Charles A. Lindbergh
Aviation Pioneer and Contractor in the Pacific
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born February 4, 1902 to parents Charles Augustus Lindbergh Sr and Evangeline Land Lodge in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. He grew up on a farm near Little Falls, Minnesota. He attended the University of Wisconsin for two years then dropped out and became a pilot who earned a living by barnstorming.
Afterwards, he began flying mail for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from St. Louis to Chicago. In 1919, a New York hotel owner, Raymond B. Orteig, offered a $25,000 prize for the first person to fly non-stop from New York across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris. Lindberg decided he would win the prize.
On May 20, 1927, piloting Ryan NYP registration: N-X-211"The Spirit of St. Louis" took off from Roosevelt Field in New York City and flew across the Atlantic Ocean. After 33 hours and 30 minutes of flight, he landed on May 21, 1927 at Le Bourget Field in Paris in France and greeted by an estimated 100,000 people. The next day, the President of France awarded him the Legion of Honor.
Afterwards, his flight had captured the imagination of the world, and his success made him an instant hero. When he returned home, he was given a ticker-tape parade in New York, and New York Mayor Jimmy Walker pinned the city's Medal of Valor on him. U.S. President Coolidge bestowed the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) upon him. In 1924, he earned a commission in the Air Reserve Corps, learning to fly pursuit aircraft. On March 21, 1929, he earned the Medal of Honor.
|Medal of Honor Citation
Citation: "For displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, from New York City to Paris, France, 20-21 May 1927, by which Capt. Lindbergh not only achieved the greatest individual triumph of any American citizen but demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible."
Lindbergh toured the U.S. and gave speeches to promote aviation. At the request of U.S. Ambassador Dwight Morrow, he visited Mexico, and met the ambassador's daughter Anne Morrow who he married. In 1930 their first child was born, Charles A. Lindbergh, III. At age two he was kidnapped and was later found dead. In 1934, a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann, was convicted of the kidnapping and murder and executed in the electric chair.
To escape public and press, the couple relocated to England. While in Europe, Lindbergh visited Germany and accepted an award from Hermann Göring for his New York to Paris flight and toured aircraft factories and military facilities Afterwards, he made kind remarks about Nazi Germany. In 1939, the Lindbergs returned to the United States and joined the non-interventionist America First Committee (AFC) as their spokesperson and became actively involved in their campaign to keep the U.S. neutral and was one of the most famous personality with these views that he expressed publicly and in radio interviews. On April 29, 1941 U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt questioned his loyalty and public sentiments turned against him for his political views. Lindbergh resigned his commission as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Corps Reserve.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu on December 7, 1941, Lindbergh attempted to volunteer for military service, but was refused to be recommissioned in the U.S. Army Air Force due to his vocal pre-war isolationist views. His request was declined by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson on instructions the White House. The Roosevelt administration pressed U.S. companies to cancel his consultant positions including his position at Pan American Airways (Pan Am).
On April 3, 1942 Henry Ford hired Lindbergh as a technical consultant to help Ford convert from automobile to aircraft production. Within a year, sentiments against him had softened and he worked to test U.S. aircraft and helped pilots. In January 1944, he asked the military for permission to fly combat missions. In March 1944 he became a civilian contractor for United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in Stratford, Connecticut building the F4U Corsair.
First Combat Tour in South Pacific (SOPAC)
The first branch of service to respond favorably to his proposal was the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). To train for combat, Lindbergh practice aerial gunnery at El Toro and Hickam Field. By April 1944 his trip was authorized to the South Pacific (SOPAC) as a liaison for United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) to help resolve technical issues with the F4U Corsair on Guadalcanal and by May 20 1944 flew northward to experience air combat with Marine aviators.
Between May 20, 1944 until June 9, 1944 Lindbergh flew with Marine pilots from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) and Emirau Airfield as an "observer" with Marine fighter pilots from seven squadrons and flew at least least fourteen combat missions. Lindbergh flew with Marine Fighting Squadron 115 (VMF-115), Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212), Marine Fighting Squadron 218 (VMF-218), Marine Fighting Squadron 222 (VMF-222), Marine Fighting Squadron 223 (VMF-223), Marine Fighting Squadron 224 (VMF-224) and Marine Fighting Squadron 311 (VMF-311).
