The Film & More|
NARRATOR: Roosevelt Field, Long Island, May 20, 1927. A 25-year old
airmail pilot decides to take off for Paris, 3,000 miles across the Atlantic
Ocean. Six men have already died in the attempt. He is determined to do it
NARRATOR: He was America's greatest hero, the most honored private
citizen on earth. He lived a life of absolutes, never doubting his own
abilities or the certainty of his own opinions. He was a private man forced to
endure agonizing personal tragedy in the full glare of a relentless press. In
the air, he seemed to represent what was best about America, but back on the
ground, his stubborn prejudice led many of those who had worshipped him to see
him as a traitor. And yet, more than half a century after his flight, most
people remember only the hero.
REEVE LINDBERGH, Daughter: I think, really, that the country very much
needed a hero at a certain time and he was there. I think there were people who
needed a scapegoat or a villain at times and he was there. I think he
represented a lot for people. I think he represented something in the American
ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, Historian: I don't know. I think he was a man who
very much misconceived the nature of the great struggle of the 20th century,
which was a struggle between democracy and totalitarianism.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH, Widow: He's been made an American hero, I think.
And partly that he did it alone and I think that's quite American, actually, to
do things alone.
ARNOLD FORSTER, Author: In my judgment, he was totally wrong in every
area except in a pilot's seat in an airplane. And I don't want to badmouth
pilots, but pilots, if you'll forgive me, are chauffeurs.
MAX LERNER, Historian: I think Lindbergh was not a simple American boy.
He was a very complex man. And I think he was someone who had recesses within
recesses. And I don't think - I doubt whether anyone really knew him, with the
possible exception of his wife. I'm not sure that he ever knew himself.
NARRATOR: He was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4, 1902, and was
raised on the family farm near Little Falls, Minnesota, on the West bank of the
Mississippi. His father was a Swedish immigrant's son, a taciturn Minnesota
lawyer and congressman so stoical that he once endured an operation on his
stomach without anesthetic. He taught his son to be stoical, too. When young Charles fell into the Mississippi, his father refused to jump in after him,
confident the boy would teach himself to swim.
Charles' mother, Evangeline, was a high school teacher overprotective of her
only child, but distant. To the end of her life, she and her son shook hands
before she went to bed.
REEVE LINDBERGH: And I think she was unhappy, rather a hoverer over her
son. And my frivolous explanation - when people say, "Why on earth did he fly
to Paris?" - my frivolous explanation was he did it to get away from his
NARRATOR: His parents' marriage fell apart when he was five and he spent
a restless boyhood divided between them. Charles attended 11 schools, but did
well at none, made few friends, showed no interest in girls, was subdued and
serious and unfailingly solicitous of each of his parents. "I seem to be more
of a kid than he does sometimes," his father told a friend.
In 1918, he served as his father's driver during his race for governor of
Minnesota. The campaign was a disaster. His father opposed America's entry into
World War I and was denounced as a traitor, pelted with eggs and rocks, shot
at, hanged in effigy. His son never forgot the crowds and clamor and the danger
they had posed or the proud silence his father displayed.
Young Charles loved speed and danger and testing his own courage. He enrolled
as an engineering student at the University of Wisconsin, but ignored his
studies and was asked to leave in his sophomore year. By then, he was
determined to escape. "When I was a child," Lindbergh remembered, "I spent
hours lying on my back, watching white cumulus clouds drift overhead. How
wonderful it would be, I thought, if I had an airplane. Then I would ride on
the wind and be part of the sky."
He signed up for lessons with a Nebraska aircraft manufacturer and never
forgot his first airplane ride. "Trees became bushes, barns toys. Cows turned
into rabbits as we climbed. I lose all conscious connection with the past," he
wrote. "I live only in the moment in this strange, unmortal space, crowded with
beauty, pierced with danger."
MOYE STEPHENS, Test Pilot: Well, I think, of course every pilot - and
I'm sure Lindbergh had it, too - that when you're up there, you're God. You
look down and you see the ants crawling around on the surface of the ground and
you're above it all.
WALT BALLARD, Barnstormer: Well, yeah, I felt like a king because that's
the way people treated you. Treated you like you were a king. People around the
country had never seen an airplane before and that's what made the barnstorming popular.
NARRATOR: Lindbergh began as a barnstormer's assistant. He was
billed as "Daredevil Lindbergh," but his fellow barnstormers called him "Slim."
