The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax 

 Lucky Lindy 

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Why was there a Swastika Inside Spinner Cap of "St Louis" ?

The Making of a Hero: 

What really happened seventy-five years ago, after

Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget  

by  Raymond H Fredette

Air Power History

Washington

Summer 2002

Fredette, the foremost Lindbergh scholar, presents a fascinating and persuasive new interpretation of what really happened after Charles Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget France after completing his historic trans-Atlantic flight.   

The dramatic story of Charles Lindbergh's arrival in Paris after a suspenseful flight of 33 1/2 hours from New York on May 21, 1927, has often been told, beginning with the dispatches of the reporters whose do-or-die assignment was to interview him as soon as he landed. They all failed. Moments after he touched down on the grassy field at Le Bourget, the flier disappeared.

The press found him hours later at the American Embassy in the personal custody of the ambassador, Myron T Herrick. Lindbergh, so the story goes, had been rescued from the crowd that had bolted out on the field and engulfed his plane as he landed.

In his book about the flight, The Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh credits two French airmen, he identifies only as Detroyat and Delage, for saving him from the mob. After being hustled into a hangar, he recalls he was later taken to the military side of the field at the order of a French officer, Major Weiss. While there he was visited by Ambassador Herrick who decided on the spot to take him to the embassy as his guest. In light of many other accounts of his tumultuous reception, Lindbergh's own version in a brief afterword omits many telling details. But even when he could not be completely candid, he felt compelled to be very specific. "We passed Dugny, Stains, Saint Denis, and entered through the Saint Ouen gate," he remembers of his ride from Le Bourget "over bumpy side roads" into the city.

Lindbergh was on his way to achieving an incandescent fame that even today, after man has conquered space and landed on the moon, has yet to fade completely from the popular mind. In explaining this phenomenon, no little credit is due to Ambassador Herrick. At that pivotal moment in the pilot's life, Herrick sheltered him, groomed him and, after giving him a crash course in modesty and tact, presented him to the world with all the prestige he commanded as an American ambassador much beloved by the French. Such was his popularity that they likened him to Benjamin Franklin, our envoy to France at the time of the American Revolution.

Still handsome and energetic at over seventy years of age, Herrick had previously served as ambassador to France early in World War I. In September 1914, when swiftly advancing German troops threatened to take Paris, the French government and the entire diplomatic corps were evacuated to Bordeaux, except Herrick. He insisted on staying behind to protect American citizens

as well as the art treasures of the capital. He vowed he would raise the Stars and Stripes over the Louvre, and go out to meet the Germans personally if they marched in. Although Paris did not fall, the French never forgot the ambassador's act of defiance.

The flight of an American plane from New York to Paris in May 1927 struck Herrick as yet another alarming intrusion. If successful, he feared it would have a "lamentable effect" on the already strained relations between the two countries. Earlier that month, two French fliers, Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli, had taken off from Le Bourget for New York. Their success

would have won them the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first non-stop flight between Paris and New York. Some French newspapers even published joyful accounts of the arrival of the two airmen at the Battery in lower Manhattan.

When the reports proved false, and it became clear that the French plane had disappeared, the mood in Paris turned from exultation to anger. The press accused the U.S. Weather Bureau of having withheld weather data in favor of the transatlantic fliers who were poised to take off from New York. American tourists were jostled on the Champs Elysees, and a hostile crowd reportedly had torn down a U.S. flag outside an American newspaper office.

Herrick sent an urgent cable to Washington warning that no American plane should attempt a transatlantic flight "until an appropriate time has elapsed." The ambassador, as had everyone else, expected Commander Richard E. Byrd would be the first to leave aboard his trimotor, the America. With his considerable financial banking, Byrd was seen as the most likely winner of the so-called Atlantic Race.

"Who in the devil is Charles Lindbergh?" was the reaction in Paris as the news of his takeoff from New York was received. After the disappearance of Nungesser and Coli, his solo flight seemed all the more foolhardy. Herrick again cabled Washington for confirmation that "le fou volant" was indeed on his way, and then left the embassy to attend the championship tennis matches between French and American players at St. Cloud. When questioned by the press, he seemed uninterested in the American pilot no one seemed

to know. In truth, his flight in progress was just about the last straw for the ambassador. [IMAGE PHOTOGRAPH] Captioned as: Charles Lindbergh poses with a group of Ryan Air Lines personnel as the Spirit of SL Louis is fueled prior to the flight from San Diego, California to St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Air Force Magazine.)

Among his concerns was the pending execution of two Italian immigrants, Sacco and Vanzetti, in a Massachusetts prison. Convicted of killing a payroll guard in a holdup, the pair had been the object of violent demonstrations in Europe; many believed they were being persecuted for their political views. At the time of the trial, a package addressed to Herrick had seriously

injured his valet when it exploded as he opened it. The ambassador was now receiving threatening letters, warning that he would also die if Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. His residence, as well as the embassy, were under heavy police guard. Herrick was also anxious about a convention of the American Legion to be held in Paris that summer. The Legionnaires were known to be rowdy, and some Americans residing in the city were arranging to leave during the event because of the tense anti-American atmosphere

Although Herrick insisted he had "no plan of any kind regarding Lindbergh," he virtually took over the reception for him at Le Bourget. Weeks earlier, Commander Byrd's sponsors had sent an advance man to Paris to work with a FrancoAmerican committee that was organizing a grand welcome. These arrangements were quickly revamped in the event Lindbergh made it across the Atlantic.

As one embassy insider noted later, it was felt he might be "placed in a situation here where one remark could have international complications....

The revised plan called for keeping Lindbergh away from reporters until he could be primed on what to say, so as not to offend French sensibilities after the loss of Nungesser and Coli. On landing, he was to taxi up the airport terminal between two rows of policemen reinforced by troops. Once there, he would be escorted directly from his plane to the upper level of the terminal for a brief welcoming ceremony. Admission to a fenced-in area in front of the building was to be limited to individuals with "complete official documents," which did not include reporters.

These arrangements did not concern the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times, Edwin L. James, who had plans of his own. Before Lindbergh left New York, his St. Louis backers had negotiated a contract with the paper for the exclusive rights to his story. The Times' managing editor, Frederick Birchall, then cabled James "to isolate" Lindbergh the moment he landed before other reporters could reach him. As James recalled, his "elaborate preparations" included "a fine automobile ready to bring the aviator back to the capital to give his own story. ... Oh, it was a wonderful plan."

 

Back home, the editor of the Chicago Tribune somehow learned of the scheme, and he in turn promptly notified his own Paris bureau chief, Henry Wales. A crusty veteran of the city's press corps, Wales was not about to lose out to a competitor on the Lindbergh story. "I could see his arrival," he indignantly recalled. "Jimmy James and his staff would take possession of Mr. Lindbergh-kidnap him, if necessary; hide him in some hotel; milk his story to the last detail. With the yarn safely in type, they'd invite the rest of us to meet the hero...." Wales was on close terms with Herrick, having written speeches for him, and he alerted the ambassador who acted quickly to beat James at his own game with the help of French officials. As William Shirer of Berlin Dairy fame, then a cub reporter working with Wales, notes in his memoirs, "the police and Major Pierre Weiss, commandant of Le Bourget military field ... worked out a lastminute plan with Ambassador Herrick for a reception."  Major Weiss actually commanded only the bomber unit of the 34th Aviation Regiment, that was based on the opposite side of the field from the civilian air terminal. The major's help was key to a plan to "rescue" Lindbergh even before James and his reporters could get to him. Early that morning, a Saturday, Weiss was observed busily making preparations and giving orders to his men for the arrival of the American pilot. As ensuing events would show, they were to seize him right out of the cockpit as he landed, and keep him in custody at least overnight. By that time, he could be coached by Herrick before meeting the press. With the crowd kept at a distance, a bogus flier, appearing extremely fatigued, even on the verge of collapse,would appear briefly at the air terminal. It was arranged to have a doctor,

an American, on hand with his kit and a blanket roll. "He'll naturally be exhausted when he arrives," anticipated the physician. "I positively won't let him do any talking tonight." Seemingly uninvolved in all this, Herrick attended the tennis matches at St. Cloud for a second day. Late that afternoon, a messenger from the embassy rushed up to him in the president's box and handed him a telegram. Lindbergh had been sighted over Ireland. On receiving the news, the ambassador and  his party were observed leaving for Paris "in disarray" "I hardly even dared to expect his arrival," Herrick later disclaimed. "I merely went to the flying field on the chance that he would be successful in his attempt and I wanted to be on hand to congratulate him."

