Despite presidential orders, Lindbergh flew in WW2
Editor’s note: Don Lee is taking a break from his column this week. This is representation of a piece from Dec. 8, 2018.
There is a lot more to learn about Charles Lindbergh than his world-changing 1927 solo flight of 3,600 miles in a single engine plane.
On that famous flight from New York to Paris, he was able to stay awake for 33 1/2 hours after hardly getting any sleep the night before.
You surely have heard about that trip, but there is a lot more adventure to investigate.
His first encounter with airplane was his wing walking career and parachute jumping at county fairs and other festivities.
He took some flying lessons, but didn’t solo since he couldn’t afford posting a bond to cover damage if he had an accident.
I have never heard of that being done with modern day instruction and soloing.
With that little flight instructing, he went to Georgia and bought a Curtis JN-4 “Jenny” to start barnstorming.
The only instruction he had there with another pilot who was also there to buy a surplus Jenny.
Lindbergh had a half hour of dual with this guy and then flew his $500 plane for another five hours of practice by himself. He then flew his first cross-country trip from Americus, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama.
He spent the rest of 1923 barnstorming using the name “Daredevil Lindbergh.”
He had short career flying the mail from St. Louis to Chicago during which he saved his life twice by parachuting because he got caught at night in a storm. There is a lot more about this amazing pilot, but let’s jump to WWII.
Lucky Lindy was very much against getting into the war with Germany.
He fell from grace by accepting an Order of the German Eagle award from Hermann Goring. Someone said he went from hero to zero from that one event.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt described him as a “defeatist and appeaser.”
Lindbergh had resigned his commission in the Army, but after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he tried to be recommissioned in the United States Army Air Force.
He was denied the request on instructions from the White House.
In order to get around this, he persuaded United Aircraft to hire him as a technical representative in the Pacific Theater to study aircraft performance.
He showed Marine pilots how to take off with twice the bomb load that the Vought F4U Corsair fighter-bomber was designed to carry.
On May 21, 1944, he went on his first combat mission, which was a strafing run on the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, New Britain.
He took part in 50 combat missions as a civilian.
He shot down a Japanese Mitsubishi KI-51 while flying a P-38 fighter.
He also trained the P-38 pilots to extend their range 300 miles by teaching them how to lean their engines to consume less fuel. He impressed General Douglas MacArthur with his innovations in the use of the P-38 as bomber escort.
You can bet that Roosevelt never heard about Lindbergh’s South Pacific adventures.
Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org