Wednesday, May 21, 2014
MAY 21 = Lindbergh Lands in Paris
This is the very literal memory of Charles Augustus Lindbergh of his landing in Paris at the end of his long trans-Atlantic flight, the first ever by a man flying alone, which occurred at @ 10:32 p.m. Paris time on today’s date, May 21 in 1927. I have given it to you above almost word-for-word the way he wrote of it in his 1953 book about the event, “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Usually, when I have searched the internet, or libraries for an account of what someone was experiencing at a precise moment when something important occurred it has been a problem to find their specific impressions or experiences. Frequently, one can find general observations, or impressions. But this is the first time wherein the problem was the other way around…. where the account seemed to be too literal. But there he is – Charles Lindbergh describing his ascent into Paris and into history in terms that are very specific, and literal descriptions of specific physical acts. But this was the type of man he was: brave, visionary and…. decidedly peculiar.
The Challenge: To Fly Across the Atlantic Alone
In May of 1919, Frenchman Raymond Orteig (pictured below with Lindbergh), an owner of hotels in New York, who had been inspired by the spirit of cooperation he had witnessed during World War One, decided to put up a purse of $25,000 to the first aviator or aviators to
"The Spirit of St. Louis" and "We"....
The Ryan Airlines Corporation of San Diego volunteered to build a single-engine aircraft to his specifications. Indeed, the plane was built almost from scratch, around Lindbergh himself. Extra fuel tanks were added, and the wing span was increased to 46 feet to accommodate the
“And yet it was strange, observed Walter Balderston (one of the plane’s designers) that whenever Lindbergh spoke of getting from New York to Paris, he always used the first person plural. ‘I heard it many times before Lindbergh left San Diego, & particularly noticed his rather peculiar conversational use of it.’ Baldesrton would write. Before there was even a plane built, ‘He simply would not use the pronoun “I” when speaking of the flight itself. In the back of his mind somewhere he may have been thinking of his financial backers, but many times he used it when by no stretch of the imagination could it have meant anything or anybody other than himself.”
Lindbergh Departs From New York
At 7:52 A.M., May 20, 1927 Charles Lindbergh gunned the engine of "the Spirit of St Louis" and took off from the dirt runway of Roosevelt Field, Long Island. As she had a lot of extra fuel aboard, the plane bounced down the muddy field, gradually became airborne and barely cleared the telephone wires at the field's edge. The crowd of 500 thought they had witnessed a miracle. And they might have. Many intrepid adventurers had ventured into the unknown in the past, but this was one man attempting it alone. To be separated from all contact with earth and living beings was a unique experience for any man, even for a comparative loner like Lindbergh. He had left with just a handful of sandwiches for food, and a little water in a canteen. And during the journey, he fought fatigue and sleeplessness, occasionally flying his plane close enough to the water that some of the spray from the white-capped ocean would come into his cockpit, slap him in the face and revive his flagging consciousness. And he many years later admitted that he at one point became delusional. And he wouldn’t just say he was having plain old hallucinations. No, these were “vaguely outlined forms, transparent, moving, riding weightless with me in the plane.” These fellows spoke to him with human voices giving him “messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life.”
Lindbergh Enters the Public Mind for Good (or ill?)
At the Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris, tens of thousands of Saturday night revelers had gathered to await Lindbergh's arrival. On May 21, at 10:24 a.m. local time, his gray and white monoplane emerged from the
would be kidnapped and ultimately murdered. Again in the public eye, Lindbergh and his wife would be forced to undergo the stress of the trial – “the trial of the century” it was called – and conviction of the accused murderer. In the years leading up to World War II, Lindbergh associated with the isolationist “America First “ organization, and came to be identified with many of it’s most anti-Semitic elements. But this fall from the good graces of the once adoring public, the loss of his first son, all of this was in the future on that day in 1927, when Charles Lindbergh first stepped out of “the Spirit of St. Louis” and into the lime-light, with all of its blessings and its curses.
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by A. Scott Berg, Putnam & Sons, New York, 1998.
by Charles A. Lindbergh, Scribner & Sons, New York, 1953.