On arriving at Le Bourget, Herrick realized he was facing a very difficult, if not impossible, situation. As word spread of the American flier making it safely across the Atlantic, thousands of Parisians clogged the roads leading to the airport. They crowded about the terminal and noisily filled the small restaurant inside. The police guarding the restricted reception area out front became so hard pressed that they accepted "any card that had your picture on it." Ambassador Herrick, at least, found himself in full command with all the assistance French authorities could provide. The crowd, the chief of the Paris police informed him, was the largest since "the peace parade. I'vesent for five hundred more police, Your Excellency." The Elyse Palace sent a military aide, Colonel Denain, to act on behalf of the French president, Gaston Doumer- gue, at the airport. "All help and courtesy will be extended to Mr. Lindbergh," announced the Foreign Office. ..."Sufficient police will be on hand to guard him against any demonstration." Lindbergh landed after dark shortly after 10:20 PM., settling softly like an exhausted carrier pigeon as he neared the ground. In his book, The Spirit of St. Louis, he complains about the poor lighting and "jolting into blackness" until he finally stopped, and then swung around "to taxi back toward the floodlights and the hangars." He never reached them. Once he was safely on the ground, some lights were purposely turned off and he was beaconed away by military searchlights to a spot a half-mile from the terminal where Major Weiss and his soldiers were waiting to pounce on him. 

According to the flier's account, his first words on landing were, "Are there any mechanics here?" Ironically enough, the man who claimed to have been first to reach the plane was a mechanic by the name of Fernand Sarrazin. No ordinary mechanic, he was, in fact, the chief of aircraft maintenance for C.I.D.N.A. (Compagnie Internationale de Navigation Aerienne), an airline based at Le Bourget. Sarrazin was obviously out there to take charge of the plane; it was to one of the company's hangars that the Spirit of St. Louis was taken later that evening

Without disclosing why he did so, Sarrazin said he walked out of his hangar onto the field at about ten o'clock, the time Lindbergh was expected to arrive. He watched as the American landed and taxied toward him. As he recalled, he barely had time to shout, "Ici Paris, Le Bourget," before some soldiers pulled up in automobiles. "They got a hold of Lindbergh, or rather I should say they kidnapped him, so quickly was this done without any regard for the safeguarding of the plane. Consequently, I remained with the machine." By some similar coincidence, Hank Wales, Herrick's informant about the Times plan, and Shirer were also out in that particular area of the field.

They saw the flier touch down in the half-- light, and then turn to taxi in their direction. "By luck," wrote Shirer without explaining their good fortune, "he stopped a few yards from where Wales and I were standing." Wales recognized Major Weiss in full uniform shouting to Lindbergh to cut his engine, while his men "were pulling and twisting at the door to the cabin of the slowly moving plane." The flier's first words, said Wales, were not about mechanics, but an admonition to the soldiers as the door swung open: "Careful there; don't break it." Once the Spirit of St. Louis came to a full stop, Wales saw "the sergeants reach inside and seize Lindbergh."

Realizing he was about to be carried off, the flier reached out as far as he could and managed to slam the cabin door shut. About this time, James and two of his Times reporters reached the scene of the melee. They had gone out at dusk and walked along the police lines

stretching out from the terminal until they thinned out. Huddled together, they then waited behind the glare of a large flare for Lindbergh to arrive. After he landed, James and his party, unlike Wales and Shirer, had to run several hundred yards to reach the plane. "We could see he was struggling," James recalled, after Lindbergh was pulled from his cabin. "He fell to the ground once and then he was on the shoulders of a dozen men."

 

Lindbergh, in his book, makes no mention of the soldiers who descended

on him like commandos. Instead, he remembers the surging crowd, fearing

it would do serious damage to the plane. "Within seconds my open windows

were blocked with faces," he writes. Only after he "decided to get out

of the cockpit and try to find some English-speaking person, who would

help me organize a guard to hold back the crowd," does he recall being

grabbed by "dozens of hands" as he emerged.

The thousands who had been waiting, many of them for hours, were puzzled

on seeing the graywhite monoplane land in the shadows and then taxi away

from the terminal. The crowd may have sensed it would be denied seeing

the American pilot, and the sight of the figures of James and his party

running toward the plane evidently sparked a stampede. A human wave crashed

through "the very strongest fences, some seven feet high, with spikes on

the top," and rushed out on the open field. Looking over his shoulder,

James saw "countless bobbing heads between us and the flares...."

The unexpected surge of the huge crowd gave credence to the story that

Lindbergh's "rescue" was an impromptu affair; it also greatly complicated

the reception Herrick had planned at the terminal. As Wales described it,

while Lindbergh was being "spirited into an army hangar, a bogus aviator

was rushed through the crowd to be presented to the Ambassador." The man

acting as a double for Lindbergh was a Parisian haberdasher named Jean

Claude d'Ahetze. Although he did not look much like the American flier,

he was tall and spoke some English. Standing by on the field when the plane

landed, he said he thought it was an incoming mail flight until he saw

the words, "Spirit of St. Louis" on its nose.

Garbed in a leather jacket, the young Frenchman reached in through the

open cockpit window and pulled Lindbergh's helmet off his head, even before

his plane came to a complete stop. Since he likely would be photographed,

he needed an American-styled helmet that was different from French flying

gear. Conceivably, d'Ahetze could have tax- ied the Spirit of St. Louis

to the terminal. Although not a pilot, he had served as an aviation mechanic

during the war.

Lindbergh effectively denies any such encounters with d'Ahetze, or with

Sarrazin, the mechanic, not to mention Major Weiss who was observed shouting

to him to cut his engine (Coupez! Coupez!). "No one reached my plane,"

he said categorically, "until I had turned back toward the hangars, cut

the switches, and the wheels had stopped rolling." Lindbergh was much less

certain as to what happened to his helmet. As he recalls in his book, "my

helmet had somehow gotten onto the head of an American reporter. Someone

had pointed to him and called out, `There is Lindbergh! There is Lindbergh!'

The crowd had taken over the reporter and left me free."

In the confusion, d'Ahetze in his leather jacket and wearing the fliers

helmet may himself have been mistaken for Lindbergh. In any event, he in

turn lost the helmet, which wound up on the head of Harry Wheeler, a young

American in the crowd. Much as he tried to break loose, he was hoisted

up on the shoulders of a small group of men and carried away toward the

airport terminal.

According to d'Ahetze the youth was taken for Lindbergh, having been "designated

as such by some French officers who, in the meantime, cleverly concealed

the real Lindbergh." Herrick's own recollections were more consistent with

the account of a "rescue," and a spontaneous one at that. A year or so

later, he said: "This man turned out to be a New York Herald reporter ...

to whom Major Weiss had given the helmet with orders to take it to me.

This was done to deceive the crowd and get them clear of Lindbergh and

his ship. The ruse succeeded, and it only goes to show how quickly aviators

have to think and act."

Tall and blond-haired, Wheeler certainly looked like Lindbergh, but he

was not a reporter. He was a Brown University student on a summer tour

of Europe. His clothes torn and disheveled, he was still struggling as

he was carried up to the upper level of the terminal where Herrick, clutching

a bouquet of red roses, and other officials were waiting to receive the

hero. Describing the scene as one that provided "the only comedy of the

evening," William Shirer relates:

" `But I'm not Lindbergh, Mr. Ambassador,' he insisted.

`Of course you are,' Herrick replied, holding out the roses.

'I tell you, sir, I'm not Lindbergh,' the young man repeated.

`My name is Harry Wheeler. Everyone got confused because of this.' and

he held up the crumpled helmet...

`If you're not Lindbergh, then where is he?' the ambassador asked.

