Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh and the United States Navy

Discussion in 'Between the wars 1918-1939' started by Rivet, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. Rivet

    Rivet Member

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    #1 Rivet, Mar 6, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2011
    Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh returned to the United States after his pioneering thirty-three and a third hour flight from Long Island to Paris, Orly aboard the recently commissioned light cruiser U.S.S. Memphis. Following a week-long voyage from France, the U.S.S. Memphis sailed up the Potomac River to return Charles A. Lindbergh and his plane to the United States, three weeks after his May 20 departure by airplane. "Lucky Lindy" received an enthusiastic welcome in Washington, D.C. and was honored by the President and Mrs. Coolidge on June 11, 1927 aboard the Presidential Yacht, the U.S.S. Mayflower (PY-1), at the Washington Navy Yard before setting off the next day by train to New York City. Lindbergh was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Coolidge aboard the Mayflower. Lindbergh arrived in New York City on June 13, A ticker-tape parade was held for the aviator down 5th Avenue in New York City. An estimated 4,500,000 people turned out to watch, and millions more heard the events described in a live radio broadcast.

    Present at the arrival of the U.S.S. Memphis on the Potomac River was Commander Eugene Edward Wilson. Appointed in 1927 as Chief of Staff to Rear Admiral Joseph Mason "Bull" Reeves, Commander, Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet (consisting of the aircraft carriers Langley, Saratoga, and Lexington), helping to develop the concept of the Carrier Task Force. Reeves had seen the huge fleet collier he commanded (U.S.S. Jupiter, AC-3) transformed into an aircraft-carrier (U.S.S. Langley, CV-1, the United States Navy's first dedicated aircraft carrier) and was the guiding hand of the development of U.S. Naval Aviation through the 1920's and 1930's. If Lindbergh had information of interest, and of course Lindbergh had in the form of flight and performance data, the Navy wanted to know of it. Wilson, whose naval career had seen him receive command of the Aviation Mechanics School at the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois apon his return from European theatre service in 1919, was appointed Chief of the Design Section of the Bureau of Aeronautics the year prior to Lindbergh's flight, as well as certification as a Naval Aviator at Pensacola Naval Air Station the same year. He was the right man to pose the questions of national interest to Lindbergh regarding the long-duration flight.

    Donald Albert Hall, a graduate of the Pratt Institute with aviation design experience gained working for Curtiss and Northrop, had accepted the Chief Engineer position of the Ryan Airlines in 1926. Ryan at that time was located in San Diego, California. Lindbergh's aircraft, named "The Spirit of St. Louis", N-X-211, was his brainchild, being a modification of the Ryan M-2 monoplane. Hall wrote the official report of the design, construction and flight of the Ryan monoplane as used by Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh's flight and presented it, through the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, at Washington, D.C. in July of 1927. It is worth reading and has excellent photographs of the aircraft in construction.

    Hall's document may be viewed at http://www.charleslindbergh.com/hall/spirit.pdf

    Regards
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Thanks for that post. I never thought about on how Lindberg returned to the US after his flight.
     
