by A. Scott Berg

Hardcover, 1998




Putnam Adult (1998), 640 pages


"National Book Award winner A. Scott Berg is the first and only writer to have been given unrestricted access to the massive Lindbergh archives - more than two thousand boxes of personal papers, including reams of unpublished letters and diaries - and to be allowed freely to interview Lindbergh's friends, colleagues, and family members, including his children and his widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The result is a biography that clarifies a life long blurred by myth and half-truth." "From the moment he landed in Paris on May 21, 1927, Lindbergh found himself thrust upon an odyssey for which he was ill prepared - the first modern media superstar, deified and demonized many times over in a single lifetime. Berg casts dramatic new light on the lonely, sometimes twisted childhood that formed his character; the astonishing flight and thrilling, then overwhelming aftermath; the controversies surrounding the trial of his son's accused kidnapper; the storm over Lindbergh's fascination with Hitler's Germany and over his active role in the isolationist America First movement; and his remarkable unsung work devoted to medical research, rocketry, anthropology, and conservation. At the heart of it all is his fascinating, complex marriage with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a relationship far from the storybook romance the public imagined, one filled with sudden joy and bitter darkness, and which forged her into one of the century's leading feminist voices." "Berg exposes the many facets of the private Lindbergh, including his ingenious medical work with Dr. Alexis Carrel, developing the precursor to an artificial heart; his pioneering support of rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard; his soul-searching visit to Camp Dora at Bergen-Belsen; his life with the primitive Masai tribe in Africa, and his discovery of the Tasaday in the Philippines; his fight to save the whales off the coasts of Japan and Peru; and his deeply moving final days in Maui, where he supervised the digging of his own grave."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member seoulful
A scrupulously researched biography of Charles Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg who was granted unlimited access by Charles' widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, to some 2,000 boxes of papers. He was also able to spend many hours interviewing the friends and family of the Lindberghs. And yet, some 30 years after his death, the final story of this remarkable man is yet to be told. Recently discovered letters in the attic of a German woman, has led to the revelation of at least two more families in Germany and Switzerland that Lindbergh kept hidden. As Mr. Berg's biography describes the years of his many absences due to travel in the 50s and 60s, psychiatrists were formulating theories of his "running away from old age" and "intimacy." His wife conjectured that he kept on the move to avoid discussing feelings, but no one at any time suspected the double life he was leading in Europe. From this book and the diaries and books of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, it is still not entirely possible to understand this man of genius who moved from one venue to another throughout his life applying a passion, energy and intelligence to each new project. He was a man of little formal education, yet one who very quickly after his famous flight at the age of 25 was able to move and converse with the leading figures and intellectuals of the day. No matter what the setting, he was the center of attention. Even with her back turned, his wife was able to discern his entrance by the reaction in the room. Given the monumental task of going through so much material, Mr. Berg has done an outstanding job of choosing that which best reveals the formulating influences on Lindbergh's life from early childhood until his death. It will be interesting to read the next chapter in his life, perhaps written by his European children.… (more)
LibraryThing member 5hrdrive
Some people seem able to cram two or three lifetimes worth of accomplishments into one lifespan. Charles Lindbergh managed four or five. Aviation pioneer, medical researcher, author, lecturer, philanthropist, military hero, humanitarian, naturalist... you name a cause in the 20th century and he seemed to be at the forefront of it.… (more)
LibraryThing member picardyrose
Lindbergh was a bully who abused his wife cruelly. I hate him.
LibraryThing member rw_flyer
A highly readable, balanced look at the Lone Eagle's life and accomplishments. I think it did a particularly good job of describing the man, both his strengths and not-so-pleasant aspects of his personality. The complexity of Lindbergh came through well, including his dislike of publicity and the complex relationships with his wife and family.

I highly recommend reading the Spirit of St. Louis alongside this book to get a feeling for the initial achievement that brought Lindberg fame, and to read Lindbergh's own account in comparison to the external view.
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LibraryThing member carterchristian1
A book I could not put down. What most interested me about Lindberg was his interest in always moving on, from flying to pure science, to rockets. Read his wartime diaries and judge for yourself if he was unpatriotic. The American Ambassador to England sent him to Nazi Germany before war was declared so he could report formally as an expert on Nazi air power. He obviously took a long time to really realize the threat Hitler posed, and then fought without official position in the US Air Force in the far east.

It is amazing how I kept coming across Lindberg references in a fall trip across the country. There was the site in Arkansas (or was it Mississippi) where he had his first inadvertant night landing at a country club, or lodge. For a night's lodging the gave the proprieter a flight.

