THE ACES AND THE FLYERS
The years between World War I and World War II saw great advancements in aircraft technology. Aeroplanes evolved from low-powered biplanes made from wood and fabric to sleek, high-powered monoplanes made of aluminum, based primarily on the founding work of Hugo Junkers during the World War I period. The age of the great airships came and went.
After World War I experienced fighter pilots were eager to show off their new skills. Many American pilots became barnstormers, flying into small towns across the country and showing off their flying abilities, as well as taking paying passengers for rides. Eventually the barnstormers grouped into more organized displays. Air shows sprang up around the country, with air races, acrobatic stunts, and feats of air superiority. The air races drove engine and airframe development—the Schneider Trophy, for example, led to a series of ever faster and sleeker monoplane designs culminating in the Supermarine S.6B. With pilots competing for cash prizes, there was an incentive to go faster. Amelia Earhart was perhaps the most famous of those on the barnstorming/air show circuit. She was also the first female pilot to achieve records such as crossing of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Other prizes, for distance and speed records, also drove development forwards. For example on June 14, 1919, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown co-piloted a Vickers Vimy non-stop from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, winning the £13,000 ($65,000) Northcliffe prize. Eight years later Charles Lindbergh took the Orteig Prize of $25,000 for the first solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic. Months after Lindbergh, Paul Redfern was the first to solo the Caribbean Sea and was last seen flying over Venezuela.
Australian Charles Kingsford Smith was the first to fly across the larger Pacific Ocean in the Southern Cross. His crew left Oakland, California to make the first trans-Pacific flight to Australia in three stages. The first (from Oakland to Hawaii) was 2,400 miles, took 27 hours 25 minutes and was uneventful. They then flew to Suva, Fiji 3,100 miles away, taking 34 hours 30 minutes. This was the toughest part of the journey as they flew through a massive lightning storm near the equator. They then flew on to Brisbane in 20 hours, where they landed on 9 June 1928 after approximately 7,400 miles total flight. On arrival, Kingsford Smith was met by a huge crowd of 25,000 at Eagle Farm Airport in his hometown of Brisbane. Accompanying him were Australian aviator Charles Ulm as the relief pilot, and the Americans James Warner and Captain Harry Lyon (who were the radio operator, navigator and engineer). A week after they landed, Kingsford Smith and Ulm recorded a disc for Columbia talking about their trip. With Ulm, Kingsford Smith later continued his journey being the first in 1929 to circumnavigate the world, crossing the equator twice.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lindbergh used his fame to promote the development of both commercial aviation and Air Mail services in the United States and the Americas. In March 1932, however, his infant son, Charles, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what was soon dubbed the "Crime of the Century". This eventually led to the Lindbergh family being "driven into voluntary exile" in Europe to which they sailed in secrecy from New York under assumed names in late December 1935 to "seek a safe, secluded residence away from the tremendous public hysteria" in America. The Lindberghs did not return to the United States until April, 1939.
Before the United States formally entered World War II, Lindbergh had been an outspoken advocate of keeping the U.S. out of the world conflict, as had his father, Congressman Charles August Lindbergh, during World War I. Although Lindbergh was a leader in the anti-war America First movement, he nevertheless strongly supported the war effort after Pearl Harbor and flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant even though President Franklin D. Roosevelt had refused to reinstate his Army Air Corps colonel's commission that he had resigned in April 1941.
Aviator Charles Lindbergh was obsessed with macabre experiments to find the secret of eternal life
Dressed head to toe in robes of black, their faces covered by heavy hoods, the satanic-looking figures assembled around a table on which lay the motionless body of a cat, bled to death in readiness for the gruesome procedure ahead.
The walls, ceilings and floors around them were all black, too, the participants in this secret gathering believing that too much light impeded their concentration.
But one man stood out among the silhouettes in the gloom. Taller than most, and with strikingly blue eyes visible through the slits in his hood, Charles Lindbergh had become one of the most famous men in the world after his solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris in his aeroplane, the Spirit of St Louis.
Intrepid flyer: Charles Lindbergh had become one of the most famous men in the world after his solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris
Now he had embarked on a quest which promised to overshadow even that momentous achievement.
If all went well on that April morning in 1935, he and his colleague Dr Alexis Carrel would have taken a historic step towards achieving what man had strived for since time immemorial: to conquer death and enable human beings to live forever.
The story of Lindbergh's search for immortality is revealed in a fascinating new book which tells how he killed his children's pets in the name of his research, contemplated experiments on psychiatric patients and emulated Adolf Hitler in his determination to restrict the promise of eternal life to an elite of white Westerners.
But perhaps the most incredible revelation of all is that Lindbergh and Carrel were no delusional Frankensteins.
Based on sound scientific principles, their work laid the foundation for medical breakthroughs which today make the promise of perpetual life tantalisingly closer to reality.
For Lindbergh, the path leading to that groundbreaking experiment in 1935 could be traced back to his childhood when, as a shy and virtually friendless young boy growing up on a farm in Minnesota, he dreamed of becoming a doctor.
A failure at school, he didn't get the required qualifications so he became a pilot instead, but he always saw himself primarily as a scientist.
His famous transatlantic crossing in May 1927 was primarily an experiment to test the endurance of air-cooled engines so the 25-year-old aviator was astonished when a crowd of 100,000 people surged forward to meet him in Paris.
Wearing glasses and a fedora to disguise himself from the autograph hunters who subsequently besieged him wherever he went, he was not amused when reporters asked if he carried a lucky rabbit's foot with him on his flights, and whether he liked blondes or brunettes.
He preferred to occupy himself with far more serious matters.
During his 33-and-a-half hour flight he claimed to have seen 'inhabitants of a universe closed to mortal men' moving around his aircraft, some of whom he believed had spoken to him.
From then on, he decided that his mission in life was to become one of these immortals - not as a ghostly apparition but as a flesh-and-blood human.
'If man could learn to fly,' he asked himself, 'Why could he not learn how to live for ever?'
This might have remained an unexplored dream had not his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Morrow, suffered a bout of rheumatic fever, leaving one of her heart valves so badly damaged and her health so precarious that she and her husband had to get permission from her doctor every time they wanted to make love.
Lindbergh could not understand how a simple valve could cause so much suffering.
He regarded the human heart as just a pump that could be fixed or replaced like any other mechanical part and, on a visit to the Rockefeller Institute in New York, he met a man who shared his ideas.
Founded by John D. Rockefeller, the world's richest man, this haven where scientists could pursue their dreams free from the demands of clinical practice was home to the laboratories of the French surgeon Dr Alexis Carrel.
In 1912 he had won the Nobel Prize For Medicine for his pioneering work on sewing severed blood vessels back together, but he had other - rather less scientific - interests.
A believer in spiritualism, and the ability of psychics to contact the dead, Carrel was convinced of the immortality of our souls and saw no reason why our bodies should not similarly last forever.
Search for eternal life: Charles Lindbergh allied himself to the sinister medical experiments of Dr Alexis Carell
His early attempts to play God had included a failed attempt to bring a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy back to life, but his work had a far more serious side.
The first scientist to succeed in growing human tissue in the laboratory, he was convinced that his techniques might one day be extended to create replacement body parts, anticipating the promise of stem cell research by more than half a century.
He was also researching how diseased organs might one day be removed from the body to be repaired and then re-inserted.
To keep them alive while they were outside the body, Carrel was perfecting a technique called perfusion which involved placing the organ concerned in a glass chamber and artificially pumping it with blood.
So far his experiments on the thyroids of cats, dogs and chickens had failed because of bacterial contamination and he needed a mechanical genius to design a perfusion pump which was infection-free.
Who better than Lindbergh? He had, after all, helped fashion the Spirit of St Louis out of wood, canvas and piano wire and flown it for more than 33 hours without a co-pilot, a radio, or even a front windscreen (Lindbergh used a periscope when he needed to see directly ahead).
For an academic failure like Lindbergh, being asked to help a Nobel Prize winner was immensely flattering, especially when he realised that they were of one mind in regarding the body as little more than a living machine, made up of parts which might one day be endlessly renewed.
Two weeks later, he came back with some designs which so impressed Carrel that he invited Lindbergh to work alongside him at the Institute and so began the partnership which would lead to the groundbreaking experiment on that hapless cat in 1935.
It got off to a faltering start, Lindbergh's pumps lacking the pressure needed to perfuse a whole organ.
He laboured unsuccessfully to perfect them until the beginning of 1932 when his work was given a terrible new impetus by the tragedy surrounding his 20-month old son, Charles Jnr.
On the night of Tuesday, March 1, Lindbergh returned to the family home in New Jersey after working in Carrel's laboratory.
He was reading some scientific papers in his study when his baby's nursemaid ran in to tell him that his child was missing from his crib.
There was a ransom note on the windowsill. Lindbergh was still a huge celebrity, receiving some 3,000 fans letters a month, but when the child's body was subsequently discovered in a wooded area some five miles away, some newspapers implicated him in his son's death.
They alleged that Charles Jnr had been born physically or mentally defective, a situation his 'perfect' father found so abhorrent that he murdered him.
Charles and his devoted wife of three years, Anne (who also flew and co-authored books with him), were utterly traumatised.
Seeking refuge from the maelstrom swirling about him, Lindbergh returned to work at the Rockefeller Institute barely three months after his son's disappearance.
Sometimes he spent long hours in the library there, reading grisly accounts of how early pioneers of perfusion tried to bring guillotined corpses back to life by injecting their cold cadavers with warm blood.
At other times, he worked through the night in Carrel's laboratory, hidden away on the top floor of the Institute.
But wherever he was in the building, he knew he could escape the pointing fingers that dogged his every step outside.
One of his rare spells of absence came in February 1935 when a carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann was accused of the abduction and murder of Charles Jr.
Lindbergh attended every day of the trial but he returned to the sanctuary of Carrel's laboratory almost as soon as Hauptmann was found guilty.
There, he continued working feverishly until, finally, fewer than two months later, he was ready to test his latest prototype.
And so, on that memorable April morning in 1935, that unfortunate cat was strapped to a table, drained of its blood and offered up to Carrel and Lindbergh in their flowing black robes (Carrel thought that an all-black environment was more hygienic).
Removing the animal's thyroid, Carrel placed the gland in the perfusion chamber designed by Lindbergh.
They then faced an anxious wait to see whether it would survive outside the body which had housed it.
To their delight, the thyroid was still alive and functioning even after 18 days.
Soon the two men had successfully perfused many other animal organs - including hearts, livers, pancreases and in one ghoulish case the entire limb of a miscarried human foetus.
These were remarkable breakthroughs but it was clear that there was a sinister side to them.
Both men believed in eugenics - the idea that the genetic stock of the human race should be improved by allowing the weak to be eliminated and encouraging the strong to reproduce.
In Carrel's suite of laboratories was a foul-smelling room called the 'mousery' where thousands of rodents were allowed to roam free and fight, often to the death.
The winners were given females to impregnate, the losers were given autopsies. The aim was to see whether this contributed to the creation of 'heroic' mice which were resistant to disease and lived longer.
'If I could do the same tests on humans, I might produce a man who could jump 20ft in the air and live to be 200,' said Carrel.
Clearly both men believed that, if immortality was achieved, it should only be for the select few.
Since they shared a horror of Western civilisation being overtaken by racial 'inferiors', they were in no doubt this elite should be white.
In securing life everlasting for the lucky minority, they also appear to have been prepared to sacrifice lesser mortals to their research.
Their correspondence with various state mental hospitals provides a clue as to who their intended human subjects might have been.
In a letter to Carrel, the administrator at one such institution asks: 'When are you coming to look over some of our feeble-minded prospects?'
Since neither Lindbergh nor Carrel had any psychiatric training, one can only conclude their visits had one purpose: to choose humans unable to give proper consent on which perfusion experiments could be conducted.
Whatever plans they might have had were interrupted when Hauptmann unsuccessfully appealed against his death sentence in the autumn of 1935.
Lindbergh received many death threats from Hauptmann's supporters, some directed at his three-year-old son Jon who was born in August 1932, just a few months after his older brother's murder.
Lindbergh decided to move his family to the safety of Britain, where he rented a large house in Kent and continued his work - this time investigating the claims of Himalayan yogis to have extended their lives by many decades by means of breath control.
His experimental subjects were dozens of guinea pigs and white mice.
Lindbergh had originally given these to his son Jon as pets - the large numbers a precaution against the little boy noticing those who disappeared after his father placed them in a bell-jar and subjected them to varying levels of carbon dioxide.
Soon, Lindbergh's attention was diverted elsewhere. An enthusiastic supporter of Hitler, who he described as a 'great man', he returned home in 1939 to dissuade the U.S. government from joining the war against Germany but was reviled for his views.
Alarmed that his protégé was getting distracted, Carrel begged him to concentrate on his scientific work but Lindbergh refused and, shortly after Carrel's death in Paris in 1944, a traumatic visit to Germany would finally bring his obsession with immortality to an end.
At the end of the war - during which he flew some 50 combat missions in the Pacific - he was part of a deputation sent to Munich to recruit German scientists to share their expertise with the U.S.
During that trip, he visited a concentration camp called Dora, 160 miles south-west of Berlin, where 25,000 people had been worked or beaten to death.
His journal refers repeatedly to the sickening rodent-like stench at Dora which he realised he had smelled before, not in a place of punishment, but a place of science where, in the name of eugenics, the strong were allowed and even encouraged to dominate the weak.
That place was Dr Carrel's mousery at the Rockefeller Institute and the sights and smells of Camp Dora led Lindbergh to re-examine the beliefs and aspirations which had shaped his life and work for so many years.
He began to realise that his commitment to science and pursuit of immortality had made him complicit in a brutally efficient culture of death.
Another epiphany came soon afterwards when his countrymen dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, leaving 100,000 dead.
'This put man in the position of having challenged God,' he wrote.
Now he wondered if he and Carrel hadn't committed the same act of arrogance.
In the coming years, he became a passionate campaigner for peace and the protection of the environment.
But while he may have turned his back on science, science did not turn its back on the work of Lindbergh and Carrel.
In 2006, doctors at the Wake Forest Institute For Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina successfully grew seven replacement human bladders from their patients' cells and similar research is now looking at whether kidneys, livers, tendons, ligaments and even the human heart can be manufactured in the laboratory.
These developments mark a great leap forward in the concept of the body as a living machine made of replaceable parts - an idea conceived by Carrel and Lindbergh at the Rockefeller Institute back in the 1930s.
Might this technology one day provide the secret to the eternal life so eagerly sought by Lindbergh and Carrel?
And, if so, would Lindbergh himself have taken advantage of it had he been given the opportunity?
We will never know because in August 1974 he was admitted to hospital in New York, dying of lymphoma. He spent only a few days there before insisting on returning to his home in the Hawaiian island of Maui.
His doctors advised that the journey would almost certainly kill him and accused him of 'abandoning science' in leaving behind the hospital and the hightech machinery which might prolong his life.
But Lindbergh was adamant. Somehow he survived the flight home and there, at the age of 72, the man who tried so hard to fight death finally succumbed to the fate which awaits us all.
Thoughts on race and racism
Lindbergh elucidated his beliefs about the white race in an article he published in Reader's Digest in 1939:
Lindbergh's reaction to Kristallnacht was entrusted to his diary: "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?" Lindbergh had planned to move to Berlin for the winter of 1938-39, just after Kristallnacht, a time when many Americans reacted with revulsion at the barbarism. He had provisionally found a house in Wannsee, but after Nazi friends discouraged him from leasing it because it had been formerly owned by Jews, it was recommended that he contact Albert Speer who said he would build the Lindberghs a house anywhere they wanted. On the advice of his close friend the eugenicist Alexis Carrel, he cancelled the trip.
