Fallen Eagle: The Treacherous Patriot

Cross posted from Radarsite

From The Secret of Samson’s Hair: Hollywood and the Demasculinization of America by Roger W. Gardner

On May 20, 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh became the first aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a solo flight. After a harrowing 33.5 hour flight, the tiny single-engine “Spirit of St. Louis” touched ground at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris and the astonished Lindbergh was immediately overwhelmed by an hysterical ecstatic crowd, estimated at over 100,000 people. He had conquered the Atlantic alone and had become an instant celebrity of unprecedented renown. The following day, the President of France presented him with the prestigious Legion of Honor. On his return to the U.S. he was welcomed by President Calvin Coolidge who bestowed upon him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

His subsequent reception in New York City was the wildest in that city’s history. Mayor Jimmy Walker gave him a ticker tape parade, at which an estimated 4 million people lined the parade route just to get a glimpse of him. Shortly thereafter, the Guggenheim Fund sponsored him on a three month nationwide tour. Flying the “Spirit of St. Louis”, he touched down in 48 states, visited 92 cities, and gave 147 speeches promoting aviation. He followed this with a goodwill tour of Latin America where he met his future bride, the daughter of the American Ambassador, writer Anne Spencer Morrow. On March 21, 1929, President Coolidge presented him with the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In an incredibly short period of time, Charles Lindbergh had achieved a remarkable level of international adulation. He represented to the world a shining ray of hope and promise in an otherwise rather dismal decade. Standing on a pinnacle of fame, which in today’s world would rank him somewhere perhaps between a movie star and an Astronaut, with his all-American good looks, his boyish smile, and his (deceptive) air of modesty, Charles Lindbergh seemed the epitome of the perfect American Hero.

Wealthy, world-famous, respected and admired, “Lucky Lindy”, as he had now come to be known, eventually settled into his spacious New Jersey estate with his lovely new wife to begin what promised to be an idyllic life. On June 22, 1930, their son, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. was born and instantly became the most famous baby in the world. They had become the true First Family of America and an adoring public followed their every move. For the Lindbergh family the future appeared filled with unbounded hope and promise — until March 1, 1932, when baby Charles was reported missing from his crib.

Needless to say, the “Lindbergh Kidnapping Case” quickly became the most notorious kidnapping case in history. Hundreds of international reporters descended on the small New Jersey town to feed the voracious appetite of an obsessed worldwide public, covering every nuance of the investigation, trial, and the subsequent sentencing and 1936 execution of the convicted perpetrator, the somber German-American Bruno Richard Hauptmann. There is no need here to reiterate the convoluted facts and innumerable controversies surrounding this historic case, except perhaps to take note that, in some sense, the case still remains open. Articles about the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case are still being printed, websites are still being opened, and books are still being written espousing endless theories and conjectures about the guilt or innocence of Hauptman — some even implicating Lindbergh, himself, in the infamous affair.

What is, however, relevant to our purposes is that after the kidnapping and during the highly-publicized investigation that followed, much to his adoring public’s surprise, a darker side to Lucky Lindy’s personality began to emerge. Arrogant, authoritative, domineering, he began almost immediately to take over complete control of the investigation, issuing orders to the local and State Police, controlling the news conferences, even interfering with the Federal Agents assigned to the case.

This was the first chink to appear in Charles Lindbergh’s shining armor. The second would prove to be immensely more important and involve more than just the particular idiosyncrasies of his unique personality: his well-publicized, anti-war, pro-Fascist and — though he would later try to deny it — overtly anti-Semitic speeches, coupled with his high-profile involvement with the America First Committee.

The America First Committee was established in September of 1940 by Yale law student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., along with several other students, including future President Gerald Ford. Supported by a group of prominent businessmen and a few well-known Senators such as Burton K. Wheeler and Gerald P. Nye, and some famous literary figures like the novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E. E. Cummings and author Gore Vidal, the Committee launched a petition “aimed at enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act and forcing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep his pledge to keep America out of the war.
They thoroughly distrusted Roosevelt, arguing that he was lying to the American Public”. They vehemently opposed Roosevelt’s lend-lease bill, “the convoying of ships, the Atlantic Charter,* and the placing of economic pressure on Japan”.Their platform rested on four basic principles: “The United States must build an impregnable defense of America. No foreign power, or group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America. American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European war. [And, finally,] ‘Aid short of war’ [helping England to survive] weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad”. Read more