In 1923, even before he had received his pilot's license, he sold his
motorcycle and borrowed the rest of the $500 he needed to buy his first plane,
a World War I surplus Jenny. Lindbergh flew all over the West with a Brownie
camera, his friend Leon Klink and a dog named Booster. Spirals, barrel-rolls,
tailspins, figure eights: Lindbergh learned to do them all. He flew anything he
could get his hands on, was graduated as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Service Reserve and in 1926, took a job flying the mail. Thirty- one of the
first 40 airmail pilots would be killed. Lindbergh pioneered the route between
St. Louis and Chicago. He landed in farmers' fields by flashlight, survived two
crashes and soon grew bored. "There's nothing to match yourself against," he
For seven years, aviators had dreamed of flying nonstop from New York to Paris
and winning the $25,000 Orteig prize. In September of 1926, French ace, Rene
Fonck crashed with a crew of three. Two men burned to death. A few days later,
flying the mail from Peoria to Chicago, Lindbergh convinced himself that a lone
flyer in a far lighter single-engine plane might succeed where Fonck and his
crew had failed.
BRENDAN GILL, Writer: At the time that he flew the Atlantic, there were
other people who were flying with two and three people. And he could have
thought of wanting to fly with others, but it never would have crossed his mind
to want to share that particular adventure with anybody else because the test
that he was making was of himself.
NARRATOR: He withdrew his savings, convinced a band of St. Louis
citizens that sponsoring the flight would be good for business and persuaded
the president of Ryan Airlines of San Diego to build him a plane for $6,000,
engine and instruments extra.
ED MORROW, Mechanic: We thought we had 90 days, but less than a week
afterward, we found out it was only going to be 60. And I'd thought we'd do
well if we did it in 90.
NARRATOR: To Lindbergh, the weight of his plane was critical. Everything
unnecessary was to be left out: a radio, sextant, nightflying equipment, even a
parachute. The cockpit was to be placed behind the huge gas tanks because it
was safest there in case of a crash, but it also meant unless he peered through
a periscope or stuck his
head out the side, Lindbergh would be flying blind.
On April 28, right on schedule, his plane was finished. To please his backers,
he had named it "The Spirit of St. Louis." On May 10th, Lindbergh
left San Diego and headed for New York, the first stop on his way to Paris,
navigating with a 50-cent Rand-McNally railroad map spread across his lap.
Meanwhile, the race to Paris had continued to take its toll. A team led by the
ace Clarence Chamberlain ran into trouble. Richard Byrd, the first man to fly
over the North Pole, crashed his tri-motor on a test flight. On the other side
of the Atlantic, two Frenchmen, Charles Nungesser and Francois Colli, took off
from Paris for New York and were never seen again.
When Lindbergh finally landed on Long Island, he was a sensation. He
wanted publicity for the flight, he remembered, but he was put off by
the reporters who rushed across the field even before the propellers stopped
turning. The odds were so stacked against his lone flight to Paris, the
newspapers called him, "The Flying Fool."
His mother came to New York to see her son. "We refused to take the maudlin
positions some of the photographers had asked for," he wrote. "The next day, I
was startled to see newspaper photographs showing us in exactly those
positions. I thought it cheaply sentimental and dishonest."
For eight days, Lindbergh and his rivals were grounded by rain. Then news of a
break in the weather sent Lindbergh rushing to the field. He had not slept for
23 hours on the morning he decided to take off. Tension and a newspaperman's
noisy poker game had kept him awake all night. And all he packed to keep up his
strength during the flight was a quart of water and five sandwiches. "If I get
to Paris, I won't need any more," he explained, "and if I don't get to Paris, I
won't need any more, either."
Shortly after dawn on May 20th, he pushed down on the throttle and the plane
began to move. "The Spirit of St.Louis" had never taken off with a
full load of gasoline. It now weighed 2-1/2 tons. He cleared the telephone
wires at the end of the field by less than 20 feet and disappeared into the
fog. Newspapers reported Lindbergh over New England, then Nova Scotia. Then, he
JAMES NEWTON, Friend: When he disappeared after he left Newfoundland for
16 hours, no radio, no ships, no nothing, the world stood in awe. Here was this
young man, in a day when aviation was almost unknown, he had disappeared. And
of course, the odds were totally against him.