In his diaries, he wrote: “We must limit to a reasonable amount the Jewish influence...Whenever the Jewish percentage of total population becomes too high, a reaction seems to invariably occur. It is too bad because a few Jews of the right type are, I believe, an asset to any country.”
Although Lindbergh considered Hitler a fanatic and avowed a belief in American democracy, he clearly stated elsewhere that he believed the survival of the white race was more important than the survival of democracy in Europe: "Our bond with Europe is one of race and not of political ideology," he declared. He had, however, a relatively positive attitude toward blacks (something that was scheduled to be fully revealed in an undelivered speech interrupted by the events that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor). Critics have noticed an apparent influence of German philosopher Oswald Spengler on Lindbergh. Spengler was a conservative authoritarian and during the interwar era, was widely read throughout Western World, though by this point he had fallen out of favor with the Nazis because he had not wholly subscribed to their theories of racial purity.
Lindbergh with Edsel Ford (left) and Henry Ford in the Ford hangar. Photo: August 1927.
Lindbergh developed a long-term friendship with the automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who was well known for his anti-Semitic newspaper The Dearborn Independent. In a famous comment about Lindbergh to Detroit's former FBI field office special agent in charge in July 1940, Ford said: "When Charles comes out here, we only talk about the Jews."
Lindbergh considered Russia to be a "semi-Asiatic" country compared to Germany, and he found Communism to be an ideology that would destroy the West's "racial strength" and replace everyone of European descent with "a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown." He openly stated that if he had to choose, he would rather see America allied with Nazi Germany than Soviet Russia. He preferred Nordics, but he believed, after Soviet Communism was defeated, Russia would be a valuable ally against potential aggression from East Asia.
Lindbergh said certain races have "demonstrated superior ability in the design, manufacture, and operation of machines." He further said, "The growth of our western civilization has been closely related to this superiority." Lindbergh admired "the German genius for science and organization, the English genius for government and commerce, the French genius for living and the understanding of life." He believed that "in America they can be blended to form the greatest genius of all." His message was popular throughout many Northern communities and especially well received in the Midwest, while the American South was Anglophilic and supported a pro-British foreign policy.
Holocaust researcher and investigative journalist Max Wallace in his book, The American Axis, agreed with Franklin Roosevelt's assessment that Lindbergh was "pro-Nazi." However, Wallace finds the Roosevelt Administration's accusations of dual loyalty or treason as unsubstantiated. Wallace considers Lindbergh a well-intentioned, but bigoted and misguided, Nazi sympathizer whose career as the leader of the isolationist movement had a destructive impact on Jewish people.
Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, A. Scott Berg, contends Lindbergh was not so much a supporter of the Nazi regime as someone so stubborn in his convictions and relatively inexperienced in political maneuvering that he easily allowed rivals to portray him as one. Lindbergh's receipt of the German medal was approved without objection by the American embassy; the war had not yet begun in Europe. Indeed, the award did not cause controversy until the war began and Lindbergh returned to the United States in 1939 to spread his message of non-intervention. Berg contends Lindbergh's views were commonplace in the United States in the pre–World War II era. Lindbergh's support for the America First Committee was representative of the sentiments of a number of American people.
Yet Berg also notes that "As late as April 1939 – after Germany overtook Czechoslovakia – Lindbergh was willing to make excuses for Hitler. 'Much as I disapprove of many things Hitler had done,' he wrote in his diary on April 2, 1939, 'I believe she [Germany] has pursued the only consistent policy in Europe in recent years. I cannot support her broken promises, but she has only moved a little faster than other nations... in breaking promises. The question of right and wrong is one thing by law and another thing by history.'" Berg also explains that leading up to the war, in Lindbergh's mind, the great battle would be between the Soviet Union and Germany, not fascism and democracy. In this war, he believed that a German victory was preferable because he despised Joseph Stalin's regime, which, at the time, he believed was far worse than Hitler's.
Berg writes that Lindbergh believed in a voluntary rather than compulsory eugenics program. Wallace noted that it was difficult to find social scientists among Lindbergh's contemporaries in the 1930s who found validity in racial explanations for human behavior. Wallace went on to observe that "throughout his life, eugenics would remain one of Lindbergh's enduring passions." In Pat Buchanan's book A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny, he portrays Lindbergh and other pre-war isolationists as American patriots who were smeared by interventionists during the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Buchanan suggests the backlash against Lindbergh highlights "the explosiveness of mixing ethnic politics with foreign policy."
Lindbergh always preached military strength and alertness. He believed that a strong defensive war machine would make America an impenetrable fortress and defend the Western Hemisphere from an attack by foreign powers, and that this was the U.S. military's sole purpose.
Berg reveals that while the attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shock to Lindbergh, he did predict that America's "wavering policy in the Philippines" would invite a bloody war there, and, in one speech, he warned that "we should either fortify these islands adequately, or get out of them entirely."
 World War II
VMF-222 "Flying Deuces"
Unable to take on an active military role, Lindbergh approached a number of aviation companies, offering his services as a consultant. As a technical adviser with Ford in 1942, he was heavily involved in troubleshooting early problems encountered at the Willow Run Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber production line. As B-24 production smoothed out, he joined United Aircraft in 1943 as an engineering consultant, devoting most of his time to its Chance-Vought Division. The following year, he persuaded United Aircraft to designate him a technical representative in the Pacific Theater of Operations to study aircraft performances under combat conditions. He showed Marine Vought F4U Corsair pilots how to take off with twice the bomb load that the fighter-bomber was rated for and on May 21, 1944, he flew his first combat mission: a strafing run with VMF-222 near the Japanese garrison of Rabaul, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. He was also flying with VMF-216 (first squadron there) during this period from the Marine Air Base at Torokina, Bougainville Australian Solomon Islands. Several Marine squadrons were flying bomber escorts to destroy the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul. His first flight was escorted by Lt. Robert E. (Lefty) McDonough. It was understood that Lefty refused to fly with him again, as he did not want to be known as "the guy who killed Lindbergh."
433rd Fighter Squadron "Satan's Angels"
In his six months in the Pacific in 1944, Lindbergh took part in fighter bomber raids on Japanese positions, flying about 50 combat missions (again as a civilian). His innovations in the use of Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters impressed a supportive Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Lindbergh introduced engine-leaning techniques to P-38 pilots, greatly improving fuel consumption at cruise speeds, enabling the long-range fighter aircraft to fly longer range missions. The U.S. Marine and Army Air Force pilots who served with Lindbergh praised his courage and defended his patriotism.
On July 28, 1944, during a P-38 bomber escort mission with the 433rd Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force, in the Ceram area, Lindbergh shot down a Sonia observation plane piloted by Captain Saburo Shimada, Commanding Officer of the 73rd Independent Chutai.
 Later life
After World War II, he lived in Darien, Connecticut and served as a consultant to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force and to Pan American World Airways. With most of Eastern Europe having fallen under Communist control, Lindbergh believed most of his pre-war assessments were correct all along. But Berg reports after witnessing the defeat of Germany and the Holocaust firsthand shortly after his service in the Pacific, "he knew the American public no longer gave a hoot about his opinions." His 1953 book The Spirit of St. Louis, recounting his nonstop, transatlantic flight, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, and his literary agent, George T. Bye, sold the film rights to Hollywood for more than a million dollars. Dwight D. Eisenhower restored Lindbergh's assignment with the U.S. Army Air Corps and made him a Brigadier General in 1954. In that year, he served on the Congressional advisory panel set up to establish the site of the United States Air Force Academy. In December 1968, he visited the crew of Apollo 8 (the first manned spaceflight to travel to the Moon) the day before their launch. On July 16, 1969, Lindbergh and T. Claude Ryan (previous owner of the Ryan Flying Company that built the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft) were present at Cape Canaveral to watch the launch of Apollo 11. Lindbergh later wrote the foreword for Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins's autobiography, Carrying the Fire.
 Children from other relationships
From 1957 until his death in 1974, Lindbergh had an affair with German hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer (1926–2003) who lived in a small Bavarian town called Geretsried (35 km south of Munich). On November 23, 2003, DNA tests proved that he fathered her three children. The two managed to keep the affair secret; even the children did not know the true identity of their father, whom they saw when he came to visit once or twice per year using the alias "Careu Kent." Brigitte Hesshaimer's daughter Astrid later read a magazine article about Lindbergh and found snapshots and more than a hundred letters written from him to her mother. She disclosed the affair after both Brigitte and Anne Morrow Lindbergh had died. At the same time as Lindbergh was involved with Brigitte Hesshaimer, he also had a relationship with her sister, Marietta (born 1924), who bore him two more sons. Lindbergh had a house of his own design built for Marietta in a vineyard in Grimisuat in the Swiss canton Valais.
A 2005 book by German author Rudolf Schroeck, Das Doppelleben des Charles A. Lindbergh (The Double Life of Charles A. Lindbergh), claims seven secret children existed in Germany. It says Lindbergh "came and went as he pleased" during the last 17 years of his life, spending between three to five days with his Munich family about four to five times each year. "Ten days before he died in August 1974, Lindbergh wrote three letters from his hospital bed to his three mistresses and requested 'utmost secrecy'", Schroeck writes, whose book includes a copy of that letter to Brigitte Hesshaimer.
Two of the seven children were from his relationship with the East Prussian aristocrat Valeska, who was Lindbergh's private secretary in Europe. They had a son in 1959 and a daughter in 1961. She had been friends with the Hesshaimer sisters and was the one who introduced them to Charles Lindbergh. In the beginning, they lived all together in his apartment in Rome. However, the friendship ended when Brigitte Hesshaimer became pregnant by him as well. Valeska lives in Baden-Baden and wants to keep her privacy, as mentioned in many German and International Reuter's newspaper articles, in Rudolf Schroek's book and a TV documentary by Danuta Harrich-Zandberg and Walter Harrich.
In April 2008, Reeve Lindbergh, his youngest daughter with wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, published Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures, a book of essays that includes her discovery in 2003, of the truth about her father's three secret European families and her journeys to meet them and understand an expanded meaning of family.
 Environmental causes
From the 1960s on, Lindbergh campaigned to protect endangered species like humpback and blue whales, was instrumental in establishing protections for the controversial Filipino group, the Tasaday, and African tribes, and supporting the establishment of a national park. While studying the native flora and fauna of the Philippines, he became involved in an effort to protect the Philippine Eagle. In his final years, Lindbergh stressed the need to regain the balance between the world and the natural environment, and spoke against the introduction of supersonic airliners.
Lindbergh's speeches and writings later in life emphasized his love of both technology and nature, and a lifelong belief that "all the achievements of mankind have value only to the extent that they preserve and improve the quality of life." In a 1967 Life magazine article, he said, "The human future depends on our ability to combine the knowledge of science with the wisdom of wildness."
In honor of Charles and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh's vision of achieving balance between the technological advancements they helped pioneer, and the preservation of the human and natural environments, the Lindbergh Award was established in 1978. Each year since 1978, the Lindbergh Foundation has given the award to recipients whose work has made a significant contribution toward the concept of "balance."
Lindbergh's final book, Autobiography of Values, based on an unfinished manuscript was published posthumously. While on his death bed, he had contacted his friend, William Jovanovich, head of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, to edit the lengthy memoirs.
Charles Lindbergh's grave
Lindbergh spent his final years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he died of lymphoma on August 26, 1974 at age 72. He was buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu, Maui. His epitaph on a simple stone which quotes Psalms 139:9, reads: "Charles A. Lindbergh Born Michigan 1902 Died Maui 1974". The inscription further reads: "...If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea... C.A.L."
 Honors and tributes
The Spirit of St. Louis on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Terminal 1-Lindbergh at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport was named after him, and a replica of The Spirit of St. Louis hangs there. Another such replica hangs in the great hall at the recently rebuilt Jefferson Memorial at Forest Park in St. Louis. The definitive oil painting of Charles Lindbergh by St. Louisan Richard Krause entitled "The Spirit Soars" has been displayed there. San Diego's Lindbergh Field, which is also known as San Diego International Airport, was named after him and also displays a replica of the San Diego-built Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis. The airport in Winslow, Arizona has also been renamed Winslow-Lindbergh Regional. Lindbergh himself designed the airport in 1929 when it was built as a refueling point for the first coast-to-coast air service. Among the many airports and air facilities that bear his name, the airport in Little Falls, Minnesota, where he grew up, has been named Little Falls/Morrison County-Lindbergh Field.
The original The Spirit of St. Louis currently resides in the National Air and Space Museum as part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
"Longines" watch designed by Lindbergh after his transatlantic flight
In 1952, Grandview High School in St. Louis County was renamed Lindbergh High School. The school newspaper is the Pilot, the yearbook is the Spirit, the students are known as the Flyers, and the school's marching band holds the title of the Spirit of St. Louis Marching Band. The school district was also later named after Lindbergh. The stretch of US 67 that runs through most of the St. Louis metro area is called Lindbergh Boulevard. Lindbergh also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In the 1970s, Charles A. Lindbergh Senior High School, in the Hopkins School District 270, located in a southwestern suburb of Minneapolis, was named for the Minnesota native and famed aviator. In 1980, Hopkins closed an older high school and renamed Lindbergh High as Hopkins Senior High School. The Lindbergh Center is located on the Hopkins High School campus.
In Lindbergh's hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, one of the district's elementary schools is named Charles Lindbergh Elementary. The district's sports teams are named the Flyers and Lindbergh Drive is a major road on the west side of town, leading to Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. The Lindberghs donated their farmstead to the state to be used as a park in memory of Lindbergh's father. The original Lindbergh residence is maintained as a museum, the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
On May 2, 2002, Lindbergh's grandson, Erik Lindbergh, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the pioneering 1927 flight of the Spirit of Ft. Louis by duplicating the journey in a single engine, two seat Lancair Columbia 200. The younger Lindbergh's solo flight from Republic Airport on Long Island, to Le Bourget Airport in Paris was completed in 17 hours and 7 minutes, or just a little more than half the time of his grandfather's 33.5 hour original flight.
After his transatlantic flight, Lindbergh wrote a letter to the director of Longines, describing in detail a watch that would make navigation easier for pilots. The watch was manufactured to his design and is still produced today.
In February 2002, the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston, within the celebrations for the Lindbergh 100th birthday established the Lindbergh-Carrel Prize, given to major contributors to "development of perfusion and bioreactor technologies for organ preservation and growth". M. E. DeBakey and nine other scientists received the prize, a bronze statuette expressly created for the event by the Italian artist C. Zoli and named "Elisabeth
"Elizabeth", the Lindbergh Carrel Prize
 after Elisabeth Morrow, sister of Lindbergh's wife Anne Morrow, died as a result of heart disease. Lindbergh, in fact, was disappointed that contemporary medical technology could not provide an artificial heart pump that would allow for heart surgery on her and that gave the occasion for the first contact between Carrel and Lindbergh.
Lindbergh received many awards, medals and decorations, most of which were later donated to the Missouri Historical Society and are on display at the Jefferson Memorial, now part of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri.
When the 20-month-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh disappeared from the family's secluded estate, only to turn up dead two months later, it became one of the most sensational news stories of the 20th century.
Three years after the boy's death, a German illegal immigrant was convicted of his murder, and later executed - though he insisted he was innocent until the end.
Now one investigator claims to have found new evidence which reveals the role of a previously unknown criminal mastermind, intent on destroying Lindbergh's life.
