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The Spirit Of St. Louis

By Tristan Burke

"And do you know his name was Lindy?
He flew the spirit of Saint Louis."

Charles Augustus Lindbergh II (the Lindy of the song), was born in Detroit Michigan on February 4th 1902 to Swedish immigrants. In his seventy-two year life he was a stunt pilot, single-handedly flew across the Atlantic Ocean, had his son kidnapped, practically became a Nazi and finally won the Pulitzer Prize. He is probably most remembered for the most dramatic of these achievements: his solo crossing of the Atlantic.

On the 20th May 1927, Lindbergh clambered into his single-engined aeroplane, The Spirit of Saint Louis on Roosevelt Airfield on the outskirts of New York city, to embark on the journey which would make him famous. Thirty-three and a half hours later, he landed in Paris, having crossed "the waves when it was windy", winning him the $25,000 Orteig Prize, a parade down 5th Avenue and celebrity across the United States.

Lindy became a leading figure in aviation after this, charting polar air routes, demonstrating high altitude flying techniques and effectively laying the basis of modern intercontinental flying.

In 1929, Lindbergh married and went on to have six children, the most interestingly named of these known as Land. In 1931, the eldest of these children, Charles Augustus III, aged only twenty months, was found dead in New Jersey, just a few miles from the Lindbergh home. He had been subject to a kidnapping and nationwide search. Lindbergh's celebrity ensured his family was constantly in the media spotlight as they tried to mourn the death of their son. Eventually, in late 1935, they moved to Europe.

Lindbergh, whilst living in Europe, was still an important figure in aviation. He was pressed by the American government, to travel to Nazi Germany and report of the Luftwaffe. I can only presume this is what the lyrics in the song about Stukas refer to.

In Nazi Germany, Lindbergh started to become interested in fascist ideas, and was presented with a medal of honour in 1938 by Göring. There was public outcry for him to return it. His refusal to do return the medal, along with his testifying to Congress in favour of a neutrality pact with Hitler and an anti-Jewish speech at a rally in Iowa, reinforced the impression of Lindbergh being a Nazi sympathiser.

The attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 changed Lindy's views on the war, and he attempted to join the Army Air Corps, but was denied when several of Roosevelt's cabinet registered objections. However, he went on to assist in the war, flying combat missions as a civilian and acting as a consultant to the government and aviation companies.

After the war, despite an affair involving a woman twenty-four years his junior (producing the fantastically named offspring Dyrk and Astrid), Lindbergh lived a quiet life. He published a book in 1953, The Spirit of Saint Louis, detailing his famous flight, and winning him the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, the same year he was reinstated in the Air Corps at the rank of Brigadier General. In the 1960s he became a campaigner for environmental preservation.

Lindy spent his final years on the Hawaiin island of Maui, where he died of cancer on August 26th 1974. His epitaph quotes Psalms 139:9:

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea"

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