`Some French officers took him to a hangar on the other side of the field

while that crazy mob was almost killing me.'"

Although essentially correct, Shirer's account had to be written from hearsay,

because no reporters were admitted to the upper level of the terminal.

He was also writing from hindsight because Wheeler had no way of knowing

at the time where Lindbergh had been taken. As for Herrick, he hardly could

have expected the real Lindbergh to appear at the terminal. Confused by

the switch of doubles, he was reassured when d'Ahetze arrived in the wake

of the small group that had brought in the American student. He informed

Herrick that his "son" had landed and that he had seen the plane. Determined

not to be cheated out of his moment of glory, d'Ahetze then regained possession

of the helmet.

"I opened the window and wild with joy showed the crowd Lindbergh's helmet,"

he recounted. "It was at that precise moment that I was mistaken for Lindbergh.

I wore a leather coat, my hair was tousled. The mob cheered me as surely

no man was ever cheered. ...Finally, I realized the mistake, withdrew,

and gave Lindbergh's helmet to Ambassador Herrick."

[IMAGE PHOTOGRAPH] Captioned as: En route from Paris to London, Lindbergh

lands at Evers Aerodrome for a one-day visit in Brussels.

D'Ahetze never did say that he acted as a stand- in for Lindbergh. Obviously

not wanting to implicate Herrick, he claimed to have done little more than

appear at the window with the helmet. Yet, one eyewitness, John P. V Heinmuller,

saw the entire charade carried out as planned.

Heinmuller, later president of the Longines-- Wittnauer Watch Company,

was allowed on the upper level of the terminal as an official observer

of the National Aeronautic Association. He had hastily sailed for Europe

fully expecting another entrant in the transatlantic race, Clarence Chamberlain,

flying the Columbia with the plane's owner, Charles Levine, as his passenger,

would be the first to reach Paris. Instead, he arrived in the French capital

just in time to see Lindbergh land at Le Bourget. He had no reason to believe

that the "tired flier" at the terminal was not Lindbergh.

"I was lucky to be admitted, through the aid of Comm. Weiss," Heinmuller

wrote home four days later. "Only Lindbergh, the official physician [who

fully expected to find his patient in a state of complete exhaustion],

and a few high officials were admitted to the upper floor....

After the physician had pronounced the flier's condition satisfactory,

he was escorted secretly through a side door with a French military coat

worn over his flying suit to help hide his identity. The crowd outside,

not knowing he had gone, kept calling for Lindbergh's appearance...."

Herrick's problem was to placate the crowd and persuade it to go home.

He sent his son, Parmely, out waving the helmet, and he also was mistaken

for Lindbergh. Herrick himself then appeared and "offered the leather helmet

to the French people like a scalp." Finally, the lights in the terminal

were turned off for a time to convince the crowd that Lindbergh had left.

 

D'Ahetze, at least, recorded his name for posterity in what was unquestionably

the most momentous landing in aviation history. Officials of the Paris

Aero club were with Herrick at the terminal with a landing certificate,

attesting to the flier's arrival at Le Bourget. The document was important

in laying claim to the Orteig Prize, but Lindbergh was not there to sign

it. The officials were finally persuaded he had, indeed, landed upon being

shown his helmet with the label of its Boston manufacturer sewn inside.

Acting as a proxy, d'Ahetze signed the certificate along with a few others,

as did Lindbergh the next day.

The French haberdasher, Herrick always insisted, was merely the man "who

delivered to me Lindy's helmet," but he evidently felt obligated to him

for more than that act alone. A year later, the ambassador wrote to Lindbergh,

on his behalf "What he would like," communicated Herrick, "is an autographed

picture of yourself and, in view of the fact that he gave me the means

of verifying your landing that memorable evening, I take the liberty of

placing his request before you...."

D'Ahetze apparently did not get a picture. In 1933, when Lindbergh returned

to Paris for the first time since his flight, the haberdasher appealed

directly to him by letter. Writing "in my poor language," he identified

himself as "the first man who speak [sic] with you after your memorial

flying-thirty-three hours-when your spirit [plane] run in the grass at

Le Bourget-21 May!! and I took your helmet on your head myself Do you remember...?"

Even in the case of d'Ahetze, Lindbergh was not inclined to respond to

requests for autographed pictures.

D'Ahetze ended his letter by identifying himself as a "Friend of Michael

Detroyat," a name that Lindbergh would come to know well. One of the two

acknowledged "rescuers," Detroyat had led the assault in getting the flier

out of his cockpit. A sergeant who spoke some English, he was promoted

to lieutenant shortly thereafter. A skillful pilot, Detroyat met Lindbergh

again in Europe in the thirties, and also in 1940, when he came to the

United States with a French mission seeking to purchase American warplanes.

So far as it can be determined, Detroyat never spoke for the record on

what transpired that night at Le Bourget, nor did he question Lindbergh's

account when asked to read the manuscript of his book before its publication

in 1953.

The other "rescuer," George Delage, was not a soldier, but Detroyat may

have recruited him for his better command of English. A commercial pilot

based in England, he flew between London and Paris with a French airline,

Air Union. Although Delage does not appear to have ever spoken for the

record either, he also believed he was owed a favor for his role at Le

Bourget. Some two years later he wrote to the flier asking, "May I recall

to you the circumstances of our first meeting?" What Delage wanted was

Lindbergh's help in getting employment as a pilot with some airline in

the States. Receiving no reply, he wrote Lindbergh six months later, again

apparently to no avail.

Acting together, Detroyat and Delage took custody of Lindbergh after the

soldiers pulled him out of his plane. As improbable as it was that two

English-speaking Frenchmen in that immense crowd should reach him at the

same time, Lindbergh claims that is just what happened. "Two French aviators,"

he writes, "the military pilot Detroyat and the civil pilot Delage, found

themselves close to me in the jam of people. ...I spoke no word of French;

my new friends but little English.... Lindbergh had little choice but to

go along with them. "With arms solidly linked in mine," he continues, "I

began moving slowly, but unnoticed through the crowd." He does not say

that his escorts sought to disguise his appearance. Lindbergh was made

to remove his flying suit, and Delage handed him his own Air Union jacket

to put on.

If Lindbergh felt indignant about this, it was nothing compared to his

concern about his plane. "I should not try to get back to it," he remembers

being told. "They were determined about thatthere was no mistaking their

tones and gestures. They laughed and shook their heads as I protested,

and kept pointing to the car." Delage had a small Renault, which was much

less conspicuous in driving the flier away than an army vehicle. As Lindbergh

recalls, they went to "a big hangar" where he "was taken to a small room

on one side. My friends motioned me to a chair and put out most of the

lights-so I would not be discovered by the crowd."

Lindbergh's account corroborates the notion that he was rescued from the

mob. It also raises the question of why, instead of hiding the flier, Delage

did not keep on driving beyond the airport to a place where he would be

safe, such as a hotel, just as James of the Times had planned to do. In

any event, the stop at the hangar does give Lindbergh an opportunity to

introduce Major Weiss, who up to this point is not mentioned in his narrative.

Detroyat left, the flier goes on, "to search for an officer of higher rank."

It appears the sergeant had some trouble finding one until "in the midst

of the crowd, he came across Major Weiss. ...The Major could not believe

that I was sitting in a hangar's darkened room. `It is impossible,' he

told Detroyat. `Lindbergh has just been carried triumphantly to the official

reception committee."' The incredulous major, the flier continues, came

to the hangar with Detroyat, and "on seeing me insisted that I be taken

to his office on the military side of Le Bourget-about a mile away. So

we climbed into the Renault again, and drove across the field. Then, it

was Major Weiss's turn to go out and search for higher officer."

After Detroyat and Delage had taken charge of Lindbergh at the plane, Weiss

threw a cordon of police and soldiers around the machine until it could

be taken to Sarrazin's hangar. The major then joined Herrick and the other

officials at the terminal. Had the reporters not seen him directing the

"rescue," no one would have been the wiser. When Weiss was summoned to

the telephone, it could only have been Detroyat calling to inform him they

had arrived with Lindbergh at the military section of the field. D'Ahetze

who happened to be standing nearby the phone at the terminal, confirms

in his account, "Commandant Weiss learned that Lindbergh was safe." In

turn, he informed Herrick who decided he would like to see his "son" that

night, and the major immediately left to set up a meeting.

