Even after twenty years, A. Scott Berg’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Charles Lindberg remains “the definitive account” of one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary figures.
Few American icons provoke more enduring fascination than Charles Lindbergh—renowned for his one-man transatlantic flight in 1927, remembered for the sorrow surrounding the kidnapping and death of his firstborn son in 1932, and reviled by many for his opposition to America's entry into World War II. Lindbergh's is “a dramatic and disturbing American story,” says the *Los Angeles Times Book Review, and this biography—the first to be written with unrestricted access to the Lindbergh archives and extensive interviews of his friends, colleagues, and close family members—is “a thorough, level-headed evaluation of the glories, tragedies, and often infuriating complexities of this extraordinary life” (Newsday).
About the Author
A. Scott Berg is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of five biographies: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, winner of the National Book Award; Goldwyn, for which he received a Guggenheim Fellowship; Lindbergh, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Kate Remembered, his biographical memoir of Katharine Hepburn; and Wilson, the definitive biography of twenty-eighth president Woodrow Wilson.
Read an Excerpt
"...living in dreams of yesterday, we find ourselves still dreaming of impossible future conquests..."
For more than a day the world held its breath...and then the small plane was sighted over Ireland.
Twenty-seven hours after he had left Roosevelt Field in New York—alone, in the Spirit of St. Louis—word quickly spread from continent to continent that Charles A. Lindbergh had survived the most perilous leg of his journey—the fifteen-hour crossing of the Atlantic. He had to endure but a few more hours before reaching his destination, Paris. Anxiety yielded to anticipation.
The American Ambassador to France, Myron T. Herrick, went to St. Cloud after lunch that Saturday to watch the Franco-American team-tennis matches. When he took his seat in the front row, five thousand fans cheered. During the course of the afternoon, people in the stands heard newsboys shouting the headlines of their éditions spéciales, announcing Lindbergh's expected arrival that night. In the middle of the match, Herrick received a telegram—confirmation that Lindbergh had passed over Valencia in Ireland. All eyes were on the Ambassador as he hastily left courtside, convincing most of the spectators that their prayers were being answered. Before the match had ended, the stands began to empty.
Herrick rushed back to his residence in Paris, ate a quick dinner at 6:30, then left for the airfield at Le Bourget, to the northeast of the city. "It was a good thing we did not delay another quarter of an hour," Herrick recalled, "for crowds were already collecting along the road and in a short time passage was almost impossible."
The boulevards were jammed with cars ten abreast. Passengers poked their heads through the sliding roof panels of the Parisian taxis, greeting each other in jubilation. "Everyone had acquired a bottle of something and, inasmuch as the traffic moved very slowly," one reveler recalled of that night in 1927, "bottles were passed from cab to cab celebrating the earthshaking achievement." A mile from the airfield, the flow of traffic came to a standstill.
Once the radio announced that Lindbergh had flown over southern England, mobs formed in the heart of Paris. Thirty thousand people flocked toward the Place de l'Opéra, where illuminated advertising signs flashed news bulletins. Over the next few hours, the crowds spilled into the Boulevard Poissonière—until it became unpassable—where they expected to find the most reliable accounts of Lindbergh's progress posted in front of the Paris Matin offices. "Not since the armistice of 1918," observed one reporter, "has Paris witnessed a downright demonstration of popular enthusiasm and excitement equal to that displayed by the throngs flocking to the boulevards for news of the American flier, whose personality has captured the hearts of the Parisian multitude."
Between updates, people waited in anxious silence. Two French fliers—Nungesser and Coli—had not been heard from in the two weeks since their attempt to fly nonstop from Paris to New York; and their disappearance weighed heavily on the Parisians' minds. Many muttered about the impossibility of accomplishing a nonstop transatlantic crossing, especially alone. Periodically, whispers rustled through the crowd, rumors that Lindbergh had been forced down. After a long silence, a Frenchwoman, dressed in mourning and sitting in a big limousine, wiped away tears of worry. Another woman, selling newspapers, approached her, fighting back her own tears. "You're right to feel so, madame," she said. "In such things there is no nationality—he's some mother's son."
Close to nine o'clock, letters four feet tall flashed onto one of the advertising boards. "The crowds grew still, the waiters frozen in place between the café tables," one witness remembered. "All were watching. Traffic stopped. Then came the cheering message 'Lindbergh sighted over Cherbourg and the coast of Normandy.' " The crowd burst into bravos. Strangers patted each other on the back and shook hands. Moments later, Paris Matin posted a bulletin in front of its building, confirming the sighting; and bystanders chanted "Vive Lindbergh!" and "Vive I'Américain!" The next hour brought more good news from Deauville, and then Louviers. New arrivals onto the scene all asked the same question: "Est-il arrivé?"
Fifteen thousand others gravitated toward the Étoile, filling the city block that surrounded a hotel because they assumed Lindbergh would be spending the night there. Many too impatient to stand around in town suddenly decided to witness the arrival. Students from the Sorbonne jammed into buses and subways. Thousands more grabbed whatever conveyance remained available, until more than ten thousand cars filled the roads between the city and Le Bourget. Before long, 150,000 people had gathered at the airfield.
A little before ten o'clock, the excited crowd at Le Bourget heard an approaching engine and fell silent. A plane burst through the clouds and landed; but it turned out to be the London Express. Minutes later, as a cool wind blew the stars into view, another roar ripped the air, this time a plane from Strasbourg. Red and gold and green rockets flared overhead, while acetylene searchlights scanned the dark sky. The crowd became restless standing in the chill. Then, "suddenly unmistakably the sound of an aeroplane...and then to our left a white flash against the black night...and another flash (like a shark darting through water)," recalled Harry Crosby—the American expatriate publisher—who was among the enthusiastic onlookers. "Then nothing. No sound. Suspense. And again a sound, this time somewhere off towards the right. And is it some belated plane or is it Lindbergh? Then sharp swift in the gold glare of the searchlights a small white hawk of a plane swoops hawk-like down and across the field—C'est lui Lindbergh. LINDBERGH!"
