Almost Yesterday: Charles Lindbergh, The Flight
World War I and the demand for air mail service created great demand for long distance flying early in the 20th century.
In 1926 a wealthy French man, living in the United States, offered a prize of $25,000 for anyone who could fly non-stop from New York to Paris, France.
A young Charles Augustus Lindbergh (and many others) accepted the challenge and entered the competition. Lindbergh needed $15,000 to participate. Albert Lambert, who owned a small airport on the western edge of St. Louis, Missouri, was the first to respond, donating $1,000 to Lindbergh’s cause. Soon, Lindbergh had $13,000, put in $2,000 of his own money raised from within his family ---- and he was ready to go.
At 7:52 a.m. on May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off in his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis,” barely clearing the trees surrounding Roosevelt Field in New York, and with two canteens of water, five sandwiches, 450 gallons of gasoline in five separate tanks, no windshield in his plane, only two small side windows and a periscope from which to see ----- he headed east towards France.
In 33 hours, 30 minutes and 29 seconds, he crossed 3,600 miles of ocean and landed at Le Bourget Field, in Paris, France, in the dark, after no sleep for three days, on an airfield he had never seen before. The French, approximately 100,000 of them, had been waiting for him for hours, and they grabbed him, pulled him from the plane and hoisted him above the throng…now one of the greatest heroes in American and world history.
He would later write that he “was completely unprepared for the welcome which awaited me on Le Bourget.”
Lindbergh and his plane, returned to the United States on June 10, 1927, three weeks to the day since he had climbed over the Long Island tree line and turned east to cross the Atlantic.
A lonely and complicated man, Lindbergh’s tombstone on Maui, in Hawaii, states:
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea . . .”
It seems like Almost Yesterday. This is Frank Nickell.