1998 32¢ Celebrate the Century - 1920s: Lindbergh
US #3184m – from the 1920s Celebrate the Century sheet

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born on February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan.

The son of a US congressman and a chemistry teacher, Lindbergh moved a lot during his childhood, spending time in Little Falls, Minnesota, Washington, DC, and Redondo Beach, California.

“Lucky Lindy” began his aviation career at the age of 20, after he left the University of Wisconsin to enroll in flight school. Soon he was a barnstormer, offering plane rides for $5 a person and performing as a stunt pilot at fairs. In 1924 Lindbergh began a year of military flight training with the US Army Air Service. He went on to graduate first in his class and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service Reserve Corps.

1927 10¢ Air Mail - Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis", dark blue
US #C10 was the first US stamp to honor a living person. It was issued after thousands of people wrote in requesting a stamp to honor Lindbergh’s flight.

At the time, the military didn’t need active duty pilots, so Lindbergh found more work as a barnstormer and flight instructor. Then in October 1925, he was hired to plan and fly the 278-mile Contract Air Mail Route from St. Louis to Chicago. During this service there were two occasions when bad weather or equipment failure forced him to abandon the plane, though he always recovered the mail and ensured it reached its destination.

1977 13¢ Lindbergh Flight
US #1710 was issued on the 50th anniversary of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.
1927 10¢ Lindbergh "Spirit of St. Louis" - booklet pane of 3
US #C10a – The Spirit of St. Louis booklet pane was overlooked by collectors when it was issued.

Since 1919, a New York City hotel owner, Raymond Orteig, had offered a $25,000 reward to the first pilot to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. Several pilots attempted to earn this prize, but all failed – some were injured or even died. In 1927, this unclaimed prize came to Lindbergh’s attention. He believed the trip was possible with the right plane.

Lindbergh convinced a group of St. Louis businessmen to give him the financial support he needed to build a special airplane of his own design. He named the plane the Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh’s plane was so heavy with fuel it barely cleared the telephone lines to begin the daring flight.

On May 20, 1927, at 7:52 a.m., Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field, located near New York City. His only tools were a compass, an airspeed indicator, and his own navigational skills.

1927 C10a Lindbergh Complete, 2 pns of 3
US #BKC1 – Complete 1927 Spirit of St. Louis Booklet with two panes of three stamps

Thirty-three-and-a-half hours later, Lindbergh landed near Paris at Bourget Field. A huge crowd of 100,000 people rushed onto the runway to meet him. The next day, another crowd formed outside the American Embassy where he was staying, cheering and waving hats and handkerchiefs. Lindbergh received the Legion of Honor Medal from the president of France, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor from US President Coolidge. Lindbergh’s daring flight made him an international celebrity and a respected authority on aviation.

1993 29¢ National Postal Museum: Moving the Mail
US #2781 – From a set of four stamps honoring the opening of the National Postal Museum. This was the first time Lindbergh himself appeared on a stamp, and he was intended to represent all airmail pilots.

Within two months of his return, Lindbergh published an autobiography and embarked on an extensive US and Latin American tour. Lindbergh’s fame and promotion of aviation led to a vast increase in flight. The amount of airmail sent doubled, pilots’ licenses tripled, and the number of planes produced quadrupled.

2002 Antigua 75th anniversary sheet
Antigua #2573 – Mint sheet issued for the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight

Following the kidnapping and death of his son, Lindbergh, bothered by the unrelenting public attention, whisked his family away to Europe. They remained there for three years before returning to the US at the request of General “Hap” Arnold. As the war in Europe loomed, the American government requested that Lindbergh use his fame to visit European countries and assess the readiness of both Axis and Allied powers. Upon his return to the US, Lindbergh concluded that America should not get involved in the war. He then joined the America First Committee, which sought to keep the nation out of the war, and became their spokesperson. His speeches were often criticized as being anti-semitic and sympathetic to the Germans.

2002 Maldive Islands 75th anniversary
Maldives #2661A-61B – Set of two mint sheets commemorating the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight

However, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh wanted to help his country and continually asked President Franklin Roosevelt to reinstate his commission in the Air Corps. Roosevelt turned him down, questioning his politics. Instead, Lindbergh joined Henry Ford as a technical advisor, trouble-shooting technical problems with the planes he was manufacturing for the war effort.

05/21/1992, USA, Lindbergh Crate Restoration Project
Item #AC215 – Commemorative Cover marking 65th anniversary of Lindbergh’s fight and raising awareness about the crate restoration project (click the image to learn about the project)

In 1944, Lindbergh went to the Pacific Theater as a consultant for United Aircraft Company. While there, he showed Marine pilots how to safely take off with twice the payload the planes were designed for. He also showed them how to decrease their fuel use. Though he was still a civilian, Lindbergh flew his first of 50 combat missions on May 21. However, the military commanders feared the consequence of a civilian pilot getting hurt in action and forced him to return home. He returned to the US the following September. One of the US generals in the Pacific said, “Lindbergh’s contributions shortened the war by several months…” During his service there, Lindbergh shot down at least one Japanese plane. But perhaps his most lasting contributions were his suggestions on fuel conservation, which allowed for extended long-distance missions.

2012 $16 Spirit of St Louis, Crossing the Atlantic, Mint Sheet of 6 Stamps, Mozambique
Item #M12147 – Mint sheet commemorating 85th anniversary of Lindbergh’s historic flight.

After the war, Lindbergh moved to Darien, Connecticut, where he worked as a consultant to the chief of staff of the US Air Force as well as Pan American World Airways. In his later years, Lindbergh launched several campaigns to protect endangered species. He then moved to Hawaii, where he died on August 26, 1974.