On May 21, 1927, at 10:24 P.M., the Spirit of St. Louis landed—having flown 3,614 miles from New York, nonstop, in thirty-three hours, thirty minutes, and thirty seconds. And in that instant, everything changed—for both the pilot and the planet.
There was no holding the one hundred fifty thousand people back. Looking out the side of his plane and into the glare of lights, Lindbergh could see only that the entire field ahead was "covered with running figures!" With decades of hindsight, the woman Lindbergh would marry came to understand what that melee actually signified. "Fame—Opportunity—Wealth—and also tragedy & loneliness & frustration rushed at him in those running figures on the field at Le Bourget," she would later write. "And he is so innocent & unaware."
Lindbergh's arrival in Paris became the defining moment of his life, that event on which all his future actions hinged—as though they were but a predestined series of equal but opposite reactions, fraught with irony. Just as inevitable, every event in Lindbergh's first twenty-five years seemed to have conspired in propelling him to Paris that night. As the only child of woefully ill-matched parents, he had tuned out years of discord by withdrawing. He had emerged from his itinerant and isolated adolescence virtually friendless and self-absorbed. A scion of resourceful immigrants, he had grown up a practical dreamer, believing there was nothing he could not do. A distracted student, he had dropped out of college to learn to fly airplanes; and after indulging in the footloose life of barnstorming, he had been drawn to the military. The Army had not only improved his aviation skills but also brought precision to his thinking. He had left the air corps to fly one of the first airmail routes, subjecting himself to some of the roughest weather in the country. Restless, he had lusted for greater challenges, for adventure.
In the spring of 1927, Lindbergh had been too consumed by what he called "the single objective of landing my plane at Paris" to have considered its aftermath. "To plan beyond that had seemed an act of arrogance I could not afford," he would later write. Even if he had thought farther ahead, however, he could never have predicted the unprecedented global response to his arrival.
By that year, radio, telephones, radiographs, and the Bartlane Cable Process could transmit images and voices around the world within seconds. What was more, motion pictures had just mastered the synchronization of sound, allowing dramatic moments to be preserved in all their glory and distributed worldwide. For the first time all of civilization could share as one the sights and sounds of an event—almost instantaneously and simultaneously. And in this unusually good-looking, young aviator—of apparently impeccable character—the new technology found its first superstar.
The reception in Paris was only a harbinger of the unprecedented worship people would pay Lindbergh for years. Without either belittling or aggrandizing the importance of his flight, he considered it part of the continuum of human endeavor, and that he was, after all, only a man. The public saw more than that. Indeed, Harry Crosby felt that the stampede at Le Bourget that night represented nothing less than the start of a new religious movement—"as if all the hands in the world are...trying to touch the new Christ and that the new Cross is the Plane." Universally admired, Charles Lindbergh became the most celebrated living person ever to walk the earth.
For several years Lindbergh had lived according to one of the basic laws of aerodynamics—the need to maintain balance. And so, in those figures running toward him, Lindbergh immediately saw inevitable repercussions. At first he feared for his physical safety; over the next few months he worried about his soul. He instinctively knew that submitting himself to the idolatry of the public could strip him of his very identity; and the only preventive he could see was to maintain his privacy. That reluctance to offer himself to the public only increased its desire to possess him—the first of many paradoxes he would encounter in his lifelong effort to restore equilibrium to his world.
"No man before me had commanded such freedom of movement over earth," Lindbergh would write of his historic flight. Ironically, that freedom would be denied him thereafter on land. Both whetting and sating the public's appetite for every morsel about him, the press broke every rule of professional ethics in covering Lindbergh. They often ran with unverified stories, sometimes stories they had made up, transforming him into a character worthy of the Arabian Nights. Reporters stalked him constantly—almost fatally on several occasions—making him their first human quarry, stripping him of his rights to privacy as no public figure had ever been before. Over the century, others would reach this new stratum of celebrity.
The unwanted fame all but guaranteed an isolated adulthood. And, indeed, Lindbergh spent the rest of his life in flight, searching for islands of tranquility. Early on, he was was lucky enough to meet Anne Morrow, Ambassador Dwight Morrow's shy daughter, who craved solitude as much as he did. They fell in love and married. Their "storybook romance," as the press always presented it, was, in fact, a complex case history of control and repression, filled with joy and passion and grief and rage. He scourged his wife into becoming an independent woman; and, in so doing, he helped create an important feminist voice—a popular diarist who also wrote one of the most beloved volumes of the century, and another that was one of the most despised.
The Lindberghs' love story had a tragic second act. His fame and wealth cost them their firstborn child. Under melodramatic conditions, Lindbergh authorized payment of a large ransom to a mysterious man in a graveyard; but he did not get his son in return. The subsequent investigation of the kidnapping uncovered only circumstantial evidence; and the man accused of killing "the Lindbergh Baby" never confessed—thus condemning the "Crime of the Century" to eternal debate. Because the victim's father was so celebrated, the case entered the annals of history, and laws were changed in Lindbergh's name. The media circus that accompanied what veteran courtwatchers still refer to as the "Trial of the Century" forever affected trial coverage in the United States. The subsequent flood of sympathy for Lindbergh only enhanced his public profile, making him further prey for the media as well as other criminals and maniacs. In fear and disgust, he moved to Europe, where for a time he became one of America's most effective unofficial ambassadors. Several visits to Germany in the 1930s—during which he inspected the Luftwaffe and also received a medal from Hitler—called his politics into question. He returned to the United States to warn the nation of Germany's insuperable strength in the impending European war, then to spearhead the American isolationist movement. As the leading spokesman for the controversial organization known as America First, he preached his beliefs with messianic fervor, incurring the wrath of many, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. By December 7, 1941, many Americans considered him nothing short of satanic—not just a defeatist but an anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi traitor.
