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Charles A. Lindbergh.

Charles A. Lindbergh.

Charles A. Lindbergh

Charles A. Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4, 1902. He saw his first airplane when he was eight years old, piloted by exhibition flyer Lincoln Beachey.

After high school, he entered the University of Wisconsin in 1920 as a mechanical engineering student. He quit school, though, and went to Nebraska to learn to fly. He first went aloft in April 1922, and soon joined an experienced barnstormer on a cross-country tour, learning to wing-walk and parachute from planes. He bought his first plane, a surplus Curtiss Jenny, and made his first solo flight in 1923. That year he also enlisted in the Army Air Service. Lindbergh won his wings in 1925 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Reserves. He also became an airmail pilot and made his first airmail flight, between Chicago and St. Louis, in 1926.

In 1926 he began to consider the $25,000 prize that Raymond Orteig was offering to the first person to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. He used $2000 of his own money and persuaded a group of St. Louis businessmen to raise $13,000 more so he could buy a new plane. Ryan Airlines in San Diego built Lindbergh a special monoplane in only 60 days. He named it the Spirit of St. Louis. Since he planned to cross the ocean alone, without even a parachute or radio to make room for more fuel, he became known as the “Lone Eagle.”

On May 20, 1927, at 7:52 in the morning, he took off from Curtiss Field. The flight itself was not difficult; the weather was mostly fair. Lindbergh’s greatest challenge was to stay awake. When he reached Paris on May 21, he circled the Eiffel Tower before landing at Le Bourget Field to the cheers of the waiting crowds. It had taken him 33-1/2 hours to fly 3,610 miles.

From that point, Lindbergh was an international hero. He received the French Legion of Honor, and when he arrived back in the United States, a fleet of warships and aircraft escorted him to Washington where President Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. In New York, four million people crowded the sidewalks for a parade in his honor, and Mayor Jimmy Walked bestowed him with New York’s Medal of Valor. Lindbergh then went on a nationwide tour promoting aviation. At the end of his tour, he met Anne Morrow, daughter of Ambassador Dwight Morrow, who he soon married. On March 21,1929, President Coolidge presented him with the nation's highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Lindbergh served on a variety of national and international boards and committees, including the central committee of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. In 1932, tragedy struck when his two-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered; Lindbergh went to live in Europe. In Europe during the rise of fascism, Lindbergh assisted American aviation authorities by informing them about European technological developments. After 1936 he warned the United States of the rise of Nazi air power. Although in the late 1930s he was a leading isolationist, fighting against U.S. participation in Europe's fight against Germany, when the United States actually went to war, he offered his services to the Army Air Forces. He assisted with the war effort in the 1940s by serving as a consultant to aviation companies and the government. After the war he lived in Connecticut and then Hawaii.

Lindbergh died on August 26, 1974.