Mystery: Charles Lindbergh Jr (left), son of the famous aviator (right), was kidnapped and murdered in 1932
New suspect: John Knoll (right) bears a striking similarity to 'Cemetery John' (left), the man who received the $50,000 ransom for Charles Jr in a cemetery in the Bronx
It was Bruno Hauptmann, a convicted criminal who illegally entered the U.S. from his native Germany, who was put to death in 1936 for the murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr.
But he was put up to the killing by John Knoll, another German immigrant who worked in a deli in the Bronx area of New York, according to author Robert Zorn.
While the direct evidence linking Knoll to the famous crime is scanty, there is one crucial connection which suggests that he could have been involved with the kidnapping.
The $50,000 ransom paid by the Lindberghs for the return of their son in 1932 was handed over by an intermediary to a man known as 'Cemetery John' in a Bronx cemetery.
Mr Zorn argues that John Knoll bore a striking similarity to 'Cemetery John' - he even had an unusual growth at the bottom of his thumb, just as the man who received the ransom did.
Moreover, a comparison of the handwriting in the ransom letter revealed a 95 per cent match with Knoll's own handwriting.
Hunt: The child's disappearance was one of the most sensational news stories of the 20th century
Family: Charles Jr with (L-R) his mother, great-grandmother and grandmother
According to the author, Knoll was motivated by a dislike of Lindbergh and a desire to prove that he could wield power over the legendary aviator, the first man to fly non-stop over the Atlantic.
'This guy was a real villain,' Mr Zorn says. 'This was a guy who always had to draw attention to himself. His behaviour was bizarre.'
Famed FBI profiler John Douglas echoes this analysis, adding that Knoll is 'the best suspect there has ever been in this case'.
Claims: Robert Zorn's new book Cemetery John is an attempt to solve the 80-year-old case
The identification of the German immigrant as 'Cemetery John' has also been supported by high-profile political and legal figures such as former Vice President Dan Quayle.
If Knoll was indeed involved in the murder, which saw Charles Jr's body dumped near his parents' home in Hopewell, New Jersey two months after the boy went missing, then he covered his tracks well.
But not well enough to escape Mr Zorn's father, Eugene Zorn, who lived near Knoll in the Bronx when he was a teenager and became close to the older man.
The elder Mr Zorn was reading a magazine article about the case in 1963 when he had a flash of inspiration and became convinced that he knew the man who was responsible.
He spent the rest of his life building up evidence against Knoll, and passed on his legacy to his son after his death in 2006.
In the younger Mr Zorn's book, Cemetery John: The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, he describes one particularly suspicious interaction between the suspect and his father.
In 1931, the German took 15-year-old Eugene on a trip to a New Jersey amusement park - and when they were there, the boy overheard Knoll planning the kidnapping with his brother Walter and Bruno Hauptmann.
The author told CBS This Morning that he believed this was deliberate, as Knoll wanted someone to record his horrific deeds - and Mr Zorn even compared it to the recent Jerry Sandusky child abuse case.
'Just like this Sandusky character groomed these boys for his evil purposes,' he said, 'John Knoll... groomed my father to be the archivist of his horrible crime, and embedded clues in my father'.
Eugene Zorn was haunted by this realisation, and spent the rest of his life trying to set the record straight.
Now his son believes that he has done so himself - and managed to solve one of the most notorious crimes in history in the process.
French launch bid to rewrite history books with claim that Lindbergh was NOT first to fly across the Atlantic
New claims French pair died after landing plane in U.S.
Pioneers: New evidence suggest Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli may have died after successfully completing a transatlantic flight in 1927
Charles Lindbergh is renowned as the first person to fly across the Atlantic, but according to new research, he was beaten to the achievement ten days earlier.
According to French aviation enthusiast Bernard Decré, Lindbergh was only the first to complete the crossing and survive, with two French pilots believed to have reached the coast of Canada ten days before Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis touched down in Paris in May 1927.
New documentary evidence found in the U.S. national archives may prove that Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli completed a transatlantic crossing and were the first men to do so, though they were likely killed in the process.
The fate of Nungesser and Coli has been called the 'Everest of aviation mysteries' with their disappearance sparking a raft of conspiracy theories, including speculation that their sea plane, L'Oiseau Blanc, was shot down by Maine bootleggers who feared police surveillance.
But the discovery of a U.S. Coast Guard telegram which tells of the wreckage of a white aircraft seen floating some 200 miles off the New York coast on August 18 1927 could have solved the riddle - and changed Lindbergh's role in the history books.
The American aviator successfully flew the Spirit of St Louis from New York to Le Bourget in France on May 20-12 1927, winning a $25,000 prize offered by hotelier Raymond Orteig as well as claiming the U.S. Medal of Honour and the French Legion d'Honneur.
Yet according to Mr Decré, 70, Lindbergh's triumph - and the improved U.S.-Franco relations that followed - was only made possible by a cover-up of the fateful flight of L'Oiseau Blanc.
Wrecked: Documentary evidence tells of the remains of a white plane, possibly Nungesser and Coli's L'Oiseau Blanc (pictured), being found 200 miles off the New York coast
He believes Nungesser and Coli crashed just off the coast of the French islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon in Newfoundland on May 11, with their plane breaking up on landing and killing both men before ocean currents curried the broken aircraft south.
The Newfoundland archives suggest an aircraft was heard on that date but Mr Decré claims the crash of L'Oiseau Blanc was covered up by U.S. and French authorities.
Hero: Charles Lindbergh became an icon of aviation after flying the Spirit of St Louis from New York to Paris in 1927
'My intention is not to disparage the magnificent achievement of Lindbergh,' Mr Decré told The Independent.
'Enormous credit is also due to the British pilots [John] Alcock and [Arthur] Brown who were the first to complete a 'short' crossing of the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919.
'But I believe that, just as any aircraft needs to be checked minutely before each flight, we must be as precise as we can about the early history of aviation.
'I believe that Nungesser and Coli, although they did not live to tell their story, should now be restored to an important place in history.'
Though Nungesser and Coli may not have lived to tell the tale, nor met Orteig's 'challenge' of a New York-Paris flight, their ill-fated voyage from east to west would represent the first full or 'long' crossing of the Atlantic by plane.
As a 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot Lindbergh emerged suddenly from virtual obscurity to instantaneous world fame as the result of his Orteig Prize-winning solo non-stop flight on May 20–21, 1927, made from Roosevelt Field[N 1] located in Garden City on New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles (5,800 km), in the single-seat, single-engine purpose built Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh, a U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve officer, was also awarded the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his historic exploit.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lindbergh used his fame to promote the development of both commercial aviation and Air Mail services in the United States and the Americas. In March 1932, however, his infant son, Charles, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what was soon dubbed the "Crime of the Century". This eventually led to the Lindbergh family being "driven into voluntary exile" in Europe to which they sailed in secrecy from New York under assumed names in late December 1935 to "seek a safe, secluded residence away from the tremendous public hysteria" in America. The Lindberghs did not return to the United States until April, 1939.
Before the United States formally entered World War II, Lindbergh had been an outspoken advocate of keeping the U.S. out of the world conflict, as had his father, Congressman Charles August Lindbergh, during World War I. Although Lindbergh was a leader in the anti-war America First movement, he nevertheless strongly supported the war effort after Pearl Harbor and flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant even though President Franklin D. Roosevelt had refused to reinstate his Army Air Corps colonel's commission that he had resigned in April 1941.
In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist.
Charles A. Lindbergh: son and father c. 1910
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4, 1902, but spent most of his childhood in Little Falls, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.. He was the only child of Swedish immigrant Charles August Lindbergh (birth name Carl Månsson) (1859–1924), and Evangeline Lodge Lindbergh (1876–1954), of Detroit. The Lindberghs separated in 1909. Lindbergh, Sr. was a U.S. Congressman (R-Minnesota (6th)) from 1907 to 1917 who gained notoriety when he opposed the entry of the U.S. into World War I. Mrs. Lindbergh was a chemistry teacher at Cass Technical High School in Detroit and later at Little Falls High School, from which Charles graduated in 1918. Lindbergh also attended over a dozen other schools from Washington, D.C., to California during his childhood and teenage years (none for more than a full year) including the Force School and Sidwell Friends School while living in Washington, D.C., with his father, and Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California. Lindbergh enrolled in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the Fall of 1920, but dropped out in the middle of his sophomore year and headed for Lincoln, Nebraska, in March 1922 to begin flight training.
 Early aviation career
Lincoln Standard J biplane
From an early age Charles Lindbergh had exhibited an interest in the mechanics of motorized transportation including his family's Saxon Six automobile, and later his Excelsior motorbike. By the time he started college as a mechanical engineering student, he had also become fascinated with flying even though he "had never been close enough to a plane to touch it." After quitting college in February 1922, Lindbergh enrolled as a student at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation's flying school two months later and flew for the first time in his life on April 9, 1922, when he took to the air as a passenger in a two-seat Lincoln Standard "Tourabout" biplane trainer piloted by Otto Timm.
Lindbergh flight gear at Cradle of Aviation Museum in New York State.
A few days later Lindbergh took his first formal flying lesson in that same machine with instructor-pilot Ira O. Biffle although the then 20-year-old student pilot would not be permitted to "solo" during his time at the school because he could not afford to post a bond which the company President Ray Page, insisted upon in the event the novice flyer were to damage the school's only trainer in the process. In order to both gain some needed flight experience and earn money for additional instruction, Lindbergh left Lincoln in June to spend the summer and early fall barnstorming across Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana as a wing walker and parachutist with E.G. Bahl and later H.L. Lynch. During this time he also briefly held a job as an airplane mechanic in Billings, Montana, working at the Billings Municipal Airport (later renamed Billings Logan International Airport). When winter came, however, Lindbergh returned to his father's home in Minnesota and did not fly again for over six months.
"Daredevil Lindbergh" in his Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" in 1923.
Lindbergh's first solo flight did not come until May 1923 at Souther Field in Americus, Georgia, a former Army flight training field where he had come to buy a World War I surplus Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane. Even though Lindbergh had not flown in more than six months, he had already secretly decided that he was ready to take to the air by himself. After just half an hour of dual time with a pilot who was visiting the field to pick up another surplus JN-4, Lindbergh flew solo for the first time in the Jenny that he had just purchased for $500. After spending another week or so at the field to "practice" (thereby acquiring five hours of "pilot in command" time), Lindbergh took off from Americus for Montgomery, Alabama, on his first solo cross country flight, and went on to spend much of the rest of 1923 engaged in virtually nonstop barnstorming under the name of "Daredevil Lindbergh". Unlike the previous year, however, this time Lindbergh did so in his "own ship"—and as a pilot. A few weeks after leaving Americus, the young airman achieved another key aviation milestone when he made his first nighttime flight near Lake Village, Arkansas.
Lindbergh damaged his "Jenny" on several occasions over the summer, often breaking the prop on landing (which happened on May 18, 1923 outside Maben, Mississippi). His most serious accident came when he ran into a ditch in a farm field in Glencoe, Minnesota, on June 3, 1923, while flying his father (who was then running for the U.S. Senate) to a campaign stop. The accident grounded him for a week until he could repair his plane. In October, Lindbergh flew his Jenny to Iowa where he sold it to a flying student. (Found stored in a barn in Iowa almost half a century later, Lindbergh's dismantled Jenny was carefully restored in the early 1970s and is now on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum located in Garden City, New York, adjacent to the site once occupied by Roosevelt Field from which Lindbergh took off on his flight to Paris in 1927). After selling the Jenny, Lindbergh returned to Lincoln by train where he joined up with Leon Klink and continued to barnstorm through the South for the next few months in Klink's Curtiss JN-4C "Canuck" (the Canadian version of the Jenny). Lindbergh also "cracked up" this aircraft once when his engine failed shortly after take off in Pensacola, Florida, but again he managed to repair the damage himself.
2nd Lt. Charles A. Lindbergh, USASRC March 1925
Following a few months of barnstorming through the South, the two pilots parted company in San Antonio, Texas, where Lindbergh had been ordered to report to Brooks Field on March 19, 1924, to begin a year of military flight training with the United States Army Air Service both there and later at nearby Kelly Field. Late in his training Lindbergh experienced his most serious flying accident on March 5, 1925, eight days before graduation. He was involved in a midair collision with another Army S.E.5 while practicing aerial combat maneuvers and was forced to bail out. Only 18 of the 104 cadets who started flight training remained when Lindbergh graduated first overall in his class in March 1925 thereby earning his Army pilot's wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service Reserve Corps.
Lindbergh later noted in "WE", his best selling book published in July 1927, just two months after making his historic flight to Paris, that he considered this year of Army flight training to be the critically important one in his development as both a focused, goal oriented individual, as well as a skillful and resourceful aviator.
"Always there was some new experience, always something interesting going on to make the time spent at Brooks and Kelly one of the banner years in a pilot's life. The training is difficult and rigid but there is none better. A cadet must be willing to forget all other interest in life when he enters the Texas flying schools and he must enter with the intention of devoting every effort and all of the energy during the next 12 months towards a single goal. But when he receives the wings at Kelly a year later he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has graduated from one of the world's finest flying schools."  "WE" (p. 125)
With the Army not then in need of additional active duty pilots, however, following graduation Lindbergh immediately returned to civilian aviation as a barnstormer and flight instructor, although as a reserve officer he also continued to do some part-time military flying by joining the 110th Observation Squadron, 35th Division, Missouri National Guard, in St. Louis in November 1925. He was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
 Air Mail pilot and pioneer
 Robertson Aircraft Corporation and CAM-2
Large commercial corner cover flown by Lindbergh from Chicago to St. Louis on the opening day of CAM-2 (April 15, 1926)
Lindbergh's copy of a CAM-2 "Weekly Postage Report" for the week of February 6–12, 1927
In October 1925, Lindbergh was hired by the Robertson Aircraft Corporation (RAC) in St. Louis (where he had been working as a flight instructor) to first lay out, and then serve as chief pilot for the newly designated 278-mile (447 km) Contract Air Mail Route #2 (CAM-2) to provide service between St. Louis and Chicago (Maywood Field) with two intermediate stops in Springfield and Peoria, Illinois. Operating from Robertson's home base at the Lambert-St. Louis Flying Field in Anglum, Missouri, Lindbergh and three other RAC pilots, Philip R. Love, Thomas P. Nelson, and Harlan A. "Bud" Gurney, flew the mail over CAM-2 in a fleet of four modified war surplus de Havilland DH-4 biplanes. Two days before he opened service on the route on April 15, 1926, with its first early morning southbound flight from Chicago to St. Louis, Lindbergh officially became authorized to be entrusted with the "care, custody, and conveyance" of U.S. Mails by formally subscribing and swearing to the Post Office Department's 1874 Oath of Mail Messengers. It would not take long for him to be presented with the circumstances to prove how seriously he took this obligation.
Wreck of Lindbergh's DH4 which crashed near Covell, IL, on November 3, 1926
Twice during the 10 months that he flew CAM-2, Lindbergh temporarily lost "custody and control" of mails that he was transporting when he was forced to bail out of his mail plane owing to bad weather, equipment problems, and/or fuel exhaustion. In the two incidents, which both occurred while he was approaching Chicago at night, Lindbergh landed by parachute near small farming communities in northeastern Illinois. On September 16, 1926, he came down about 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Chicago near the town of Wedron, while six weeks later, on November 3, 1926, Lindbergh bailed out again about 70 miles (110 km) further south hitting the ground in another farm field located just west of the city of Bloomington near the town of Covell. After landing without serious injury on both occasions, Lindbergh's first concern was to immediately locate the wreckage of his crashed mail planes, make sure that the bags of mail were promptly secured and salvaged, and then to see that they were entrained or trucked on to Chicago with as little delay as possible. Lindbergh continued on as chief pilot of CAM-2 until mid-February 1927, when he left for San Diego, California, to oversee the design and construction of the Spirit of St. Louis.
