Everyone knows the name, Charles Lindberg. He was the most famous American pilot of his time, and his legacy has held up over the years. But, what many people don’t know is that while touring the Pacific aviation bases, Lindbergh flew combat missions as a civilian.
While Lindbergh took flying lessons in 1922, he never moved on to solo flying. He decided to join a summer barnstorming show as a daredevil, walking on planes wings and parachuting off.
In April of 1923, he purchased a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, assembled it, and tried his hand at flying. He almost crashed.
Luckily for Lindbergh, an experienced pilot saw the rocky flight and landing and offered him a few lessons. By the afternoon, Lindbergh was flying solo and soon joined the Army Air Reserve and the U.S. Mail Service.
In 1927, he flew 33.5 hours from New York City to Le Bourget Field by Paris in a modified monoplane. His was the very first solo transatlantic flight. His new moniker was the “Lone Eagle,” and he was given the Medal of Honor and the first Distinguished Flying Cross and promoted to colonel in the 1930s.
Barred From The Military
However, he accepted a Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering and pushed for an America first policy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt went after Lindbergh in the press, and he resigned from the Army Reserve in 1941.
Since he could not join the war efforts, he went to work for Chance Vought Aircraft touring Pacific bases and devised a way to get into combat. With the Marines, he escorted bombers to Papa New Guinea in a Corsair and strafed Japanese ground targets. He flew 14 missions before flying P-38 Lightings with the Army air units.
Lindbergh joined the 475th Fighter Group, flying five missions before the military realized he was there. Army Gen. George C. Kenney did not want him there, but Lindbergh told him he could get the combat radius up to 700 miles.
Kenney relented but told him not to use his guns. Lindbergh ignored him, and on July 28, 1944, he shot down a Japanese fighter. The following week he almost was shot down by a Japanese Zero.
He was grounded after that. After, he helped the Marine Corsair units carry bombs. He dropped them on Japanese forces during the trials, all as a civilian.