Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Charles A. Lindbergh: A Human Hero

Charles A. Lindbergh: A Human Hero

James Cross Giblin
For ages 12 and up
Clarion, 1997   ISBN: 0395633893

For many Charles Lindbergh’s name conjures up the image of a young man’s beaming and grinning face, a face that is fresh and open and that radiates the joy of a job well done, the flush of success. After all, he was a young man who had done what many had said was impossible. It was not just that very first flight across the Atlantic in “The Spirit of St. Louis” that was so remarkable. It was also the fact that Lindbergh had made the flight alone and in a single engine plane. He had no one to keep him awake, no one to help him navigate. If his one engine failed he was done for and furthermore he had made the decision not to carry a parachute. What would be the point of a parachute if he had to bail out over the freezing Atlantic?

Then there is that other Lindbergh, the man who made several visits to Germany as the guest of the Nazi government, the man who accepted a German medal for his contributions to aviation. This Lindbergh admired Nazi Germany and her government, her aviation industry, and the planes that the industry had developed and was producing at an alarming number. What many people forget is that Lindbergh took the time and made the effort to inform both the government of Britain and his own government in the United States of what he saw in Germany. The British chose to ignore his warnings and did not follow his recommendations. The U. S military, on the other hand, did listen and took heed of what he had to say. As a result, they were better prepared for war when they had to face it.

What many people wonder is why Lindbergh became so radically anti-war, pro-German, and isolationist in his views. The author of this book does a superb job of explaining this side of this Great American Hero. It is important to look at Lindbergh’s story to find the answers.

First of all Lindbergh hated the American press and the way in which they twisted stories to suit their purposes. He also resented the way in which they pursued him for stories about his personal life. He was willing to talk about his flying and the part of his life that he considered to be news-worthy. However his felt that his private life was his own and the ruthless persecution of himself, his mother, and later his wife and her family infuriated him.

Then, when his is little son was kidnapped and murdered, the press really went to town. In the end Lindbergh and his family had to leave the United States altogether. Lindbergh simply felt that he could not live in his homeland any longer. Somehow he began to equate the freedom of the press with the persecution and suffering that his family had endured. In Germany his family was able to move about without having to hide and run from the media. For him, the democratic governments came to represent societies that were no longer working, that were corrupted. He really had no trouble accepting what Germany was doing in Europe. Somehow he managed in his mind to ignore the terrible things that the Nazis were doing as they set about implementing their plan for “The thousand year Reich.”

It is hard to understand how Lindbergh was able to do this. Somehow the terrible experiences he suffered when his son was abducted and the aftermath seemed to affect how he saw Germany and her activities.

Thus it was that Lindbergh became the spokesman for the American First organization. America First felt that the United States had no business getting involved in yet another European war. Lindbergh made many speeches which included one in which he made some racist comments about the Jews which caused a great deal of trouble.  It was only when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th 1941 that America First ceased its activities and Lindbergh tried to find a role for himself in a country that was now at war.

James Cross Giblin shows us how much Lindbergh was affected by the hero-worship that was forced on him. For a shy and quite simple sort of person, it was a lot for him to have to take. The constant invasion of his privacy was more than he could tolerate and it seemed to do something to his ability to see things as they were and not as he wanted to see them. Lindberg had a strong streak of naiveté which prevented him from realizing that things were not always as they appeared. With obvious fondness and sympathy James Cross Giblin shows his readers Lindbergh’s strengths and his weaknesses. We cannot help feeling glad to have “met” this brave man who really did try to do his best and who worked very hard all his life.