 Air Mail advocate
B.L. Rowe corner cover flown by Charles Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince (February 6, 1928) and Havana (February 8, 1928)
Although Lindbergh never returned to service as a regular U.S. Air Mail pilot, he used the immense fame that his exploits had brought him to help promote the use of the U.S. Air Mail Service. He did this by giving many speeches on its behalf, and by carrying souvenir mail on both special promotional domestic flights as well as on a number of international flights over routes in Latin America and the Caribbean which he had laid out as a consultant to Pan American Airways to be then flown under contract to the Post Office Department as Foreign Air Mail (FAM) routes. At the request of Capt. Basil L. Rowe, the owner and chief pilot of West Indian Aerial Express (later Pan Am's chief pilot as well) and a fellow Air Mail pioneer and advocate, in February 1928, Lindbergh also carried a small amount of special souvenir mail between Santo Domingo, R.D., Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Havana, Cuba in the Spirit of St. Louis.
Autographed USPOD penalty cover with C-10 flown northbound by Charles Lindbergh over CAM-2 on February 21, 1928, and southbound on February 22
Those cities were the last three stops that he and the Spirit made during their 7,800-mile (12,600 km) "Good Will Tour" of Latin America and the Caribbean between December 13, 1927 and February 8, 1928, during which he flew to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, spending 125 hours in the air. The final two legs of the 48-day tour were also the only flights on which officially sanctioned, postally franked mail was ever carried in the Spirit of St. Louis. Exactly two weeks later, Lindbergh also "returned" to flying CAM-2 for two days so that he could pilot a series of special flights (northbound on February 20; southbound on February 21) on which tens of thousands of self-addressed souvenir covers sent in from all over the nation and the world were cacheted, flown, backstamped, and then returned to their senders as a further means to promote awareness and the use of the Air Mail Service. Souvenir covers and other artifacts associated with or carried on flights piloted by Lindbergh are still actively collected under the general designation of "Lindberghiana."
 Pursuing the Orteig Prize
Charles Lindbergh (left) accepted his prize from Raymond Orteig (right) in New York on June 14, 1927
Designated to be awarded to the pilot of the first successful nonstop flight made in either direction between New York City and Paris within five years after its establishment, the $25,000 Orteig Prize was first offered by the French-born New York hotelier (Lafayette Hotel) Raymond Orteig on May 19, 1919. Although that initial time limit lapsed without a serious challenger, the state of aviation technology had advanced sufficiently by 1924 to prompt Orteig to extend his offer for another five years, and this time it began to attract an impressive grouping of well known, highly experienced, and well financed contenders. Ironically, the one exception among these competitors was the still boyish Charles Lindbergh, a 25-year-old relative latecomer to the race, who, in relation to the others, was virtually anonymous to the public as an aviation figure, who had considerably less overall flying experience, and was being primarily financed by just a $15,000 bank loan and his own modest savings.
The first of the well-known challengers to actually attempt a flight was famed World War I French flying ace René Fonck who on September 21, 1926, planned to fly eastbound from Roosevelt Airfield in New York in a three-engine Sikorsky S-35. Fonck never got off the ground, however, as his grossly overloaded (by 10,000 lbs) transport biplane crashed and burned on takeoff when its landing gear collapsed. (While Fonck escaped the flames, his two crew members, Charles N. Clavier and Jacob Islaroff, died in the fire.) U.S. Naval aviators LCDR Noel Davis and LT Stanton H. Wooster were also killed in a takeoff accident at Langley Field, Virginia, on April 26, 1927, while testing the three-engine Keystone Pathfinder biplane, American Legion, that they intended to use for the flight. Less than two weeks later, the first contenders to actually get airborne were French war heroes Captain Charles Nungesser and his navigator, François Coli, who departed from Paris – Le Bourget Airport on May 8, 1927, on a westbound flight in the Levasseur PL 8, The White Bird (L'Oiseau Blanc). Contact was lost with them after crossing the coast of Ireland and they were never seen nor heard from again.
American air racer Clarence D. Chamberlin and Arctic explorer CDR (later RADM) Richard E. Byrd were also in the race. Although he did not win, Chamberlin and his passenger, Charles A. Levine, made the far less well remembered second successful nonstop single-pilot flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean in the single engine Wright-Bellanca WB-2 Miss Columbia (N-X-237), leaving Roosevelt Field on June 4, 1927, two weeks after Lindbergh's flight and landing in Eisleben, Germany 43 hours and 31 minutes later on June 6, 1927. (Ironically, the Chamberlin monoplane was the same one that the Lindbergh group had originally intended to purchase for his attempt but passed on when the manufacturer insisted on selecting the pilot.) Byrd followed suit in the Fokker F.VII tri-motor, America, flying with three others from Roosevelt Field on June 29, 1927. Although they reached Paris on July 1, 1927, Byrd was unable to land due to poor weather and was forced to return to the Normandy coast where he ditched the tri-motor high-wing monoplane near the French village of Ver-sur-Mer.
 Lindbergh's flight to Paris
Part of the funding for the Spirit of St. Louis came from Lindbergh's own earnings as a U.S. Air Mail pilot over the year before his nonstop flight to Paris. (January 15, 1927, RAC paycheck to Lindbergh)
Six well known aviators had thus already lost their lives in pursuit of the Orteig Prize when Lindbergh took off on his successful attempt in the early morning of Friday, May 20, 1927. Dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis, his "partner" was a fabric covered, single-seat, single-engine "Ryan NYP" high-wing monoplane (CAB registration: N-X-211) designed by Donald Hall and custom built by B.F. Mahoney's Ryan Aircraft Company of San Diego, California. The primary source of funding for the purchase of the Spirit and other expenses related to the overall New York to Paris effort came from a $15,000 State National Bank of St. Louis loan made on February 18, 1927, to St. Louis businessmen Harry H. Knight and Harold M. Bixby, the project's two principal trustees,[N 2] and another $1,000 donated by Frank Robertson of RAC on the same day. Lindbergh himself also personally contributed $2,000 of his own money from both his savings and his earnings from the 10 months that he flew the U.S. Air Mail for RAC.
Sample of the fine linen fabric that covered the Spirit of St. Louis
Burdened by its heavy load of 450 U.S. gallons (1,704 liters) of gasoline weighing approximately 2,710 lbs (1,230 kg), and hampered by a muddy, rain soaked runway, Lindbergh's Wright Whirlwind powered monoplane gained speed very slowly as it made its 7:52 AM takeoff run from Roosevelt Field, but its J-5C radial engine still proved powerful enough to allow the Spirit to clear the telephone lines at the far end of the field "by about twenty feet with a fair reserve of flying speed." Over the next 33.5 hours he and the "Spirit"—which Lindbergh always jointly referred to simply as "WE"—faced many challenges including skimming over both storm clouds at 10,000 feet (3,000 m) and wave tops at as low at 10 ft (3.0 m), fighting icing, flying blind through fog for several hours, and navigating only by the stars (whenever visible) and "dead reckoning" before landing at Le Bourget Airport at 10:22 PM on Saturday, May 21. A crowd estimated at 150,000 spectators stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for "nearly half an hour." While some damage was done to the Spirit (especially to the fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters, both Lindbergh and the Spirit were eventually "rescued" from the mob by a group of French military fliers, soldiers, and police who took them both to safety in a nearby hangar. From that moment on, however, life would never again be the same for the previously little known former U.S. Air Mail pilot who, by his successful flight, had just achieved virtually instantaneous—and lifelong—world fame.
Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis – 1927
Although Lindbergh was the first to fly nonstop from New York to Paris, he was not the first aviator to complete a transatlantic flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft. That had been done first in stages between May 8 and May 31, 1919, by the crew of the Navy-Curtiss NC-4 flying boat which took 24 days to complete its journey from Jamaica Bay at Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, to Plymouth, England, via Halifax, Nova Scotia, Trepassey Bay (Newfoundland), Horta (Azores) and Lisbon, Portugal. The lighter-than-air (LTA) U.S. Navy airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) made a non-stop crossing from the Zeppelin Company works in Friedrichshafen, Germany to the U.S. Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey from October 12 to 15, 1924.
The world's first non-stop transatlantic flight (albeit over a route far shorter than Lindbergh's, 1,890 miles (3,040 km) vs. 3,600 statute miles (5,800 km)) was achieved nearly eight years earlier on June 14–15, 1919. Two British aviators, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, flew a modified Vickers Vimy IV bomber from Lester's Field near St. John's, Newfoundland on June 14 and arrived at Clifden, Ireland, the following day. Both men were knighted at Buckingham Palace by King George V, in recognition of their pioneering achievement.
 Aftermath of the flight
The Spirit's flight from Paris to Belgium
The French Foreign Office flew the American flag, the first time it had saluted someone not a head of state. Lindbergh made a series of flights in Europe using the Spirit before returning to the United States. Gaston Doumergue, the President of France, bestowed the French Légion d'honneur on the young Capt. Lindbergh, and on his arrival back in the United States aboard the United States Navy cruiser USS Memphis (CL-13) on June 11, 1927, a fleet of warships and multiple flights of military aircraft including pursuit planes, bombers and the rigid airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), escorted him up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. where President Calvin Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
"Lindbergh Air Mail" Stamp (C-10) issued June 11, 1927
On that same day that Lindbergh and the Spirit arrived in Washington, the U.S. Post Office Department issued a 10-Cent Air Mail stamp (Scott C-10) depicting the Spirit of St. Louis and a map of the flight. On June 13, 1927, a ticker-tape parade was held for him down 5th Avenue in New York City. The following night the City of New York further honored Capt. Lindbergh with a grand banquet at the Hotel Commodore attended by some 3,700 people.
Program cover for the "WE" Banquet given by the Mayor's Committee on Receptions of the City of New York on June 14, 1927
After the flight, Lindbergh became an important voice on behalf of aviation activities, including the central committee of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), an appointment made by President Herbert Hoover. He embarked on a three-month cross country tour on behalf of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. The 1927 "Lindbergh Tour" culminated with visits to 48 states and 92 cities, where he delivered 147 speeches, and rode 1,290 miles (2,080 km) in parades. At the conclusion of the tour, Lindbergh spent a month at Falaise, Guggenheim's Sands Point mansion, where he wrote the acclaimed "We", a book about his transatlantic flight published by George P. Putnam.
The massive publicity surrounding him and his flight boosted the aviation industry and made a skeptical public take air travel seriously. Within a year of his flight, a quarter of Americans (an estimated thirty million) personally saw Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. Over the remainder of 1927 applications for pilot's licenses in the U.S. tripled, the number of licensed aircraft quadrupled, and U.S. Airline passengers grew between 1926 and 1929 by 3,000% from 5,782 to 173,405. Lindbergh later charted both polar and South American air routes, developed techniques for high altitude flying, and during World War II demonstrated how to increase flying range by developing techniques of refining flight attitudes and leaning fuel mixture to decrease the rate of gasoline consumption and improving efficiency.
The winner of the 1930 Best Woman Aviator of the Year Award, Elinor Smith Sullivan, said that before Lindbergh's flight, "people seemed to think we [aviators] were from outer space or something. But after Charles Lindbergh's flight, we could do no wrong. It's hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. Even the first walk on the moon doesn't come close. The twenties was such an innocent time, and people were still so religious—I think they felt like this man was sent by God to do this. And it changed aviation forever because all of a sudden the Wall Streeters were banging on doors looking for airplanes to invest in. We'd been standing on our heads trying to get them to notice us but after Lindbergh, suddenly everyone wanted to fly, and there weren't enough planes to carry them."
 Marriage and children
Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906–2001) was the daughter of diplomat Dwight Morrow whom he met in Mexico City in December 1927, where her father was serving as the U.S. Ambassador. According to a Biography Channel profile on Lindbergh, she was the only woman that he had ever asked out on a date. In Lindbergh's autobiography, he derides womanizing pilots he met as "barnstormers", and Army cadets for their "facile" approach to relationships. For Lindbergh, the ideal romance was stable and long term, with a woman with keen intellect, good health, and strong genes. Lindbergh said his "experience in breeding animals on our farm had taught me the importance of good heredity."
The couple were married on May 27, 1929, and eventually had six children: Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. (1930–1932); Jon Morrow Lindbergh (b. August 16, 1932); Land Morrow Lindbergh (b. 1937), who studied anthropology at Stanford University and married Susan Miller in San Diego; Anne Lindbergh (1940–1993); Scott Lindbergh (b. 1942); and Reeve Lindbergh (b. 1945), a writer. Lindbergh also taught his wife how to fly and did much of his exploring and charting of air routes with her.
 "The Crime of the Century"
Main article: Lindbergh kidnapping
The "wanted" poster
In what came to be referred to sensationally by the press of the time as "The Crime of the Century", on the evening of March 1, 1932, 20-month old Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was abducted by an intruder from his crib in the second story nursery of his family's rural home in East Amwell, New Jersey near the town of Hopewell.[N 3] While a 10-week nationwide search for the child was being undertaken, ransom negotiations were also conducted simultaneously with a self-identified kidnapper by a volunteer intermediary, Dr. John F. Condon (aka "Jafsie"). These resulted in the payment on April 2 of $50,000 in cash, part of which was made in soon-to-be withdrawn (and thus more easily traceable) Gold certificates, in exchange for information about the child's whereabouts which proved to be false. The child's remains were eventually found by chance by a passing truckdriver six weeks later on May 12 in roadside woodlands near Mount Rose, NJ.
In response to the highly publicized crime, the Congress passed the so-called "Lindbergh Law" on June 13 which made kidnapping a federal offense under certain circumstances. Known formally as the "Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932" (18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)), the new statute provided for federal jurisdiction over all future kidnappings in which any victim(s) were taken across state lines and/or (as had occurred in the Lindbergh case) the kidnapper(s) used "the mail or any means, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in committing or in furtherance of the commission of the offense" including as a means to demand a ransom.
Lindbergh testifies at the Hauptmann trial in 1935
The assiduous tracing of many $10 and $20 Gold certificates passed in the New York City area over the next year-and-a-half eventually led police to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a 34-year-old German immigrant carpenter, who was arrested near his home in The Bronx, New York, on September 19, 1934. A stash containing $13,760 of the ransom money was subsequently found hidden in his garage. Charged with kidnapping, extortion, and first degree murder, Hauptmann went on trial in a circus-like atmosphere in Flemington, New Jersey on January 2, 1935. Six weeks later he was convicted on all counts when, following 11 hours of deliberation, the jury delivered its verdict late on the night of February 13 after which trial judge Thomas Trenchard immediately sentenced Hauptmann to death. Although he continued to adamantly maintain his innocence, all of Hauptmann's appeals and petitions for clemency were rejected by early December 1935. Despite a last minute attempt by New Jersey Governor Harold G. Hoffman (who believed Hauptmann was guilty but also had always expressed doubts that he could have acted alone) to convince him to confess to the crimes in exchange for getting his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, the by then 36-year-old Hauptmann refused and was electrocuted at Trenton State Prison on April 3, 1936.
 Self exile in Europe (1936-1939)
Lindbergh and his family arrive in England, Dec 31, 1935 (Universal Newsreel)
An intensely private man when it came to his family life, Lindbergh became exasperated by the unrelenting press and public attention focused on them in the wake of the kidnapping and Hauptmann trial. Particularly concerned for the physical safety of their then three-year-old second son, Jon, by late 1935 the Lindberghs secretly came to the decision to voluntarily exile themselves in Europe, and thus in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, December 22, 1935 they "sailed furtively" from Pier 60 (West 20th St, Manhattan) for Liverpool, England, as the only three passengers on board the United States Lines freighter SS American Importer. To help maintain the strict secrecy Lindbergh insisted upon for their departure, the family traveled under assumed names and using diplomatic passports which had been issued just a week earlier through the personal intervention of Treasury Secretary Ogden Mills.