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15 Comments

    1. Growing up we always called it the Congressional Medal of Honor. Unless that was a different medal than the Medal of Honor used today. But why was he awarded it just because he flew across the ocean in peacetime when the four chaplains who died on a ship sunk by a German U-boat during World War II were denied the award “because they hadn’t died in battle” as stated in the Four Chaplain’s Day article?

  1. It seems that reference as a Congressional medal is appropriate. Research it.
    “Because the medal is presented “in the name of Congress”, it is often referred to as the “Congressional Medal of Honor”. However, the official name is “Medal of Honor”, which began with the U.S. Army’s version.[1][9] Within United States Code the medal is referred to as the “Medal of Honor”,[10] and less frequently as “Congressional Medal of Honor”.[11]”
    “The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress to U.S. military personnel only.”
    Lindy must have still been considered military even though this wasn’t a military event and did not involve military action with an enemy..

  2. I’m sure Charles Lindberg was a great guy, but question why he would receive the Medal of Honor; considering what others have done to get the medal. I just don’t see flying across the Atlantic as qualifying; the U.S. Medal of Freedom perhaps, but not the Medal of Honor.

    1. Back then you would have thought it was worthy. Again, 21st century mind set trying to analyze early 20th century accomplishments. May I remind everyone that at the time no one had done what he did. He took off in a flying gas tank, by himself with no GPS and no land marks over the Atlantic Ocean and did it. It was big stuff and you who can jump on a large commercial jet at your whim and go anywhere any time, fail to understand what Lindbergh did. To you maybe he didn’t deserve it, but back then they did. I often wonder what critics without facts and only opinions did. Nothing except critcize.

  3. Using the term “Congressional” with Medal of Honor is actually appropriate, and commonly used historically. Yes, technically – according to the U.S. Code, it is “the Medal of Honor”. However, the Medal of Honor is awarded by the President of the United States “in honor of/on behalf of the Congress” historically. I have always (for the past 75 years) heard it referred to as “The Congressional Medal of Honor” by the media, and by the White House, and by many Government Agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Usages in terminology do change over time; but historical usages are nonetheless valid..

  4. Lindbergh was without doubt a great pilot and aviation pioneer, but this article glosses over his pre World War II statements and his involvement with the “America First Committee.” It is a matter of record that when addressing large gatherings, this American hero made anti-Semitic and racist statements, praised Nazi Germany, and made excuses for German aggressions in the late 1930’s and after the war in Europe began. After the World War began in Europe, he steadfastly opposed the rearmament of America and any kind to aid to Great Britain which stood alone against Nazi Germany. He would have done better to stick to aviation and stayed out of politics.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The article certainly does gloss over the matters you mentioned. His friendship with Henry Ford speaks volumes. Both were massively antisemitic, massively racist and both pro-Nazi, far beyond what most people are aware of. Hitler had a picture of Ford hanging in his office.

  5. Remember that in 1927, people generally believed that the Great War (WWI), barely ten years earlier, was actually the “War to End All Wars,” and that there would be no more wars (wishful thinking). Therefore I believe the government was justified in awarding Lindbergh the CMOH. After all, his flight was a very dangerous undertaking.

    I also agree that the Four Chaplains were deserving of the CMOH. Their actions were clearly above and beyond the cll of duty.

    I had always heard of the two highest honors as the Congressional Medal of Honor (military) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (civilian).

  6. Seems everybody has tuned into the “c”moh. Thanks to that movie about the first woman considered for the MOH.
    I live in Hana Hi and He’s buried in the Church yard in Kipahulu. I’ve seen so many people who ask for that location more than any other feature in Maui. He was bigger than Bono, Beyonce and Elvis put together.
    His real contribution was scouting International routes for Pan Am and after Juan Trip was
    replaced by Sam Prior- his good drinking buddy; he’s also buried nearby with his 4 “monkeys”.

    Although the original tombstone was replaced by the family, the existing still read:
    MAY HIS WINGS ALL WAYS FLY IN THE WILD BLUE YONDER.and so it should be.

    He helped the mission( as explained on how to conserve fuel, ect,) of the 7 P-38’s that shot down Yamamoto. He and Howard Hughes developed the 27 foot machine gun belt in those planes; thus the expression “the whole nine yards”

    There are so many great stamps and covers of his exploits. thanks Mystic.

  7. Great article, interesting comments and I found out where the expression, the whole nine yards came from. Thanks for that Ed D’Andrea.

  8. “Since 1919, a New York City hotel owner, Raymond Orteig, had offered a $25,000 reward to the first pilot to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.” It was in 1919 that Britons John Alcock and Arthur Brown were the first pilots to fly a plane across the Atlantic, from Ireland to Newfoundland. Lindbergh was the first person to fly across the Atlantic solo. American high schools conveniently forget about Alcock and Brown.

    “Lindbergh wanted to help his country and continually asked President Franklin Roosevelt to reinstate his commission in the Air Corps. Franklin turned him down, questioning his politics.” Franklin? You were on a first-name basis with our stamp-collecting President?

  9. Why does everyone completely ignore Lindbergh’s Nazi sympathies? He was feted by Hitler in his visit to Germany, and Goering presented Lindbergh with the “Service Cross of the German Eagle.” He was an anti-Semite and did all he could to prevent US aid to England and to the US resisting Nazi aggression. The man did not belong on any US postage stamp.

  10. Well, it would be like putting Benedict Arnold on a U.S. stamp. Arnold was a fine officer before he became a traitor. Lindburg was a fine pilot and hero before he revealed his anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi sympathies.

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