On May 22, 1944 his first mission with VMF-222 was a strafing mission over islands near Rabaul. By the time he departed, he had flown as an "observer" on combat missions including patrol, escort, strafing and bombing against Japanese targets on New Ireland and New Britain including Rabaul. On June 10, 1944 Lindbergh departed the combat zone and flew to Espiritu Santo. Within days, he opted to return to combat.
Second Combat Tour in South West Pacific Area (SWPA)
On June 15, 1944 he was flown to Finschafen Airfield in New Guinea. Afterwards, he reported to Headquarters, 5th Fighter Command at Nadzab Airfield and met with Merian C. Cooper then on June 18, 1944 met General Ennis Whitehead. One reason United Aircraft Corporation was interested to have him fly the P-38 was their interest in the feasibility of designing their own twin-engined fighter. Ironically, Lindbergh had never flown the P-38 and was briefed on the type by Colonel Robert L. Morrissey.
On June 20, 1944 he made his first flight in the P-38 Lightning with the 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 35th Fighter Squadron (35th FS). A week later, Lindbergh flew to Hollandia and joined the 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angels" flying the P-38J Lightning. Without military rank, he was referred to as "Mister Lindbergh" and got permission to fly combat missions with them.
During June 1944 flew his first mission with the 475th FG with Col. MacDonald, Smith and Thomas B. McGuire on a fighter sweep over Jefman and returning strafed barges.
On June 30, 1944 his second mission with the 475th FG armed with bombs on a bombing mission against Noemfoor.
On July 1, 1944 his third mission with the 475th FG was an armed reconnaissance mission against Nabire, Sagan, Otawiri and Ransiki in western New Guinea.
On July 3, 1944 his fourth mission with the 475th FG he was the flight leader for 431st FS "White Flight" escorting B-25 Mitchells over Jefman and strafed barges while returning.
While flying the P-38, Lindbergh taught the pilots
to extend their flight endurance by reducing engine rpm, lean back the fuel mixture and throttle back allowing them to save fuel. Specifically, reduce the standard 2,200 rpm to 1,600 rpm instead and set fuel mixtures to auto-lean, and slightly increase manifold pressure. These settings would increase the P-38's range 400 miles during a nine hour flight.
On July 4, 1944 took off on a flight with the 433rd FS that lasted six hours and 45 minutes and the pilots returned with ample fuel using Lindbergh's techniques and engine settings.
On July 7, 1944 Lindbergh flew back to Nadzab Airfield and was summoned back to Brisbane by General Kenney for a reprimand and meeting where he received official "observer-status" and permission to use his guns in self-defense. Reportedly, General Kenney told him: "...no one back in the States will know whether you use your guns or not."
On July 16, 1944 Lindbergh returned to the 475th FG that was now operating from Mokmer Drome on Biak Island.
On July 27, 1944 Lindbergh participated in an escort mission for B-25 Mitchells over the Halmahera. Over the target, some Ki-43 Oscars were intercepted by other P-38s in the formation.
On July 28, 1944 Lindbergh took off from Mokmer Drome on Biak Island flying a P-38J Lightning on a mission led by Col. MacDonald over Amahai Island. Over the target, the P-38s intercepted a Ki-51 Sonia pilot Shimada that had evaded other attacking P-38s from the 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron. Near Amahai Airfield, the P-38s intercepted and Lindbergh shot down the Sonia during a head on pass. Afterwards, this Sonia was credited to Lindbergh, his first and only aerial victory credit.