  3. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Not trying to detract from Lindbergh's amazing solo flight but his beliefs and actions before and during WWII destroyed most of his "hero" reputation in the US
    The Lindbergh’s had seen the effect of Nazism on a revitalized Germany in 1936. That year, Charles was asked by the American military attaché in Berlin to report on the state of Germany's military aviation program. While in Germany, Charles and Anne attended the Summer Olympic games as the special guests of Field Marshal Hermann Goering, the head of the German military air force, the Luftwaffe. Lindbergh toured German factories, took the controls of state-of-the-art bombers, and noted the multiplying airfields. He visited Germany twice during the next two years. With each visit, he became more impressed with the German military and the German people. He was soon convinced that no other power in Europe could stand up to Germany in the event of war. "The organized vitality of Germany was what most impressed me: the unceasing activity of the people, and the convinced dictatorial direction to create the new factories, airfields, and research laboratories...," Lindbergh recalled in "Autobiography of Values." His wife drew similar conclusions. "...I have never in my life been so conscious of such a directed force. It is thrilling when seen manifested in the energy, pride, and morale of the people--especially the young people," she wrote in "The Flower and the Nettle." By 1938, the Lindberghs were making plans to move to Berlin.
    In October 1938, Lindbergh was presented by Goering, on behalf of the Fuehrer, the Service Cross of the German Eagle for his contributions to aviation. News of Nazi persecution of Jews had been filtering out of Germany for some time, and many people were repulsed by the sight of an American hero wearing a Nazi decoration. Lindbergh, by all appearances, considered the medal to be just another commendation. No different than all the others. Many considered this attitude to be naive, at best. Others saw it as an outright acceptance of Nazi policies. Less than a month after the presenting of the medal, the Nazis orchestrated a brutal assault on Jews that came to be known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Nazis and their sympathizers smashed the windows of Jewish businesses, burned homes and synagogues, and left scores dead. Between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The Lindberghs decided to cancel their plans to move to Germany.
    Having returned to America in April 1939, Lindbergh turned his attention toward keeping his country out of a war in Europe. At the time, most Americans shared his isolationist views. Germany invaded Poland five months later, drawing Britain and France into the war. Two weeks later, Lindbergh delivered his first nationwide radio address in which he urged America to remain neutral. In the speech he criticized President Roosevelt, who believed the Nazis must be stopped in their conquest of Europe. Lindbergh saw Nazi victory as certain and thought America's attention should be placed elsewhere. "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." Building on his belief that "racial strength is vital," Lindbergh published an article in Reader's Digest stating, "That our civilization depends on a Western wall of race and arms which can hold back... the infiltration of inferior blood."
    As Germany pushed on into France and began its Blitzkreig bombardment of England, Americans began to alter their isolationist views. One group, however, had no such change of heart. The America First Committee was the most powerful isolationist group in the country. Its 850,000 members came from all professions and backgrounds. The AFC was headed by Robert E. Wood, head of Sears Roebuck. Impressed by what they had heard from Charles Lindbergh, the AFC invited him to join their executive committee. Lindbergh accepted the invitation, but insisted on drawing no salary. He also insisted on writing his own speeches and would not submit them for approval. One such speech was given in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941.
    With his hero status already greatly tarnished by his philosophical and political beliefs, Lindbergh delivered a speech in Des Moines that fully knocked him off his pedestal. Announcing that it was time to "name names," Lindbergh decided to identify what he saw as the pressure groups pushing the U.S. into war against Germany. "The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration." Of the Jews, he went on to say, "Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government." The speech was met with outrage from numerous quarters. Lindbergh was denounced as an anti-Semite. His mother-in-law and sister-in-law publicly opposed his views. Civic and corporate organizations cut all ties and affiliations with him. His name was even removed from the water tower in his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota.
    All debate surrounding U.S. war policy came to an end on December 8, 1941, the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States was now at war on two fronts: in Europe and in the Pacific. Despite having resigned his military commission in 1939, Lindbergh was eager to fight for his country. FDR wouldn't hear of it. "You can't have an officer leading men who thinks we're licked before we start...,"said the President. Rejected by Roosevelt, Lindbergh worked as a private consultant to Henry Ford (a man who'd drawn fire for his own anti-Semitic views. Ford was manufacturing B-24 bombers in a Michigan plant. In 1943, Lindbergh convinced United Aircraft to send him to the Pacific as an observer. His work there involved a good deal more than observation though. Lindbergh flew more than 50 combat missions, including one in which he brought down an enemy fighter.
    By August 1945, both Japan and Germany had been soundly defeated. Evidence of Nazi atrocities against Jews shocked the world. Still, Lindbergh refused to admit he was wrong in his assessment of the Nazis. He did indicate, however, that his real hope during the war had been that Hitler and Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, would destroy each other and leave the world safe for the "preservers of Western civilization." He began to speak of the misuse of power as the greatest threat facing mankind. In a 1945 speech he said, "History is full of its misuse. There is no better example than Nazi Germany. Power without moral force to guide it invariably ends in the destruction of the people who wield it. Power...must be backed by morality..."
    To millions of one-time admirers, Charles Lindbergh's luster had been fatally tainted by his words and associations during the 1930's and early 1940's. Historian William O'Neill spoke for many Americans when he offered the opinion that "In promoting appeasement and military unpreparedness, Lindbergh damaged his country to a greater degree than any other private citizen in modern times. That he meant well makes no difference." It would be years before the words Lindbergh and hero were again uttered in the same breath.
     