Lindbergh had spent most of his adult life establishing the role of aviation in war and peace, proving himself one of the prime movers in the aviation industry. But because of his noninterventionist stance, Roosevelt refused to allow Lindbergh to fly after Pearl Harbor with the very air force he had helped modernize. He found other ways to serve. As a test pilot in private industry, he developed techniques that increased both the altitude and range of several planes in America's fleet, saving countless lives. The military looked the other way as Lindbergh insisted on engaging in combat missions in the South Pacific; but his failure to condemn Nazi Germany before World War II haunted his reputation for the rest of his life.
One of his greatest services to his country proved to be in helping launch the space program. As the first American airman to exhibit "the right stuff," Lindbergh inspired his country's first astronauts by sheer example. But more than that, he was—unknown to the public—the man most responsible for securing the funding that underwrote the research of Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the inventor of the modern rocket. A friend of the first man to fly an airplane, Lindbergh lived long enough in a fast-moving world to befriend the first man to walk on the moon.
In time, Lindbergh came to believe the long-range effects of his flight to Paris were more harmful than beneficial. As civilization encroached upon wilderness in the world he helped shrink, he turned his back on aviation and fought to protect the environment. He rededicated his life to rescuing nearly extinct animals and to preserving wilderness areas. For years this college dropout advanced other sciences as well, performing medical research that would help make organ transplants possible. He made extraordinary archaeological and anthropological discoveries as well. A foundation would later be established in Lindbergh's name that offers grants of $10,580—the cost of the Spirit of St. Louis—for projects that further his vision of "balance between technological advancement and preservation of our human and natural environment."
Lindbergh believed all the elements of the earth and heavens are connected, through space and time. The configurations of molecules in each moment help create the next. Thus he considered his defining moment just another step in the development of aviation and exploration—a summit built on all those that preceded it and a springboard to all those that would follow. Only by looking back, Lindbergh believed, could mankind move forward. "In some future incarnation from our life stream," he wrote in later years, "we may understand the reason for our existence in forms of earthly life."
In few people were the souls of one's forbears so apparent as they were in Charles Lindbergh. As a result of this transmigration, Lindbergh believed the flight that ended at Le Bourget one night in May 1927 originated much farther back than thirty-three and a half hours prior at Roosevelt Field. It started with some Norsemen—infused with Viking spirit—generations long before that.
Excerpted from "Lindbergh"
Copyright © 1999 A. Scott Berg.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
2. Northern Lights
3. No Place Like Home
4. Under a Wing
6. Perchance to Dream
7. Only a Man
12. Circus Maximus
13. Rising Tides
14. The Great Debate
15. Clipped Wings
17. Double Sunrise
18. Alone Together
Notes and Sources
What People are Saying About This
Not My Hero
Frankly I must say that after finishing this book I was reminded of that famous quote about the lovely city of Oakland, only in this case it applied to subject Lindbergh. "Is there any there there.". My conclusion from reading this wonderfully written and detailed book is that Lindbergh could best be described as a stick figure of a man, someone who could well have been cast in one of those post WW2 black and white farmer brown cartoons. As a matter of fact the only criticism of Mr. Berg that I have is that his obvious infatuation with Anne Morrow, who by all accounts was an almost noble and long-suffering soul, may have resulted in his occasionally incorrectly depicting Lindbergh as having several almost human like qualities. Lindbergh at his best was a narrow-minded, ill-tempered martinet. A cross, colorless bossy man given to keeping copious lists and to hassling his wife and children over mindless meaningless micro details. A man who spent an inordinate amount of time fretting over how he could get his kit packed into as small a suitcase as was humanly possible. I kid you not.
Yet I by no means wish to dismiss in any way his single great achievement. However I do wonder whether this man, who strapped himself into a flimsy gas filled monoplane, who, despite his lack of sleep the night before and facing at least 36 hours of non-stop flight over the Atlantic ocean, could have actually possessed the capacity to fear or worry about the consequences. As the saying goes, " where there is no sense there can be no pain."
Charles Augustus Lindbergh is quite likely the best 20th century illustration of what can occur in a nation obsessed with the cult of hero worship. He was I submit the wrong man at the right time. Moreover, after being defrocked, after being exposed as the mean spirited bigoted quasi-traitor that he was, he was able, with the assistance of a cadre of America first, isolationist fellow travelers and a few well meaning aviation fanatics, to rehabilitate or recapture, to some measure, his good name and reputation despite his unrepentant propensity for intolerance. It is with incredulity that I read and reread many of his public utterances made on the eve of WW2. His absolute indifference to the nazi torture of the Jews depicted in the context of his behavior as a major nazi apologist and lapdog belie his subsequent claims that he acted only out of his devotion for his country. After all, how many can say they were the nazi's most decorated American.
To anyone who might in the future suggest that Herr Lindbergh was a complicated or possibly tormented figure I urge that they read this book. Mr. Berg overlays detail upon detail that, in their totality, depict this man for what I say he was. That is, a shallow, mean spirited, bigoted man who happened to have done a gloriously heroic deed over a 34-hour period once in his life. As his wife's close friend and teacher once observed, had he not flown the Atlantic, he probably would have operated a gas station on Long Island.
On Tuesday, October 6th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed A. Scott Berg to discuss LINDBERGH.
Moderator: Welcome, A. Scott Berg. Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening to discuss your fascinating new book, LINDBERGH. How are you doing this evening?
A Scott Berg: Fine. I am doing really well and happy to be online.
Jonathan from Seattle: What made Lindbergh someone you wanted to write a book about? What was it about him that struck you? What is your next biography going to be?
A Scott Berg: I think Lindbergh is the most fascinating American of the century, and until now I think his story was untold. He was a great hero of the century; he was a great victim of the century, and he became a great villain during the century, and then he disappeared from the public eye for 30 years, so he became one of the mysteries of the century as well. And being given access to his 2,000 boxes of archives I felt I could solve that mystery.
Montgomery from Mobile, AL: This may sound like a silly question, but I will ask it anyway.... Of the numerous misconceptions and inaccuracies written about Lindbergh, which one erroneous piece of information would you want to clear up and why? Also, if you had to speculate, what piece of misinformation would Charles Lindbergh want to clear up and why?