On August 1, 1944 the scheduled a mission over Ceram was canceled due to bad weather. Regardless, Col. Charles H. MacDonald, Meryl Smith and Danny Miller invited Lindbergh to participate in a fighter sweep over Palau in search of aerial victories. The four P-38s took off at 9:27am from Mokmer Drome on Biak Island flying northward for the 1,200 mile mission mostly over open ocean. Despite some bad weather the flight reached Peleliu roughly 2 hours 30 minutes later at an altitude of 15,000' and flew northward then dove down over Koror and were met by anti-aircraft fire then flew to Babelthuap then turned southward at low level and strafed several small vessels then spotted two A6M2-N Rufes and released their drop tanks to engage. One Rufe was shot down by MacDonald and crashed into the sea. Lindbergh attacked the second Rufe but accidentally fired on Smith's P-38 but missed. Suddenly another Zero was spotted above as Smith shot down the second Rufe. The Zero attempted to line up on Lindbergh but was chased away by MacDonald. Calling to withdraw after thirty minutes over the target area, the four spotted a Val dive bomber and MacDonald shot it down. While withdrawing southward, a Zero in pursuit was spotted by Lindbergh and he attempted to intercept it but the Zero got on his tail and opened fire but missed. In defense he made a hard right turn and the Zero was fired on by MacDonald and Miller and left smoking as the four departed. This was likely the most harrowing combat Lindbergh experienced and might have resulted in him being shot down.
Afterwards, MacDonald was grounded by General Paul Wurtsmith sixty day "punitive leave" and sent to the U.S. for leave as punishment for placing Lindbergh in a dangerous situation. Previously, 5th Fighter Command had stated it was impossible for fighters to escort bombers to Palau due to the distance and weather. The four P-38s fighter sweep revealed it was possible. Despite MacDonald's reprimand, Lindbergh continued to fly on combat missions.
On August 4, 1944 Lindbergh flew his last mission with the 475th FG, 431st FS escorting bombers against Amboina. During the flight, Lindbergh lost contact with his flight and instead joined up with other P-38s. The target area was obscured by clouds and over Piroe Bay he spotted two enemy planes and his flight released their drop tanks to intercept. Diving to intercept, he witnessed P-38J "Cillie" 42-104161 piloted by Captain William S. O'Brien suffer an aerial collision with an enemy fighter and went Missing In Action (MIA).
On August 12, 1944 Lindbergh departed for the Central Pacific. Lindbergh believed the F4U Corsair could carry a greater bomb load and worked to oversee specially modified bomb racks to carry the largest size bombs. On September 8, 1944 he took off from Roi Airfield (Dyess) armed with a 2,000 pound bomb on a on a mission against Wotje Island and released the bomb to test the modifications and prove the Corsair could drop larger loads. On September 13, 1944 he again took off Roi Airfield (Dyess) armed with a 2,000 pound bomb and two 1,000 pound bombs and dropped all bombs during a dive from 8,000' against a gun position on Wotje Island, this was the largest bomb load ever dropped by a fighter aircraft.
In total, Lindbergh flew fifty combat missions in the Pacific and was unofficially credited with one aerial victory. After his war record was made public, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.
Back in the United States, at NAS Patuxent River, Lindbergh flew A6M5 Zero 5357 captured on Saipan.
After the war, Lindburgh became a conservationist, working to save whales before it became a popular cause. In 1954 he published his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis that won a Pulitzer Prize.
On August 26, 1974 he died of cancer in his home in Maui in Hawaii at age 72. He is buried at Palapala Ho'omau Church Cemetery in Kipahulu, Maui in Hawaii.
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
"For displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane, the 'Spirit of St. Louis,' from New York City to Paris, France, 20-21 May 1927, by which Capt. Lindbergh not only achieved the greatest individual triumph of any American citizen but demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible".
The desk used by Lindbergh when he was a civilian contractor for United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is displayed at the Pratt & Whitney Museum.
FindAGrave - Charles Lindbergh (photos, grave photo)
CharlesLindbergh.com dedicated to Charles A. Lindbergh
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II does not include Lindbergh victory claim on July 28, 1944.
Charles Lindbergh and the 475th Fighter Group
The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970)
U.S. Marine Corps Aviation 1912 to the Present (1983) pages 93-94, 156 (photo), 299 (footnote 17), 308 (index Lindbergh)
Congressional Medal of Honor Society - Charles A.
MCAS Ewa’s Most Famous Medal Of Honor Combat Pilot Was Civilian Charles Lindbergh by MCAS Ewa historian John Bond