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Lindbergh never shot down a fighter, he shot down a Ki-51 Sonia, a Japanese Army dive bomber/ co-operation aircraft. Top speed around 260 mph.
    Plus it sounds like it was fed to him, the other P-38s flew high cover for him while he manuvered and shot it down.
     
  5. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, I had always heard that it was a fighter. I suspected that it was a "turkey shoot" for his benefit. Still more than he had to do at that point in his life
     
  6. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting material folks. Thank you for sharing. Some of this I knew, a lot of it though was new to me. :thumbright: :cool:
     
  7. Bernhart

    Bernhart <b>2012 Forum Fantasy Football Champion</ b>

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    didn't he do a flight over the normandy beaches too?
     
  8. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #8 tyrodtom, Mar 8, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011
    Lindbergh was in the Pacific at the time of the D-day invasion. At least from May to late July 44.
     
  9. Rivet

    Rivet Member

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    #9 Rivet, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011
    Interesting to note that this thread led off into Lindbergh's operational input during WWII. Another aviation personage of note with WWII active theatre experience was Edward V. Rickenbacker. A site with information regarding Rickenbacker's survival of the crash of the Boeing B-17D he was touring the South Pacific with may be viewed at:

    Pacific Wrecks - B-17D Flying Fortress Serial Number 40-3089

    Regards
     
  10. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Rivet, thanks, that rang a bell for me, Rickenbacker was a truely amazing man and that was his second crash. On February 26, 1941, he was a passenger on a Douglas DC-3 airliner that crashed just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rickenbacker suffered especially grave injuries, and he was soaked in fuel, immobile, and trapped in the wreckage. In spite of his own critical wounds, Rickenbacker encouraged the other passengers, offered what consolation he could to those around him who were injured or dying, and guided the survivors, who were still ambulatory, to attempt to find help. The survivors were rescued after spending the night at the crash site. Rickenbacker barely survived. While he was still conscious but in terrible pain, Rickenbacker was left behind while some ambulances carried away bodies of the dead. When Rickenbacker arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that the emergency surgeons and physicians left him for dead for some time. They instructed their assistants to "take care of the live ones." Rickenbacker's injuries included a fractured skull, other head injuries, a shattered left elbow with a crushed nerve, a paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, a pelvis broken in two places, a severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Rickenbacker's left eyeball was also blown out of its socket.
    In the B-17 crash at sea, a damaged octant caused them to wander hundreds of miles off course. For 24 days, Rickenbacker, the Army captain Hans C. Adamson, his friend and business partner, and the rest of the crewmen drifted in life rafts at sea. Rickenbacker was still suffering somewhat from his earlier airplane crash, and Capt. Adamson sustained serious injuries during the ditching. The other crewmen in the B-17 were hurt to varying degrees. The crewmen's food supply ran out after three days. Then, on the eighth day, a seagull landed on Rickenbacker's head. He warily and cautiously captured it, and then the survivors meticulously divided it into equal parts and used part of it for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water that fell and similar food "miracles".
    Rickenbacker assumed leadership, encouraging and browbeating the others to keep their spirits up. One crewman, Alexander Kaczmarczyk of the USAAF, died and was buried at sea. The U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy's patrol planes planned to abandon the search for the lost B-17 crewmen after just over two weeks, but Rickenbacker's wife persuaded them to extend it another week. The services agreed to do so. Once again, the newspapers and radio broadcasts reported that Rickenbacker was dead.
    A U.S. Navy patrol OS2U-3 Kingfisher float-plane piloted by Lieutenant William F. Eadie, USN spotted and rescued the survivors on November 13, off the coast of Nukufetau near the Samoa Islands. All were suffering from exposure, sunburn, dehydration, and near-starvation. Eadie was awarded the Navy's Air Medal.
     
  11. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    :salute: Gotta love a man like that! They don't build 'em like him very often!
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Ain't that the truth!
     
  13. ivanotter

    ivanotter Member

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    On Lindberg's early fascination with Germany.

    Some years back I met an old lady who was a teenager in the 1930's. She explained to me that those years were the best of her life: meaning in life, common goals, youth culture, etc etc. Only later on did she get to see the not so nice side of the nazi regime. Despite everything, difficult to see those other things if only 15/16/17/18 from a rural background.

