COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | LARRY STIRLING

Lindbergh was an American patriot

Long before the 1950s, during which the American Democrat Party smear machine successfully black-listed Sen. Joseph McCarthy, it had earlier bloodied its fangs by destroying the reputation of American aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh, namesake of San Diego's Lindbergh Field.

In addition, their president forced Col. Lindbergh to resign his military commission and made it nearly impossible for him to obtain employment in the aircraft industry.

Lindbergh's critics listed several articles of indictment most of which are still believed to this day:

He moved out of the United States because he was a traitor.

He visited Germany several times.

He met with high-level German officials.

He was given access to Germany's aircraft construction plants, insinuating that they would not have done so if he had not been so "friendly."

He accepted "the Iron Cross" from Adolph Hitler, the diabolical Nazi leader of World War II Germany.

He later participated in an American anti-war movement.

James P. Duffy, in his book "Lindbergh vs. Roosevelt: The rivalry that divided a nation," debunks most such charges as falsely instigated by President Roosevelt to settle a personal political score and to marginalize Lindbergh as a force in public-policy debates.

In my March 10 column, I mentioned that my brother-in-law, Albert Hoffman, flew in a South Pacific Marine squadron during World War II with which Lindbergh sojourned during combat operations ... as a civilian.

That puzzled me. Lindbergh was an Army Aviation full colonel even before World War II.

And he was not only a superb pilot, he was an even better aeronautical engineer who, as one of his bosses said, could land a plane and then correct and improve the blueprints.

So why was he flying combat missions in the South Pacific as a private citizen when he should have been serving as Secretary of the Army Air Force?

The personal show down between Lindbergh and Roosevelt began because of a blunder by Roosevelt that cost the lives of 13 American airmen.

After his 1932 election Roosevelt sought opportunities to substitute government operations and control in place of private enterprise.

Roosevelt latched on to the rantings of Ku Klux Klanner, Alabama Sen. Hugo Black concerning airmail contracts let under the Hoover Administration in 1930.

At Black's mongering and over the objections of his own Post Master General James Farley, Roosevelt precipitously cancelled the airmail contracts.

Roosevelt said he wanted to impress the country that he could "act decisively" upon Black's report that "The whole system of airmail contracts ... was fraudulent and completely illegal."

The contracts had in fact been awarded to the lowest responsible bidders and approved by the non-partisan Comptroller General.

Relying on vague assurances from Gen. Benjamin D. Fulois, then chief of the Army's Air Corps that the military planes could deliver the mail, the president ordered the Army to take over.

The Army was unequipped and its pilots untrained for such a task. The results were dozens of aircraft crashes and the deaths of 13 pilots along with severe injuries to scores of others.

Canceling the private contracts also created financial hardship on the airlines and so they complained.

The most potent spokesman against Roosevelt's decision was Charles Lindbergh who, after gaining fame flying the Atlantic in 1927, had cashed in by accepting consultancies with several major aircraft companies.

Paid consultant or not, Lindbergh knew both ends of the equation. Not only had flown the airmail for several years before conquering the Atlantic, he was also a graduate of the Army's Advanced Aviation School and a commissioned military pilot.

He knew who could and could not do the job.

Between the mounting casualties, the resulting poor service, and criticism by the one of the most popular men in the world, Roosevelt retreated, leaving Farley holding the political baggage (which eventually led the loyal Farley to defect).

Smarting from his first political defeat, he pledged in front of press spokesman Stephen Early and Budget Director Lewis Douglas: "Don't worry about Lindbergh. We will get that fair-haired boy."

And "get" him Roosevelt did by disseminating through his henchmen such as Harold Ickes the charges listed above which are believed to this day.

The truth is that Lindbergh moved to England to get away from the white-hot attention of what we now call "the paparazzi."

Lindbergh went to Germany solely and each time as a result of American government-orchestrated invitations through Major Truman Smith and solely to gain information for America on the condition of the German aircraft development, a spy role Lindbergh fulfilled diligently.

Lindbergh was never awarded an "Iron Cross" by Hitler. He did receive a civilian award from the German government honoring his flight across the Atlantic exactly the same as most other European nations had granted him.

The award was a surprise and given in private.

We were not at war with Germany at the time and there was no reason for him to turn it down and could not do so without damaging his underlying mission to obtain military intelligence ... for Roosevelt.

He did not "tout" the German war machine. He warned of it. Roosevelt did not want to alert Congress to the threat so he discredited Lindbergh instead.

Send him as a spy and then smear him as a traitor.

Lindbergh was an American patriot. Roosevelt, whose financial policies Mr. Obama is mimicking, was an American disaster.


Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to larry.stirling@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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