A Scott Berg: There are no silly questions, only silly answers. I think there are a couple, but I think the one I would want to clear up is the misconception that Charles Lindbergh was simply a flyboy who happened to get himself to Paris. What I learned during my nine years on this project is that Lindbergh had a deep mind and a broad range of interests that included his doing rather sophisticated medical research, helping get the American Rocket program off the ground, work in anthropology and archaeology, and extensive work in the fields of ecology and conservation. He also wrote six books and won the Pulitzer Prize. The misconception I think Lindbergh would want to clear up is the notion that he was anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi. In truth he was impressed with the strides Nazi Germany had made in the '30s, but he never wanted Germany to win World War II. His anti-Semitism is more complicated; he wasn't a bigot and he didn't hate Jews, but he did have that genteel brand of anti-Semitism that was prevalent in this country up until the 1960s, in which he viewed Jews as being different from the rest of the people in America. He had several Jewish friends, and he did help some Jews escape from Nazi Germany, but he did make some statements that I find personally offensive, even though I don't think he knew what he was saying all the time.
Mike from MMuntz@yahoo.com: What was the biggest discovery you found about Lindbergh's father and family?
A Scott Berg: I think the biggest discovery about his father is that he was illegitimate and Lindbergh's grandfather had been forced to leave Sweden because of the sexual scandal surrounding that birth, as well as a political scandal. Can you imagine?
Gary Monteleone from GARYX_8_14_1998@yahoo.com: Does your book cover Lindbergh's warnings of German rearmament prior to World War II? If I remember correctly, Hermann Goering awarded a medal to Charles Lindbergh for his brave 33 hour flight from America's eastern seaboard to Paris, France (1937).
A Scott Berg: I cover the incident in great detail and try to clear up some of the half-truths about that incident -- notably that the medal was in fact awarded in the American embassy in the presence of the American ambassador. It would have been impossible for him not to accept the medal. At the same time, Lindbergh chose never to turn the medal into a political object, and he never returned it nor did he ever renounce the Nazi leaders who bestowed it upon him.
Mark S. Daniels from Reno, NV: Spielberg has recently purchased the movie rights to your book unseen. As an aspiring screenwriter and an admirer of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I am curious of your opinion as to whether Charles Lindbergh's story should be told primarily through his eyes, or primarily through hers, or both? Or are you involved in the screenplay, and feel an altogether different approach should be taken in telling the story? I feel she "defined" him as a person (she was very influential -- likewise, he influenced her a great deal), and the best materials presented to date (seeing him firsthand) have been hers. Can't wait to read your book! Bravo that she opened up so much of his world to you. Bravo to you both. The myths have needed debunking for a long time.
A Scott Berg: Your questions make me think you are probably a wonderful screenwriter because I think you have zeroed in on the crux of the story. I will not be writing the screenplay, but I will be advising the writer who will be; his name will be announced soon and he has already raised the possibility of telling the story through Anne Lindbergh's eyes.
Don from Atlas, Michigan: Mr. Berg, I haven't read your book yet. How much of it concerns the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby? And after your research, are you convinced that Bruno Hauptman was the perpetrator?
A Scott Berg: Two or three chapters out of 19 are given to the kidnapping and the apprehension of Hauptman and his trial. When I began the project I thought it would be interesting if I could somehow clear him, but I must confess the deeper I got into my research the guiltier he seemed. I tried to lay all the facts out from both sides, so I will leave it to you to come in with your own verdict.
McGill from Sudbury, Massachusetts: What would you say were Lindbergh's greatest passions in life?
A Scott Berg: I would say aviation was his first great passion and conservation was his last great passion and ironically one led to the other. Lindbergh believed that he had contributed in some ways to the deterioration of life on earth because he was the romantic embodiment of the airplane and he felt that the airplane had helped shrink the world, allowing civilization to encroach upon wilderness. And so he spent the last two decades of his life trying to reverse that trend. Crusading around the world on behalf of saving nearly extinct animal life and on behalf of preserving the air and the water and the land.
Elaine from Austin, Texas: I am fascinated with Lindbergh and I am happy you wrote this book. My question to you is: Did Charles Lindbergh really say that he was being guided by ghosts as he took his flight to Paris? Was that just a manifestation of his imagination resulting from too many hours of sleepless flying?
A Scott Berg: Yes and yes. You have to remember he had not slept for 23 hours before he made the flight, and about 25 hours into the flight he began to see mirages outside the plane and ghosts within. So I would have to say they were the result of an extreme lack of sleep.
Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: Did you find Lindbergh to have a good sense of humor? Is there any evidence you found? Thanks! Just curious...
A Scott Berg: I did, and when I started the book I was afraid I wouldn't. But he had an extremely dry "Swedish" sense of humor. He was a practical joker, often immature and sometimes cruel. And he did like to put people on. There is a great story in the book in which he is living with a primitive tribe up the Amazon and the Indians gave him some monkey meat to eat, knowing most white men couldn't stomach it. When they asked him through a translator whether he liked it or not, he said, "Yes, it tastes just like human flesh."
Mark S. Daniels from Reno, Nevada: The Lindberghs both hated the paparazzi and disliked tremendously the constant attention. I look at how the press treated the death of their first child, including the kicking in of the door of the funeral home to photograph his body. I wonder if the world is going to be shocked -- in your opinion -- to learn of this? I wonder this while considering the death of Princess Diana and how the paparazzi were involved. What do you think can or should be done to protect people like Anne and Charles (people of celebrity) from these wanton intrusions?
A Scott Berg: I am not sure what can be done. It is a tricky problem, one that plagued Lindbergh; he believed strongly in the freedom of the press, but he often wondered if there were any laws to protect his privacy. You raise an interesting analogy in bringing up Princess Dianna because I believe the car chase through the streets of Paris that resulted in her death had its roots on the night Lindbergh landed and entered the city of Paris through those same streets.
Pat Doyle from Houston: This is a writing technique question. How do you write so as to keep the reader turning the page? Some build a series of ongoing dramas that are always resolved a few pages later.