    Ivan
     
  14. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Ivan, life is always 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. The Germans who gave us Dachau gave us Martin Luther, Silent Night, and Goethe
     
  15. ivanotter

    ivanotter Member

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    So true. That's also why it is hard to judge LIndbergh too harshly, even though he should have known better.

    A lot of people got taken in by the Nazi regime in the 1930's after all, The Windsor's spring to mind and several other British nobility.

    Ivan
     
  16. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #16 renrich, Mar 18, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
    Lindberg had quite a lot to do with the US military during and before WW2. He worked as a consultant for United Aircraft which owned, among other things, Pratt Whitney, Hamilton Standard and Vought. He was involved with the development of the Corsair and P47 as well as other aircraft. An interesting story about Lindberg was told by Boone Guyton who did most of the test flying on the Corsair. Lindberg came to Vought to fly the Corsair and Guyton went over all the characteristics of the plane with him with Lindberg saying little. The Corsair was an early model with the birdcage canopy and the over stiff oleos which often caused the airplane to bounce in a full stall landing. Guyton explained this characteristic and advised a wheels landing, allowing the airplane to gradually run out on the main gear before the tail wheel touched. Again Lindberg said little and after a thorough walk around took off. Coming in for a landing Guyton was surprised to see Lindberg set up for a full stall to approach landing. He made a perfect three point landing with no bounce. Later, Guyton saw quite a lot of Lindberg and liked him very much. He was reserved and quiet at first but very warm and friendly as one got to know him. Lindberg said of the early Corsair that the visibilty from the cockpit was no worse than tne Spirit of St Louis. He liked the plane very much and flew it often in the Pacific and once delivered a 4000 pound bomb load in one.
     
  17. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The Spirit of St. Louis had no foward visibility, except for a periscope, or stick your head out the side window.

    Getting a perfect 3 pointer stall landing on a runway is one thing, getting one on a heaving carrier deck is a great deal more difficult.
     
  18. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I believe that Charles Lindberg was quite familiar with the visibility of the Spirit of St Louis. When he said that he was commenting about the poor visibility out of the early Corsair. Perhaps you are not familiar with the difficulties of making a smooth landing an undebounced early Corsair even on an air field. Guyton was extremely impressed with Lindberg's flying ability. I have no doubt that if Lindberg had been obliged to land on a carrier he would have manged it with aplomb.
     
  19. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Lindbergh was being a polite, soft spoken, smart ass, no doubt he was a excellant pilot . But the reply, and the demonstration he gave had nothing to do with the problem at hand.

    Lindbergh, a very able pilot, could do a 3 point stall landing on a runway, what that contributed to developing the Corsair so it could be operated from a carrier by the average Navy pilot I don't see.

    Lindbergh did do some important work later when he showed pilots how to take off with greater loads, and extend their range by running their engines leaner than they were acustomed to doing. They example you give just illustrates that he could be just a show off sometimes too, it may have impressed some people, but who did it help, other than to add to his own personel reputation.
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    When Lindberg first flew the Corsair, he was not being asked to solve the problem of the too stiff oleos. That was an engineering problem which took a while to solve because fluid dynamics was not as well understood then as it is now. He was flying the Corsair just to familiarise himself with it. The early Corsairs in combat were only flying from fields and many low time pilots had a lot of difficulties landing it.

    "Another Corsair booster was Lt Commander William N Leonard, an experienced combat pilot with two tours in F4Fs. He recalled, " At Guadalcanal in the spring and summer of 1943 we operated VF11 alongside U-Birds. The way the Marines bounced on occasion could be quite thrilling. They got into some very bad habits of landing fast and tail high to remedy the bounce and had to be untaught later."

    " My first flight- in November, 1943- was in a low canopy bouncer, but it never bounced for me. I used my F4F antigroundloop technique and it was great for field work. You land full stall then raise the tail and run out on the main gear. Later I was given a debounced F4U1A for a rocket assisted takeoff project and it's behavior was definitely different. It felt like falling into a feather bed when you stalled in." The above from "Corsair" by Barrett Tillman.

    Another pilot remarked that in an early bird cage Corsair the only good visibility was straight up. As mentioned before, Guyton spent a lot of time with Lindberg both in business and socially and remarked about his gentlemanly behavior. He did not seem to think he was a show off. I would not know as I never met him.
     
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