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By Cathy Hansen
contributing writer 

Charles Lindbergh was at Mojave MCAS during WWII

Short Flights

 

August 5, 2023

Cathy Hansen.

"The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh."

Did you know that Charles A. Lindbergh landed at Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Mojave at 12:40 p.m., April 15, 1944?

I have the book, "The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh." On page 779, his journal states that he flew from Palm Springs, after a meeting with Vought to Mojave.

He had flown to Mojave to have a conference with Marine officers, regarding their Corsair operations and he was flying a F4U Corsair that had been assigned to him. At the time, Lindbergh was a consultant for the Vought Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation.

Lindbergh was a quiet man who kept to himself and wasn't big on parties or small talk. At various times in his life, he was surrounded with controversy. But, he made huge contributions to aviation history and laid out routes for Pan American in the Caribbean in 1929 and 1930 in Sikorsky S-38 amphibians and in 1931, flew with his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh up into Canada and Alaska plotting air routes to China in an open cockpit Lockheed Sirus. She was seven months pregnant at the time with their first child.

Lindbergh also worked for Ford as a technical advisor at the Willow Run plant as they prepared to build B-24 bombers. His job was to smooth out problems as they arose while setting up the aircraft production.

Lindbergh was considered a hero due to his solo flight across the Atlantic and I have a newspaper dated May 22, 1927, with a headline that read: "Lindbergh at Paris in 33 ½ Hours; Slept on Way; Ran Through Storm."

There is also an article about Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN, famous Polar Explorer. Both Lindbergh and Byrd loved aviation and wanted to further people's knowledge and enthusiasm of it.

On the day that Lindbergh landed The Spirit of St. Louis in Paris, Byrd was at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, dedicating his transatlantic monoplane, America, before a crowd of 5,000. Here's a bit of trivia for history buffs. The bottles used to christen America contained water from the Delaware River, taken from the point where Washington made his crossing in 1776! It seems to me that Byrd was a true Patriot!

According to the 1927 newspaper article, when a telegram was received telling of Lindbergh's successful landing, Byrd said, "It is wonderful news that we have heard about Lindbergh. I said goodbye to him at seven o'clock yesterday morning and wished him Godspeed. I knew that he realized the undertaking ahead of him and was not afraid. His takeoff from the field alone showed his courage, and was a convincing witness that he would get there."

The Lindbergh's moved to England to escape the press after their first born son had been kidnapped and despicably murdered in 1932. It was while he lived in England that Lindbergh was invited by the Nazi government to tour Germany's aircraft factories and Hitler awarded him a German medal of honor before World War II.

Lindbergh was dedicated to keeping America out of the approaching war and felt so strongly about it that he worked with an isolationist group called America First and resigned his commission as Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve in 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, he tried to rejoin the military, only to be blocked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had publicly called him a traitor and defeatist.

However, as a civilian test pilot, Lindbergh found other ways to serve America and fly the most powerful fighter planes ever produced and even fly combat sorties.

Henry Ford was not one to follow in others footsteps, but rather blazed his own trails and wasn't considered a friend of FDR's. He hired Lindbergh in early 1942 as a technical advisor at Willow Run, Michigan, when he was gearing up to build B-24 Liberator heavy bombers.

The plant at Willow Run was designed to complete production of one Liberator every 100 minutes and eventually produced half of all the Liberators. A total of 18,000 were built and now there are only two or three still flying.

While employed at Ford, Lindbergh also worked for Vought Aircraft Division as a test pilot and consultant.

It was during that period that he visited Mojave and later in the month of April, he was in the Pacific Theater of Operations as a Corsair technical representative. He left North Island in a Navy R4D (DC-3) at 9:38 p.m. on April 24, and arrived at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on Oahu, Hawaii 15 hours, seven minutes after take-off.

According to a website about Lindbergh – "On May 22, 1944, Lindbergh flew his first combat mission, escorting Grumman TBF's (torpedo bombers) to Rabaul with a Marine Corsair squadron and strafing assigned ground targets before starting home. Before returning to Guadalcanal on June 10 he had flown 13 missions to Northern Solomon and Rabaul targets from Green and Emirau islands."

Even though controversy surrounded Lindbergh, I believe his actions as a civilian test pilot and Vought Aircraft representative in the South Pacific during World War II improved fighter pilots flying techniques and contributed to our victory in the Pacific and in Europe.

In researching some of the dates and islands he flew from while stationed (as a civilian test pilot) in the South Pacific, I ran across an interesting website that gave more detail to some of his experiences. He flew F4U Corsairs with Marines in combat over a period of several months.

The Charles Lindbergh website also states that he was anxious to experience twin engine fighter performance and was able to attach himself to the 475th Fighter Group, a Fifth Air Force P-38 group. His fame and notoriety allowed him the opportunity to accomplish unbelievable goals.

"On June 27 he flew his first mission in a P-38, joining three other 475th planes on a barge strafing mission to Salawati Island at the western tip on New Guinea. By July 4, he had flown five missions in the same area. It was soon noted that Lindbergh consistently returned from missions with several times as much fuel as the other pilots in his flight," according to the website.

A civilian flying in combat missions was frowned on and Lindbergh found himself at odds with the Commanding Officers of the Pacific Theater, none other than General MacArthur and Brigadier General Kenney.

Lindbergh had been authorized into Southwest Pacific (SWPA) without first checking with MacArthur's Headquarters. He was admonished about civilians flying in combat and the Generals discussed the repercussions that would occur if he were to be shot down.

Lindbergh commented that he thought P-38 combat radius could be increased from 570 miles to 700-750 miles and still leave an hour reserve of fuel. He felt our pilots could cruise at lower revolutions per minute (RPM) and higher manifold settings, saving fuel without danger of harming the engines.

The 307th Bomb Group website stated that, "Gen. Kenney's attention was peaked at Lindbergh's statement and it was quickly decided that Lindbergh could continue flying as an observer providing he did not fire his guns." The quote continues, "However, if he did strafe a little no one would know...and if he could get the "Spirit of St. Louis" all the way to Paris maybe he really could help increase the combat radius of the P-38 and other fighters."

On July 28, 1944 Lindbergh was flying one of the 475th's P-38's during a bomber escort mission and actually shot down a Japanese aircraft. During the dogfight, an enemy aircraft was on his tail and the other P-38's were able to chase off the enemy and they all returned safely to Biak.

Brig. Gen. Kenney grounded Lindbergh after that incident and Lindbergh started to return to the U.S., but not before stopping off in the Marshall Islands to visit with Marine Corsair units. He participated in bombing runs with 1,000-pound and 2,000-pound bombs mounted on the wings of the Corsair. His last combat missions were on Sept. 12-13, 1944.

Cathy Hansen.

"Lindbergh at Paris in 33 ½ Hours; Slept on Way; Ran Through Storm."

It wasn't until after the war, in May 1945, that Lindbergh was asked by our government to again evaluate Germany's air capabilities and focus on their V-2 rocket program. (Interesting note about Lindbergh's interest in rocketry - Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh was interested in rocketry and was influential in obtaining financing for Dr. Goddard. On November 23, 1929, Goddard met with Charles A. Lindbergh. Through the personal efforts of Lindbergh, Goddard received a $50,000 two-year research grant from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation.)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, aware of Lindbergh's war service and historic contributions to aviation, later restored his military commission and promoted him to the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Much of the information in this article is thanks to the http://www.CharlesLindbergh.com website and the 307th Bomb Group website.

 
 

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