A Scott Berg: This is of course the biggest challenge for any writer, but especially so for nonfiction writers because we have to be as dramatic as possible without having the license to make things up. I try to do it by making each chapter of the book and each of the parts of my book a mini-drama unto itself. In other words, every one of my chapters has rising action and a denouement and a punch line at the end, rather the way a playwright builds his plays with scenes and acts.
Paul from Morris Plains, New Jersey: What type of effect did Anne's affair really have on Charles Lindbergh?
A Scott Berg: I think very little because he either did not know about it or he chose not to know about it. And he just went about his life and his marriage as though it had not occurred.
Megan from Springfield, Virginia: I know of the feuds with FDR and Lindbergh. In your research for this book, what do you think FDR really thought about Lindbergh? Thanks.
A Scott Berg: This is a really interesting question because basically I think he admired Lindbergh; in fact, when he was still governor of New York, he had asked Lindbergh for an autographed picture. But then he came to resent Lindbergh, first with the controversy over the airmail -- a political battle that FDR lost -- and then with the great debate over American intervention into World War II, which FDR won. But it drove Roosevelt crazy that Lindbergh was so popular and could be so influential with his speeches and he did not have to answer to an electorate. Lindbergh for his part found FDR extremely charming but he always distrusted him, finding him too "political."
Mark S. Daniels from Reno, Nevada: Regarding McGill's question, I have a follow-up (but only if possible). I was reading in Lindbergh's wartime diaries on the very anniversary of his flight, and he never mentioned the flight, but stated: "Marrying Anne was the smartest thing I did..." or words to that effect. Did it seem to you -- as it did to me -- that he loved her more, and did aviation spark that initial connection for her with him, or was it really "the hero"? Likewise, her not partaking of the hero worship of the time seemed to make her everything he needed in a woman. Further, their adventures seemed legendary (discovering never-before-seen mountains in Greenland; taking the risks together; the time in Buckingham Palace with the Queen). I think this is the greatest love story ever to be told. Can you think of any greater? Of the story of their love alone, how would you tell it?
A Scott Berg: Lindbergh's wife and children were of course a great passion in his life, although he was extremely undemonstrative with that love. Part of his attraction to Anne was that she did not seem to worship him in the silly ways that so many others did. But I should note she definitely did worship him and had to pay a price for that in the end -- because it is not easy being married to a god. I agree it is one of the great love stories of the century mostly because it is not a simplistic storybook romance, but full of twists and turns and has many dark psychological undercurrents.
Peter Sachs from Saco, Maine: Scott, it's your cousin Peter! I probably haven't seen you since I was four or five! Moved up here a year ago with my family (two kids, one on the way). I've been following your work all along, and loved the two previous. This one looks to be your best, though. I just started it. My oldest son, Eric (eight years old), was pretty impressed when I told him about you and all of your accomplishments. Not to mention the rest of your family! Any chance you'll ever make it to the East Coast sometime soon? What's next on the literary horizon for you? Send my love to your parents and the rest of the Berg clan. We'd love to visit sometime out in Los Angeles. The kids would be in heaven! Take care, Peter.
A Scott Berg: Thanks so much for writing. By all means come out to California and visit. We would all love to see you. I do think this is my best book, mostly because Lindbergh is such a complicated and intriguing character. I will be on the East Coast, but I am not sure how close I will get to Maine.
Anthony from divinestra: For what work did he win the Pulitzer Prize?
A Scott Berg: For his book THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS. Every now and then a celebrity author wins a prize because he is a celebrity; in this case he won because it is a wonderful book.
Bradley from New York City: Does your book cover Lindbergh's relationship or thoughts on Amelia Earhart?
A Scott Berg: Yes, they were friendly but not close friends, and Lindbergh does say in the book, "I heard Amelia made a very good landing -- once."
Vernon from Washington, D.C.: After spending such an incredible amount of time studying this man, if you had to sum him up in one or two sentences, how would you do it?
A Scott Berg: I spent nine years trying to sum him up in 600 pages, but I will say this: I can't think of a single person who packed as much living into a single lifetime as Charles Lindbergh did.
Nelson from Fairfield, Connecticut: Good evening, Mr. Berg. I just want to tell you how much I am enjoying this book. You truly cover this man unlike any other author could have. Thank you. So will you be slaving away researching another person in the near future? Or are you already at work?
A Scott Berg: Thank you for you kind comments. I will be, but I am not now. As soon as I finish my book tour, I'll start giving serious thought to future subjects. Another 20th-century American cultural figure.
Jill from Clayton, California: Mr. Berg, how much were you able to interview Anne Morrow Lindbergh for your book, considering her physical illness? Did you receive a lot of support and information from the Lindbergh family?
A Scott Berg: I was able to spend a fair amount of time with Mrs. Lindbergh, who was in excellent physical and mental physical shape when I first started the book; over the years her health declined. The five Lindbergh children were incredibly generous with their time and their recollections of their father. I found all of them unusually candid and articulate.
Darlene Elms from Pinole, California: Hi, Mr. Berg. As a person who is hugely interested in anything Lindbergh, I would like to ask you if there were any subject matters that were off limits to you. Personally, I would give an eye or tooth to ever meet or speak with either AML or Reeve on any subject! Congratulations on your book and if you are ever going to be in the San Francisco area touring and promoting your book, please let this die-hard Lindbergh fan know. Thank you!
A Scott Berg: Absolutely none! Mrs. Lindbergh and all the children were extremely forthcoming on all subjects; one of the sons, Scott, was reluctant to meet with me for several years because he had had the most difficult relationship with his father, but he came around in the end and proved to be the most forthcoming of all. They are a remarkable family, and I am enormously grateful to all of them not only for the information but also the opportunity they gave me. I am in San Francisco right now but I am not doing any public appearances, just local media. But I will be back for the San Francisco Book Festival on Sunday, November 8th at 2pm. I will be there for a lecture and a signing. I hope you will be there.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Berg. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience tonight?
