From The Secret of Samson's Hair: Hollywood and the Demasculinization of America by Roger W. Gardner. Originally posted 7/31/08.
On May 20, 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh became the first aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a solo flight. After a harrowing 33.5 hour flight, the tiny single-engine “Spirit of St. Louis” touched ground at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris and the astonished Lindbergh was immediately overwhelmed by an hysterical ecstatic crowd, estimated at over 100,000 people. He had conquered the Atlantic alone and had become an instant celebrity of unprecedented renown. The following day, the President of France presented him with the prestigious Legion of Honor. On his return to the U.S. he was welcomed by President Calvin Coolidge who bestowed upon him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
His subsequent reception in New York City was the wildest in that city’s history. Mayor Jimmy Walker gave him a ticker tape parade, at which an estimated 4 million people lined the parade route just to get a glimpse of him. Shortly thereafter, the Guggenheim Fund sponsored him on a three month nationwide tour. Flying the “Spirit of St. Louis”, he touched down in 48 states, visited 92 cities, and gave 147 speeches promoting aviation. He followed this with a goodwill tour of Latin America where he met his future bride, the daughter of the American Ambassador, writer Anne Spencer Morrow. On March 21, 1929, President Coolidge presented him with the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In an incredibly short period of time, Charles Lindbergh had achieved a remarkable level of international adulation. He represented to the world a shining ray of hope and promise in an otherwise rather dismal decade. Standing on a pinnacle of fame, which in today’s world would rank him somewhere perhaps between a movie star and an Astronaut, with his all-American good looks, his boyish smile, and his (deceptive) air of modesty, Charles Lindbergh seemed the epitome of the perfect American Hero.
Wealthy, world-famous, respected and admired, “Lucky Lindy”, as he had now come to be known, eventually settled into his spacious New Jersey estate with his lovely new wife to begin what promised to be an idyllic life. On June 22, 1930, their son, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. was born and instantly became the most famous baby in the world. They had become the true First Family of America and an adoring public followed their every move. For the Lindbergh family the future appeared filled with unbounded hope and promise -- until March 1, 1932, when baby Charles was reported missing from his crib.
Needless to say, the “Lindbergh Kidnapping Case” quickly became the most notorious kidnapping case in history. Hundreds of international reporters descended on the small New Jersey town to feed the voracious appetite of an obsessed worldwide public, covering every nuance of the investigation, trial, and the subsequent sentencing and 1936 execution of the convicted perpetrator, the somber German-American Bruno Richard Hauptmann. There is no need here to reiterate the convoluted facts and innumerable controversies surrounding this historic case, except perhaps to take note that, in some sense, the case still remains open. Articles about the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case are still being printed, websites are still being opened, and books are still being written espousing endless theories and conjectures about the guilt or innocence of Hauptman -- some even implicating Lindbergh, himself, in the infamous affair.
What is, however, relevant to our purposes is that after the kidnapping and during the highly-publicized investigation that followed, much to his adoring public’s surprise, a darker side to Lucky Lindy’s personality began to emerge. Arrogant, authoritative, domineering, he began almost immediately to take over complete control of the investigation, issuing orders to the local and State Police, controlling the news conferences, even interfering with the Federal Agents assigned to the case.
This was the first chink to appear in Charles Lindbergh’s shining armor. The second would prove to be immensely more important and involve more than just the particular idiosyncrasies of his unique personality: his well-publicized, anti-war, pro-Fascist and -- though he would later try to deny it -- overtly anti-Semitic speeches, coupled with his high-profile involvement with the America First Committee.
The America First Committee was established in September of 1940 by Yale law student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., along with several other students, including future President Gerald Ford. Supported by a group of prominent businessmen and a few well-known Senators such as Burton K. Wheeler and Gerald P. Nye, and some famous literary figures like the novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E. E. Cummings and author Gore Vidal, the Committee launched a petition “aimed at enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act and forcing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep his pledge to keep America out of the war.
They thoroughly distrusted Roosevelt, arguing that he was lying to the American Public”. They vehemently opposed Roosevelt’s lend-lease bill, “the convoying of ships, the Atlantic Charter,* and the placing of economic pressure on Japan”.Their platform rested on four basic principles: “The United States must build an impregnable defense of America. No foreign power, or group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America. American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European war. [And, finally,] ‘Aid short of war’ [helping England to survive] weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad”.
Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, most Americans wanted to stay out of a “European war“, and the AFC skillfully tapped into these feelings.
Throughout 1940-41, Charles Lindbergh became the AFC’s chief spokesman. However, long before the formation of the AFC, Lindbergh had begun to publicly question our foreign policy and the motives of the Roosevelt administration. After the “media circus” of the kidnapping trial, Lindbergh and his wife moved to England to escape the constant scrutiny of the press. He soon became enamored of Nazi Germany, showing great admiration for Hitler’s policies and enormous respect for the German Luftwaffe -- touting its superiority over any air force in the world. After several visits he even discussed plans to move there permanently.
