17 March 2020

Charles Lindbergh: from national hero to racist anti-hero

Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902–74) was born to a well known fath­er: Charles August Lindbergh (1859–1924) had been a US Congress­man from Minnesota from 1907-1917. Father vigorously opposed American entry into WWI and opposed the 1913 Federal Reserve Act/the nation’s central banking system.

But it was the son who became famous for his historic, solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic in May 1927 on the Spirit of St Louis. After his flight, Lindbergh received public ador­at­ion in newspapers, magazines, universities and radio shows. In July 1927, Lindbergh was promoted to colonel in the Air Corps of the Officers Reserve Corps.

Charles Lindbergh, May 1927 
and the Spirit of St Louis

He was equally well known because of the kidnapping and tragic murder of his tod­dler in 1933 by Richard Hauptmann. His life and the trial were reported so sensation­ally by the press that, in 1935, the family fled to Europe.

The U.S military asked Lindbergh to travel to Germany a few times between 1936-8. While the rest of the world seemed to crumble, Germany showed its impressive, organised vitality. He became convinced that no power in Eur­ope could defeat the Luft­waffe.

In 1938 Am­er­ica's ambassador to Germany hosted a din­ner for Lindbergh with Ger­many's air chief, ex-pilot Hermann Göring, and 3 pivotal figures in German aviation. At this dinner Göring presented Lind­bergh with the Comm­ander Cross of the German Eagle. Lindbergh felt very proud.

At the urging of US Ambassador to Britain Joseph Kennedy, Lindbergh wrote a memo to the British, warning against any military response by Brit­ain and France to Hitler - France was militarily weak and Britain over-reliant on its navy. He urged that they strengthen their air power to force Hitler to redirect his aggres­sion against Asiatic Communism.

After the outbreak of war, Lind­bergh published an article in 1939, con­demning American involvement in the war. But he was not a pacifist… he strongly favoured a war between Germany and Russia! Lindbergh believed that civilisation depended on peace among Western nations, and therefore on united streng­th. He gave a nationwide radio address in which he called for American isolationism, indicated his pro-German sympathies and made clear anti-Semitic statements about Jewish ownership of the media.

 Charles Lindbergh inspecting Luftwaffe aircraft in 1937.

Lindbergh was awarded the Comm­ander Cross of the German Eagle

In Oct 1939, after the Canadian declaration of war on Germany, Lindbergh made another nationwide radio address criticising Canada for drawing the Western Hemisphere into a European war! The entire continent needed to be free from the dictates of European powers!

This American icon became a spokesman for the nativist and isol­ationist group, America First Committee, in late 1940. He spoke to excited and packed out crowds in Madison Square Garden and in Chicago's Soldier Field, with millions listening by radio. His basic point was that America had no business attacking Germany. A war with Germany would be bad for the USA… for the white races.

Re Krist­al­l­nacht he published in a racist essay in Nov 1939, re-stating that Western nations “can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possess­ion, our inheritance of European blood.” He was very con­cern­ed that the pot­entially gigantic power of America, guided by uninformed idealism, might enter Europe to destroy Hitler. Americ­ans had to realise that Hitler's destruct­ion would lay Europe open to the barbarism of Soviet Russia's forces.

Lindbergh returned to the USA in 1940 and was re­cruited to speak on behalf of America First, an antiwar group who saw WW2 as an awful consequ­ence of WW1. The group attracted a wide range of supporters, from celebr­it­ies to pac­if­ists to xenoph­obics. At its peak, it had 800,000 members, many in the Midwest. Lindbergh was the ideal spokesman: charismatic, brave and heroic. 

In his 1941 testimony at the House Committee on Foreign Aff­airs opposing the Lend-Lease bill, Lindbergh proposed that the U.S neg­otiate a neutrality pact with Germany. Pres Franklin Roose­velt publicly disparaged Lindbergh's views as those of a defeatist and appeaser. So Lindbergh resigned his commission as a col­onel in the US Army Air Corps.

At an America First Committee rally in Des Moines Iowa in Sept 1941, Lindbergh spoke to a huge crowd. He blamed three forces for driving America into a global conflict that no patriotic American wanted.
1. he rebuked Ch­urchill and the desperate British for turning to America to assist in fight­ing the Germans.
2. he singled out the Roosevelt administration for opposing Germany.
3. and, most of all, he argued the Jews were agitating for war. The greatest danger to this country lies in the Jews’ large ownership and influence in U.S motion pictures, press, radio and government.

There was a backlash in the American press in response to the speech; even the isolationist America First Committee had to apol­ogise for the aviator’s remarks. The end of Charles Lindbergh’s political aspirations was coming.

Charles Lindbergh addressed the America First Committee meeting 
Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1941.