A Scott Berg: Thank you all for turning out. This has been the best interview I have had in the three weeks since the book has come out. I hope you enjoy the book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I eagerly looked forward to this book and read it non-stop. I've even given it out as a gift on a couple occasions. Now we find out that there's substantial portions of Lindbergh's personal life left out of what was purported to be a definitive biography. It's a shame that a writer can't do a bit more research to discover frequent trips to Germany, private secretaries, and (at least) seven children outof wedlock. That these families were in Germany tells us much about the man and, I believe, tends to discredit any assertion that that Llindbergh was not pro-German.
In today's busy world, we often take for granted the instant 24 hour communication and travel available anywhere around the globe. Hard to imagine that less than a century ago on May 21, 1927 at 10:24 PM, the Spirit of St. Louis did the impossible at that time. That is for someone to flown across the Atlantic non-stop from New York to Paris in a remarkable thirty-three hours, thirty minutes, and thirty seconds. In that instant, everything changed- for both the pilot and the planet. The story of this pioneer is captured by A. Scott Berg in his book, Lindbergh. This book transports the reader to the excitement and thrill of crossing the ocean blue while capturing the ups and downs of Lindbergh's life. Within his lifetime, the world changed so much that eventually men would be walking on the moon. Charles Lindbergh was the first global celebrity as he was recognized by all for his daring feat. Lindbergh's life was not all glamour and excitement. The book delves into the tragedy of the killing of his son after being kidnapped. It also chronicles his inner turmoil of the price of fame and disappointment of others. At the end, Lindberg committed his life to the environment and died surrounded by those close to him. This pioneer never strived for fame and fortune, he simple did what he enjoyed, which was flying, helping people, and making difference in the world. Everyone needs a dream and Lindbergh was able to live his. On his tombstone, he chose a two line passage from 139th Psalm which suggests a supreme belief in the Lord: "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, at 628 pages, Lindbergh is a marvelous story of a forgotten hero.
"Lindbergh" by Scott Berg is the first biography I've ever read. That being said I didn't know what to expect but felt propelled to read it after reading "The Aviator's Wife". There were substantial portions that I found very interesting but also sections that plainly said were downright boring. I was disappointed that the book lacked emotion and at times felt like just words drafted on a page rather than exposing the deep soul of a man. There is so much more to this man than that of his transatlantic flight. He achieved so much more in his lifetime and yet for most of us we only knew him as the man and "The Spirit of St. Louis". It is apparent that Lindbergh suffered from OCD, which contributed to his genius as well as his inability for personal intimacy for those that he loved. Lindbergh served this world well but at the expense of his family, so sad for the people who loved him. After Charles' death the Times editorial said it best; "Charles Lindbergh was both the beneficiary and the victim of celebrity experienced by no other American in this century". The majority of his life was spent at the cruel hand of the press and changed the course of his life forever. It really made me think about the constant hounding celebrities have to endure each and every day and the truth or lies that are printed about them. Why is it that we feel the need to be notified of the most intimate details of their lives? Hmmm. Something to ponder. Upon further research, Lindbergh had a relationship with three women, friends, in Germany and sired a total of seven children. It was disappointing to note that the relationships with these women and his other children were not discussed in his biography and how a man that professed the good character of a man could live a double life.
Sometimes I find a book so compelling that I rise with it in the morning, carrying it around with me so that I can sneak in a paragraph or page between packing the kids' lunches and dressing for work. But rarely does a non-fiction book hold me this captive. I found Lindbergh to be riveting. From the portrayal of his oddball ancestors, to his historic flight (which resulted in a media maelstrom the likes of which only Princess Diana has generated since), to the later years of his life when when the world had changed and expanded far beyond Lindbergh's understanding, this book details it all. Lindbergh was an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary life by virtue of a plane ride. No one could have predicted the full impact of that action, least of all Lindbergh. He was a brave and clever oddball, like his relatives, but not a superstar or a genius or whatever we expect our heroes to be. He was definately not a thought leader. He was easily swayed by dubious theories and domineering people. He was a rotten husband and distant father. He could be a brute. But oh, what he experienced! I enjoyed the book for the view of the world it provided circa 1920 - 1960, my mother's era, before I was born, and a time that I really didn't understand much beyond generic history lessons. Lindbergh was thrust into many of the political and social events of those decades, met with the rich and powerful and was involved in numerous important debates despite his utter lack of credentials beyond aerospace issues. He was pulled in by other people, in awe of his heroic stature, looking for a role model - not so different from America's treatment of elite athletes today. A. Scott Berg was lucky that his subject was a diarist and avid letter writer (along with Anne Morrow), and led one of the most documented lives of the time. So are we, or we wouldn't have this biography. Many reviewers get caught up in their personal feelings about Lindbergh, and end up giving a review of what they thought of him as a man. Read this book and draw your own conclusions.
This book is an excellent biography. I think that most people only know the name Charles Lindbergh because of his history making flight and the tragic kidnapping of his firstborn, but there is much more to this complicated man than that. The book starts out slowly as it covers his grand-parents, parents and his childhood. After he becomes a young adult the book grabs you and doesn't let go until the last page. I love a good true story and this really fit the bill.
