This day in history, January 23, 1941, Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggested that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler.
While regularly flying a route from St. Louis to Chicago as an airmail pilot, Lindbergh decided to try to become the first pilot to fly alone nonstop from New York to Paris. He obtained the necessary financial backing from a group of businessmen, and on May 21, 1927, Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris after a more than 33 hour flight. His adventure made him a national icon and he won a $25,000 prize.
In March 1932, Lindbergh’s two year-old son was kidnapped. The baby was later found dead, and the man convicted of the crime, Bruno Hauptmann, was executed. Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow, daughter of U.S. ambassador Dwight Morrow, moved to Europe to escape publicity. During the mid-1930’s, Lindbergh became familiar with German advances in aviation and warned his U.S. counterparts of Germany’s air superiority. Lindbergh became fascinated by the German national “revitalization” he encountered however, and allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government, drawing criticism from the United States.
Upon Lindbergh’s return to the States, he urged for neutrality with Germany, and testified before Congress in opposition to the Lend-Lease policy, which offered cash and military aid to countries friendly to the United States in their war effort against the Axis powers.
His public denunciation of “the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt Administration” as instigators of American intervention in the war, lost him the support of other isolationists. In 1941, President Roosevelt denounced Lindbergh publicly. Lindbergh resigned from the Air Corps Reserve shortly after. He eventually contributed to the war effort and flew 50 combat missions over the Pacific. His participation in the war, along with his promotion to brigadier general of the Air Force Reserve in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a popular Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis,, and a movie based on his exploits all helped him gain his popularity back with the American people.