Charles Lindbergh shot to fame at age 25 as he became the first pilot to make a nonstop flight from New York to Paris on his own. This was the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight, and it earned him the Orteig Prize and international renown.
Many of us know Lindbergh for this achievement which came early on in his life, becoming a turning point for aviation history. But there are many little-known facts you may not have heard about Charles Lindbergh. Here are the top 11 most interesting!
Charles Lindbergh Facts
1. Charles Lindbergh was not the first pilot to cross the Atlantic
Lindbergh’s was not the first transatlantic crossing, as a few other daring pilots had completed the crossing before him. However, a lot of the journeys were done in stages and more than one pilot would be on the plane. What makes Lindbergh’s achievement unique is that he was alone and also that he flew between two major cities, paving the way for commercial flights as we know them today, an important fact about Charles Lindbergh. Additionally, his achievement in 1927 was the longest transatlantic flight by about 2,000 miles!
2. He supported Germany before World War II
Before the US entered the war, Lindbergh advocated non-interventionism. He even opposed the aid that was granted to the United Kingdom. He supported an anti-war committee called America First and even resigned from the US Army Air Forces after President Franklin Roosevelt made a public statement against him for his views. He did, however, support the war effort after the Pearl Harbor attacks, even though he didn’t take up arms and was never reinstated in the Air Force.
3. He claimed he had mirages and hallucinations during his flight
As is the case with any endurance event, the mind tends to wander and cause hallucinations. This happened to Lindbergh, whose flight lasted 33.5 hours. He had gone without sleep for 55 hours and reported going down to the surface of the ocean to get sprayed by the sea salt in the hopes of waking himself up, an interesting fact about Charles Lindbergh. He wrote about seeing “fog islands” and various shapes “riding weightless with [him] on the plane.”
4. He had a link with Al Capone
In 1932, Lindbergh’s son was kidnapped at just 20 months old from his home in New Jersey. Al Capone, the famous gangster, was among those who offered to help find him. This was done through a public statement from Capone as he was waiting to be transferred to prison – he offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who could help find the kidnappers, and he stated he would be willing to use any of his connections as well. Tragically, however, the baby was found dead two months later, only a few miles from home.
5. He worked on medical advances such as an artificial heart
Lindbergh’s sister Elisabeth had heart disease, which inspired him to look into ways that organs could be kept alive outside the human body. He worked with Nobel Prize-winning French surgeon Alexis Carrel on this and developed a perfusion pump made of Pyrex glass that could move the air and fluids through organs that had been removed from the body, allowing them to keep working in a sterile environment. This turned out to be a precursor to developing the first true artificial organs, so a major medical advancement, an important fact about Charles Lindbergh.
6. He turned into an explorer and conservationist
Later in life, Lindbergh traveled the world and became interested in preserving wildlife. He supported the World Wildlife Fund and lobbied for environmental causes such as against the disappearance of endangered species. He was famously quoted saying he would rather have “birds than airplanes”.
7. He lived among indigenous tribes
As part of his dedication to conservationism and understanding the environment, Charles Lindbergh lived among tribes in Africa and the Philippines. He also helped procure land in Hawaii, to create the Haleakala National Park, alongside Laurance S. Rockefeller.
8. Lindbergh received an award from the Nazis
His 1927 transatlantic flight made him famous around the world, including, of course, Germany. When Lindbergh travelled there in the 1930s, he was given access to the combat planes of the Luftwaffe and was presented with the Service Cross of the German Eagle in recognition of his pioneering aviation. At the time, however, the US intelligence had actually encouraged him to visit Germany, and he informed them of what he saw during his visits, an interesting fact about Charles Lindbergh.
9. Charles Lindbergh didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day
Because he saw holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as purely commercial, Charles Lindbergh didn’t allow his children to celebrate them at all. His daughter spoke of his aversion to these days, but also of the ability for the children to celebrate during Lindbergh’s frequent trips away from home.
10. He had secret parallel families
DNA tests run in 2003 proved that Charles Lindbergh had had three children in Munich, with Brigitte Hesshaimer, starting in 1957. The children were unaware of their connection to Lindbergh but did receive visits from him a few times a year when he went to Germany. However, after their mother died, they were the ones who had the suspicion which led to the tests being done.
There is also a rumour about Lindbergh having had two children with Brigitte’s sister, Marietta, and another two with his secretary, Valeska, a crazy fact about Charles Lindbergh.
11. He was a millionaire
His ocean crossing had a $25,000 prize attached to it, but his stardom afterwards was what brought him his wealth. Lindbergh wrote a best-selling autobiography and articles about aviation for The New York Times. The public’s curiosity about him and the trip earned him millions.
Having shot to international fame at a very early age after his transatlantic flight in 1927, Charles Lindbergh went on to have a full and interesting life, playing a major role in US politics and beyond. His interests were extremely varied, leading to him contributing to aviation, medicine, intelligence operations and finally conservationism.
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