Last updated on October 26, 2002
CHARLES LINDBERGH (1902-1974)
Charles Lindbergh was the son of a liberal Republican congressman from Minnesota.
He was a mechanical engineering student, left to enter flight school, flew exhibition, and
entered the US Air Service Reserve to fly mail with the rank of lieutenant. He
secured backing to have the Spirit of St Louis built and flew it for New York City to Paris,
solo, 3,610 miles in 33 ½ hours winning the Orteig Prize and world acclaim in 1927.
Awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress, he embarked on worldwide goodwill flying.
He later won a Pulitzer Prize for literature in writing of his adventures. Little is told of him
after his son was kidnapped in the "crime of the century in 1932."
Civilian Technician , WW2 Pacific
Lindbergh disagreed with Roosevelt's plan to nationalize the airmail and to assign the
Army to carry it. Lindbergh earned the dislike of the administration when he testified
before the Senate, saying that Army pilots were not trained for all-weather flying or night
landings. His testimony was proven true when five pilots were killed in the first week
with six more injured.
He performed airpower surveys in Germany, France, England, and the Soviet Union as
an Army Air Corp colonel prior to the start of the war in Europe in 1939. Along with
middle America, armed with his firsthand observations, he became a leading anti-war
spokesman. He made the points that our nation was not at risk and that a million lives
could be lost if we crossed the ocean to fight in Europe's war. Offered the position of
Secretary of Air if he would shut up, he refused and was subjected to criticism by
President Roosevelt; he resigned his commission rather than not speak.
in the Pacific and her allies, German and Italy, declared war on the United States,
bringing us into the European war that he abhorred, as well as in the Pacific.
The press looked for negative things to say about isolationist views expressed before
the war. One line of one speech by Lindbergh is quoted over and over
on which he is pilloried. It was perfectly true,
but a few weeks later Lindbergh's antiwar views of the preceding year were on the
wrong side of the situation. The infamous line was, "The only people
who want the United States in the war are the English, the Jews, and the munitions
sellers." He did not want American dead included in the 35MM people destroyed by
WW2 – never was he other than a patriot.
He immediately applied for a re-commission in the Army Air Force to fight. But
Roosevelt had wanted to get us into the war against Germany, and Lindbergh had made
his goal harder to obtain -- Lindbergh was rejected out of hand.
There was a need for his services. He was asked by Henry Ford to help turn Willow Run
into an assembly line for B-24 bombers, he redesigned parts for the plane to improve
mass production. He worked with the Mayo Clinic on high altitude research on the
effects on the human body. He determined there were a few seconds between the
symptoms of black out and unconsciousness, helped design jumping equipment that
saved many fliers. Republic had him test fly the P-47 Thunderbolt. United had him test
the F4U Corsair. Working below the visibility of those in the upper Washington circles,
he arranged to test the Corsair under combat conditions. Arriving in Pacific April 1944, he
showed how to take off with double the rated bomb-load and then showed that dive
bombing with that load was out of the question, so he wiped out a gun emplacement with
horizontal bombing as an alternative.
MacArthur immediately heard of his unannounced arrival in the theater and ordered him
to Australia where he was assigned to extend the range of the P-38 Lightning in New
Guinea operations. Lindberg was able to return from combat missions with his tanks
half full when others returned empty. He was able to teach how to add 500 miles to the
P-38's range. It had been considered to be 400 miles, Lindbergh's techniques let the
Lightning appear hundreds of miles from where the Japanese expected to find them. He
flew missions to Balikpapan, Mindanao, even led a 4 plane raid on Palau, considered out
of range of land based fighters, a base defended by 200 enemy fighters.
There is more than one way to serve one's country.
Lindbergh flew as a civilian technician. His teaching approach was "hands on" training
by example and he made 50 combat sorties, with 1 Japanese Zero kill, the same number
of missions asked of a military pilot. He was offered a colonelship and an appointment
to Macarthur's staff, but Lindbergh turned it down for "political reasons" and returned home
late Sept 1944. Gen Kenney
said of his efforts, " . . . This let the United States get to the Philippines much sooner
than planned. . . . Lindbergh's contribution shortened the war by several months and
saved thousands of American lives."
After the war, Lindbergh became a consultant with the new US Air Force and was
commissioned as a reserve Brigadier General in 1954.
In October 2002, the Mayo Clinic released information about his previously unreported
contributions to high altitude research.
Return to: WW2, Pacific home
About this page: Lindbergh , Charles -- his activies in WW2 are little known.