To this baby-boomer growing up, Charles A. Lindbergh was a shadowy hero about whom little was known. We knew of his heroic flight across the Atlantic in 1927 and the tragic kidnapping and murder of his son a few years later. As time went on I came to know that there was some controversy about his stand in the years leading up to World War II. Occasionally a magazine article would associate his name with some environmental cause, but the human being remained in the shadows of the spectacular dash across the Atlantic. In this biography, A. Scott Berg brings the man, his times, what the world would make him and the ways he influenced the world all to life. The book does even more than that, for it gives us a biography, not only of Charles, but also of his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The book starts with the family background of Charles A. Lindbergh. The grandson of a prominent member of the Swedish Riksdag and son of a Progressive Minnesota Congressman, Lindbergh was no stranger to the public forums into which he would later delve. Both his father and grandfather would fall from political favor and seek a modicum of success in regions far from their political bases. Lindbergh actually got much of his familial support from his maternal family, based in Detroit. His parents marriage would long exist in name only, a trait which would bear some comparison to Charles and Anne¿s marriage. Throughout the book, Berg makes the reader clearly aware of the contrasts in Lindbergh's life. Although the son of a former Congressman who might be expected to have the support of establishment figures, Lindbergh undertook the Trans-Atlantic flight with the credentials of a Midwestern mail pilot, who had primarily flown routes in Missouri and Illinois. Before the Trans-Atlantic flight he was far from being considered one of America¿s prominent aviators. Although seemingly flying out of the mists onto the world stage, he was to become a prominent force in American corporate and public policy debates for the rest of his life. With touchdown in Paris, everything changed for Lindbergh. He became an instant celebrity on a scale the world had never seen before or since. The press would hound his every movement for years. This provided Lindbergh with both an opportunity and a curse. He suddenly became accepted as an expert on any subject on which he might choose to express an opinion. He used his new persona to promote the causes in which he believed. At the same time his life became a constant struggle to preserve some degree of privacy and normalcy for himself and his family. Lindbergh¿s first passion was to promote aviation. For several year she devoted his energies, both through personal appearances and through corporate and governmental positions, to the advancement of aviation throughout the world. It was during this period that the tragic death of his first son, Charles, Jr., occurred. As the clouds of war arose over Europe, Lindbergh devoted himself to the crusade to keep America out of war, serving as the most prominent member of the America First movement. As Berg points out, Lindbergh was, as were many of his time, motivated, less by a fear of Nazism, than by a fear of Communism. Lindbergh¿s main argument was that the greatest tragedy for Western Civilization in general, and the United States in particular, was the establishment of Soviet hegemony over Europe. He felt that the West needed Germany as a bulwark against Asiatic Russia. He felt that Germany, based as it was in the Western tradition, would moderate its extremist tendencies more quickly than would the Soviet Union, steeped in its autocratic antecedents. The history of the 50 years following the triumph of the Soviet Union over Germany goes far toward justifying Lindbergh¿s fears. Lindbergh¿s involvement in national politics and international affairs made turned Lindbergh from the international hero to national pariah. Never again would his pub
As a member of Friends of the Library, I get a chance to read many great books. Lindbergh by Berg was one of the compelling biographies I had a chance to read. From Berg's accounts the historic flight, to his somewhat strange homelife, to the misguided admiration of Hitler's Germany, to his activities in WW11 and on to his final illness. Berg is Jewish and to his credit, this part was not overplayed. I, personally was very interested in this portion of the book. The reader has to come to the book with an open mind to get the full value of this biography.
All I knew about Charles Lindbergh before I read the book was that he was the first to fly across the Atlantic. He did so much more than that, and I am fascinated by him. The beginning of the book is slow....keep reading, though! Excellent.
A scrupulously researched biography of Charles Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg who was granted unlimited access by Charles' widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, to some 2,000 boxes of papers. He was also able to spend many hours interviewing the friends and family of the Lindberghs. And yet, some 30 years after his death, the final story of this remarkable man is yet to be told. Recently discovered letters in the attic of a German woman, has led to the revelation of at least two more families in Germany and Switzerland that Lindbergh kept hidden. As Mr. Berg's biography describes the years of his many absences due to travel in the 50s and 60s, psychiatrists were formulating theories of his "running away from old age" and "intimacy." His wife conjectured that he kept on the move to avoid discussing feelings, but no one at any time suspected the double life he was leading in Europe. From this book and the diaries and books of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, it is still not entirely possible to understand this man of genius who moved from one venue to another throughout his life applying a passion, energy and intelligence to each new project. He was a man of little formal education, yet one who very quickly after his famous flight at the age of 25 was able to move and converse with the leading figures and intellectuals of the day. No matter what the setting, he was the center of attention. Even with her back turned, his wife was able to discern his entrance by the reaction in the room. Given the monumental task of going through so much material, Mr. Berg has done an outstanding job of choosing that which best reveals the formulating influences on Lindbergh's life from early childhood until his death. It will be interesting to read the next chapter in his life, perhaps written by his European children.
Some people seem able to cram two or three lifetimes worth of accomplishments into one lifespan. Charles Lindbergh managed four or five. Aviation pioneer, medical researcher, author, lecturer, philanthropist, military hero, humanitarian, naturalist... you name a cause in the 20th century and he seemed to be at the forefront of it.
Lindbergh was a bully who abused his wife cruelly. I hate him.
A highly readable, balanced look at the Lone Eagle's life and accomplishments. I think it did a particularly good job of describing the man, both his strengths and not-so-pleasant aspects of his personality. The complexity of Lindbergh came through well, including his dislike of publicity and the complex relationships with his wife and family.I highly recommend reading the Spirit of St. Louis alongside this book to get a feeling for the initial achievement that brought Lindberg fame, and to read Lindbergh's own account in comparison to the external view.
I grew up having learned Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic as his greatest and only contribution to society. Through this book I learned he was involved with the formation of international air travel routes, air travel rules in use today, national weather monitoring stations, created a heart pump for transplant patients, helped General MacArthur conquer the Pacific during WWII, and raised serious funds for conservation societies. I found this book politically neutral (very refreshing) as the author described Lindbergh's associations with numerous American Presidents, the public's incorrect lable on Lindberg as anti-Jewish, Lindberg's viewpoint of American participation in WWII. The author spared no detail in the kidnapping, search for, discovery, and trial of the child's murderer. Towards the middle of the book, I started calling Lindbergh "Forrest Gump." "I went to the White House again. And met the President, again." In addition, he was associated to so many off facts and findings. Airport tarmacs are lit with blue lights today because Lindbergh discovered that is the only light color penetrating fog, ect. Lindbergh met Presidents from Coolidge to Nixon. Through his travels and misc. associations he met, among many others, Albert Einstein, Robert Goddard, several Guggenheims, three generations of Kennedys, and Katharine Hepburn. I look forward to reading more of Berg's book if they are as thoroughly researched as this one. Ignore the negative reviews of this book. The author should have left some of the mysteries unanswered for the reader to decide alone. It's called unbiased journalism. Authors should present facts unfetted by their own opinion of the topic. What a concept.
Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg begins with Charles A. Lindbergh's very interesting parents. His father was a very respectful and successful lawyer in Minnesota who became a congressman and eventually a nomad. His mother was an educated school teacher from Detroit whose father was a controversial dentist at the time. He had a shop where he would invent numerous machines to work on teeth. Young Charles would visit and his grandfather would teach him to work with his various tools. This sparked an interest in Charles in mechanics. Charles was a very shy boy growing up. He had a doting mother and often absent father. He was known to have few friends and enjoyed rafting and his pets. He attended college for a year before he flunked out but became interested in air planes. He drove his motorcycle to Nebraska where there was a place where one could learn to fly planes. He flew for a while then joined the Army Air Corps where he honed his skills. He joined a Flying Circus Act where he would perform stunts. When the Post Office decided to use planes to transport mail, businesses to support it popped up soon afterwards. Robinson Aircraft, one of those businesses, offered Lindbergh a job as its chief pilot for its Chicago to St. Louis run. For Robinson he surveyed routes and planned landing and emergency fields. At the time a lucrative $25,000 prize named the Orteig Prize would be awarded to the first pilot that flew nonstop between New York and Paris. Lindbergh knew he was the man to do it. So he went around the St. Louis area business men and gathered funding for an airplane to be built for his attempted trip. Lindbergh raised the necessary funding and had a plane built to support one person. He was smart enough to figure out how much weight the plane must hold in order to make the cross Atlantic trip. He calculated how much fuel the plane could carry as well as the amount of food and water he must have. He strived to use the least amount of weight possible. He needed enough fuel to get across the ocean. It would be dangerous if he did not have enough fuel to make it but almost as dangerous if he had too much fuel because that could weigh the plane down. A second danger was if he lost his direction he would surely run out of fuel. Pilots in the 1920's used to follow railroad tracks to keep them in the correct direction. Lindbergh had a superb ability to know where he was going using ocean landmarks like icebergs. All things go as planned. He arrives in Paris to world wide applause. He became the most famous person in the world for accomplishing this incredible feat. He was welcomed with honors and parades in France. He was invited to England and Germany where he received a medal form Adolph Hitler for his gallant accomplishment. He was asked by most European countries to inspect their beginning air forces. He came home to America to a hero's welcome. He was asked to oversea developing Airlines such as PAN AM. He sat on boards for most Air Transportation companies. These companies gave him generous compensation for doing so. He was feted by a lot of politicians and wealthy individuals. He was asked to give speeches for numerous organizations. One such invitation took him to the house of America's Mexican ambassador Dwight Morrow. Morrow was an extremely wealthy individual coming from the JP Morgan banking dynasty to the prestigious job as the Ambassador to Mexico. Charles was asked to stay with the Morrows for a few days. This
Just because a book is a best seller doesn't mean it is a great book. Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg falls flat in in-depth analysis of the man called Lucky Lindy. A true biography a book must exlore than just what made them famous. In this case it was flying solo across the Atlantic in 1927. If you didn't know any better, in this book Lindy was the first man to fly an airplane and pilot it some where no one had ever been before. Unfortunately there is not one mention of the men who flew across the Atlantic non-stop prior to Lindy, the men of the Navy NC-4 Flying Boat who accomplished this on May 1919. Credit is long overdue for these brave men and Berg continues the whitewash in this book. The other method to evaluate if a biography is intellectually honest is does it go beyond the normal caricature of the subject and tell us more about that person other than what made them famous in the first place. Does Berg go beyond Lindys 1927 accomplishment and explain his deep seated anti-Semitism and how an uneducated immigrant was found to be the sole instigator of kidnapping and murdering his baby and the subsequent freak show trial that resulted in a trip to the electric chair. Berg skims over Lindbergh's anti-Semitism attitude more by him being haunted by it than taking responsibility for it. "but his failure to condemn Nazi Germany before WWII haunted his reputation for the rest of his life." p6 Lindberg himself refused to believe his words were wrong in describing Jews the way he did by singling them out at almost every public speaking appearance during the run up to WWII. "More than 30 years after his explosive Isolationist statements, Lindbergh still refused to recant anything." p545 Why? An intellectually honest biography would have told us. Can it be that Lindy himself never understood the public loathing of his anti-Semitism and adoration of neutrality with Nazi Germany; that he was living solely on the laurels of 1927 and the outpouring of sympathy of his dead child, and he thought the public would love him without question? Too bad we never get the answer in this book. The circus trial of Hauptmann is given a closer look with 116 pages devoted to the trial of the one man the authorities believed perpetrated the crime against his baby. During the trail Lindy took to the stand and made a compelling argument that Hauptmann was the man accused of kidnapping his son. "Lindbergh's opinion was no doubt as prejudicial as it was immaterial." p315 The reader knows why it was wrong for Lindbergh to take the stand to make this statement but why was it allowed? This statement by needs explanation why it was prejudiced and immaterial. I give the author credit for giving the trial so many pages of coverage. Given this event was considered monumental in so many ways, 'the trial of the century,' courtroom antics, yellow journalism, botched police investigations etc, the trial of Hauptmann should be a book of itself. This book is more suited to the person to the person who has heard of Lindbergh and wants to know more about him. It is not a book that digs deep into the psyche of one of America's greatest 20th Century icons who went from hero to zero in less than a decade. I don't want read about how many vacations he took, tell me why he was anti-Semite and what role he played in the electrocution of man who after 70 years many say was innocent of the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. PW
Absolutely great book. I have read it twice now. Very comprehensive and informative. Fills many gaps of information between books written by Lindberg and his wife.
Please note two things: I like the book, and I like Eric Stolz. HOWEVER, I dislike the mix. The text of the book is intelligent and entertaining. Mr. Stoltz's narration of the book is more than a little annoying. He was not a wise choice to be the one to bring this book to tape. His voice is high pitched and often lacks any inflections. He is monotonous, grating and exhaustive. I recommend that you read this book out loud to yourself, rather than listen to the tapes as is.