NARRATOR: Alone, Lindbergh flew on. After 17 hours, 40 without sleep, he
had to hold his eyes open with his fingers. Ghosts, he recalled - transparent,
mistlike, with semi-human form - seemed to drift in and out of the fabric
walls. One thought kept repeating itself: no alternative but death and failure.
At last, in his 26th hour. Ireland appeared through the clouds. "It is like
rain after a drought," he wrote, "spring after a Northern winter. I know how
the dead would feel to live again." He flew on toward Paris, pleased that
everything had gone just as he had planned, but he could never have foreseen
what was waiting below.
At 10:22 p.m. on May 21, 1927, after 33-1/2 hours in the air, his wheels
finally touched the earth. "Never in my life have I seen anything like that
human sea," Lindbergh remembered. "Dozens of hands took hold of me, my legs, my
arms, my body. I found myself on top of the crowd, in the center of an ocean of
heads that extended as far out into the darkness as I could see."
Two French pilots finally rescued him and he spent the rest of the night in the
American embassy, wearing pajamas borrowed from the ambassador. Overnight,
Lindbergh had become the world's hero, but Americans had other ideas.
CHARLES A. LINDBERGH: When I landed at Le Bourget, I landed with the
expectancy of being able to see Europe, but I found that it didn't make much
difference whether I wanted to stay over there or not, as I was informed that
while it wasn't an order to come back home, that there would be a battleship
waiting for me next week.
NARRATOR: President Calvin Coolidge dispatched a warship to bring
America's hero home. "The Flying Fool," had become "The Lone Eagle." Four and a
half million New Yorkers turned out for a glimpse of him as he arrived in New
York Harbor and rode up Broadway.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen of the radio audience, this
is Graham MacNamie speaking from Washington, D.C., awaiting Lindbergh.
Lindbergh is coming down the gangplank, walking slowly, a darn nice boy.
NARRATOR: Lindbergh was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the
French Legion of Honor and the British Air Force Cross. Four thousand poets
composed verse in his honor. He received 100,000 telegrams and cables, 14,000
packages and 3-1/2 million letters: requests for funds, proposals of marriage,
the award of the Silver Buffalo from the Boy Scouts, a German shepherd, an
airplane, a lifetime pass from the National Association of Professional
Baseball Leagues. And there were job offers that would make him a wealthy
Mr. GILL: Nobody is prepared for what happens on a scale of what
happened to Lindbergh. Nobody could be ready for that. He made his way, he
found his way, he became something that he had it in him to become. But it
couldn't have been clear from one moment to the next.
NARRATOR: In the air, he still enjoyed the independence and total
control he loved, but on the ground, they were increasingly denied to him. The
crowds believed he belonged to them. He wished to belong to no one. At Kansas
City, admirers rushed onto the airstrip as he came in, forcing him to
crash-land in a cornfield. In St. Louis, women fought over a corncob he had
gnawed. When he sent his shirts to the laundry, they were kept as mementos. In
Little Falls, Minnesota, where the water tower was proudly painted "Hometown of
Charles A. Lindbergh," souvenir hunters tore the doorknobs off his boyhood
And he came to resent the newspapers' insatiable, intrusive curiosity about him
and to do all he could to thwart it. "What is your destination, Colonel
Lindbergh?" a reporter asked as he walked to his plane. "Indefinite, as
always." "What general direction are you headed?" "up." Some editors wearied of
the chase. "No more Lindbergh stories," one told his staff, "unless he
On December 13, 1927, Lindbergh set off on a goodwill tour of Latin America. In
Mexico City, 150,000 people cheered him as he landed, but the person he noticed
most was the American ambassador's daughter, Anne Morrow.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: I just remember him as this rather tall and
good-looking and shy young man, that's all, standing in the door, standing at
the top of the stairs.
NARRATOR: She was a quiet, gifted poet, on Christmas vacation from Smith
College and determined not to make a fool of herself over the most celebrated
young man on earth.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: I had different beaux who used to take me out and
none of them were anything compared to him. But I don't think he was interested
in me and my mother warned us, "He won't talk at the table and don't try to
make conversation with him." So I didn't. I just sat absolutely quiet,
quietly. And that's what he said he had remembered. I was the first woman he
sat next to who didn't try to talk to him.
