Lindbergh’s plane, the “Spirit of St Louis” barely cleared the telephone wires at the field’s edge on take-off on May 20, 1927. However, thirty-three and a half-hours and 3,500 miles later he landed in Paris, the first to fly the Atlantic alone.
Working as an unremarkable mail pilot a year earlier, he had heard of a $25,000 prize, put up by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig, for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris. On the evening of May 20, equipped with four sandwiched, two canteens of water, and 451 gallons of gas, and piloting a plane funded by a group of St. Louis businessmen, Lindbergh flew to the coast of France, followed the Seine River to Paris and touched down at Le Bourget Field at 10:22 pm. The waiting crowd of 100,000 rushed the plane. “I saw there was danger of killing people with my propeller and I quickly came to a stop.” He became an instant hero, “the Lone Eagle.” New York City gave him the largest ticker tape parade ever seen. The President of the United States awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. His feat electrified the United States and inspired enthusiastic interest in aviation.
Interesting Life Facts:
- In childhood, Lindbergh showed exceptional mechanical ability and went to university at the age of 18 to study engineering. After two years at the University of Wisconsin, he left school to become a barnstormer, a pilot who performed daredevil stunts at fairs.
- On March 1, 1932, the Lindberghs’ 20-month-old son, Charles Augustus, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in New Jersey. In 1934, carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, was convicted of the murder, and was executed in 1936. The Lindbergh kidnapping led Congress to pass the “Lindbergh law”, making kidnapping a federal offense if the victim is taken across state lines or if the mail service is used for ransom demands.
- Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Lindbergh campaigned against voluntary American involvement in World War II. Many Americans criticized him for his noninvolvement beliefs. After Pearl Harbor, he tried to reenlist but was refused.
- After the war, he avoided publicity until the late 1960’s, when he spoke out for the conservation of natural resources, especially for the protection of the endangered humpback and blue whales. Lindbergh opposed the development of supersonic transport planes because he feared the effects the planes might have on the earth’s atmosphere.
- Lindbergh served as an adviser in the aviation industry from the days of wood and wire airplanes to supersonic jets.