News of the Lindberghs' "flight to Europe" did not break until a full day later in an exclusive front-page story by New York Times aviation writer Lauren "Deac" Lyman, a longtime family friend and supporter, published in the paper's final Monday morning edition although Lyman intentionally withheld the identity of the ship as well as its time and port of departure from that initial account. While Lyman included the information in his followup story published the next day, radiograms sent to Lindbergh on the American Importer were nevertheless all returned with the notation "Addressee not aboard."
Although Lindbergh had "offered no public explanation" for the family's unannounced departure, shortly before they sailed he had told Lyman in a private interview: "We Americans are a primitive people. We do not have discipline. Our moral standards are low. It shows up in the private lives of people we know — their drinking and 'behavior with women.' 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 others." For those reasons, Lindbergh told Lyman, he had decided to take his family to England to "seek a safe, secluded residence away from the tremendous public hysteria" that surrounded him in America. The Lindberghs arrived in Liverpool on December 31, 1935 where they secluded themselves before later departing for South Wales to stay with relatives.
"Long Barn", the Lindbergh's rented home in England
The family eventually rented "Long Barn" in the village of Sevenoaks Weald, Kent, England. One newspaper wrote that Lindbergh "won immediate popularity by announcing he intended to purchase his supplies 'right in the village, from local tradesmen.' The reserve of the villagers, most of whom had decided in advance he would be a blustering, boastful young American, is melting." At the time of Hauptmann's execution, local police almost sealed off the area surrounding Long Barn with "orders to regard as suspects anyone except residents who approached within a mile of the home." Lindbergh later described his three years in the Kent village as "among the happiest days of my life." In 1938, the family moved to Île Illiec, a small four-acre island Lindbergh purchased off the Breton coast of France.
Although Charles and Anne Lindbergh had made a brief unannounced holiday visit to the US in December, 1937, the family (including a second son, Land, born in London in May, 1937) would continue to live and travel extensively in Europe for more than three years before finally returning to reside again in the United States in April, 1939, settling in a rented seaside estate at Lloyd Neck, Long Island, NY. The timing of family's return came primarily as the result of a personal request by General H. H. ("Hap") Arnold, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army Air Force in which Lindbergh was a Colonel in the Reserves, to him to accept a temporary call up to active duty in order to help evaluate that service's readiness for a potential war. Lindbergh's brief four-month tour was also his first period of active military service since he had graduated from the Army's Flight School 14 years earlier in 1925
Research team setting off to FIND Amelia Earhart almost exactly 75 years after she vanished
A new search for missing aviator Amelia Earhart is all set to begin - just about 75 years to the day after she vanished while flying over the Pacific.
A research team will set off for the remote island of Nikumaroro with some high-tech tools in hopes of establishing what happened to the legendary pilot when she vanished on July 2, 1937.
It will be the tenth time in 23 years the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will have searched the island for clues about Earhart's disappearance - but this time they'll be looking specifically for crash debris.
Enduring riddle: American aviator Amelia Earhart, posing by her plane in Long Beach, California, in 1930, disappeared while flying over the Pacific in 1937
Nikumaroro Island: Researchers will scour the island for clues and crash debris
Earhart, then 39, was on the final stage of an an ambitious around-the-world flight along the equator in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra when she and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared.
The holder of several aeronautical records, including the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, Earhart had set off from New Guinea to refuel at Howland Island for a final long-distance hop to California.
In what turned out to be her final radio message, she declared she was unable to find Howland and that fuel was running low.
Several search-and-rescue missions ordered the next day by then-president Franklin Roosevelt turned up no trace of Earhart or Noonan, who were eventually presumed dead at sea.
Now, exactly 75 years after that search began, TIGHAR is launching one more, using underwater search equipment, which the organisation hopes will finally crack the mystery.
One such gizmo listed on TIGHAR's website is a multi-beam sonar hull-mounted onto an expedition vessel to scan the sea floor for wreckage.
High-tech: Some tools that will be utilised by TIGHAR include a multi-beam sonar hull-mounted onto an expedition vessel
Conspiracy theories about Earhart's final moments have flourished for years. One contended that Earhart was held by Japanese imperial forces as a spy.
Another claimed she completed her flight, but changed her identity and settled in New Jersey.
TIGHAR is operating under the hypothesis that the duo survived the crash, reached Gardner Island - which was then a British possession and now known as Nikumaroro - and managed to survive there for an unknown period of time.
The group is scheduled to hold a dockside media event on Monday to mark 75 years since the doomed flight, before beginning the search at 8am on Tuesday.
Nikumaroro, uninhabited in Earhart's time, and a mere 3.7 miles long by 1.2 miles wide, is about 300 miles southeast of Howland Island.
Missing: Earhart and Fred Noonan, left, before they set off on their doomed flight. Right: Earhart as a young pilot
In TIGHAR's latest expedition, about 20 scientists will depart Hawaii to explore over 10 days both the island and an underwater reef slope at the west end of the island.
'This time, we'll be searching for debris from the aircraft,' TIGHAR's founder and executive director Richard Gillespie, himself a pilot and former aviation accident investigator, revealed last month.
The team will be equipped with a multi-beam sonar to map the ocean floor, plus a remote-controlled device similar to the one that found the black boxes from the Rio-to-Paris Air France that crashed into the South Atlantic in 2009.
If any debris is found, it will be photographed and its location carefully documented for a future expedition, Gillespie said.
Celebrated: Earhart posing in Southampton after completing a successful flight across the Atlantic Ocean
Sustaining the search are clues worthy of detective story, including items from the 1930s previously discovered on the island such as a jar of face cream, a penknife blade, the heel of a woman's shoe and a bit of Plexiglas - all believed to belong to Earhart and her plane.
Skeletons of birds apparently cooked over a campfire have also contributed to the mystery, and settlers who reached Nikumaroro after 1937 have spoken of the existence of aircraft wreckage.
Bone fragments have meanwhile been subjected to DNA testing that turned out to be inconclusive, said Gillespie, who remains hopeful that parts of Earhart's Electra are yet to be found.
The U.S. government is lending technical and diplomatic support to the TIGHAR effort, budgeted at $2million and otherwise funded through donations and sponsorships through TIGHAR's website.
Earhart's story - as well as her mysterious demise - have captivated America for decades.
She has been portrayed on the big screen by A-List actresses like Diane Keaton, Amy Adams and Hillary Swank.
Intrigue: In her day, Earhart was extremely popular, but her mysterious death has kept that fame alive 75 years later
THEORIES BEHIND THE DEATHS OF AMELIA EARHART AND FRED NOONAN
The most widely accepted theory is that the aeroplane ran out of fuel and ditched in the sea. There have been several searches by many different professionals eager to solve the mystery, but none have been proven.
Another popular theory is that they landed on the island of Nikumaroro in the Pheonix Islands, 350 miles southeast of Howland Island and fended for themselves for serveral months until they succumbed to injury or disease. Improvised tools and bits of Plexiglas that are consistent with that of an Electra window were found on the island.
A few theorists reckon that she Earhart was spying on Japan and had been captured and executed. This theory has been discounted by the American authorities and press.
A rumour claimed that she was one of many women sending messages on Tokyo Rose, an English-language Japanese propaganda station designed to attack the Allies' morale.
An Australian aircraft engineer said he found a map that showed Earhart and Noonan may have turned round to try and refuel but crashed before getting to an airstrip.
A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain.
But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday.
'This is just sort of the way things are in this world,' TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. 'It's not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is. It's not like that — it's never like that.'
Amelia Earhart sits in the cockpit of her plane, circa 1925
Thrasher said the group collected a significant amount of video and sonar data, which searchers will pore over on the return voyage to Hawaii this week and afterward to look for things that may be tough to see at first glance.
The group is also planning a voyage for next year to scour the land where it's believed Earhart survived a short while after the crash, Thrasher said.
Thrasher maintained touch throughout the search with TIGHAR founder Ric Gillespie, her husband, and posted updates about the trip to the group's website.
The updates tell of a search that was cut short because of treacherous underwater terrain and repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps that caused delays and left the group with only five days of search time rather than 10, as originally planned.
During one episode, an autonomous underwater vehicle the group was using in its search wedged itself into a narrow cave, a day after squashing its nose cone against the ocean floor. It needed to be rescued.
Search crews had hoped to find conclusive evidence after clues such as this ointment bottle were found
'The rescue mission was successful — but it was a real cliffhanger,' Gillespie wrote in an email posted online last week. 'Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth.'Thrasher said the environment was tougher to navigate than searchers expected.
The U.S. State Department had encouraged the privately-funded voyage, which launched earlier this month from Honolulu using 30,000 pounds in specialized equipment and a University of Hawaii ship normally used for ocean research.
The group's thesis is based on the idea that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan landed on a reef near the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, then survived a short time.
Previous visits to the island have recovered artifacts that could have belonged to Earhart and Noonan, and experts say an October 1937 photo of the shoreline of the island could include a blurry image of the strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra landing gear.
The search for Amelia Earhart's plane probed the deep waters off Nikumaroro, a tiny desert island between Australia and Hawaii where the legendary aviator may have landed 75 years ago
The photo was enough for the State Department blessing, and led to the Kiribati government to sign a contract with the group to work together if anything is found, Gillespie said at the start of the voyage.
A separate group working under a different theory plans its third voyage later this year near Howland Island.
Earhart and Noonan were flying from New Guinea to Howland Island when they went missing July 2, 1937, during Earhart's bid to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
New discoveries may help answer questions about what happened to Amelia Earhart.
A mystery that has enthralled Americans for nearly a century may be on its way to being solved.
New evidence released Friday revealed clues that may solve the mystery of what happened to aviator Amelia Earhart, Discovery News reports.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery announced that a new study suggests that dozens of radio signals once dismissed were actually transmissions from Earhart’s plane after she vanished during her attempted around-the-world flight in 1937.
The announcement was made at the start of a three-day conference in Washington dedicated to Earhart and the group’s search for the famous aviator’s remains and the wreckage of her plane.
On the conference website, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery called Earhart’s unanswered distress calls “The smoking gun that was swept under the rug.”
Discovery News reported that the group has determined 57 “credible” radio transmissions from Earhart after her plane went down.
It has been researching the disappearance of Earhart, her navigator, Fred Noonan, and her Lockheed Electra aircraft for 24 years. Its members have developed a theory that Earhart’s remains lie on Nikumaroro Island in the Western Pacific.
Nikumoro Island, then called Gardner’s Island, had been uninhabited since 1892, the group said. In its version of Earhart’s final days, she and Noonan landed there after failing to find another island. They landed safely and radioed for help, the hypothesis goes. Eventually, the Electra was swept away by the tide, and Earhart and Noonan could no longer use its radio to call for help. U.S. Navy search planes flew over the island, but not seeing the Electra, they passed on and continued the search elsewhere.
The discovery of what is believed to be an old jar of anti-freckle cream may also provide clues to this decades-old mystery. It is suspected that the cosmetic bottle found on Nikumaroro Island once belonged to Earhart.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will launch an expedition to Nikumaroro Island on July 2, the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance. This is their ninth expedition.
These are the last images of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart as she prepared for her round-the-world flight during which she mysteriously disappeared.
Among the pictures is one of the Lockheed Electra 10E, the plane that was used for her doomed circumnavigation attempt in 1937.
She is also poignantly captured packing for the journey and getting her hair cut at a barber's shop in Miami, Florida.
Sprucing up: Aviator Amelia Earhart has a haircut in Miami ahead of her doomed attempt to fly around the world in 1937
The photographs were unearthed along with Earhart's Luxor aviator goggles which she had worn during a flying lesson with instructor Neta Snook in 1921. The pair were involved in a minor crash and one eye-piece of the goggles was smashed.
The goggles and photographs were given by Mrs Snook to her daughter Diane Brown around 40 years ago and were almost thrown out.
Mrs Brown, 66, said: 'I thought at the time it was just old papers that weren't needed anymore. But something said not to throw it out. I don't know why, but something just kept telling me, "Get that back out of that bag".
Poignant moment: The aviator prepares for her attempt to fly around the world during which she disappeared
'Amelia Earhart inspired my mother to fly. She loved to fly and was a huge proponent of women pilots.'
The items are being auctioned at Clars Auction Gallery in California. Auctioneer Marcus Wardell said: 'We have a large section of items connected to Amelia Earhart. But the broken goggles and unpublished pictures really stand out as collectors' items.
'The goggles were said to have been worn when Amelia crashed in 1921 at Goodyear Field in California in her Airster.
'One eye piece is broken and they were then owned by her instructor Neta Snook who gave them to our vendor.
'We have 18 unpublished photographs of Amelia just prior to her round-the-world attempt that ended with her disappearance.
'They were found by a woman who almost threw them out. She remembers them from when she was a child.
'These items have caused a great deal of excitement because Amelia Earhart is still very well known. In her time she was enormously famous because of her flying and the nature of her death means interest in her endures.
Mapped out: Ms Earhart makes final notes on her round-the-world flying attempt in her Lockheed Model 10 Electra aeroplane
Pioneer: Amelia Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross
Pioneering: Goggles worn by Ms Earhart are expected to fetch £20,000 at auction. On the right lense is a crack which happened during a minor crash when she was learning to fly
'Collectors and museums would love to be able to get hold of these unique items.'
The goggles are expected to fetch around £20,000 while each photograph is estimated at several hundred pounds.
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, for flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She set many other records and wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences.
She disappeared in 1937 aged 40 while attempting to fly around the world with navigator Fred Noonan.
The pair had set off in her Electra plane from Miami on June 1. After stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, they arrived at Lae, New Guinea, on June 29.
Wings: The pilot's Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane is prepared for take off in Miami
Adventurous: There are many theories about the fate of Amelia Earhart after her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean around 800 miles from Papa New Guinea
At this stage about 22,000 miles of the journey had been completed and the rest would be over the Pacific, a further distance of 7,000 miles.
They took off on July 2 and headed for the tiny Howland Island but never arrived.
Earhart ran into trouble near the island, if radio reports purporting to be theirs can be believed.
She radioed to a U.S. ship in the area, the Itasca: 'We must be on you but cannot see you - but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.'
The transmissions were the last anyone heard from the flyer and it was assumed the plane had crashed near Howland Island.
There are many competing theories about what happened and some believe they survived for some time on another island before dying.
The pilot prepares: Amelia Earhart examines navigation weather charts before her round-the-world trip
Woman on a mission: Amelia Earhart (second left) looks through flight records with friends
Celebrated: An earlier photo of Amelia Earhart (not part of auction) being waved off on a short flight from Derry to London after flying across the Atlantic solo
This is the photo which could solve one of aviation's most enduring mysteries - what happened to missing American aviator Amelia Earhart.
The pioneering pilot vanished without a trace over the South Pacific as she flew to the remote Howard Island.
It is thought this photo taken by a military surveyor could show a piece of the landing gear from Earhart's plane.
Mystery solved? This tiny dot could be part of the plane's landing gear sticking out of the water off the coast of Gardner Island in the Pacific
Close-up: This could be the landing gear from the doomed plane which disappeared in 1937
Now a team are trying to prove that the aviator, then 39, survived a crash in 1937 and managed to make her way to dry land.
It is thought that, unable to summon help in an era before satellite technology, she died some weeks later.
Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, while travelling from Lae, in New Guinea, to Howland Island during her bid to become the first woman to fly around the world.
The picture which could show a landing gear from the aircraft was taken on Gardner Island, now known as Nikumaroro Island, where a bundle of bones was found.
Efforts to solve the riddle have been given fresh impetus after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the government's support for a new $500,000 hunt to find her plane.
But conspiracy theories, including claims that they were U.S. government agents captured by the Japanese before World War II, abound despite having been largely debunked.
Enduring riddle: American avirator Amelia Earhart, posing by her plane in Long Beach, California, in 1930, disappeared while flying over the Pacific in 1937
Wading in: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) is offering her support to a private salvage team which is planning to search the location where Earhart if believed to have crashed
Intrigue: In her day, Earhart was extremely popular, but her mysterious death has kept that fame alive more than 75 years later
British WWI whose fighter pilots took on Germany and the Red Baron with only 15 hours' training and lasted on average just 11 days
September 17, 1916. The sky above the Somme was quiet and still, and golden sunlight was seeping over the horizon, lighting up the mud, blood and broken bodies below.
High in the sky, the German pilot in the Fokker Eindecker bi-plane had a knot in his stomach.
But it was not borne of fear, even though this was his first combat mission - and could easily be his last. No, this pilot was excited to finally have made it to the killing zone.
Dramatic: The BBC reconstruction of the fight against the Red Baron - the German pilot who brought down 80 British planes
And, barely an hour later, Captain Manfred Freherrn Von Richthofen had shot down his first plane.
'I give a short series of shots...' he wrote. 'Suddenly I nearly yelled for joy, for the propeller of the enemy machine had now stopped turning.
‘Hooray! I had shot his engine to pieces.
‘The enemy was compelled to land. I was so excited that I landed also, and my eagerness was so great that I nearly smashed up my machine.'
The Red Baron's reign of fear had begun.
Over the next 17 months he would shoot down a further 79 pilots - often whooping with delight as they plummeted to the ground in flames.
His victims were members of the Royal Flying Corps - eager boys, often with barely a dozen flying hours under their belts.
These young men had little notion of the risks they faced - not just from the Red Baron, but from their terrifyingly unreliable aircraft.
With the help of elite ex-RAF fighter pilots Mark Cutmore and Andy Offer, and several original First World War aeroplanes, the programme recreates some of the death-defying feats our pilots embraced while wrestling with unreliable planes and their own inexperience.
'It is staggering to realise what they were up against,' says 44-year-old Offer, who spent 22 years in the RAF, and led the Red Arrows.
'We've had about 4,000 hours of flying each, while many of these guys had 15 hours, if that.
‘And their planes were so fragile - made from skin, canvas and wood.'
Legendary: Captain Manfred Freherrn Von Richthofen was killed in 1918 after his plane was shot down in Somme
At the start of World War One, the aeroplane was barely a decade old. It had never been used in battle and was breathtakingly basic.
Indeed, when in 1914, a ramshackle selection of 64 unarmed aircraft set off for the Western Front, it was an achievement just to make it across the Channel - Bleriot had first made the crossing just five years earlier.
Today, both Cutmore and Offer are members of the Blades Aerobatic Display Team and used to looping the loop in small light, high-performance aircraft at speeds up to 250mph.
Manoeuvring clunky WWI planes was a shock.
'You can't hear very well, you're trying to speak and the mask is slipping all over your face,' says Cutmore, 40, who spent 20 years in the RAF and today performs the more ambitious looping stunts for the Blades.
'You've got the wind coming across your face, and it's absolutely freezing. They were just so brave.
‘They didn't have the skills to back up what they were doing - they were learning on the job.'
For the first couple of years, training was as dangerous as combat.
More than half the pilots who died in WW1 were killed in training.
As military historian Joshua Levine explains: 'If your engine failed at take off, that was the most dangerous time, because you didn't have the chance or speed to recover the machine.'
Initially, the planes were incredibly basic. Take the rotary Avro 504 which was shaped like a box, and made of linen stretched over a wooden frame.
According to Cutmore, flying it was like 'trying to push a shopping trolley with a huge sail on the back.'
Perhaps not surprisingly, the army's top brass couldn't see the point of these newfangled 'flying machines' and thought they'd scare the cavalry's horses.
Which meant the war in the sky began rather gently, with unarmed pilots being sent up for 'a bit of a look' - flying over enemy lines and taking notes.
But the British weren't alone in the skies. Every so often they'd bump into a German plane and wave cheerily.
Captain Tilden Thompson flew a two-seater spotter plane low over German lines as a decoy to lure Baron Manfred Von Richthofen into a trap
Attack: Group Captain Tilden Thompson in his 100mph plane. He is believed to have been the pilot that shot down the Red Baron
Until they realised they should probably start trying to kill each other.
So out came shotguns, revolvers - even rifles, which they'd stand up in their seat to shoot.
Pilot Kenneth van der Spuy wrote: 'I spotted a strange aircraft so I sidled up to him and saw he was a Hun…
‘I got my revolver and we had a revolver battle up there. We were very close to each other and I could see him quite well.
‘I finished my six shots and he had finished his. We both waved each other goodbye and set off.'
Things didn't remain so civilised. Within weeks, pistols gave way to machine guns.
'Trying to fly a plane and fire a pistol was kind of ridiculous,' says Offer.
'But machine guns were worse - they'd get jammed and the pilots would have to clamber out and un-jam them in mid air.'
And lethal. Pilots started dying like flies. Particularly British pilots, thanks to the legendary Eindecker Fockker, which was flown by the Red Baron.
Baron Richthofen wasn't a normal airman. There was nothing amateurish or schoolboy-like about him.
He was a slick, handsome, aristocratic killer. The sort of man who painted his plane bright red and decorated his walls with the serial numbers of downed British aircraft.
'I am a hunter,' he said.
'When I have shot down an Englishman, my hunting passion is satisfied... for just a quarter of an hour.'
He even rewarded himself after each kill with a hand-crafted silver cup engraved with the date and the make of the enemy's machine - when his tally reached 60, a German silver shortage put a stop to his commemorative cups, but the killing continued.
By comparison, the inexperience of many of the British pilots was breathtaking. Many were in their teens.
Aristocratic killer: Baron Richthofen called himself a 'hunter'
Lieutenant Cecil Lewis was typical. He had just left school.
'I put the nose down… Eighty five, ninety, ninety-five. She was screaming and vibrating like hell... a hundred.
‘A hundred and five... Now! I opened the throttle... Nothing happened. I shut it and opened it again. Not a splutter... Not a cough. This means a forced landing. Hell! Here goes!'
Cockpits generally extended to a seat, compass, RPM gauge, oil pressure gauge, machine gun and revolver.
'The machine gun was for the enemy, but the revolver was often for the pilot to take his own life, because neither side were allowed parachutes,' says Cutmore.
'High Command thought it would discourage pilots from staying in battle.'
Although the reality of air combat - staggering fatality rates, horrific injuries and terrible burns - was anything but glamorous, tales of derring-do between gentlemen in the sky were lapped up and dogfights were portrayed as elegant aerial jousting, rather than desperate battles for survival.
'In modern fast jets, we press a button and something goes 'whoosh' across the horizon,' says Cutmore.
'These guys could actually see each others' eyes.'
At the end of 1916, the battle entered its most deadly phase - the Red Baron and German squadrons making mincemeat of the old-fashioned British planes, nicknaming them 'Kaltes Fleisch' (cold meat) and reducing an RFC pilot's average life to just 18 hours in the air.
Meanwhile, the Allied pilots lived a schizophrenic existence.
By day, they were living in chateaux, playing croquet, swimming in beautiful mosaic pools and eating well each night, but in between were going up twice a day to do the most dangerous job on the Western Front.
Ready for war: Manfred Von Richthofen joined the Imperial Air Service in 1915 - by the end of 1916 he had shot down more than 20 planes
Soon the RFC was known as 'the suicide club'. New pilots lasted on average just 11 days from arrival on the front, to death.
As Lieutenant Cecil Lewis put it: 'You sat down to dinner faced by the empty chairs of men you had laughed with at lunch.
‘The next day new men would laugh and joke from those chairs. And so it would go on.'
By early 1917, the Royal Flying Corp was losing 12 aircraft and 20 crew every day.
As the war progressed and technology advanced, fortunes lurched from one side to another as new planes were developed - most lasting barely a couple of months before becoming obsolete.
But it was the SE5 - known as the Spitfire of WW1 and developed by the Allies in mid 1917 - and the new Sopwith Camel that turned tide of air war for the final time.
Finally, on Sunday, April 21, 1918, the Red Baron was finally downed - his unit ambushed by 15 Sopwith Camels led by Canadian Roy Brown.
During a huge dogfight, he was struck by a single bullet in the abdomen, landed his plane and breathed his final word 'Kaput'.
Four months later, the Great War was over. More than 14,000 British pilots had lost their lives. They embraced horrific challenges, swallowed paralysing fear, protected Britain's future and changed the face of modern warfare forever.
The Red baron (Manfred von Richthofen) with his dog Moritz
The somber German crew pose with a number of French soldiers in this photo from an American soldier's photos.The Germans' have been relieved of their leather flight gear and unless they were newcomers their flight badges as well.The German to the right is missing his boot and has a bandage on that foot.I do not see any flight badges on the Frenchmen in this group but the soldier with the googles may be the victor of this air battle.
In 1999, a German medical researcher, Henning Allmers, published an article in British medical journal The Lancet, suggesting it was likely that brain damage from the head wound Richthofen suffered in July 1917 (see above) played a part in the Red Baron's death. This was supported by a 2004 paper by researchers at the University of Texas. Richthofen's behaviour after his injury was noted as consistent with brain-injured patients, and such an injury could account for his perceived lack of judgment on his final flight: flying too low over enemy territory and suffering target fixation.
Richthofen may have been suffering from cumulative combat stress, which made him fail to observe some of his usual precautions. One of the leading British air aces, Major Edward "Mick" Mannock, was killed by ground fire on 26 July 1918 while crossing the lines at low level, an action he had always cautioned his younger pilots against. One of the most popular of the French air aces, Georges Guynemer, went missing on 11 September 1917, probably while attacking a two-seater without realizing several Fokkers were escorting it.
There is a suggestion in Franks and Bennett's 2007 book that on the day of Richthofen's death, the prevailing wind was about 25 mph (40 km/h) easterly, rather than the usual 25 mph (40 km/h) westerly. This meant that Richthofen, heading generally westward at an airspeed of about 100 mph (160 km/h), was travelling over the ground at 125 mph (200 km/h) rather than the more typical ground speed of 75 mph (120 km/h). This was 60% faster than normal and he could easily have strayed over enemy lines without realizing it, especially since he was struggling with one jammed gun and another that was firing only short bursts before needing to be re-cocked.
At the time of Richthofen's death the front was in a highly fluid state, following the initial success of the German offensive of March–April 1918. This was part of Germany's last opportunity to win the war. In the face of Allied air superiority, the German air service was having difficulty acquiring vital reconnaissance information, and could do little to prevent Allied squadrons from completing effective reconnaissance and close support of their armies.
No 3 Squadron AFC officers were pallbearers and other ranks from the squadron acted as a guard of honour during the Red Baron's funeral on 22 April 1918.
The funeral of Manfred von Richthofen
In common with most Allied air officers, Major Blake, who was responsible for Richthofen's remains, regarded the Red Baron with great respect, and he organised a full military funeral, to be conducted by the personnel of No. 3 Squadron AFC.
Richthofen was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, on 22 April 1918. Six airmen with the rank of Captain—the same rank as Richthofen—served as pallbearers, and a guard of honour from the squadron's other ranks fired a salute.[d] Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, "To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe".
In the early 1920s the French authorities created a military cemetery at Fricourt, in which a very large number of German war dead, including Richthofen, were reinterred. In 1925, Manfred von Richthofen's youngest brother, Bolko, recovered the body from Fricourt and took the Red Baron home to Germany. The family's intention was for Manfred to rest in the Schweidnitz cemetery, next to the graves of his father and his brother Lothar, who had been killed in a post-war air crash in 1922. The German government requested, however, that the final resting place be the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin, where many German military heroes and past leaders were buried and the family agreed. Later the Nazi regime organised a grandiose memorial ceremony over this grave, erecting a massive new tombstone with the single word: “Richthofen”. During the Cold War the Invalidenfriedhof was on the boundary of the Soviet zone in Berlin, and the tombstone became pockmarked with bullets fired at attempted escapees to the west. In 1975, the remains were moved to a family plot at the Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden, where he is buried next to his brother Bolko, his sister Elisabeth, and her husband.
Grave in Berlin (1931)
Number of victories
Main article: List of victories of Baron von Richthofen
For decades after World War I, some authors questioned whether Richthofen achieved 80 victories, insisting that his record was exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Some claimed that he took credit for aircraft downed by his squadron or wing.
In fact, Richthofen’s victories are better documented than those of most aces. A full list of the aircraft the Red Baron was credited with shooting down was published as early as 1958—with documented RFC/RAF squadron details, aircraft serial numbers, and the identities of Allied airmen killed or captured—73 of the 80 are listed as matching recorded British losses. A study conducted by British historian Norman Franks with two colleagues, published in Under the Guns of the Red Baron in 1998, reached the same conclusion about the high degree of accuracy of Richthofen's claimed victories. There were also unconfirmed victories that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more.
For comparison, the highest scoring Allied ace was Frenchman René Fonck, with 75 confirmed victories and further 52 unconfirmed behind enemy lines. The highest scoring British Empire fighter pilots were Canadian Billy Bishop credited with 72 victories, and Mick Mannock with 50 confirmed kills and a further 11 unconfirmed.
It is also significant that while Richthofen's early victories and the establishment of his reputation coincided with a period of German air superiority, many of his successes were achieved against a numerically superior enemy, who were flying fighter aircraft that were on the whole better than his own.
Von Richthofen was born in Kleinburg, near Breslau, Lower Silesia (now part of the city of Wrocław, Poland), into a prominent Prussian aristocratic family. His father was Major Albrecht Phillip Karl Julius Freiherr von Richthofen and his mother was Kunigunde von Schickfuss und Neudorff. He had an elder sister (Ilse) and two younger brothers.
When he was four years old, Manfred moved with his family to nearby Schweidnitz (now Świdnica). He enjoyed riding horses and hunting as well as gymnastics at school. He excelled at parallel bars and won a number of awards at school. He and his brothers, Lothar and Bolko,[b] hunted wild boar, elk, birds, and deer.
After being educated at home he attended a school at Schweidnitz, before beginning military training when he was 11. After completing cadet training in 1911, he joined an Uhlan cavalry unit, the Ulanen-Regiment Kaiser Alexander der III. von Russland (1. Westpreußisches) Nr. 1 ("1st Uhlan Regiment 'Emperor Alexander III of Russia (1st West Prussia Regiment)' "), and was assigned to the regiment's 3. Eskadron ("Number 3 Squadron").
When World War I began, Richthofen served as a cavalry reconnaissance officer on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, seeing action in Russia, France, and Belgium. Traditional cavalry operations soon became impossible due to machine guns and barbed wire, and the Uhlans were used as infantry. Disappointed at not being able to participate more often in combat, Richthofen applied for a transfer to Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Imperial German Army Air Service), later to be known as the Luftstreitkräfte, shortly after viewing a German military aircraft while deployed behind the lines. To his own surprise, his request was granted, and he joined the flying service at the end of May 1915.