REEVE LINDBERGH: I don't think my parents had any idea why they fell in
love. They got to know each other not so much during the courtship, which was,
I think, a real sort of thunderbolt for both of them. In large part, it was a
physical relationship, a passionate, inexplicable - and always described by
each of them as inexplicable
NARRATOR: Looking back many years later, Lindbergh saw his courtship in
genetic terms. "From the standpoint of both individual and species," he wrote,
"mating involves the most important choice of life. One mates not only with an
individual, but also with that individual's environment and ancestry."
Back in the United States, he began to teach Anne to fly a plane. On May 27,
1929, they managed to be married quietly at the Morrows' home. [song:
"Lucky Lindy's lucky day".]But reporters followed them
on their secret honeymoon cruise, circling 'round and 'round their motor launch
for eight hours, hurling bottles in the hope
that they could force the couple out on deck for photographs. The newlyweds had
no private life, Anne recalled, only public life. "We had no home."
In the quiet countryside near Hopewell, New Jersey, the Lindberghs built
themselves a secluded house. Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Junior was born on
June 22, 1930. Anne called him, "My fat lamb." [song: "Hello Young
Lindy".] On March 1, 1932, Anne and Charles were spending a quiet evening
at their new house in Hopewell. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., the nurse went up to
check on their son. The baby was gone. Rushing to the nursery, Charles found
nothing but the warm blankets in which the baby had been sleeping.
1st NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: Now you are looking at the scene of the
kidnapping. Up the rungs of this ladder, one of the kidnappers crept at night,
to descend a few moments later with his tiny burden. This ladder, some
footprints and a warning note put into the empty crib were the only clues left
behind for the police to work upon. And here are motion pictures of the baby
given out by Colonel Lindbergh to aid the public in recognizing him. Only the
gravity of the emergency led the colonel to depart from his wellknown aversion
to publicity in everything concerning his family and personal matters.
NARRATOR: Lindbergh insisted on directing the investigation himself and
ransom money was duly delivered at night to a man in a Bronx cemetery, but the
child was not returned. Thirty-eight thousand letters arrived in five weeks.
Five thousand were from lunatics. Another 12,000 described dreams about the
kidnapping. Several letter writers offered the Lindberghs their own children as
substitutes. Then, 72 days after the kidnapping, a baby's corpse was found in a
shallow grave not far from the house. He had been dead since the night he was
taken. Reporters tried to break into the mortuary to snap a photograph.
Lindbergh was able to identify his son's decomposed body by examining its
REEVE LINDBERGH: I thought, "My God, how could you do this at such a
time?" And then, I thought, immediately, no, that's exactly what he would do at
such a time. He wouldn't be able to dissolve in grief or weep and wail or even
talk about it, but he could examine carefully and clinically. And that really
was his strength - some people felt his weakness - but it was certainly the way
he got through his life.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: I have a theory that men and women treat tragedy
differently and I think he had to escape. He went flying and went on with his
work. But I couldn't take it in one draft at all and I still can't. I mean,
when I draw the curtains at night, I- I think it's good to draw the curtains.
Somebody must have known that we were in the house, that I drew the curtains,
you know. These things come back to you.
NARRATOR: Three months after the baby's body was found, Anne Lindbergh
gave birth to a second son named Jon. Her husband implored the press to allow
his new child to grow up normally. Then, on January 2, 1935, a German-born
carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann went on trial for the murder of the
Lindbergh baby. Ransom money had been found hidden in his garage. He denied
2nd NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: A placid town. An old-fashioned courthouse turns
into a bedlam carnival. Battalions of photographers with a concentration of
lenses tell that Bruno Hauptmann is coming to trial in the little courtroom at
Flemington, New Jersey.
NARRATOR: Novelists, movie stars, society matrons all competed for seats
in the courtroom. Peddlers did a brisk business in toy "kidnap ladders."
Lindbergh made his way through the gawking crowd to court every day. Both he
and Anne took the stand. Hauptmann was found guilty and was sentenced to the
electric chair. "We Americans are a primitive people," Lindbergh told a friend.
