.C., each winter for ten years following C. A. Lindbergh’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Charles Lindbergh attended college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in fall 1920. After three semesters, he was dropped from the program and enrolled at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation's flying school. He spent time on the barnstorming circuit before purchasing his first plane, a Curtiss JN4-D, commonly called a “Jenny.”

In 1924, Lindbergh enrolled in Army Flying School, where he graduated at the top of his class. Following graduation, Lindbergh went to Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri. There, he accepted a job with the Robertson Aircraft Corporation as chief pilot for the soon-to-be-awarded St. Louis–Chicago airmail route.

In 1919, a French businessman, Raymond Orteig, offered a $25,000 prize to the first team to fly nonstop between New York, New York, and Paris, France. After learning of the prize, Lindbergh began to plan a flight to Paris. Lindbergh discussed his idea with St. Louis businessmen and aviation supporters who pooled their resources to provide Lindbergh with the funding to purchase an airplane that could make the transatlantic flight.

Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego, California, built the Spirit of St. Louis—a single-engine monoplane powered by a Wright Whirlwind J-5C engine—for $10,580. Lindbergh worked alongside the designer and the construction crew.

By the time Lindbergh was ready for his flight, six well-known aviators had already lost their lives in pursuit of the Orteig Prize. Undaunted, Lindbergh set out to break the record on May 20, 1927. At 7:52 a.m., after loading the plane with 450 gallons of gasoline, Lindbergh climbed into the cockpit and gave the go ahead to takeoff. Thirty-three and one-half hours later, he landed at Le Bourget Field, just outside of Paris.

Upon returning home, Lindbergh continued to promote aviation by touring the United States, Central and South America. When he was in Mexico he met Anne Morrow, the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador. They married in 1929.

Tragedy struck the Lindberghs in March 1932 when their first-born son, twenty-month-old Charlie, was kidnapped from the family's home in New Jersey. The child’s body was found two months after he was taken. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the crime in 1934 and convicted the following year.

In 1936, an American military attaché invited Lindbergh to Germany to help gather intelligence about the Third Reich. At a dinner in Berlin, German Air Minister Hermann Göring surprised Lindbergh with an award for his services to aviation. Many saw Lindbergh’s acceptance of the "Nazi medal" as a sign of his sympathies with the Third Reich, and he was vilified in the American press.

Lindbergh remained convinced that Germany would win any coming war based on its superior military strength and returned to the United States in 1941. He made speeches on behalf of the America First Committee, a nationwide organization that opposed American intervention in the war. The press and many members of the public accused Lindbergh of injecting anti-Semitism into his argument for neutrality, a claim that he denied.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh did what he could to help the Allies. In 1944, he persuaded United Aircraft to designate him a technical representative in the South Pacific to study aircraft performances under combat conditions. Despite being a civilian, Lindbergh participated in fifty combat missions and was credited with at least one kill.

Following World War II, Lindbergh served on the board of directors for Pan American Airways and developed a passion for protecting the environment. He wrote The Spirit of St. Louis, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for autobiography in 1954. He died in Hawaii on August 26, 1974.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Berg, A. Scott. Lindbergh. New York: Berkley Books, 1998.

Lindbergh, Charles A. Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1974. Reprinted as Lindbergh Looks Back, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.

——— . The Spirit of St. Louis. New York: Scribner, 1953.

Related Images

Black and white photograph of Colonel Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Colonel Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Evangeline Lindbergh with her son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1902.
Black and white photograph of Evangeline Lindbergh with her son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1902.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1910.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1910.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh on a hunting expedition, 1911.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh on a hunting expedition, 1911.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh with his dog "Dingo," c.1912.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh with his dog "Dingo," c.1912.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh and his photo album, Madison, Wisconsin, March, 1922.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh and his photo album, Madison, Wisconsin, March, 1922.
Black and white photograph of Second Lieutenant Charles Augustus Lindbergh in his U.S. Air Force uniform, March 14, 1925.
Black and white photograph of Second Lieutenant Charles Augustus Lindbergh in his U.S. Air Force uniform, March 14, 1925.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with his plane, c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with his plane, c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh with “Spirit of St. Louis,” c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh with “Spirit of St. Louis,” c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with the "Spirit of St. Louis," c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with the "Spirit of St. Louis," c.1927.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with the "Spirit of St. Louis," c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with the "Spirit of St. Louis," c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh and pilots in Detroit, Michigan, c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh and pilots in Detroit, Michigan, c.1928.
Black and white photograph of Charles and Anne Lindbergh in flight suits next to Lockheed Sirius during their flight across the Northern Pacific, c.1931.
Black and white photograph of Charles and Anne Lindbergh in flight suits next to Lockheed Sirius during their flight across the Northern Pacific, c.1931.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh testifying at the Air Mail Hearing before the Senate Post Office Committee, March 16, 1934.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh testifying at the Air Mail Hearing before the Senate Post Office Committee, March 16, 1934.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with Tommy McGuire in the South Pacific, 1944.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with Tommy McGuire in the South Pacific, 1944.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with a plane propeller, c.1971.
Black and white photograph of Charles Augustus Lindbergh with a plane propeller, c.1971.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh in the living room of his restored boyhood home, 1971.
Black and white photograph of Charles Lindbergh in the living room of his restored boyhood home, 1971.

Turning Point

In May 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh completes the first nonstop, solo transatlantic flight between New York City and Paris, France, advancing the field of aviation.

Chronology

1902

Charles Augustus Lindbergh is born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4. His parents bring him to his family home in Little Falls when he is five weeks old.

1922

In April, Lindbergh makes his first flight as a passenger while attending the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation’s flight school in Lincoln.

1927

On May 21, Lindbergh completes his solo, nonstop transatlantic flight by landing at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France, traveling 3,610 miles in 33 ½ hours and becoming the first person to do so, earning the Orteig Prize.

1929

Lindbergh marries Anne Morrow, the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, on May 27.

1932

On March 1, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., is kidnapped from the family home in Hopewell, New Jersey. The case would become known as the crime of the century.

1935

In December, Lindbergh and his family become exiles in England in order to escape threats on the life of their second son, Jon.

1938

Lindbergh accepts the Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Göring on behalf of Adolf Hitler. People in the United States begin to question Lindbergh’s loyalty.

1941

Lindbergh returns to the United States in April and begins speaking publicly against U.S. involvement in World War II.

1941

On September 11, Lindbergh gives his “Who Are The War Agitators?” speech at the “America First” rally in Des Moines, Iowa. He names the British, the Jews, and the Roosevelt administration as the three main groups pushing the nation toward war.

1944

Lindbergh serves as a civilian tech rep in the South Pacific, where he helps to increase the performance of P-38 Lightnings and F4U Corsairs. He flies fifty combat missions and is credited with one kill.

1954

Lindbergh wins the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis.

1964

Lindbergh works for the protection of the environment.

1973

In September, Lindbergh makes his last public appearance to dedicate the new visitor center at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls.

1974

Lindbergh dies at his home on August 26, in Hana, Maui, Hawaii, of lymphatic cancer at the age of 72.

2003

Dyrk, Astrid, and David Hesshaimer break their silence about their mother’s secret relationship with Charles Lindbergh. The Hesshaimers are three of the seven children Lindbergh fathered during his affairs with three German women beginning in the 1950s.