 Piloting career
"I had been told the name of the place to which we were to fly and I was to direct the pilot. At first we flew straight ahead, then the pilot turned to the right, then left. I had lost all sense of direction over our own aerodrome!...I didn't care a bit where I was, and when the pilot thought it was time to go down, I was disappointed. Already I was counting down the hours to the time we could start again..."
John Simpson, quoting Richthofen's own description of his first flying experience.
From June to August 1915, Richthofen was an observer on reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Front with Fliegerabteilung 69 ("No. 69 Flying Squadron"). On being transferred to the Champagne front, he managed to shoot down an attacking French Farman aircraft with his observer's machine gun in a tense battle over French lines; however, he was not credited with the kill, since it fell behind Allied lines and therefore, could not be confirmed.
After a chance meeting of the German ace fighter pilot Oswald Boelcke, Richthofen entered training as a pilot in October 1915. In March 1916, he joined Kampfgeschwader 2 ("No. 2 Bomber Geschwader") flying a two-seater Albatros C.III. Initially he appeared to be a below average pilot, struggling to control his aircraft, and crashing during his first flight at the controls. Despite this poor start, he rapidly became attuned to his aircraft and, as if in confirmation, over Verdun on 26 April 1916, he fired on a French Nieuport, downing it over Fort Douaumont,although once again, he received no official credit. A week later, he decided to ignore more experienced pilots' advice against flying through a thunderstorm, and later noted that he had been "lucky to get through the weather", and vowed never again to fly in such conditions unless ordered to do so.
After another spell flying two-seaters on the Eastern Front, he met Oswald Boelcke again in August 1916. Boelcke, visiting the east in search of candidates for his newly formed fighter unit, selected Richthofen to join Jagdstaffel 2 ("fighter squadron"). Richthofen won his first aerial combat with Jasta 2 over Cambrai, France, on 17 September 1916. Boelcke was killed during a midair collision with a friendly aircraft on 28 October 1916, Richthofen witnessing the event himself.
Major Lanoe Hawker VC
After his first confirmed victory, Richthofen ordered a silver cup engraved with the date and the type of enemy machine from a jeweller in Berlin. He continued this until he had 60 cups, by which time the dwindling supply of silver in blockaded Germany meant that silver cups like this could no longer be supplied. Richthofen discontinued his orders at this stage, rather than accept cups made in pewter or other base metal.
Instead of using risky, aggressive tactics like those of his brother, Lothar (40 victories), Manfred observed a set of maxims (known as the "Dicta Boelcke") to assure the success for both the squadron and its pilots. He was not a spectacular or aerobatic pilot, like his brother or the renowned Werner Voss. However, he was a notable tactician and squadron leader and a fine marksman. Typically, he would dive from above to attack with the advantage of the sun behind him, and with other Jasta pilots covering his rear and flanks.
On 23 November 1916, Richthofen downed his most famous adversary, British ace Major Lanoe Hawker VC, described by Richthofen himself as "the British Boelcke". The victory came while Richthofen was flying an Albatros D.II and Hawker was flying a D.H.2. After a long dogfight, Hawker was killed by a bullet in the head as he attempted to escape back to his own lines. After this combat, Richthofen was convinced he needed a fighter aircraft with more agility, even at a loss of speed. He switched to the Albatros D.III in January 1917, scoring two victories before suffering an inflight crack in the spar of the aircraft's lower wing on 24 January. Richthofen reverted to the Albatros D.II or Halberstadt D.II for the next five weeks. On 6 March, his aircraft was shot through the petrol tank by Edwin Benbow, but Richthofen force landed without injury. Richthofen then scored a victory in the Albatros D.II on 9 March, but since his Albatros D.III was grounded for the rest of the month, Richthofen switched again to a Halberstadt D.II.
He returned to his Albatros D.III on 2 April 1917 and scored 22 victories in it before switching to the Albatros D.V in late June. From late July, following his discharge from hospital, Richthofen flew the celebrated Fokker Dr.I triplane, the distinctive three-winged aircraft with which he is most commonly associated, although he did not use the type exclusively until after it was reissued with strengthened wings in November. Despite the popular link between Richthofen and the Fokker Dr. I, only 19 of his 80 kills were made in this type. It was his Albatros D.III Serial No. 789/16 that was first painted bright red, in late January 1917, and in which he first earned his name and reputation.
Richthofen championed the development of the Fokker D.VII with suggestions to overcome the deficiencies of the then current German fighter aircraft. However, he never had an opportunity to fly it in combat as he was killed just days before it entered service.
In January 1917, after his 16th confirmed kill, Richthofen received the Pour le Mérite (informally known as "The Blue Max"), the highest military honour in Germany at the time. That same month, he assumed command of the fighter squadron Jasta 11, which ultimately included some of the elite German pilots, many of whom he trained himself. Several later became leaders of their own squadrons. Ernst Udet (later Colonel-General Udet) was a member of Richthofen's group.
At the time he became a squadron commander, Richthofen took the flamboyant step of having his Albatros painted red. Thereafter he usually flew in red painted aircraft, although not all of them were entirely red, nor was the "red" necessarily the brilliant scarlet beloved of model and replica builders.
Other members of Jasta 11 soon took to painting parts of their aircraft red—their "official" reason seems to have been to make their leader less conspicuous, and to avoid him being singled out in a fight. In practice, red colouration became a unit identification. Other jastas soon adopted their own "squadron colours" and decoration of fighters became general throughout the Luftstreitkräfte. In spite of obvious drawbacks from the point of view of intelligence this practice was permitted by the German high command, and was made much of by German propaganda—Richthofen being identified as Der Rote Kampfflieger—the "Red Battle Flyer".
Von Richthofen (centre) with Hermann Thomsen (German Air Service Chief of Staff, shown on the left) and Ernst von Hoeppner (Commanding General of the Air Service, shown on the right) at the Imperial Headquarters at Bad Kreuznach.
Richthofen led his new unit to unparalleled success, peaking during "Bloody April" 1917. In that month alone, he downed 22 British aircraft, including four in a single day, raising his official tally to 52. By June he was the commander of the first of the new larger Jagdgeschwader (wing) formations, leading Jagdgeschwader 1, composed of Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11. These were highly mobile, combined tactical units that could be sent at short notice to different parts of the front as required. In this way, JG1 became "The Flying Circus", its name coming both from the unit's mobility (including, where appropriate, the use of tents, trains and caravans) and its brightly coloured aircraft. By the end of April, the "Flying Circus" also became known as the "Richthofen Circus."
Richthofen was a brilliant tactician, building on Boelcke's tactics. Unlike Boelcke, he led by example and force of will rather than by inspiration. He was often described as distant, unemotional, and rather humourless, though some colleagues contended otherwise. He circulated to his pilots the basic rule which he wanted them to fight by: "Aim for the man and don't miss him. If you are fighting a two-seater, get the observer first; until you have silenced the gun, don't bother about the pilot".
Although he was now performing the duties of a lieutenant colonel (in modern RAF terms, a wing commander), he remained a captain. The system in the British army would have been for him to have held the rank appropriate to his level of command (if only on a temporary basis) even if he had not been formally promoted. In the German army, it was not unusual for a wartime officer to hold a lower rank than his duties implied, German officers being promoted according to a schedule and not by battlefield promotion. For instance, Erwin Rommel commanded an infantry battalion as a captain in 1917 and 1918. It was also not the custom for a son to hold a higher rank than his father, and Richthofen's father was a reserve major.
 Wounded in combatOn 6 July 1917, during combat with a formation of F.E.2d two seat fighters of No. 20 Squadron RFC, near Wervicq, Richthofen sustained a serious head wound, causing instant disorientation and temporary partial blindness. He regained consciousness in time to ease the aircraft out of a free-falling spin and executed a rough landing in a field within friendly territory. The injury required multiple surgeries to remove bone splinters from the impact area. The air victory was credited to Captain Donald Cunnell of No. 20, who was killed a few days later. The Red Baron returned to active service (against doctor's orders) on 25 July, but went on convalescent leave from 5 September to 23 October. His wound is thought to have caused lasting damage, as he later often suffered from post-flight nausea and headaches, as well as a change in temperament. There is even a theory linking this injury with his eventual death.
Portrait from contemporary German postcard
 Author and hero
During his convalescent leave, Richthofen completed his autobiography, Der rote Kampfflieger. This was written on the instructions of the "Press and Intelligence" (i.e. propaganda) section of the Luftstreitkräfte, and was heavily censored and edited. An English translation by J. Ellis Barker was published in 1918 as The Red Battle Flyer. Although Richthofen died before a revised version could be prepared, he is on record as repudiating the book, stating that it was "too insolent" (or "arrogant") and that he was "no longer that kind of person".
By 1918, Richthofen had become such a legend that it was feared that his death would be a blow to the morale of the German people. Richthofen himself refused to accept a ground job after his wound, stating that the average German soldier had no choice in his duties, and he would therefore continue to fly in combat. Certainly he had become part of a cult of hero-worship, assiduously encouraged by official propaganda. German propaganda circulated various false rumours, including that the British had raised squadrons specially to hunt down Richthofen, and were offering large rewards and an automatic Victoria Cross to any Allied pilot who shot him down. Passages from his correspondence indicate he may have at least half believed some of these stories himself.
Australian soldiers and airmen examine the remnants of Richthofen's triplane
209 Squadron Badge-the red eagle falling symbolizes the fall of the Red Baron
Australian airmen with Richthofen's triplane, 425/17, after it was dismembered by souvenir hunters
Captain Arthur Roy Brown was officially credited by the RAF with shooting down Richthofen.
At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight commander) of May's, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May that Richthofen was hit by a single .303 bullet, which caused such severe damage to his heart and lungs that it must have produced a very speedy death. In the last seconds of his life, he managed to make a hasty but controlled landing (
49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E / 49.9321076°N 2.5376701°E / 49.9321076; 2.5376701) in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). One witness, Gunner George Ridgway, stated that when he and other Australian soldiers reached the aircraft, Richthofen was still alive but died moments later. Another eye witness, Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen's last word was "kaputt".[c]
His Fokker Dr.I, 425/17, was not badly damaged by the landing, but it was soon taken apart by souvenir hunters.
In 2009, Richthofen's death certificate was found in the archives in Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. Richthofen had briefly been stationed in Ostrów—which was part of Germany until the end of World War I—before going to war. The document, which is a one-page, handwritten form in a 1918 registry book of deaths, misspells Richthofen's name as "Richthoven" and simply states that he has "died 21 April 1918, from wounds sustained in combat".
Controversy and contradictory hypotheses continue to surround the identity of the person who fired the shot that actually killed Richthofen.
The RAF credited Brown with shooting down the Red Baron, but it is now generally agreed that the bullet that hit Richthofen was fired by someone on the ground. Richthofen died following an extremely serious and inevitably fatal chest wound from a single bullet, penetrating from the right armpit and resurfacing next to the left nipple. Brown's attack was from above and the left. Even more conclusively, Richthofen could not have continued his pursuit of May for as long as he did (up to two minutes) had this wound come from Brown's guns. Brown himself never spoke much about what happened that day, claiming, "There is no point in me commenting, as the evidence is already out there".
Group portrait of the officers and NCOs of the 24th Machine Gun Company in March 1918. Sergeant Cedric Popkin is second from the right in the middle row.
Many sources, including a 1998 article by Geoffrey Miller, a physician and historian of military medicine, and a 2003 U.S. Public Broadcasting Service documentary, have suggested that Sergeant Cedric Popkin was the person most likely to have killed Richthofen. Popkin was an anti-aircraft (AA) machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, and was using a Vickers gun. He fired at Richthofen's aircraft on two occasions: first as the Baron was heading straight at his position, and then at long range from the right. Given the nature of Richthofen's wounds, Popkin was in a position to fire the fatal shot, when the pilot passed him for a second time, on the right. Some confusion has been caused by a letter that Popkin wrote, in 1935, to an Australian official historian. It stated Popkin's belief that he had fired the fatal shot as Richthofen flew straight at his position. However, in the latter respect, Popkin was incorrect: the bullet that caused the Baron's death came from the side (see above).
A 2002 Discovery Channel documentary suggests that Gunner W. J. "Snowy" Evans, a Lewis machine gunner with the 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery is likely to have killed von Richthofen. However, Miller and the PBS documentary dismiss this theory, because of the angle from which Evans fired at Richthofen.
Other sources have suggested that Gunner Robert Buie (also of the 53rd Battery) may have fired the fatal shot. There is little support for this theory. Nevertheless, in 2007, a municipality in Sydney recognised Buie as the man who shot down Richthofen, placing a plaque near Buie's former home. Buie, who died in 1964, has never been officially recognised in any other way.
The commanding officer of No. 3 Squadron AFC, Major David Blake, initially suggested that Richthofen had been killed by the crew of one of his squadron's R.E.8s, which had also fought Richthofen's unit that afternoon. However, this was quickly disproved (if only by the time factor), and following an autopsy that he witnessed, Blake became a strong proponent of the view that an AA machine gunner had killed Richthofen.
Theories about last combat
Richthofen was a highly experienced and skilled fighter pilot—fully aware of the risk from ground fire. Furthermore he was fully in accord with his late mentor Boelcke's rules of air fighting, which were strongly against taking foolish risks. In this context, it is universally accepted that Richthofen's judgement during his last combat was uncharacteristically unsound in several respects. Several theories have been proposed to account for his behaviour.
Grave of German Airman - Baron Von Richtofen at Sailly le Sec, Somme
Red Baron's grave, Sailly le Sec, France, 1918. The grave of Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918), better known as the 'Red Baron'. Richthofen was a cavalry officer who became the most famous of all the World War I fighter pilots, bringing down a total of 80 Allied aircraft. He was shot down on 21 April 1918 and the British buried him in France with full military honours.
This photograph appears to have been taken soon after the burial as the earth is still freshly dug and there are wreaths over the grave. The card on the nearest wreath bears the words, 'Royal Air Force', a reminder that for the pilots, the war in the air was like a series of very personal duels.
A posthumous photograph of Captain Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). The special value of the photograph is said to be that it shows the wounds in the head could not have been caused by fire from the air.
Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, with his Fokker F.I 102/17 prototype. The F.I was the forerunner of the Fokker Dr.I triplane. Both planes were designed by Anthony Fokker's chief designer, Rheinhold Platz, and were powered by a 110hp, 9 cylinder Oberursel UR-II rotary engine. The Dr.I, or Dreidecker, had a remarkable rate of climb and could virtually turn in it's own length! The Baron stuck with the Dr.I, even when it was no longer in it's prime.
ESCADRILLE, a squadron of volunteer American aviators who fought for France before the United States entered World War I. Formed on 17 April 1916, it changed its name, originally Escadrille Américaine, after German protest to Washington. A total of 267 men enlisted, of whom 224 qualified and 180 saw combat. Since only 12 to 15 pilots formed each squadron, many flew with French units. They wore French uniforms and most had noncommissioned officer rank. On 18 February 1918 the squadron was incorporated into the U.S. Air Service as the 103d Pursuit Squadron. The volunteers—credited with downing 199 German planes—suffered 19 wounded, 15 captured, 11 dead of illness or accident, and 51 killed in action.
|WWI German Two Seat Aeroplane ... An AEG C.IV This is an Allgemaine Elektrizitats-Gesellschaft (A.E.G.) model C.IV. ... Thanks to "Aviatik_D1" for identifying it. You can tell by the cabane structure, curved trailing edge of center section, and printed large cloudy edge camouflage pattern that was sprayed on. The C.IV had a steel tube fuselage structure and was powered by a number of engines. Among them 160 h.p. Mercedes D.III, 150 h.p. Benz Bz.III, 180 h.p. Argus A.IIII. It was also license-built by Fokker. Type: Reconnaisance |
Number Built: ?