Colonel Denain, the military aide sent by the Elysee Palace, was also called

to the phone at the terminal. This time, the eavesdropper was the Belgian

air attache serving in Paris, Baron Willy Coppens de Houthulst. A famous

ace who had lost a leg in the war, Coppens was a colorful figure noted

for his devilish sense of humor. He also spoke English, which was perhaps

one reason why he was at the terminal. "Yes, he has arrived, but we do

not know where he is," Coppens heard the colonel say. "I was waiting until

I had seen him before telephoning. Please give my apologies to the President

... How did you find out?" Ah! Weiss. Yes, I see. North Block...."

Coppens kept his plane in a hangar in the North Block along with those

of the bomber unit commanded by Weiss. Concluding that Lindbergh had been

taken there, the attache quickly left and drove across the field without

lights. When he arrived at the rear of the hangar where Weiss had his office,

the attache ran into some soldiers guarding the entrance. Being in uniform,

he was allowed to go in. Lindbergh, he was told, was not in Weiss's office,

but in a tiny room at the end of a hallway. A soldier was posted at the

door. On seeing the tall, boyish American who had just flown the Atlantic,

Coppens was at a loss of words. Looking forlorn, the flier was still wearing

Delage's uniform jacket on which were pinned some military ribbons.

"I see you have the French Military Medal," Coppens jested in accented

English. "That's too wonderful!" Unsmiling, Lindbergh replied the jacket

did not belong to him, and added with some anger, "They have already taken

my helmet!" He then pulled a slip of paper from his wallet. On it was written

the name of a small Paris hotel. He asked Coppens about it, wondering "if

it might not be too expensive?" The flier had been told he would be met

on landing by Times reporters, but he was not one to leave anything to

chance. So far, he had been proven correct. He had yet to speak to correspondents

from the Times, or any other newspaper. Coppens was struck by Lindbergh's

cool composure, recalling that "his face-was it due to fatigue?-conveyed

no emotion whatsoever, neither joy nor enthusiasm."

Barely ten minutes after Coppens saw Lindbergh, there was some rushing

about in the hallway. Major Weiss was telling the soldiers that the American

ambassador was coming and to prepare for his arrival. The flier, Herrick

noted later, had been found only after "a diligent search. It was not until

one o'clock that we discovered him in a little adobe building on the far

side of the field with his rescuers."

Weiss escorted Lindbergh from his room and led him outside where a line

of soldiers had been hastily drawn up as an honor guard. They stiffened

to attention as a large, chauffeured car drove up with Herrick, Colonel

Denain, and a few other French officers inside. The ambassador undoubtedly

expected to find a grubby, oil-stained pilot barely able to stand from

fatigue. As it was, he was completely taken aback when he saw the fairhaired

youth waiting impassively with Weiss and the soldiers. Emerging from the

car, "the old man reached out and embraced his compatriot a la mode de

chez nous," observed Coppens. Visibly moved, Herrick was heard to mutter,

"A kid! He's just a kid!"

Lindbergh was much relieved to see the American ambassador. From the brusque

treatment he had received, he was convinced he was in some sort of trouble.

He had explained to his French keepers who he was and showed them his passport.

"I was a little worried about that, since I had no visa," he conceded.

"But I received mostly smiles and laughter in reply." Being made fun of

was annoying, but all he could do "was just wait and let events develop."

 

"When I greeted him he handed me his three letters of introduction with

a happy smile," recalled Herrick. "One [was] addressed to me, one to Mr.

Houghton [the U.S. envoy in London], and the third, I forgot to whom."

Once inside, the ambassador was shown a room where the French "were making

up a cot for their guest." Chairs were brought in so they could sit down,

but Lindbergh said he preferred to stand. "Thank you," he declined. "I

have been sitting." Herrick was taken by the dry-witted response. "I was

so captured by his sense of humor, his smile and his general appearance,"

he went on, "that the thought then first occurred to me to ask him to become

my guest at the embassy. ...I immediately took him by the hand and said:

`My boy, come with me; I am going to take you home and look after you.'

His face lighted up and he said:Are you?'"

The warm invitation was not unlike countless others the flier received

from farmers while barnstorming, or from Mr. Conkling, the kindly postmaster

of Springfield, Illinois, when the weather turned bad on the mail run to

Chicago. A homecooked meal and a wide bed in the spare room upstairs was

usually more comfortable, and cheaper, than staying in a hotel in town.

But that night at Le Bourget, it would have been better for Lindbergh if

he had stayed at the airport, and slept on the steel cot which the soldiers

were readying for him. Come morning, he could have made his own plans and

been on his way in a few days. The flier was about to become a pawn, and

his whole life would be changed to a degree far beyond the significance

of his solo ocean journey.

Major Weiss, who was quite prepared to keep Lindbergh at Le Bourget, delivered

his prize to the American ambassador. The flier's biggest concern now was

his plane, and what had happened to it. As they were about to leave, Herrick

recalls Lindbergh saying he wanted to go "fix the windows of my ship, for

these Frenchmen will not know how to do it. Before I could restrain him

... he dashed out." The flier tells a different story, stating "a discussion

in French followed" his request to see the plane. He says he was told not

to worry. The Spirit of St. Louis was not badly damaged, and he could inspect

it after he had slept.

"Well, how do you feel about it, Captain?" Herrick asks solicitously in

the flier's account. "I argued that I wanted to get some items from the

cockpit, and to show how to put the windows in." Lindbergh claims he was

driven back to the "Air Union hangar" where "my Spirit of St. Louis has

been placed inside." After "a careful inspection," he was satisfied "no

serious damage had been done. A few hours of work would make my plane airworthy

again." Never one to concede injury, Lindbergh was trying to minimize what

could not be completely denied, as revealed in photographs taken of the

plane.

The pictures also established that it had been taken to the C.I.D.N.A.

hangar. "I must say," states Sarrazin, the chief mechanic, "I did not see

Lindbergh again during the course of that memorable night.... Since the

plane suffered quite a bit of damage-the fabric on the fuselage and control

panels torn out, the empennage thrown out of line, the tail skid twisted-the

fuselage and control surfaces had to be completely recovered...." The French

were adamant about not showing the plane until it had been restored, but

their concern was not so much about upsetting Lindbergh. Ambassador Herrick

had warned them that any harm befalling the flier or his machine would

arouse hostile American feelings against France.

When Lindbergh bolted out of the door in search of his plane, his "rescuers"

ran in pursuit and brought him back to Herrick. "Instead of taking him

to his ship, they bundled him immediately into their car and started off

to Paris by roads known only to them," confirms the ambassador. "I did

not see him again until I got to the embassy some hours later."

[IMAGE PHOTOGRAPH] Captioned as: The Spirit of St Louis is readied for

takeoff.

Major Weiss went along with Detroyat and Delage in the overcrowded Renault.

Aside from assuring that Lindbergh would reach the embassy, the French

officer added the dignity of his rank to a brief ceremony that took place

enroute. An impromptu affair, it had all the earmarks of having been suggested,

if not ordered, by Ambassador Herrick. Once in the city, Lindbergh and

his escort made a visit at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de

Triomphe. While it is doubtful the flier fully understood the significance

of the site, much less cared on his third night without sleep, Weiss recorded

the event in highly grandiloquent terms.

"Lindbergh asked us to stop," reads an article he wrote shortly thereafter.

"He walked to the tomb and bowed in silence. Only three of us witnessed

this historic scene, in which the conqueror of the Atlantic stood over

the grave of that other conqueror, shedding a leaf from the still fresh

crown on his brow. No spectacle of such solemn grandeur has been seen in

this generation." Weiss said nothing about his "rescue" of Lindbergh at

Le Bourget.