In England he became active in the isolationist movement, urging neutrality and appeasement of Hitler, helping to pave the way for the infamous Munich Pact. . Obviously, these efforts were greatly appreciated by the Germans. On his third visit to Nazi Germany, in October 1938, Lindbergh was presented with the Service Cross of the German Eagle by Hermann Goering. In a radio speech broadcast in September, 1939, just two weeks after England had declared war on Germany, he urged his listeners to “look beyond the speeches and propaganda they were being fed and instead look at who was writing the speeches and reports, who owned the papers and who influenced the speakers” [emphasis added] -- meaning of course the Jews.
Gradually, the public began to turn against him. Then, in a speech delivered to a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941, he finally went too far, and was greeted with a chorus of catcalls and boos. Lindbergh accused the Jews of trying to entangle the United States in their self-serving pro-war policies and -- echoing almost verbatim a speech given by Hitler in the German Reichstag on September 1, 1939 -- warned them, ominously, that “Instead of agitating for war the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences”
After the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, the AFC quietly dissolved. Although Lindbergh attempted to join the service, Roosevelt refused to reinstate his commission in the Air Force Reserves. None of the major airplane manufacturers was willing to give him a job. Eventually, he managed to find a position with his old friend, and fellow anti-Semite, Henry Ford, streamlining his B-24 factory in Michigan. Rejected by the public who had previously adored him, marginalized by the momentous events that overtook him and his discredited ideas, “Lucky Lindy” quickly faded from the scene. Almost.
After World War II he lived quietly in Connecticut where he served as a consultant to both the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force and to Pan American Airways. In 1953, he wrote his book Spirit of St. Louis, recounting his historic flight, which won the Pulitzer prize in 1954. That same year his tarnished reputation was somewhat repaired when President Dwight D. Eisenhower restored his assignment with the Army Air Corps and made him a Brigadier General. In 1957, director Billy Wilder made his book Spirit of St. Louis into a successful Hollywood movie, starring real-life Air Force pilot Jimmy Stewart. In the 1960s, he became a spokesman for the conservation of the natural world, speaking in favor of the protection of whales. Evidently, he remained unrepentant to the end -- after touring the Belsen concentration camp immediately after the war, in June 1945, his only comment -- a truly breathtaking example of moral equivalency -- was that “What the Germans had done to the Jew in Europe, we are doing to the Jap in the Pacific.” He later asserted that the Postwar Communist takeover of Eastern Europe proved that his views were right. He died, a fallen idol, virtually unnoticed in August 1974.
A note from Radarsite: In our free and open society that crucial line between dissent and treason has always been controversial and difficult to clearly delineate. It has been constantly challenged and redefined. Above all else, we Americans value our liberty, and of all the liberties we cherish, none is more precious to us than our Freedom of Speech. We will passionately defend our Constitutionally guaranteed right of Freedom of Speech against all threats.
However, during a time of war these issues become increasingly more complicated. Often we have found it not only necessary, but absolutely imperative to temporarily abrogate some of our freedoms for the sake of our national security.
If exercising our Freedom of Speech actually puts our nation in greater peril, if exercising our Freedom of Speech actually benefits our enemies, then we must redefine the lines. At what point, we must ask ourselves, does legitimate protest against American involvement in foreign affairs become an act of aiding and abetting the enemy? At what point does anti-American rhetoric become seditious? And, perhaps most importantly, we must always be certain to understand the underlying motives of our dissenters, or their leaders. Are they honestly concerned for America's future? Or are they driven by some deeper, more malign interest? And, what is even more problematic, are they, despite their good intentions, merely being used as pawns by our enemies, merely playing the role of "useful idiots"?
Perhaps the most important and revealing information on this subject was the 1995 release of the shocking Venona transcripts. Finally, in their own words, we learned that everything we had been told about the Soviet Union's so-called "Domino Theory" was absolutely correct. And Korea and Vietnam were considered by the Soviets to be essential and strategic dominoes in their goal of ultimate world hegemony. Anything they could do to discredit and diminish our involvement in Vietnam helped to achieve this overall strategic purpose. Here once again, they found willing accomplices in the passionately pacifistic but woefully naive American left.
"The leadership of the anti-war movement was hijacked very early by hard-line communists whose motivation was not a desire for peace, but hatred of America." Venona transcripts
Now, once again we find ourselves in the midst of an unpopular and controversial war. And once again, our precious freedoms are being challenged.
Once again Americans have taken to the streets to protest our involvement in foreign affairs. And once again we are having to redefine that crucial but illusive line between dissent and treason.
Once again, the violent pacifists are on the march.
Where are we to draw the line this time? How do we know when that line has been crossed? When does the exercise of free speech become overt sedition?
In short, how are we to define treason?
There have been many Charles Lindberghs since the days of the German-American Bund and the America First Committee.
It is past time for us to look closely at our present circumstances. To redefine our perimeters of patriotism and dissent. It is not patriotic to be blind to our enemies. It is not patriotic to seek to undermine the moral foundations of this great nation of ours while she is in mortal peril. As difficult as it may be, we must somehow find the courage to face down the dissenters and redefine the lines.
But then again, perhaps it won't be as difficult as it seems. Perhaps it's just a matter of willpower and common sense. Perhaps as a Supreme Court justice once said of pornography, I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. - rg