Engine(s): Mercedes D.III, 6 cylinder inline, liquid cooled, 160 hp
Wing Span: 44 ft 2 in (13.46 m)
Length: 23 ft 5.5 in (7.15 m)
Height: 11 ft (3.35 m)
Empty Weight: ?
Gross Weight: 2,464 lb (1,120 kg)
Max Speed: 99 mph (158 km/h)
Ceiling: 16,405 ft (5,000 m)
Endurance: 4 hours
Armament: 2 machine guns
220 lb (100 kg) of bombs
Richthofen's Albatros D.V after forced landing near Wervicq
 Flying Circus
Manfred von Richthofen with other members of Jasta 11
Eddie Rickenbacker with a Nieuport
Top American Ace of WWI, 26 victories
The American Ace of Aces, Eddie Rickenbacker, was a successful race car driver, fighter pilot, airline executive, wartime advisor, and elder statesman. Few aces achieved so much in so many different lifetime roles.
His twenty-six aerial victories came in only two months of combat flying, a spectacular achievement.
His family name was originally spelled "Reichenbacher," anglicized to its more familiar form when the U.S. entered World War One. His father died when Eddie was twelve, and the youngster quit school to help support his mother. He found a job with the Frayer Miller Aircooled Car Company, one of the thousands of automobile companies that emerged in the early 1900's.
From his job road-testing cars for Frayer-Miller, he made his way into automobile racing, racing for Fred Deusenberg, among others. He raced three times in the Indianapolis 500 and set a speed record of 134 MPH in a Blitzen Benz.
He became one of the most successful race car drivers of the era, earning $40,000 per year (a great sum at that time).
Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker
Eddie Rickenbacker with his pit crew
The Great War
When the United States entered the war, Rickenbacker proposed a flying squadron staffed by race car drivers. The Army didn't accept his suggestion, but did accept his personal services; he became a driver for the Army general staff (but not chauffeur to General John "Black Jack" Pershing as frequently claimed). Once in France, he hoped to transfer into aviation.
Rickenbacker got a break one day when he had a chance to fix a motorcar carrying Colonel Billy Mitchell, then chief of the Army's Air Service. He made his interests known to Mitchell, and Rickenbacker, then at the advanced age of twenty-seven, entered pilot training. Because of his mechanical skills, he was first made engineering officer at the Issoudun aerodrome, but he flew whenever he could.
94th Pursuit Squadron
In March, 1918, he was assigned to the newly formed 94th Pursuit Squadron, which included: James Norman Hall (of the Lafayette Escadrille), Hamilton Coolidge, James Meissner, Reed Chambers, and Harvey Cook. But no airplanes! Once they secured some cast-off Nieuports, they moved up to the front.
Before April 3, 1918, only the 94th, commanded by Major John Huffer, (one of the old Lafayette flyers), and Captain James Miller's squadron, the 95th, were at the front. Both squadrons had been at Villeneuve and together had moved to Epiez. None of the pilots of either squadron had been able to do any fighting, owing to the lack of airplane guns. In fact the pilots of Squadron 95 had not yet been instructed in the use of airplane guns. The 94 Squadron pilots however had been diverted to the Aerial Gunnery School at Cazeau for a month early in the year and were ready to try their luck in actual combat fighting over the lines. But they had no guns on their machines before April 3. Then suddenly guns arrived! All sorts of wonderful new equipment began pouring in. Instruments for the aeroplanes, suits of warm clothing for the pilots, extra spares for the machines. Shortly, they moved up to an aerodrome at Toul. Here, they unpacked, organized the squadron, and selected the famous "Hat-in-the-Ring" insignia.
On the 6th, Major Raoul Lufbery, selected "Rick" and Douglas Campbell for the squadron's first flight over German lines. As he eyed the trenches and desolation of war from 15,000 feet up, suddenly "Archy," German anti-aircraft fire opened up. Carefully shepherded by Lufbery, it was an uneventful flight, but back on the ground the experienced Lufbery chided the two novices for failing to notice other planes that he had seen. And for a good measure he casually poked his fingers into several shrapnel holes in Rickenbacker's Nieuport.
On the 14th, a patrol of Rickenbacker, Captain Peterson, and Lieutenant Reed Chambers was ordered to fly from Pont-à-Mousson to St. Mihiel at 16,000 feet. Lieutenants Douglas Campbell and Alan Winslow were directed to stand by on the alert at the hangar from six o'clock until ten the same morning. Rickenbacker's patrol got separated in fog and didn't accomplish too much, but as they returned, the "alert" pilots, Campbell and Winslow, intercepted two Boche airplanes and sent them both down. The newspapers made a huge fuss over the first "American" victories of the war.
For ten weeks Rickenbacker flew strafing missions and fruitless sorties before shooting down his first enemy plane. One day he encountered a Spad with French markings that almost shot him down, a lesson well-learned. He made several mistakes in this early period: getting lost, mistaking friends for foes, falling into German aerial ambushes, etc.. He later reflected that these early disappointments and lessons gave him enormous benefits in his subsequent flying.
April 29th was a wet day; he and Capt. James Norman Hall had the afternoon alert. At five o'clock Captain Hall received a telephone call from the French headquarters at Beaumont stating that an enemy two-seater machine had just crossed the lines, flying south.
Hall and Rickenbacker had been on the field with their flying clothes on and their machines ready. They jumped into their seats and the mechanics twirled the propellers. Just then the telephone sergeant told Captain Hall to wait for the Major, who would be on the field in two minutes. "Rick" scanned the northern heavens and spotted a tiny speck against the clouds above the Forêt de la Reine; it was the enemy plane. The Major was not yet in sight. Their motors were smoothly turning over and everything was ready.
Deciding not to wait for the Major, Captain Hall ordered the blocks pulled away from the wheels. His motor roared as he opened up his throttle and in a twinkling both machines ran rapidly over the field. Side by side they arose and climbing swiftly, soared after the distant Boche. In five minutes they were above the observation balloon line which stretched along two miles behind the front. Rickenbacker could still distinguish their unsuspecting quarry off toward Pont-à-Mousson. He briefly left Hall to pursue a French three-seater, but recognized the ally before firing, and rejoined Capt. Hall.
Hall led them up sun, gaining an advantageous position over the new Pfalz fighter that he had spotted. Coordinating skillfully, Rickenbacker cut off the German's retreat while Hall dived at him, from out of the sun. As the German tried to escape eastward, Rickenbacker opened his throttle and was on him. At 150 yards he pressed the triggers. The tracer bullets cut a streak of living fire into the Pfalz's tail. Raising the nose of his aeroplane slightly the fiery streak gradually settled into the pilot's seat. The Pfalz swerved, out of control. At 2000 feet, Rickenbacker pulled up and watched the enemy machine continuing on its course. Curving slightly to the left the Pfalz circled and crashed at the edge of the woods a mile inside the German lines.
Lt. Eddie Rickenbacker had brought down his first enemy airplane without taking a single shot! He and Hall did aerobatics all the way back to their field, where they received the hearty congratulations of their mates, on the squadron's third victory.
While April's rainy weather inhibited flying, the 94th saw more action in May. On the 2nd, James Meissner outmaneuvered an Albatros, sent it into a spin, and dived after it. Firing until the German plane spouted flames, Meissner didn't immediately notice the fabric peeling off his left upper wing. With careful flying, he made it back the the 94th, with the squadron's fourth victory confirmed by a French observation post. That same day, the 94th suffered its first casualty when Charley Chapman's Nieuport was flamed by a two-seater. On the 7th, while dogfighting four Germans with Rickenbacker and Green, the wing of Hall's Nieuport stripped; he crash-landed and was captured. Rickenbacker replaced Hall as commander of the squadron's Number 1 Flight.
Rickenbacker scored his second victory while flying with Reed Chambers. On the morning of the 17th, he and Chambers took off before dawn in an effort to catch some German planes unawares. After fruitless circling at 18,000 feet, Rickenbacker headed for the German stronghold of Metz, losing Chambers in the process. Finding no Hun air activity over Metz, he then flew over an airdrome at Thiaucourt, where he noticed three Albatroses taking off. He eased down lower, unnoticed by the enemy airplanes until "Archy" gave him away. Diving at 200(?) MPH, he fired a long ten-second burst, until, at 50 yards, the Albatros pilot was hit. When Rickenbacker pulled out of his dive, the Nieuport cracked and the upper wing covering came off. He spun down, apparently a certain casualty, but managed to re-start his engine and pull out at about 2,000 feet. He landed safely, and even had his victory confirmed.
On May 30, 1918, Rickenbacker claimed two German airplanes, to become an ace. Once again, Jimmy Meissner lost the upper wing of his Nieuport. By then, the American pilots were anxious to discard the Nieuports, for the heavier, stronger Spads, as the French had already done.
Rickenbacker continued to prowl the skies, looking for victories and learning more. On the 4th of June, he cornered a Rumpler, two-seater observation plane with number '16' painted on its fuselage. His gun promptly jammed, and number '16' escaped. The next day, flying Lt. Smyth's plane while the guns in his plane were being repaired, he chanced upon Rumpler number '16' again! This time the Rumpler pilot evaded by zooming upward and giving Rickenbacker a taste of its floor-mounted machine gun. Its skillful pilot kept him at bay for over half and hour, working his way back over German lines. "Rick" regretfully turned home, and his engine froze up; he had exhausted its oil supply in his two-and-a-half hours of combat flying. Once again, he squeaked through to a safe landing. For the next two days, he stalked the predictable number '16' which easily evaded him by seeking higher altitudes, even when he used the Nieuport in the squadron reputed to have the highest ceiling. Some wags suggested that he could gain some extra altitude by leaving his guns behind, or perhaps even more by omitting that heavy fuel!
After this useless exercise, he took a leave in Paris. He didn't fly much in June, due to a persistent ear infection. But late in month, he did participate in an early American effort to emulate the large organized formations of fighters that the Germans used so effectively. The three U.S. squadrons got hopelessly mixed up. Early one morning he, Reed Chambers, Jimmy Meissner, Thorn Taylor, and Lt. Loomis organized an early morning attack on German observation balloons, Drachen, which was depressingly unsuccessful. On June 27, all four of the U.S. Pursuit Squadrons in France (the 94th, 95th, 27th, and 147th) moved from the Toul to Château-Thierry sector, to "an old French aerodrome at Touquin, a small and miserable village some twenty-five miles south of Château-Thierry and the Marne River."
July was not much better; little flying an no victories. He was briefly hospitalized with pneumonia and then visited Paris on the 4th of July. He dropped in at the U.S. supply depot at Orly, found some new Spads there, and flew a "borrowed" one back to the 94th.
By August 8, the 94th received newer, faster Spads to replace their Nieuports, promising even greater results. But Rickenbacker's ear infection grounded him for much of August, as well.
On that day, He went up with 11 Spads of the 94th, escorting a pair of French two-seater photo planes over Vailly. When two small groups of Fokkers attacked, the 94th pilots successfully protected the photo planes. Rickenbacker and Chambers both believed they had downed Fokker, but their claims were unconfirmed, as the combat took place well over German lines. On a similar mission on the 10th, when escorting some Salmson photo machines over the Vesle and Aisne rivers, they met some Fokker D.VII's, but all Rickenbacker got was three bullet holes in the fuselage of his Spad. He spent late August in the hospital, returning on Sept. 3, when the 94th Squadron moved back to the Verdun sector, to a little town named Erize-la-Petite.
This month, he scored four more victories and rose to command the 94th Squadron.
He assumed command on Sept 24; the first thing he did was check the operations records and he found that the 27th Squadron was leading the 94th in victories, largely due to Frank Luke's balloon-busting spree. By the end of the month, the 94th had recaptured the lead.
While flying over Etain on the 25th, Rickenbacker picked up a pair of L.V.G. two-seater machines, escorted by four Fokkers. He climbed into the sun unnoticed, got well in their rear, and made a bee line for the nearest Fokker. With one long burst, he sent it down. The other Fokkers scattered, and he took the opportunity to make a pass at the LVG's. After several maneuvers, he flamed one of those, too.
Sept. 26, 1918 was a big day. Forty thousand American doughboys were going over the top, in an offensive from the Meuse River to the Argonne forest. In support of this, the 94th Pursuit Squadron was charged with destroying German observation balloons. He and five of the 94th's best pilots, Lieutenants Cook, Chambers, Taylor, Coolidge and Palmer; gathered for an early breakfast, and went over their plans. Two balloons assigned to the 94th, and three pilots were delegated to each balloon. Both lay along the Meuse between Brabant and Dun. They eluded the Archy fire to bring down both balloons; and "Rick" downed a Fokker
As commander of the 94th, nicknamed the "Hat in the Ring" Squadron, he displayed the managerial skills that served him so well in later endeavors. He drove his men hard and demanded results. They rose early for calisthenics; inspections were frequent and detailed; waste was not permitted. Rickenbacker insisted:
Every plane must be ready to take-off any moment, day or night, guns loaded, gassed, engine tuned. [If all was not correct] the war could be lost.
He also spent as much time as possible leading patrols in the air, delegating operational issues to different officers. Billy Mitchell was delighted at his protege's success. His reports glowed with both Rickenbacker's aerial and organizational successes.
He and Reed Chambers shared a victory over a Hanover recon plane on the 2nd, this on a day when they were flying low-level ground-support patrols. Within a few minutes of this action, a flight of Fokkers appeared, chasing Rickenbacker down toward the ground. Reed Chambers and other Spads arrived in the nick of time, and the whole circus was soon climbing to gain the shelter of some low-hanging clouds. Recovering from his dive, Rickenbacker and Chambers sought a place between the Fokkers and their lines where they might be expected to issue out and make for home. They caught them and promptly sent two of them crashing inside the American lines. All three of their victories were promptly confirmed.
Twelve years after the war ended, he was belatedly awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his accomplishments.
In the early 1920's, he secured backing for a new automobile company under his name. It was a well-designed, even advanced, car featuring four wheel brakes, but offered at the wrong time. Soon, his new company was bankrupt.
Starting in the early 1930's, he owned or managed various commercial airlines, notably Eastern Airlines, which had its roots as a division of General Motors. He became General Manager of Eastern in 1933, and in 1938, with a group of investors, he bought it and became its president. Starting with an aggressively low bid ($0!) for a government air mail contract, he managed the company profitably for twenty years.
Twenty-two Days in a Raft
During WW2, he carried out special assignments for Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War. In October, 1942, flying in a B-17 over the Pacific, on such a mission to Douglas MacArthur, the plane went down in the Pacific. In a horrifying ordeal, Rickenbacker and seven other men, rode a raft for twenty-two days before they were rescued. One man died; Rickenbacker, the oldest man in the raft, lost 54 pounds.
He became a spokesman and advocate for conservative causes, convinced that government "socialist" programs were ruining the country. He died in 1973
In 1967, Eddie Rickenbacker, then 77, wrote his autobiography. My Dad, a World War One aviation buff, stood in line at the old Hartford, Connecticut department store, G. Fox, to get "Captain Eddie's" autograph on a couple books. I still have my copy, inscribed with my name, Rickenbacker's signature, and the date - with an an extra '6' in the year "19668."
It's a good book, well-written, but quite immodest. Of course, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, Rickenbacker "was a man with a lot to be immodest about." To read Rickenbacker's book, he had always been right about everything, had seen everything coming, and had generally "known it all." Among his less persuasive claims was that he first recommended to North American Aviation that they mate the Mustang airframe with the powerful Merlin engine. He also saw World War Two coming, and proposed the "Rickenbacker Plan for World Peace," in 1925!