On this day, Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggests that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler.
Lindbergh was born in 1902 in Detroit. His father was a member of the House of Representatives. Lindbergh’s interest in aviation led him to flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later brought him work running stunt-flying tours and as an airmail pilot. While regularly flying a route from St. Louis to Chicago, he decided to try to become the first pilot to fly alone nonstop from New York to Paris. He obtained the necessary financial backing from a group of businessmen, and on May 21, 1927, after a flight that lasted slightly over 33 hours, Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris. He won worldwide fame along with his $25,000 prize.
In March 1932, Lindbergh made headlines again, but this time because of the kidnapping of his two-year-old son. The baby was later found dead, and the man convicted of the crime, Bruno Hauptmann, was executed. To flee unwanted publicity, Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow, daughter of U.S. ambassador Dwight Morrow, moved to Europe. During the mid-1930s, Lindbergh became familiar with German advances in aviation and warned his U.S. counterparts of Germany’s growing air superiority. But Lindbergh also became enamored of much of the German national “revitalization” he encountered, and allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government, which drew tremendous criticism back home.
Upon Lindbergh’s return to the States, he agitated for neutrality with Germany, and testified before Congress in opposition to the Lend-Lease policy, which offered cash and military aid to countries friendly to the United States in their war effort against the Axis powers. His public denunciation of “the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt Administration” as instigators of American intervention in the war, as well as comments that smacked of anti-Semitism, lost him the support of other isolationists. When, in 1941, President Roosevelt denounced Lindbergh publicly, the aviator resigned from the Air Corps Reserve. He eventually contributed to the war effort, though, flying 50 combat missions over the Pacific. His participation in the war, along with his promotion to brigadier general of the Air Force Reserve in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a popular Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis,, and a movie based on his exploits all worked to redeem him in the public’s eyes.