Coppens, the Belgian attache, had followed the Renault in his own car into

Paris. As they drove up the Champs Elysees, he saw Delage pull over in

front of the Claridge Hotel. The doorman went inside and returned with

some flowers he collected from the empty tables in the dining room. At

such an early hour, they were the only ones available to place on the tomb

of France's Unknown Soldier. Lindbergh himself mentions no such floral

tribute. "My friends took me through the arch," he relates, .and I found

myself standing silently with them at the tomb.... They wanted my first

stop in Paris to be at the Arc de Triomphe, they said."

Barely a few hours later, the Paris newspaper, Le Matin, reported in bold

headlines how an exuberant crowd had greeted the flier at Le Bourget with

cries of give Lindbergh! Vive l'Amerique!" Another front-page story informed

Parisians of his moving early morning visit to the Arc de Triomphe "to

salute the Unknown Soldier." Back in the States, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

noted editorially shortly after the flight that, while "on his way into

Paris in Ambassador Herrick's automobile," Lindbergh "requested that the

prearranged route into the city be changed so as to permit him to lay a

wreath on the tomb of the French Unknown Soldier. Tired and exhausted as

he was, he achieved by this little act ... added respect and appreciation

not only for himself but the nation he represented. ...America has reason

to be proud." Evidently, Herrick still had contacts in St. Louis where,

as a young man, he had worked briefly as a reporter.

The ambassador himself credited Lindbergh with ending "one of those periods

of petulant nagging and quarreling between the French and ourselves. ...Within

ten hours after Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget all these clouds were rolling

away...." Fearful there might not be "another Lindbergh to drop out of

the sky to help us.. next time bickering starts up," Herrick could only

hope "we might have sense enough to invent one just for the occasion."

 

Some correspondents were not above doing a little inventing of their own

that night, as they faced Sunday edition deadlines without having seen

Lindbergh. John Pickering of the Paris Herald ran three miles from Le Bourget

before finding a taxi for the rest of the trip back to his office. "Christ,

what a story!" he exclaimed on arriving. "I practically had my hands on

him. Then, presto! He's gone. First guy to fly it, and not a single word

from him. We're high and dry."

Hank Wales of the Chicago Tribune was not so hard pressed in covering the

big event. Acting as if he knew all along that Lindbergh would not be speaking

to anyone on arrival, Wales proceeded to write an imaginary interview with

him at planeside.

"`Am I in Paris?.'" he quotes the flier on landing. "You're here,' I told

him, as the mob jabbered in French...."

Wales noted how Lindbergh, a strict teetotaler, "gulped down a swallow

of brandy from a flask one of the French pilots offered, and it seemed

to revive him."

For his "Lindbergh exclusive," he received a $500 bonus from his newspaper,

a considerable sum at the time. Other envious correspondents accused Wales

of having written his imaginative dispatch earlier that afternoon. "Wales

was on excellent terms with Herrick," recounted Waverley Root of the Chicago

Tribune's Paris edition," and it wouldn't have been beyond him to acquaint

Herrick with what he intended to write and make sure there would be no

denial of it. Indeed, he might even, as a friend of the ambassador, have

served as a sort of unofficial adviser on what angles it would be politic

to persuade Lindbergh to stress..in the interest of French American amity."

 

"We reporters suffered the tortures of the damned," echoed James of the

Times. He nonetheless managed to turn in "a slick professional job" telling

how Lindbergh appeared at the terminal after being rescued from the crowd.

In a follow-up article, James pointed an accusing finger, not at Herrick,

but the reception committee for "deeply planning" to snatch Lindbergh on

landing so "that those New York Times reporters did not do any `isolating.'

Well, if we did not, they did not." Along with the lines of soldiers and

police, the crowd had swept up the official greeters.

James does not explain why the reception committee would want to prevent

reporters from reaching Lindbergh, but someone had to be blamed for his

failure to carry out the "isolating" order from New York. When James learned

that the one responsible was the American ambassador, he did not dare expose

him, not to mention embarrass Lindbergh, who had become a world acclaimed

hero overnight. None of the correspondents, in fact, ever suggested that

Herrick was involved in the flier's disappearance from the field after

he landed. To have done so would have made them look ludicrous, and since

they were able to see the flier before dawn anyway, the correspondents

could be forgiving.

James and his crew were crawling back emptyhanded in heavy traffic to Paris

when one of them, Carlisle MacDonald, asked him, "Say, James, do you think

we will get fired for this?" Thanks to Herrick's concern about his good

relations with the press, and Lindbergh's insistence on fulfilling his

contract with the paper, nobody was. James, "a tough, hard-bitten character,"

ended his long newspaper career as the managing editor of The New York

Times.

Once back at the office, James recalled how they went to work "getting

the story together. Then we remembered we had not got Captain Lindbergh.

...Ambassador Herrick is a good fellow,' someone said, `he will tell: Off

Mac went and found Captain Lindbergh sitting on the edge of the bed in

the Embassy drinking a glass of milk." Unless Herrick did tell, locating

Lindbergh could hardly have been so easy. As MacDonald himself conceded,

the ambassador's son, Parmely, cordially let him in at the embassy as if

he had been expected all along. "`Come on in, Mac. He's upstairs talking

to Father.' There were no other reporters in the Embassy."

Herrick had lingered behind at Le Bourget to throw the press off the scent,

and give Lindbergh and his escort time to reach the embassy. On returning

there, the ambassador found his guest was upset because he had not met

the Times reporters at the airport as he had expected. The flight to Paris

was only the first stop on what Lindbergh hoped would be a trip around

the world, and for that he needed money. Aside from a few testimonials

he had given before leaving New York, he had no ready source of income

other than what the Times would pay him. Although he had won the $25,000

Orteig prize for making the flight, he fully expected his St. Louis backers

would claim most of it to pay for the plane.

Herrick insisted he should rest and wait until the next day to talk with

the Times men, but once determined to have his way, Lindbergh was not easily

swayed even by an ambassador nearly three times his age. Herrick finally

yielded and telephoned James as to where he could find the most sought

man in all of Paris. At the embassy, MacDonald was ushered up to the flier's

room, finding him "wide-awake, coherent and most cooperative" during a

half-hour interview.

Herrick was later accused of working hand in glove with the Times in his

handling of Lindbergh. Back home, press czar William Randolph Hearst sent

a protesting telegram to Secretary of State Frank Kellogg on being advised

that "the Ambassador and his family were keeping all the newspapermen away

from Lindbergh except The New York Times." The flier, replied Kellogg,

was Herrick's "personal guest," and the government "has nothing whatever

to do with Mr. Lindbergh's affairs."

Herrick, understandably sensitive to the charge of favoritism, later sought

to explain himself to his biographer. As newsmen gathered outside the embassy,

he said he suggested to the flier, "if he was not worn out, he let them

all in for a minute," but he declined, citing his "exclusive contract"

with the Times. Herrick added he realized "this thing seemed to big an

affair to be made the exclusive news of any one paper." Since MacDonald

was still at the embassy, Herrick sent his son downstairs to discuss the

situation with him.

According to the reporter, he took it upon himself, evidently without consulting

James, to release Lindbergh from his contract "in deference to the world

importance of the story.... I never regretted it. Through all the giddy

weeks afterward... he remained true to the Times." Herrick apparently was

much relieved to be off the hook. MacDonald, he praised, "showed himself

the high-class man he is... and all the journalists came up to hear what

Lindbergh would tell them."

The truth be told, that is not precisely how the flier got to meet the

press early that Sunday morning. Herrick had no intentions of allowing

him to talk to other newsmen after his interview with MacDonald, who undoubtedly

was of the same mind. Lindbergh was tucked in and told to get some sleep.

Not long afterward, a band of reporters led by Ralph Barnes of the Paris

Herald arrived in taxies outside the embassy gate. Convinced Lindbergh

was inside, Barnes asked to see the ambassador. Herrick met the reporters

in a small reception room, and admitted the flier was upstairs sleeping.

Pleading that his guest was too exhausted to be disturbed, the ambassador

insisted there would be no interviews until he awoke and was alert enough

to talk with them.