"It shows in the newspapers, the morbid curiosity over crimes and murder
trials. Americans seem to have little respect for law or the rights of
After three years of ceaseless harassment, Lindbergh could no longer bear to
live in his own country. In December 1935, after receiving kidnap threats
against his surviving son, he took his family and sailed for England.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: Well, it was very difficult, but I was very much
concerned with my boy who was, what, I think about three. And my husband felt
very strongly that we should live in a country where these things don't
JON LINDBERGH, Son: The kidnapping was always sort of in the background,
but it had a very strong impact on both of my parents' lives. They tried to
protect us as much as they could. As years went by, it eased off. People were
NARRATOR: They found sanctuary in the English countryside. "I do think
we did the right thing," Anne wrote home. "We have been bothered very little
and seem to be left quietly alone here." His family was safe, but nothing in
Charles Lindbergh's life as an aviator had prepared him for the role he would
soon choose to play.
3rd NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: Brittany. Colonel Charles Lindbergh, America's
most prominent expatriate, is in the news again. He's turned up now off the
coast of Northwestern France, where he's bought Illiec Isle and its old-world
castle. Lindbergh's nearest neighbor is Dr. Alexis Carrel. They're going to do
research together, a scientific hideaway.
NARRATOR: Lindbergh was fascinated by science, but largely self-educated
and drawn to Dr. Alexis Carrel, a strange, brilliant French surgeon and winner
of the Nobel prize. The two men had first worked together at the Rockefeller
Institute, developing a pump that was a precursor of the artificial heart.
In a book published in 1935, Carrel argued that men were definitely not created
equal. Scandinavians were the most highly civilized race, he wrote, "and
instead of encouraging the survival of the unfit and the defective, we must
help the strong. Only the elite makes the progress of the masses possible." In
Carrel's Utopia, the violent, the criminally insane were to be gassed.
Lindbergh thought Carrel an extraordinarily great man and shared his belief
that democracy was dying. Mankind's future, both men agreed, seemed to lie
Berlin, 1936. While Nazi Germany played host to the summer Olympics,
Adolf Hitler was building a mighty air force. He already claimed to command
more warplanes than Britain, but no one knew precisely how large or how
powerful his "Luftwaffe" really was. To find out, Lindbergh was invited to
visit Germany by the American military attaché at Berlin. The United
States government hoped that the presence of the best-known aviator in the
world would persuade Air Marshal Hermann Goering to show off German air
Lindbergh visited Germany three more times during the next two years. He was
given unprecedented access to factories, took the controls of brand-new bombers
and took note of fast-multiplying military airfields.
RICHARD KETCHUM, Historian: It was German policy at that time, I think,
to magnify their military might in any way they possibly could. And one of the
best ways they could do it was to take a figure like Lindbergh, who was
universally respected, and tell him that this was the size of their air
Mr. SCHLESINGER: And he frightened Joe Kennedy, who was our
ambassador in London, he frightened Bill Bullit, who was our ambassador in
Paris, with these recitals of German invincibility in the air. And he believed
NARRATOR: Lindbergh's conclusions pleased his hosts. "The Germans are a
great people," he wrote. He admired their technological skill, their virility,
efficiency and emphasis on order. And he made tentative plans to move his
family to Berlin where the press could be kept away and he could be near the
latest developments in aviation.
In October of 1938, at a stag dinner at the American embassy in Berlin, Goering
surprised Lindbergh by awarding him, on behalf of the Fuehrer, the Service
Cross of the German Eagle for his contributions to aviation. When he showed the
medal to Anne, she called it "the albatross," worried at what Americans might
make of his accepting a Nazi decoration. Lindbergh was unconcerned. Even the
savage assault on Jews, called "Kristallnacht," that left scores dead,
thousands of Jewish businesses destroyed and hundreds of homes and synagogues
in ruins, failed to arouse much indignation in him. "I do not understand these
riots on the part of the Germans," he wrote. "It seems so contrary to their
sense of order and intelligence. They have undoubtedly had a difficult 'Jewish
problem,' but why is it necessary to handle it so unreasonably?" But he did
cancel plans to move to Germany.
Convinced that a European war was inevitable and German victory certain,
Lindbergh was determined to keep his country out of the struggle. In April of
1939, he took his family and set sail for America. Five months later, Nazi
troops stormed into Poland, supported by wave after wave of stuka dive bombers.
Britain and France declared war on Germany. Both President Franklin Roosevelt
and Lindbergh hoped that America could remain above the struggle, but Roosevelt
also believed the survival of Western civilization demanded the defeat of the
Nazis and he resolved to do all he could short of war to aid the Allies.
