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The Wartime Journals Of Charles A. Liondbergh
A Peacetime Hero Confronts Armageddon
October 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 6
… The Minister of Air, M. [Guy la] Chambre, came for dinner, and we talked of French aviation, German aviation, and that of the other countries in Europe. The French situation is desperate. Impossible to catch up to Germany for years, if at all. France is producing about forty-five or fifty warplanes per month. Germany is building from 500 to 800 per month, according to the best estimates. England is building in the vicinity of seventy per month. France hopes to have 2,600 first-line planes by April, 1940. Germany is probably building that many every three or four months. One is forced to the conclusion that the German air fleet is stronger than that of all other European countries combined.
M. la Chambre apparently realizes this fact. The French are also deficient in antiaircraft guns, and the people of Paris are not equipped with gas masks. Yet the French Army is apparently ready to attack on the old Western front if Germany invades Czechoslovakia. It is suicide. The opportunity of stopping the extension of German control to the east passed several years ago. An attempt to do so now will throw Europe into chaos. It would be much worse than the last war and would probably result in a Communist Europe. …
… Lunch with Ambassador and Mrs. [Joseph P.] Kennedy. (Before lunch we were introduced to six of their children.) Talked with Ambassador Kennedy for an hour after lunch. We discussed the crisis and the aviation and general military situation in Europe. Everyone in embassy is extremely worried. Hitler is apparently ready to invade Czechoslovakia and has his divisions on the border. Hitler told Chamberlain [according to Kennedy] that he (Hitler) would risk a world war if necessary. Kennedy says England is ready to fight, even though not prepared. Chamberlain realizes the disastrous effects of a war with Germany at this time and is making every effort to avoid one. English opinion (Kennedy) is pushing him toward war.
It is a terrible situation. The English are in no shape for war. They do not realize what they are confronted with. They have always before had a fleet between themselves and their enemy, and they can’t realize the change aviation has made. I am afraid this is the beginning of the end of England as a great power. She may be a “hornets’ nest” but she is no longer a “lion’s den.”
Phoned Lady Astor at Sandwich. She invited us to come there this week or to Cliveden next week. Very much worried about situation. …
… Attended a men’s dinner at the American Embassy in the evening. Ambassador and Mrs. [Hugh R.] Wilson were at the Embassy when I arrived. Mrs. Wilson left before the dinner. The guests included Marshal [Hermann] Goering, General [Erhard] Milch, General [Ernst] Udet, the Italian Ambassador, the Belgian Ambassador, Dr. [Ernst] Heinkel, Dr. [Willy E.] Messerschmitt, Colonel [Truman] Smith, Major [Arthur] Vanaman, the American naval attachés, Minister [Adolf] Baeumker, and various other German officers and members of the American Embassy. There were two tables. Ambassador Wilson sat at the head of one and I at the head of the other.
“The English are in no shape for war. They do not realize what they are confronted with.”
Marshal Goering, of course, was the last to arrive. I was standing in the back of the room. He shook hands with everyone. I noticed that he had a red box and some papers in his hand. When he came to me, he shook hands, handed me the box and papers, and spoke a few sentences in German. I found that he had presented me with the German Eagle, one of the highest German decorations, “by order of der Führer.”…
Goering asked why we had gone to Russia; what the hotels were like; whether many Russians stayed in the hotels; how the Russian cities compared to other cities; and many other questions. I talked to him frankly about what we saw in Russia and the impressions we had during our trip. I told him that Anne and I were treated with the utmost hospitality by the Russians and that we met many very likable people among them; that we went to Russia to see what the conditions were and that we found our trip extremely interesting; that the Russian hotels were not as good as those in other countries; that the cities were hardly comparable to the cities of Germany, France, and England, because the life and atmosphere was entirely different; that I did not think the conditions now existing in Russia are at all good; and that the people did not seem to me to be well fed and happy.
After talking about Russia, Goering turned the conversation to aviation, to Germany’s plans and accomplishments. He spoke of the performances of present military planes and of the quantity of production. He said the new Junkers 88 bomber (which no one we know has seen) is far ahead of anything else built, and that he would arrange that it be shown to me. Goering said the Junkers 88 did 500 kilometers per hour and that it was not “a magazine figure,” but an actual speed of 500 kilometers. He said they expected to have a plane which would make 800 kilometers per hour in the near future (at critical altitude). …