Two weeks after Lindbergh’s attack on American Jewry’s abuse of power, the SS Einsatzkommando and their Ukrainian allies murdered 33,000+ Kiev Jews at Babi Yar Ukraine. Meanwhile Charles Lindbergh was still warning the US against the excesses of Jewish power.

Anti-Semitism was well known in Lindberg’s time; his attitudes were not seen as offensive by some parts of the American community. He had never made a secret of his interest in eugenics, nor his racial attit­udes. But by 1941 he had gone too far. Because of his favourable reports about Nazi Germany, Lind­bergh was seen as a Nazi sympath­iser. Lindbergh had to resign his military commis­s­ion at the demand of Roos­e­velt.

Since Lindbergh believed the U.S military's sole role was to defend the Western Hemisphere from attack by foreigners, the attack on Pearl Harbour in Dec 1941 was a terrible shock for him. When the Japanese attacked, Lindbergh asked to be recom­mis­sioned but Roose­velt refused. So it is interesting that Lindbergh did take part in fighter bomber raids on Japanese positions in 1944.

**

The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth (2004). It is an "alternative history" in which Pres. Roosevelt was defeated in the 1940 presidential election by Charles Lindbergh. Read The Great Raven  for a great review. And see a trailer for the tv programme.







21 comments:

Deb said...

Just because a person is a brilliant pilot, film star or sportsman, does not mean he is going to be brilliant in any other area of responsibility. One of the best footballers in this entire country went to prison for spousal abuse. His fans were shocked.

bazza said...

I can never really get to grips with the reason why people are so ready to believe the tropes of antisemitism. If all the banks and media were controlled by Jews, well...so what? Surely thirty seconds of logical thought would tell you that it can't be so! Who are the main media moguls? Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Martin Bouygues?
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s absentmindedly adroit Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hels said...

Deb

that scenario occurred to me when a great singer/dancer, adored by an entire generation of people around the world, turned out to secrete 12 year old boys in his ranch and sexually abused them. Had he stood for President, he probably would have won in a canter :(

Hels said...

bazza

people don't hate blacks, Jews, Russians or any other group from conception. They have to learn hatred from their parents, school, life crises or something that strongly moulds their minds. So where did Charles Jnr's views come from? Certainly his wanting to keep the U.S out of the European war was repeating his father's views (from WW1) word for word.

Lindbergh believed the survival of the white race was more important than the survival of democracy in Europe. Susan Gray's book "Charles A. Lindbergh and the American Dilemma: The Conflict of Technology" was helpful. German philosopher Oswald Spengler was a rightwinger who Lindbergh apparently loved reading. And closer to home was Henry Ford, very well known for his rightwing anti-Semitism.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, What a creep Lindbergh was! He deserved to lose his once glowing reputation. That is a risk when reading about people we admire for their work--in private life they might have been nasty pieces of work. So many previously-admired famous people have been discredited--the age of heroes is truly over!
--Jim

Joseph said...

Is there any way of knowing what proportion of the white population supported Lindbergh's racist opinions in 1941?

Hels said...

Parnassus

I suppose if he limited his nastiness to his private life, his friends and family would be the only ones to suffer the consequences. But Lindbergh seems to have been on a nation-wide mission, with giant outdoor and indoor assemblies, newspaper articles, radio speeches, public tours of German air force facilities etc etc. Even when he lost his status at the hands of the President, he pushed on regardless. At least we can admire his dedication to his nasty causes.

Hels said...

Joseph

the Lindbergh House and Museum noted that on his return to the United States, Lindbergh began to actively work for the anti-interventionist cause. At the time, more than 80% of the American public shared his views, opposing any involvement in the European conflict which broke into open warfare when Germany invaded Poland on Sep 1939. https://www.mnhs.org/lindbergh/learn/controversies

They don't say how many supported his view that war with Germany would be bad for the white races. Or that freedom from Jewish influence would make the USA a more democratic nation.


mem said...

it is a secret preoccupation of mine to listen to people who have opinions and share them publicly and privately and then to imagine if they would have backed the Nazi party in 1932. I suspect that there are many people in public life and in private life who would have at least initially signed up to the party . Germans were not intrinsically evil people . They were pretty average I think but had this misfortune to be ripe fro thee picking by a creep like Hitler . Thee Americans are experiencing the dangers of Trumpism. It seems we are all attracted to hero figures who we want to believe will lead us to a greater future . Its pathetic but very human I suspect .I dont think it will ever go away just as the human need to blame someone else fro pour deficiency wont .