Lindbergh was still America's greatest hero in spite of his frequent visits to
Germany. Now, he set out to stop the president. Asked by a congressman who he
hoped would win the war, Lindbergh answered, "I want neither side to win."
CHARLES A. LINDBERGH: These wars in Europe are not wars in which our
civilization is defending itself against some Asiatic intruder. This is not a
question of banding together to defend the white race against foreign invasion.
We must not permit our sentiment, our pity or our personal feelings of sympathy
to obscure the issue, to affect our children's lives. We must be as impersonal
as a surgeon with his knife.
NARRATOR: The real threat, Lindbergh believed, came from Asia and Africa
and from Russia. "Racial strength is vital," he said, "politics a luxury." In a
"Readers' Digest" article, he wrote, "Only a Western wall of race and arms
can hold back the infiltration of inferior blood and permit the white race to
live at all in a pressing sea of yellow, black and brown."
Mr. FORSTER: And I have to say, to my own regret that here was much
racism across the entire white world in those years. He was not unusual. He was
part of the crowd in feeling that there was racial superiority in the white
NARRATOR: For more than two years, Lindbergh spoke for millions who
opposed American intervention in another European war. In 1941, he joined the
board of the America First Committee, a broad coalition that ranged from ardent
pacifists to some who wished a Nazi victory.
CHARLES A. LINDBERGH: France has now been defeated and despite the
propaganda and confusion of recent months, it is now obvious that England is
losing the war. I believe and I have been forced to the conclusion that we
cannot win this war for England, regardless of how much assistance we send.
NARRATOR: The debate had split the country. Lindbergh's old friends fell
away. Anne's mother publicly opposed him. So did her sister. President
Roosevelt privately believed Lindbergh was a Nazi and publicly called him a
defeatist, a "sunshine patriot." Lindbergh angrily resigned his commission as a
colonel in the U.S. Air Corps Reserve.
Mr. LERNER: Yes. Of course, Franklin Roosevelt saw him as a symbol, a
heroic symbol that was strengthening the isolationists. And so he saw him as
the enemy and had to denounce him as the enemy.
NARRATOR: In a speech at Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941,
Lindbergh struck a troubling new note. There were three groups pressing the
country toward war, he said, the British, the Roosevelt Administration and the
Jews. "Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it
in every way," he warned, "for they will be the first to feel its consequences.
Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that
it cannot survive war and devastation." And he went still further. "Large
Jewish ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and
our government," he charged, "constituted a great danger to our country."
The press exploded. "The voice is Lindbergh's," said the "San Francisco
Chronicle," "but the words are the words of Hitler." "The speech was so
intemperate, so unfair, so dangerous in its implications," said the "Des
Moines Register," "that it disqualifies Lindbergh from any pretensions of
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: I was against his making that speech and he said,
"But why? It's perfectly true, isn't it?" I said, "Yes, but it's like lighting
a match next to a heap of excelsior. That's what you're doing," and which it
turned out to be. But I didn't want him to mention the Jews because I felt he
would be called anti-Semitic and he never got over that label.
Mr. FORSTER: It was my judgment that from the beginning, this man
believed that Jews were on the other side of him and his position and he took
out after them, the America First Committee suffered when he made that stupid
and, I think, bigoted speech.
NARRATOR: Even prominent isolationists now disassociated themselves from
Lindbergh. For millions of Americans, the "Lone Eagle" had fallen from grace.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, Lindbergh Drive became Avon Avenue. Trans World
Airlines stopped billing itself as the "Lindbergh Line." And 'back in
his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, the water tower that proclaimed his
birthplace was quietly painted over. Lindbergh stubbornly held his ground,
never repudiated his Des Moines speech, never returned his Nazi medal.
Two days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh volunteered
to serve in the war he had so vehemently opposed, but FDR refused to have him.
"You can't have an officer leading men who thinks we're licked before we
start," an aide explained, "and that's that." It was a humiliating insult.
Lindbergh found work as a civilian aviation consultant instead and in 1944,
convinced United Aircraft to send him to the Pacific as an observer. There, he
convinced his superiors to let him fly combat missions against the Japanese.
The 42-year-old Lindbergh showed the younger pilots how to save enough gas to
extend their effective range by 500 miles, made strafing runs, flew 50 combat
missions and shot down at least one enemy fighter in a dogfight.