In the group was Jay Allen, whom Wales had sent out to follow up on what

had happened to Lindbergh. He called his office and reported the impasse

to Shirer, who answered. Angrily snatching the phone, Wales bellowed, "Listen,

Jay. Tell Herrick you fellows have got to see him.... And if that doesn't

work, barge up to the bedroom yourself. We got to talk to him."

Still awake, Lindbergh overheard the commotion when the reporters arrived

at the embassy. Herrick's son came downstairs and announced that the flier

"did not care to go to sleep just yet and would be glad to see the newspaper

men for a few minutes." While barnstorming, Lindbergh had learned that

advance billing and publicity were important to get the townspeople out

to the fairgrounds for the air show. Flying the ocean alone had been like

stunting over an empty grandstand, and now he was more than anxious to

tell his story. The correspondents let out a whoop, and swept the ambassador

out of their way as they dashed up the staircase.

When they entered the room, Lindbergh jumped up from his bed and asked,

"Is The New York Times man here?" Only after MacDonald stepped forward

was he ready to talk. "Questions were fired at him from all sides," observed

the Times reporter. Charming the correspondents with his boyish smile and

seeming humility, Lindbergh became more expansive and dramatic as he recounted

his flight. Although he had traveled through "sleet and snow for over 1,000

miles, he refused to take seriously the problem of flying the Atlantic."

He said he could not get over at "how short a time it took to cross the

ocean," calculating he could have gone on for another five hundred miles,

if not a thousand. "I didn't get at all sleepy," he boasted.

As the questions shifted from the flight to his arrival at Le Bourget,

Herrick became very uneasy. The ambassador abruptly ended the interview

after only seven or eight minutes, explaining it was "too much strain on

the flier to submit him to further questioning." As Lindbergh himself recalled,

""Paris clocks marked 4:15 in the morning before I went to bed. It was

sixty-three hours since I had slept."

It remained for Herrick to end the momentous day with a transatlantic cable

that would tug at the heartstrings of mothers all over America. Addressed

to Evangeline Lindbergh in Detroit, it appeared in the Times Sunday editions

after MacDonald received a copy before he left the embassy. It read:

WARMEST CONGRATULATIONS. YOUR INCOMPARABLE SON HAS HONORED ME BY BECOMING

MY GUEST HE IS IN FINE CONDITION AND SLEEPING SWEETLY UNDER UNCLE SAM'S

ROOF. MYRON HERRICK.

The ambassador later maintained he had not "realized the magnitude of this

event... until the next morning, when I saw the newspapers .... Then the

thought came to me of the significance of it all, also of my act of taking

him to the Embassy, which placed the United States Government behind him."

 

For political reasons, Herrick had acted, even before Lindbergh landed

safely Le Bourget, to create the impression that his flight had the endorsement

of Washington. The ambassador wanted to impress upon French authorities

at the highest level that the American pilot merited being wellreceived

and honored by their country, while at the same time assuaging their own

sense of loss and resentment over the disappearance of Nungesser and Coli.

Undoubtedly, the French Foreign Office was provided with an advance copy

of a congratulatory message that was to be handed to Lindbergh immediately

on his arrival. [Emphasis added.]

Cabled from Washington, the message recommended, if not drafted, by Herrick

read in part: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE REJOICE WITH ME AT THE BRILLIANT TERMINATION

OF YOUR HEROIC FLIGHT. Told that his feat CROWNS THE RECORD OF AMERICAN

AVIATION, the flier was reminded that he was BRINGING THE GREETINGS OF

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO FRANCE. The cable further charged him with carrying

THE ASSURANCE OF OUR ADMIRATION OF THOSE INTREPID FRENCHMEN, NUNGESSER

AND COLI, WHOSE BOLD SPIRITS FIRST VENTURED ON YOUR EXPLOIT, AND LIKEWISE

A MESSAGE OF OUR CONTINUED ANXIETY CONCERNING THEIR FATE. The communication

was signed, CALVIN COOLIDGE.

[IMAGE PHOTOGRAPH] Captioned as: Charles Lindbergh and Ambassador Herrick

respond to a chanting crowd from a balcony window at the U.S. Embassy in

Paris.

After putting his "guest" to bed, one of the first things Herrick did was

to acknowledge the "worthy tribute" from Washington. FOR THE PRESIDENT,

began the ambassador's cable that was transmitted through Secretary of

State Kellogg. ALL FRANCE IS DEEP IN JOY AT CHARLES LINDBERGH'S BRAVE FLIGHT...

IF WE HAD DELIBERATELY SOUGHT A TYPE TO REPRESENT THE YOUTH, THE INTREPID

ADVENTURE OF AMERICA AND THE IMMORTAL BRAVERY OF NUNGESSER AND COLI, WE

COULD NOT HAVE FARED AS WELL AS IN THIS BOY OF DIVINE GENIUS AND SIMPLE

COURAGE.

Lindbergh had arrived with only the clothes he wore-his full-length flying

suit over a pair of breeches, shirt and tie, and his long-sleeved sweater-the

outfit in which he had posed for countless pictures in New York. After

he got up about noon, he dressed in a borrowed, doublebreasted dark blue

suit. Someone said he looked "the picture of a typical American farmer

boy."

Ambassador Herrick and his embassy staff had to improvise because the "hero

of the hour" could not be kept hidden much longer. By early afternoon,

a large crowd had gathered outside the front gate, chanting, "We Want Lindbergh!"

In response, Herrick led the flier out onto a balcony overlooking the street.

The throng cheered on seeing the elderly ambassador and the tall, fresh-faced

youth standing side by side with their arms entwined, smiling broadly down

on them. A French flag was brought out, and together they let it "unfurl

in the breeze." The loud cheering continued until an embarrassed Lindbergh

left the balcony "with a final wave and another of his engaging smiles."

 

Once he was back inside, it was high time to appease the reporters besieging

the embassy. Earlier, the flier had chatted leisurely with James and MacDonald

as he ate a hearty breakfast. Finally, he walked down the grand staircase

locked arm-in-arm with Herrick on his right and a man on his left who very

likely was the ambassador's son. In depicting the scene, Waverley Root

mistakenly identifies him as Benjamin F. Mahoney, the builder of the Spirit

of St. Louis. He had followed the flier from San Diego to New York by train

and then sailed for Europe, but had yet to arrive in Paris.

Writing decades later, Root was still deeply resentful of having been kept

downstairs with the other reporters while the Times men were upstairs with

the flier. Since he outlived practically everyone there, including Lindbergh,

Root could also be very candid. As he came down for his first formal press

appearance, Root recalls, "Lindbergh looked as if he were being led to

the electric chair between two husky guards."

The flier's opening statement obviously had been written for him with the

cable from President Coolidge in mind. "I brought with me, gentlemen, the

great sorrow of the American people for Nungesser and Coli," he said somberly.

"The French attempt was in the heart of the whole nation, and we grieve

with France over their noble failure." Not surprisingly, the first question

asked was what did Lindbergh think of French women. "I haven't seen any

yet," he curtly replied. According to Root, this was "his last contribution

to the conversation except for the syllable Uh'. ...If a question opened

an opportunity to make political capital, Herrick answered for Lindbergh

before he could get his mouth open. If it were technical, the Ryan man

pounced on it. Between these answers, Lindbergh was helpless."

On his first full day in Paris he had only one other engagement, a late

afternoon call on "la Maman du Capitaine Nungesser." Although the visit

was said to have been "unknown to anyone except the immediate household

of the Ambassador," it turned out to be a badly kept secret. By the time

Herrick and his party arrived, thousands of people crowded the street and

the police were already there in force to clear the way. The visitors had

to climb six flights of creaky stairs to reach a small apartment where

Mme. Nungesser herself admitted them. One seeing the youthful American

who had survived the Atlantic, the grieving woman embraced him and wept.

 

"She was in a pitiful state of emotion over the loss of her son," Herrick

sympathized, "and begged Lindbergh to find him for her." He supposedly

told her that the search was continuing and that her son would likely be

found in the wilds of Canada. "This graceful gesture," observed the Times,

"has earned for the bashful, fair-haired boy from the West the undying

affection of the whole French nation." Lindbergh later denied that he had

given "Mme. Nungesser any hope for the return of her son, as there was

practically none." In all fairness, he was as much a pawn as Mme. Nungesser

in their emotional meeting which Ambassador Herrick had carefully arranged.