Hels said...

mem

not intrinsically evil, agreed. I saw an excellent tv documentary that explored the influence of the Hitler Youth on German boys in the Nazi era. They were beautiful little boys who just wanted to go camping, play outdoor sport and wear handsome uniforms. But the physical and mental control of the boys became more brutal in their early teens and by 1939, the Hitler Youths had become Hitler fanatics.

The question of ordinary people being attracted to extra-ordinary hero figures is problematic. Everyone wants a greater future but avidly following a human hero is bound to lead to heartbreak. Even Churchill, Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela were fall-down drunks or unfaithful spouses or racist ideologues.

mem said...

Not all the Hitler Youth victims were rabid Nazis. I have known a few in my life and mostly they were in it because being at school meant you had to be . In the last days of the war, many of these kids were mopping after bombing raids and were deeply traumatized by what they saw.Early in the war they manned antiaircraft guns. I have seen math exercise books which taught geometry and applied it to the angles needing to be calculated to shoot down aircraft. The person I was close to had an abiding hatred of uniforms and organizations like scouts and brownies for the rest of his life . The total disillusionment which came as the truth of the atrocities came to light led to deep sadness in those brave enough to confront what had happened. His sister was agoraphobic for the rest of her life . All this pales into insignificance when compared to the holocaust but the trauma was still very very real and significant .War creates so many victims and resonates on down the generation . I think its in the bible that it says" the sins of the fathers shall be visited onto the children for 7 generations ." Thats pretty true I think .

Andrew said...

Gosh, that is awful to learn. I like mem's comments. You have to get inside heads to understand what terrible things people did.

Hels said...

mem

Not sure about "7" generations but war was appalling for the generation that a] died or b] survived but seriously wounded. And often the war was equally crippling for c] the babies born during or after the war. That second generation paid a very great price for a war they remembered nothing of.

That doesn't explain Charles Lindbergh of course. But it might go a long way in explaining the 1930s generation of young adult Englishmen, Frenchmen, Russians and Germans. Just recently I have been writing a blog post on a group of 1930s British aristocrats and opinion-makers who were also anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-workers and pro-Nazi.

Hels said...

Andrew

people did what they did because either they thought was the right thing to do OR because they feared the consequences if they disobeyed orders from higher authorities.

You will remember when Australian soldiers were tried for murdering civilians in the Boer War, they said they were under strict orders from their British Commanders. When the Australians were executed by the British in 1902, everyone here said our soldiers could never be so immoral.

Francis said...

Helen:

Here is a link to Mrs. Lindbergh’s views on her husband’s statements about the Jews. You might find it interesting.

http://www.charleslindbergh.com/ny/105.asp

Frank D

PS. In the comments to your post you lump Mother Teresa among “fall down drunks, unfaithful spouses, and racists.” Which one was she?




Hels said...

Francis

many thanks for the reference. I am pleased that Charles Lindbergh's widow Anne published her diary from the war years - it was very important for Charles that he had the total backing of a loving wife, especially as he was becoming more isolated from the decision-makers in those years. Anne also noted that she provided her husband with an editorial view before he gave his public speeches, helping him understand which parts would be better modified or excluded.

Read Dr Aroup Chatterjee's 2002 Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, since republished as Mother Teresa: The Untold Story. You may find the book controversial, but I found it re-affirmed my view that heroes are almost always driven, but flawed human beings.

packy said...

Clearly some of this information was not shared on whatever brief Historical side trip was taken about Charles Lindbergh while I as in school. Makes him seem a little less heroic.

Hels said...

packy

I think that is true for classes in many countries... the students are spared the true but tough bits of our nations' histories.

But I am delighted to read your post Tiger Woods Instead of Trump (as President). That is exactly what the tv series "The Plot Against America" did re Lindbergh winning the presidency in 1940.

Anonymous said...

Frankly the only truly racist comments and sentiments i can find here are those of the author and commenters. Apparently you hate every person of european heritage that you're incapable of condemning anyone from your own group but see nothing wrong with supporting extremist views that result in the deaths of millions of other people so long as the victims aren't in your group.
I'll never understand how someone like this can sleep at night without feeling shame of so massive proportions that they ought to suffocate in their anxiety.

Hels said...

Anon

nope. I was born in Australia to European parentage and my husband was born and raised in Europe, until they came to Australia. And I am a pacifist, so would never join an army as an active participant. Fortunately lots of conscientious objectors found other ways to serve their nations in times of violence.

Hels said...

Read Robert Zorn's book Cemetery John: The Undiscovered Mastermind Behind the Lindbergh Kidnapping (2012). Zorn contended that a German immigrant named John Knoll, Cemetery John, was deeply involved in the kidnapping in 1932. Even if Zorn did not have all the details exactly right, it proves that capital punishment is always catastrophic. Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man who was executed for the murder of the Lindbergh baby, may or may not have been involved.