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Arthur Schlesinger on:
Lindbergh's Visits to Germany

Arthur Schlesinger Q: From the Oval Office in 1939, what did Lindbergh represent as he sailed back towards America, to the Roosevelt Administration?

AS: Well, it's hard to say. He had been the source of what was regarded wrongly as useful intelligence about the size of the German air force. What happened was that Lindbergh made a number of visits to Germany, the first I think in 1936 and then again in 1938. The Germans noticed that he seemed quite sympathetic with some of the things that were happening in Germany. I wouldn't think it's going too far to say that Lindbergh--it's certainly going too far to say that he was a Nazi. I think its probably going too far to say that he was pro-Nazi. But there are some things about Nazi Germany that he admired. He thought democracy was degenerate. He liked the fact that he was safe from free press in Germany. He liked the spirit and the values. He greatly admired-- he wrote about what he saw in Germany. He felt that Hitler had pulled the country together, gotten it out of its demoralization and despair, and was rather sympathetic to the to the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, and to what was going on there. The Germans saw this and they sold him a bill of goods. Now they persuaded him that German air production was much higher than it was--that Germany had many more planes than it had. We now know that the figures that Lindbergh brought back from Germany were wildly exaggerated. Germans in short used him, and he fell for it. And he came back and he scared Joe Kennedy, our ambassador to London. He scared Bill Bullet, our ambassador to Paris. The Germans stuffed Lindbergh filled with phony statistics about the supremacy of the German air force. He came back with German production figures, which were very much inflated, with the number of planes already produced--very inflated figures. He wasn't quite aware of the extent to which Germany was concentrating on tactical aircraft rather than what we would call today strategic long-distance bombers. And he came back with a frightening picture of inevitable German air supremacy. And he frightened Joe Kennedy who was our ambassador in London. He frightened Bill Bullet who was then our ambassador in Paris with these recitals of German invincibility in the air. And he believed it himself. And his reports were brought back to Washington. In a way they probably stimulated aircraft production in Britain and the United States, but, in the short run, it helped create the state of mind which led Neville Chamberlain for example to make the concessions he made to Hitler at Munich.

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