The following day the flier spoke publicly for the first time at a luncheon

hosted by the Aero Club of France. He limited his remarks to Nungesser

and Coli, stating that those "brave airmen attempted a greater thing in

taking off from Paris to New York than I have done in accomplishing the

trip from New York to Paris. Their difficulties were far greater than mine...."

Lindbergh's response, after other speakers had hailed his own flight as

"the greatest thing ever done in the history of aviation," struck everyone

for its modesty. As one American resident in Paris remarked, "It was as

if the spirit of their own aviators had returned. The French accepted him

as one of their own."

David Lawrence, a syndicated columnist, reported from Washington that Herrick

"has taken charge of the young hero.... The Government here is pleased,

indeed exuberant. Diplomacy knows what it means to get a whole nation speaking

in praise of an American." Some months later, Henry Wales elaborated on

the political fallout of the flight. "Flag-waving, nationalism, and politics

played their part in the drama afterward, " he wrote. "Washington discovered

the value of this `ambassador without portfolio,' and cabled Herrick in

secret code to exploit the hero to the utmost in order to link up more

firmly America's diplomatic relations with France weakened since the war."

 

Herrick himself testified as to the effort made to comply with that directive.

"For more than a week," he said, "the ambassador to France and almost his

entire staff were busy night and day attending to nothing except matters

which concerned a young American who a few days before had never been heard

of It was not a question of whether we wanted to do it... it had to be

done.... There was no escape. Of course, nobody wanted to escape; we were

all charmed with him and delighted that things turned out as they did."

 

The ambassador effectively became the architect of the flier's celebrafication

both official and personal. "Shy, Nordic Lindbergh was just what the clever

diplomat needed," commented Time magazine. "He rushed to Le Bourget waving

French and U.S. flags; seized `Lucky Lindy' with avidity; put him to bed

in his own diplomatic pajamas; wrapped him in the tricolor; had him photographed,

interviewed, dined and decorated; and caused the greatest enthusiasm for

things U.S."

At noon on Monday, Herrick escorted Lindbergh to the Elyse Palace, the

official residence of the French President. MacDonald, in his Times dispatch,

reported that "within five minutes after arriving-a speed which would give

American efficiency methods cause for thought-President Gaston Doumergue

had pinned the Cross of the Legion of Honor upon the lapel of his blue

suit-- the one lent to him by Ambassador Herrick's son. In so doing France's

Chief Executive set a new precedent, for never before has he personally

conferred this distinctive decoration on an American." The act of a chief

of state bestowing a high decoration on Lindbergh was also a precedent

invariably followed in all of the other countries he later visited with

the Spirit of St. Louis.

Before the day was over, the flier met the French Premier, Raymond Poincare,

who shook his hand and congratulated him on his "belle exploit." Summarizing

"Capt. Lindbergh's first day of being lionized," the Associated Press concluded

he had been "showered with such honors as France in all her history has

never spontaneously bestowed on another private citizen."

Later that week, Herrick arranged for the young hero to have lunch with

the Minister of War, Paul Painleve, as well as the Foreign Minister, Aristide

Briand, at the Quai d'Orsay "The days that followed were carbon copies

of the first," Root elaborates. "We followed Lindbergh through a succession

of presentations of awards, official receptions, banquets, and laudatory

speeches, reporting word after banal word. ...Lindbergh was moved through

his labyrinth of ceremony like a puppet, wearing a perpetual expression

of bewilderment."

After his arrival in Paris, the flier had barely caught up on his sleep

before he was showered with invitations to visit other European cities.

Herrick did all he could to dissuade him from going, particularly to Berlin.

To do so, he told the flier with some heat, would be an affront to the

French after they had honored him with the Legion of Honor. Although the

ambassador wanted him to return home directly with a message of friendship

and goodwill from the French people, Lindbergh was easily persuaded by

a British delegation from England to fly to London with a stop in Brussels

enroute.

Herrick vainly counseled against the flight, "if explaining a situation

a man does not understand, is giving advice." After all he had done, he

was much concerned about losing all control over Lindbergh. He telephoned

the American ambassador in London, Alanson B. Houghton, and urged him to

put the flier up in his own embassy, so as "to protect him and give his

visit official recognition."

Lindbergh left Paris with his plane exactly one week after his tumultuous

arrival at Le Bourget. After seeing him off, Herrick cabled Secretary of

State Kellogg, stating in part:

LINDBERGH HAS JUST DEPARTED. THROUGHOUT THE WEEK IN PARIS NOT ONE UNTOWARD

THING HAS HAPPENED. HE HAS CAPTURED EVERYONE BY HIS COURAGE, MODESTY AND

INHERITED GOOD SENSE ...AN EXPRESSION OF APPRECIATION BY THE PRESIDENT

AND BY YOU WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED AND WOULD CONSOLIDATE THE GOOD

THAT HAS BEEN EFFECTED.... ALTHOUGH HE CAME UNOFFICIALLY... [LINDBERGH]

HAS BECOME A REAL AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE....

The flier never went beyond London. Aside from the pressure from Herrick,

his St. Louis backers were agitating for his return with the plane they

felt belonged to them. They appealed to Secretary of War Dwight Davis who,

being from St. Louis, was also anxious to have the city reap its share

of the glory. After some discussion, Ambassador Houghton advised the reluctant

flier in the strongest possible terms to comply with "the wish of Washington

and those who have your best interest at heart." Lindbergh later stated

he only agreed to go back because "it was an order from the President of

the United States." Sorrowfully, he gave up his plane for dismantling and

crating in England, and returned to Paris in a borrowed military aircraft.

 

Since Lindbergh had first landed there, Herrick insisted it was only fitting

and proper he should depart from France. Houghton expedited arrangements

for his return on an American warship, while Herrick worked with the French

to have the flier sail from Cherbourg where the local chamber of commerce

organized an elaborate farewell. Lindbergh had fallen into the hands of

two skillful ambassadors who managed to subordinate his wishes to what

they believed were "our best national interests."

Until the moment he sailed, Herrick used the flier with uncanny shrewdness

to improve FrancoAmerican relations, a stratagem for which he made no apologies.

"From the moment I decided to take him to my house," he elucidated, "all

the rest followed inevitably. Providence had interposed in the shape of

this boy, and if I did not seize the occasion offered I was not worth my

salt. I did not make the opportunity; I only took advantage of it. Lindbergh

made it."

Without Ambassador Herrick, it is highly questionable whether Lindbergh

would have become an American icon with the status of near royalty, the

closest thing the country ever had to a Prince of Wales. Even so, Lindbergh,

without Herrick, would surely be as well remembered as Amelia Earhart,

the first person after him to fly the Atlantic alone, and who received

many of the same honors, including the French Legion of Honor. But, then,

her legend lives on not because of that solo flight but for the mystery

of her later disappearance without a trace over the Pacific. The irony

is that if Lindbergh had suffered a similar fate in 1927, he would be no

better known today than the other fliers who set out like him to fly the

Atlantic and never made it. In the making of heroes, much depends on time,

place and circumstances.

A Story Told But Unrevealed: Sleuthing the Sources

While Charles Lindbergh has the unique distinction of being the first to

fly solo across the Atlantic, he did not do so in a vacuum, as international

political, economic, and sociological forces converged to make him one

of the brightest "superstars" in aviation history. The process began even

before his landing and unceremonious reception at Le Bourget, a story which,

if revealed, would have acutely embarrassed Ambassador Herrick, not to

mention Lindbergh himself.

Herrick, in his "autobiographical biography," (Mott, T Bentley. Myron T

Herrick: Friend of France. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, Doran, 1929, pp.

340-55), devotes an entire chapter on Lindbergh in Paris, explaining what

he does not openly acknowledge, i.e., that his youthful guest was effectively

detained on his arrival until he, the ambassador, assumed custody and had

him taken to the American embassy. The messages between Herrick and Washington

concerning Lindbergh appear in full text in The Flight of Captain Charles

A. Lindbergh From New York to Paris, May 20-21, 1927. As Compiled from

the Official Records of the Department of State. Washington: Government

Printing Office, 1927.

