View Full Version : Charles Lindbergh - The Lone Eagle

09-18-02, 11:56 AM
P-38 pilot, America Firster, Conservationist <br />
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On May 20-21, 1927 Charles Lindbergh made the first solo, nonstop New York to Paris flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. After the 3,610-mile, 34...

09-18-02, 12:01 PM
In 1929, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. That same year, he flew again to Mexico, again stayed with the Morrow family, and soon proposed to the Ambassador's daughter, Anne. They...

09-18-02, 12:03 PM
On his first combat mission, the USMC Corsairs escorted B-25's on a bombing run over Rabaul. His F4U, powered by a 2,000 HP Pratt & Whitney radial engine, carried sixteen hundred rounds of .50-caliber ammunition, that could be spewed out at a rate of 5,000 rounds per minute with all six guns firing. They approached the target at 10,000 feet, he saw the ship-strewn harbor. A little ack-ack came up his way, but no Zeros. He saw a few Jap planes in the revetments, but no ground activity. As the first bombs hit the edges of Rabaul, the radio chatter picked up and one pilot had already taken to his life raft. As Lindbergh's flight of F4-U's swung south, explosions erupted from a fuel dump hidden in a coconut grove. A mix of American airplanes roared over: USAAF B-25 bombers, Marine Corps Corsairs, USAAF P-39s, TBF torpedo bombers, and P-38s. The anti-aircraft batteries opened up at the strike planes.

After delivering their payloads, the bombers headed back; Lindbergh saw one TBF trailing smoke. On the ground at Rabaul, fires burned as the Corsairs lined up for their strafing runs. They flew out beyond range of the AAA, whipped into position, and set their trim tabs to dive. From 7,000 feet, he slanted down towards the enemy at Rabaul ... 4,000 feet ... 1,500 feet ... and, with a clear line of fire, he opened up. The tracers streaked onto and across a roof, and then raked an airstrip.

Lindbergh banked out to sea, his mission complete. But they still had plenty of ammunition. A target of opportunity, the Duke of York, a small island in St. Georges Channel, held a Japanese airstrip and garrison. While strafing, Lindbergh narrowly avoided shooting up a church, only to find, back at base, that the Japanese used it as a barracks.

P-38 Lightning Pilot
Next he arranged to visit the Army Air Corps' 475th Fighter Group, which flew Lockheed P-38 Lightnings.
On June 26, he approached the CO of the 475th, Col. Charles MacDonald. He identified himself and indicated that he wanted to familiarize himself with the P-38's combat operations. Engrossed in a game of checkers, MacDonald at first brushed him off. Only paying half attention to the tall stranger, MacDonald asked the world's most famous aviator, "Are you a pilot?" When Lindbergh repeated his name, MacDonald finally made the connection. He wanted to fly combat missions with the 475th. The commanders discussed it; Major Thomas McGuire, the country's second highest-scoring ace, allowed as he'd "like to see what the old guy could do." He commenced flying P-38's with the 475th.

After a few missions, the ground crew noticed that Lindbergh returned with more fuel than the other pilots. He explained to the skeptical youngsters that by setting the RPMs low and the manifold pressure high, the engine would consume less fuel. In the huge Pacific theater, extending the range of the P-38 would be a significant extension of American airpower. The 475th pilots worried that these settings would damage the engines. Lindbergh replied, "These are military engines, built to take punishment. So punish them." Soon, all the pilots adopted his approach. He flew 25 missions by early July, before he was summoned to General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters, to meet with MacArthur and General Richard Sutherland. On learning of his methods for improving the Lightning's fuel economy and range, they asked him to spread the word throughout the Fifth Air Force. Back with the 475th, on the island of Biak, Lindbergh witnessed the revolting sight of Japanese corpses - unburied and rotting; many had been atrociously looted by American soldiers.

On July 28, Lindbergh participated in the 433rd Fighter Squadron's strafing mission against Amboina, near Cebu in the Philippines. On the return, they encountered a Sonia, a two-seater armed reconaissance plane, not exactly a world-class fighter. Somehow the Sonia pilot had eluded P-38s from the 49th Fighter Group, when MacDonald, Capt. Danforth Miller, Lt. Joseph Miller, and Lindbergh found it. The Sonia zipped right at Lindbergh's Lightning. "The Lone Eagle" fired away with his powerful armament and pulled up at the last second. The Sonia dove straight down into the water.

Three days later, again flying with MacDonald, Lindbergh encountered another Japanese plane. A Zero got behind him and only MacDonald's swift rescue and the Zero pilot's poor aim saved him.

He and Thomas McGuire, became friends - they flew together, shared a tent, and explored the islands.

In September, Lindbergh again flew with the Marines, over Kwajalein in the Marshalls, where he successfully delivered a 4,000 pound bomb load with an F4U Corsair, the heaviest payload carried by that plane.

He returned to Europe in mid-1945, on a Naval Technical Mission, to study high-speed German aircraft. He saw first-hand the widespread devastation of German cities: Mannheim, Zell-am-See (the Luftwaffe headquarters), Berchtegaden, and Oberammergau, where he met Dr. Willy Messerschmitt. Among his stops was the Nordhausen V-2 factory near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There an unbelievably aged seventeen-year old camp survivor showed Lindbergh the ovens and other horrific aspects of the camp. Lindbergh described this horror in his diaries, but equated the Holocaust to atrocities throughout history and to what he had seen in the caves at Biak. While Lindbergh was a patriot, and no anti-Semite, some flaw or weakness prevented him from ever fully owning up to his misjudgement of Hitler and the unprecedented genocide of the Holocaust.

Post War Years
After the war, the public generally forgot, or at least overlooked, the role that Lindbergh had played before the war. President Eisenhower restored him to the Air Force Reserves and promoted him to General. His book, The Spirit of St. Louis was awarded a Pulitizer Prize. In the Fifties, he and his family resided in Westport, Connecticut, but Charles' lifelong penchant for traveling continued, and he never really settled down.
In his later years, his concern for the negative effect of aviation and technology increased. He supported conservation causes, and wrote about his life, including his wartime diaries. He and Anne moved to the remote island of Maui, in Hawaii, where they built a comfortable retreat.

Charles Lindbergh passed away on August 26, 1974.