- Historic Sites
The Wartime Journals Of Charles A. Liondbergh
A Peacetime Hero Confronts Armageddon
October 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 6
Forty-three-years ago Charles A. Lindberghflew out of the West into immortality, a shining figure of hope and courage in a frivolous, uninspiring time. Yet within less than fifteen years all had changed. Lindbergh and his brilliant young wife had been the victims of an atrocious crime and had been driven into exile by a sensation-seeking press. Finally, as World War II drew on and Lindbergh came home to warn his country against getting into it, he became to many a figure of obloquy and sinister rumor. In his travels around Europe, studying its aviation, flying its fighters and bombers, he had seen many Nazis, hadn ‘t he? Was he pro-German? His resignation from the Air Corps Reserve was accepted with alacrity. President Roosevelt attacked him by name. He seemed to drop out of sight, although it was known he was doing something in military aviation. Such, roughly, was the public impression.
What Lindbergh was really doing and thinking he kept to himself, writing a detailed daily report on everything he saw and heard in his public and private life. He began his diary not long before the war, a war that, he says, “I felt would be catastrophic for our civilization, one that might still be prevented. Aviation constituted a new and possibly decisive element in preventing or fighting a war, and I was in a unique position to observe European aviation—especially in its military aspects.” The records of all this experience have just been published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., as The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh . Unrewritten although somewhat abridged, they cover the years 1938 through mid-lQ45; his travels and visits before the war; his dealings with the President; his part in the America First movement; his wartime work as an expert with Ford and United Aircraft; his experiences in action as an observer and a pilot (with one Japanese plane to his credit) in the Pacific; and the horrors he observed m Germany immediately after the war.
The appearance of this huge book is a notable event, not for the controversy that will certainly erupt, not for the genuine surprises it contains, not even for the skill and humor of the writing, but for the revelation it affords of General Lindbergh himself. The Journals show a man of action who is also a man of reflection; a scientist who worries about where our technology is taking us; a man who has maintained a consistent love of nature, his fellow creatures, and his country through experiences more shattering and, on occasion, more uplifting than those that come to most of us. AMERICAN HERITAGE is pleased to present the first excerpts from this remarkable book in the next few pages. —Oliver Jensen.
Morning dictating and thinking. Consider plans for summer and next winter. Also try to look into future. Will there be a major war in Europe? If there is, will America become involved? What are the trends at home? In England? How much longer can this trend toward mediocrity continue? What has happened to the English? What will happen to our own people? Will Franco’s probable victory prevent a revolution in France? How can the French get out of the mess they are now in? What policy should I follow for my family’s future? The only sure thing is in giving them health and experience and education of the right kind. I must teach my children to know and to love the earth itself. If they can keep in contact with the land and the water and the sky, they can obtain all worthwhile that life holds. …
… This country has neither the spirit nor the ability needed for a modern war. And the worst of it is that countless Englishmen will die needlessly because of lack of training and equipment. It is not only in aviation that they are behind. I sometimes wonder if history will not eventually show that the British Empire has already passed its greatest period. I cannot see the future for this country. The value of the Channel is passing with every improvement in military aircraft. The colonies are manufacturing their own products from their own raw materials. Even the quality of British goods is frequently mediocre. And the people show little sign of changing. They need an entirely new spirit if British greatness is to endure. …
… Visited the War College this morning to see the attention given to instructing all officers in the command and operation of aircraft. The Red Army considers its aviation to be of great importance. Consequently, considerable time is devoted to training officers in its potentialities.
Visit was to end at 10:00. We left at 11:30 after a heavy “breakfast.” I went to the airport and told the mechanics about servicing our plane. Had planned on servicing it myself but found the mechanics very able. The Russians have been extremely considerate about helping with such things. I like the people I meet in the majority of instances. But this system will not work. There has already been a great change since the Revolution, and it will continue to change for a long time to come. There would be far greater progress if they had not killed and pushed out so many of their best people. … They are an open, likable people, obviously suppressed by fear of getting into trouble. They love to talk and to discuss any subject not politically dangerous. Unfortunately, “politically dangerous” covers a wide ground. …