By Tom Morrow
Many exploits of famed aviator Charles Augustus Lindbergh that he lived during his long life were not always good.
Lindbergh was born Feb. 4, 1902. His friends called him “Slim” for his tall, lanky frame and long stride. During and after his famous 1927 flight, the media dubbed him “Lucky Lindy,” and “The Lone Eagle.”
He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. During World War I. Afterwards he became a U.S. Mail pilot. He wanted to compete for a $25,000 prize to be the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. At age 25, he went from obscurity to instantaneous world-fame by making a nonstop flight from Long Island to Paris.
Lindbergh covered the 33 1⁄2-hours, 3,600 statute-mile flight alone in a single-engine aircraft built by San Diego’s Ryan Aircraft factory. Ryan was located where San Diego International – Lindbergh Field is today. The plane was named the Spirit of St. Louis to honor the group of St. Louis, Mo., businessmen, who put up the money to build the plane.
Lindbergh was still an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, and received the nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.
Lindbergh’s historic flight probably was the only event of happiness. In 1929, Lindbergh married Anne Morrow, daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow. However, Lindbergh’s historic flight and instantaneous world fame led to tragedy. In March 1932, their infant son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what American media called the “Crime of the Century” and described by H. L. Mencken as “the biggest story since the Resurrection.” By 1935 the case’s hysteria had driven the Lindbergh family into voluntary exile in England until they returned in 1939.
Before the United States formally entered World War II, some people accused Lindbergh of being a Nazi sympathizer. An advocate of non-interventionism, he supported the anti-war America First Committee, which opposed American aid to Britain in its war against Germany.
President Roosevelt disliked Lindbergh’s outspoken opposition to his administration’s policies of giving aid to England, telling Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau he thought Lindbergh was a Nazi. “What a pity this youngster has completely abandoned his belief in our form of government and has accepted Nazi methods because apparently they are efficient.”
Roosevelt stripped him of his Air Corps rank, but nonetheless he worked as a consultant in the Pacific, flying 50 combat missions as a civilian. After World War II, Lindbergh continued as a consultant to the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and to Pan American World Airways. In 1954, on the recommendation of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lindbergh was commissioned a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
The Lindbergh had six children. In 2003, two years after the death of his wife, it was revealed that, beginning in 1957, Lindbergh had engaged in covert sexual affairs with three women, fathering seven more children.
Ten days before he died, Lindbergh wrote to each of his European mistresses, imploring them to maintain the utmost secrecy about his illicit activities with them even after his death. The three women (none of whom ever married) all managed to keep their affairs secret even from their children, who during his lifetime (and for almost a decade after his death) did not know the true identity of their father. They had only known him by the alias “Careu Kent” and they only saw him once or twice per year.
However, in the mid-1980s, after reading a magazine article about Lindbergh, one of the daughters in Germany deduced the truth. She compared photos in the articles with family snapshots and more than 150 love letters from Lindbergh to her mother. After her mother and Anne Lindbergh had both died, the girl revealed the truth. In 2003, DNA tests confirmed that Lindbergh had fathered the German children. Ironically, other than the three mistresses, the children didn’t know about Lindbergh’s life accomplishments, including “The Lone Eagle.” He used a fake name with all of them.
Lindbergh spent his last years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he died of lymphoma on Aug. 26, 1974, at age 72. He is buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho’omau Church in Kipahulu, Maui.
There is a post-script to Lindbergh’s most complex life. In the 1980s, a small article appeared in several newspapers with another revelation: Lindbergh had actually been a spy for the U.S. Army Air Corps to assess the German Luftwaffe (air force) on his visits to Germany in the late 1930s. His reputation for being an anti-war leader and one of the world’s greatest aviators allowed him unprecedented access to German aircraft and factories before the war started. Whether it’s true or not remains an intriguing question because Lindbergh was surely an enigma.
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