Lindbergh, in his two books about the flight, makes the best of the situation

he found himself in on landing at Le Bourget. In the first, (We. New York:

G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1927), he states very simply that, after the attention

of the crowd was diverted from him, "I managed to get inside one of the

hangars." (p. 226.) After a lapse of a quarter-century before his second

book was published (The Spirit of St. Louis. New York: Charles Scribner's

Sons, 1953), Lindbergh was more expansive in a brief afterword. (pp. 495-501.)

He wrote it on the advice of his editors who felt that ending the book

with the crowd rushing toward his plane at Le Bourget was too abrupt.

Henry Wales, the correspondent who was on close terms with Herrick, lived

to read the book. Lindbergh, he tellingly complains in a review (Chicago

Sunday Tribune, September 13, 1953), "chokes off his successful arrival

in Paris in ten pages, says practically nothing of the tremendous reception

that awaited him, and remains mute on the intrigue and political passion

afterward." Another well-informed reader was Willy Coppens, the Belgian

air attache in Paris in 1927. "Lindbergh himself," he notes parenthetically

in his own account, "has not reported exactly the vicissitudes of his arrival,

not comprehending what was happening to him....

Lindbergh's confident narrative of his "rescue" from the crowd and peripatetic

journey which eventually ended at the American Embassy prevails in all

of the biographies and other books about him. Their authors evidently were

of the same mind as Brendan Gill, the first among them to publish a work

with full access to Lindbergh's papers. The best authority on his subject,

Gill professed, was Lindbergh himself. In his brief book, (Lindbergh Alone.

New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), Gill describes the tumultuous

scene at Le Bourget by quoting verbatim, with attribution, five consecutive

paragraphs from We. (pp. 146-47.)

In his writings, Lindbergh never mentions his contractual arrangements

with the New York Times, but they are reported in detail in an early history

of the paper. (Berger, Meyer. The Story of the New York Times, 1851-1951.

New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951, pp. 291-- 305.) Also included is the

full text of a lengthy, follow-up dispatch from Edwin James in which he

attempts to explain what happened after Lindbergh landed.

Many other American correspondents also wrote retrospective accounts of

that momentous night (see, Koyen, Kenneth. "Desperately Seeking Lindy."

Air & Space, Vol. 5, No. 1, April/May 1990, pp. 44-49), but they add little

to the story beyond their anguish at having to meet deadlines without having

seen, much less interviewed, Lindbergh.

One of them was William L. Shirer who likely knew more than he wrote in

his book. (20th Century Journey, The Start 1904-1930. Simon and Schuster,

1976, pp. 323-44.) Shirer worked for Wales who had advance information

on the reception planned for Lindbergh. Wales himself provides many revealing

details in two magazine articles written ten years apart. ("Lindy and the

French Fans." Liberty, September 10, 1927, pp. 71-- 74, and "Formidable."

Atlantic Monthly. June 1937, pp. 669-80.)

Another correspondent, Waverley Root, reflects somewhat cynically on the

intrigue involving Wales and Herrick, as well as the ambassador's press-agentry,

in a partial autobiography published after his death. (The Paris Edition.

San Francisco: 1987, pp. 28-37.) Root devotes an entire chapter to "The

Flying Fool."

Since the press was excluded, the best eyewitness report, at least by an

American, of what occurred on the upper level of the terminal building

where Herrick's plan for welcoming Lindbergh went awry is a letter John

PV. Heinmuller, chief timer of the National Aeronautic Association wrote

home to his wife shortly after. The text was later published in his book

about notable airmen, including Lindbergh. (Man's Fight to Fly. New York:

Funk and Wagnalls, 1944. pp. 68-85.)

Without French sources, no account of Lindbergh's arrival at Le Bourget

can be complete as well as reasonably accurate. Major Weiss's story, which

does not mention Herrick at all, was published in English as a news article

on the first anniversary of the event. (New York Herald Tribune, May 20,

1928.) Two years later, Jean Claude d'Ahetze, the stand-in who felt slighted

because he was not the one carried to the airport terminal to be welcomed

by Herrick, wrote a long letter replete with inconsistencies to the New

York Times. It was published on July 13, 1930 under the heading, "One of

Lindbergh's Doubles Tells How It All Happened."

Although in French, other personal recollections saw print on the occasion

of the fiftieth anniversary of Lindbergh's flight when Icare, a solid French

aeronautical review, put out a commemorative issue featuring transatlantic

flying. (No. 81, Summer 1977.) A long piece by Willy Coppens ("La veridique

histoire de (arrive de Charles Lindbergh au Bourget," pp. 65-75.) affords

the reader a comprehensive picture of the dramatic event, beginning that

Saturday morning with a much preoccupied Major Weiss issuing "precise orders"

to his men in case the American pilot reached Paris. Although Coppens claims

that "only the commandant and myself are able to relate the true story,"

he does not place Weiss at the scene of the landing melee, as others testify

in their accounts.

While much briefer, the story of Chief Mechanic Fernand Sarrazin ("J'ai

accueilli Lindbergh," pp. 77-82) is no less significant. He recalls "officers

belonging to the 34th Aviation Regiment based at Le Bourget," arriving

at Lindbergh's plane before the crowd, and only seconds after he, being

first, did so.

Commenting on Sarrazin's story, Icare editor Jean Lasserre recalls d'Ahetze's

own version which he had published ten years before (No. 42), on the fortieth

anniversary of the flight. In it, d'Ahetze claims he greeted Lindbergh

before anyone else as he landed. Lasserre tactfully concedes both may have

been there "at the same moment, on opposite sides of the machine. We will

probably never know.... Perhaps with a closer reading, even a little research,

the editor might have credited Commandant Weiss and Sergeant Detroyat with

being first, a distinction they never claimed for themselves. Over a lifetime,

one remained loyal to Ambassador Herrick, the other to Charles Lindbergh.

 

Sarrazin's account in Icare was actually written in 1927. Still living

on the fiftieth anniversary, he was interviewed by a reporter on his encounter

with Lindbergh at Le Bourget. The retired mechanic told much the same story,

but with one major alteration. He said nothing about the soldiers driving

up in cars with blinding headlights, and yanking Lindbergh out of his cockpit.

All he remembered was the wave of people dashing across the field toward

the plane.

"The crowd almost kidnapped Lindbergh, and it began to tear souvenirs from

the fabric covering the fuselage," Sarrazin told the reporter. Changing

his story fifty years later, he had perhaps read Lindbergh's book by then,

and decided not to contradict it. After all, who would take his word against

that of aviation's greatest hero?

Lt. Col. Raymond H. Fredette, USAF (Ret.) is a native of Massachusetts.

He earned degrees in history and international relations from Tufts University

and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. During World War II, he flew

thirty-one combat missions over Germany with the Eighth Air Force. Recalled

to active duty in 1951, Fredette served as an intelligence officer in Morocco,

Germany, and Vietnam. He also had teaching assignments with AFROTC and

the Defense Intelligence School in Washington, D. C. Shortly after retiring,

he met Charles Lindbergh who agreed to cooperate in the writing of a book

about his military activities. Lindbergh held the rank of brigadier general

in the Air Force Reserve. Before his death in 1974, he gave Fredette "unrestricted

access" to his papers at Yale University and other depositories. The project

was later expanded when Anne Morrow Lindbergh authorized Fredette "to write

the definitive biography of my husband."His research and writing led to

a standoff with his publisher, William Jovanovich of Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich,

and the book was never completed. Fredette is currently working on another

book titled, "The Lindberghs: Decoding Charles, Remembering Anne." Colonel

Fredette has written many articles on aviation history, and a book on the

origins of strategic bombing in World War I, The Sky on Fire, which has

been reissued as a volume in the Smithsonian History of Aviation Series.

 

Vintage newspaper articles on this website were found with Ancestry. Com databases  click logo for details  Ancestry.com - The #1 Online Genealogy Library!     

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