REEVE LINDBERGH: To be flying a plane that was a bomber after "The
Spirit of St. Louis," I think, was a very ambivalent thing for him, although
I think he was very happy in the military. Everything was very well ordered and
there was a kind of camaraderie and there wasn't the confusion and the tension
of the rest of the world.
NARRATOR: In June 1945, Lindbergh flew into defeated Germany, saw the
damage Allied bombing had done and visited part of the Belsen concentration
camp. He was led to the crematorium by a skeleton of a boy still dressed in his
camp stripes. He looked down on a row of large pits filled with ashes.
"Twenty-five thousand in a year and a half," the boy told him, "and from each,
there is only so much." He cupped his hands together to show the measure.
But Lindbergh could see no difference between victims of Nazi extermination and
soldiers who died in combat. "What the German has done to the Jew in Europe,"
he wrote, "we are doing to the Jap in the Pacific." He still believed he had
been right about the war.
Mr. LERNER: He never really faced radical evil in the shape of
the Nazis. And it may be that he wasn't able to face it because he was way up
there in the skies looking down and all of us were little tiny ant-like
Mr. SCHLESINGER: Lindbergh, who was a man of invincible confidence in
his own rectitude and infallibility, never wavered in the conviction that he
had been right. But he went on to other things. The world went on to other
NARRATOR: The role that Lindbergh had played before the war was soon
forgotten. It was Lindbergh, the hero, not the admirer of Hitler's Germany;
Lindbergh the aviator, not the believer in racial superiority whom most
Americans wanted to remember. President Dwight Eisenhower restored him to the
U.S. Air Force Reserve as a brigadier general and he won the Pulitzer Prize for
"The Spirit of St. Louis," a book about the flight that had made him
But aviation alone no longer held his interest. He was soon in flight again
from the everyday world of ordinary people, seeking in Nature this time, the
order and solitude that had eluded him ever since his troubled boyhood.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: Well, I think he was very disturbed by what the
country that he knew and had flown over, what it was becoming. You notice this
when you fly, how there's so little left of the real country. He was disturbed
by it and wanted to get further and further into the wilderness.
NARRATOR: Now the parents of five grown children, Charles and Anne built
themselves a hideaway on the Eastern tip of the Hawaiian island of Maui. "Real
freedom," Lindbergh came to believe, "lies in wildness, not civilization." "The
construction of an airplane," he wrote, "is simple compared with the
evolutionary achievement of a bird. If I had to choose, I would rather have
birds than airplanes."
Lindbergh campaigned for conservation around the globe and he opposed the
development of the supersonic transport. It was a technological advance, he
said, purchased at too great an environmental cost. He began to revisit his own
past, too, publishing his wartime diaries, beginning an autobiography, writing
to old friends estranged before the war and stopping by to see "The Spirit of
St. Louis" at the Smithsonian.
REEVE LINDBERGH: My mother speaks of it often, that he would sigh and he
would say, "No matter where I've been, no matter what I do, no matter what I
want to talk about, the ladies - actually, he said, "the little old ladies
always want to fly me to Paris. They just keep on flying me to Paris."
NARRATOR: Toward the end of 1973, Lindbergh fell uncharacteristically
ill, lost weight, could not stop coughing. Doctors diagnosed cancer. He asked
to be flown home to Maui. Lindbergh prepared for his own death as carefully as
he had planned his flight to Paris, even saw that his physician filled out and
signed his death certificate in advance, leaving only the date blank.
JON LINDBERGH: And his last week was what he wanted. Dying of cancer is
not easy and it gave him enough time to die the way he wanted to die and not
too long. If it had been another week, it would have been too much.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: And I think that- the last ten days were - he
lived ten days after he left the hospital - were very peaceful and quite
timeless, really rather timeless.
NARRATOR: He died early in the morning of August 26, 1974. His funeral
was held within three hours so that no reporter could intrude upon his family's
private grief. At his request, he was buried in khaki work clothes and wrapped
in an old Hudson's Bay blanket within a plain wooden coffin, as if he wanted to
return as quickly as possible to the earth he had so often sought to flee.
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: [reading] "Night already shadows the
Eastern sky. To my left, low on the horizon, a thin line of cloud is drawing on
its evening sheath of black. A moment ago, it was burning red and gold. Trees
and buildings and stacks of grain stand shadowless in the diffuse light of
evening. In a few moments, it will be dark and I am still south of Peoria."