Then at the Will Rogers home there is a brandy sniffer once filled with rose petals. The Rogers invited him to their California home to escape the pressures of the murder trial and his sister-in-law Elizabeth collected the petals.
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LibraryThing member neddludd
Lindbergh was close to being a Renaissance man. After winning fame in his early 20s for being the first person to fly solo from New York to Paris (1927), he became the first worldwide celebrity, and he spent the rest of his life trying to escape the intense interest of the media. Immediately following his flight he was greeted by immense crowds of fans in Paris, London, and New York. Crowds gathered around him for the rest of his life where ever he went. As a result of his celebrity, and his commitment to making aviation succeed on a commercial basis (he was on the boards of both TWA and Pan American, where he became Juan Trippe's lifelong friend) he gained access to powerful people in every nation. His celebrity was only increased when his first-born son was kidnapped and murdered in the "crime of the century." The trial focused the attention of millions. This University of Wisconsin dropout then was befriended by a famed surgeon (who had won a Nobel Prize in Medicine) and Lindbergh turned his attention to constructing a revolutionary new pump which enabled human organs to survive outside the body. Following this he became a leader of the America First movement, which sought to keep the U.S. out of WWII--then raging in Europe. He made a series of controversial speeches in which he seemed to be a fan of Hitler and the Nazis and how they had "successfully" transformed Germany, as well as an anti-Semitic critic of Jewish influence. This provoked a fire storm of condemnation in which Harold Ickes and FDR both became his enemy. The book also delves into his personal life and marriage. Someone who was comfortable with primitive people and a deprivation from modern conveniences, Lindbergh enjoyed the greatest luxury imaginable: being able to exactly what he wanted to do the moment he wanted to do it. He spent the last third of his life as a major advocate of conservation. He essentially deserted his wife and five children by traveling frequently all over the world--and the couple built homes in Darien, Connecticut; Switzerland; and Hawaii (where he died). In preparing for his Paris flight, Lindbergh is shown as an obsessive loner who was involved in every stage of the journey: from winning financial backing, to finding a company that would build the plane he wanted to use, to helping to design the aircraft, to participating in every stage of its construction, to formulating a list of what to take on the flight to allow for a maximum amount of fuel. He spent weeks preparing navigational aids. The flight itself was almost anti-climactic. This obsessive quality extended to the way he treated his wife and children. He was not an easy man to have as a husband or father. Berg tells us all this in highly readable prose. This is a model of a great biography, and Berg's work went on to win both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member jerry-book
America's hero, Charles Lindbergh. His solo flight from New York was a real miracle. Flying through fog with primitive instruments was a real challenge as was fighting sleep. The kidnapping and death of his first-born was a real tragedy. Fortunately, he and Anne went on to have many other children. I was fascinated by his role in the America First Party and his isolationism. I did not quite understand why he was anti-Jewish and why he bought the Nazi line that all Jews were Communist. In one pre-war speech he said: "Their greatest danger to this country lies in their [the Jews] large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government." After all Guggenheim was one of his early backers. He was of course impressed by the German War Machine when he toured Germany in 1936 and 1938. He thought probably like many others that Germany was a bulwark against the Soviet Union. FDR could not stand him. He retaliated against Lindbergh by denying him any role in WW II despite his considerable talents. Nonetheless, he managed to aid the American cause through his industrial contacts. As a civilian technician in the South Pacific he was able to fly over 25 missions against the Japanese (while supposedly testing Corsairs and other fighters). Even though after the War, he was able to see at least one of the Nazi concentration camps he still did not seem to comprehend the total evil of the Nazis. Many Jews never forgave him for his America First role. In his after the war mission to Germany, he investigated the Nazi experiments in jets and rockets for America. He then went on to play a major role in American civil aviation and environmental causes. His relationship with his wife Anne is fully explored. She felt abandoned at times by his long absences but Berg does not cover Lindbergh's role in fathering seven illegitimate children. This secret life of Lindbergh was unknown by Lindbergh's 15 biographers including Berg. When she died in 2001, Lindbergh’s wife Anne Morrow never even suspected that her husband led a double life in Europe. The letters his three lovers sent him in the United States were addressed to post-office boxes that he changed on a regular basis. Not one single love letter written by the three women to Lindbergh has been found, whereas his entire love correspondence to Brigitte has been preserved. These mistresses may explain Lindbergh's constant absences. DNA confirmed Lindbergh's paternity in 2003. Stranger still was the fact Lindbergh believed in eugenics, another Nazi idea, but two of his mistresses were disabled. Berg thought his constant absenteeism from Anne was due to his wanderlust. The author who has written about Lindbegh's secret life theorizes it may have been a side effect of the kidnapping. Apparently, the legitimate children (6) have had a family reunion with the illegimate (7) children. Berg's book is very readable and a deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1998.… (more)
LibraryThing member FKarr
clear, unbiased (but not overly critical) biography; not always clear on his relations with his wife, or his children
LibraryThing member amelish
I am amazed at the potency of Lindbergh's charisma in granting him access to the tip-top leadership of pretty much any subject he took an interest in, whether it be pre-war escalation of aeronautical advances, space research, the development of a safer organ transplant system and artificial heart, archaeology, conservation and environmentalism, and the list goes on. Some of these interests his Mad Pilot Skillz gave him an in to pursue, while others seem simply out of the blue, an impression that A. Scott Berg's matter-of-fact recounting of events highlights.

I enjoyed this biography for its objectivity and unembellished presentation of the facts of Lindbergh's life, which Berg accomplishes without being "plain-spoken." There are lyrical touches here and there--for example, the image of a pale blue Scandinavian sky tying together the beginning and end of Lindbergh's story. Berg manages to portray Lindbergh and the main players in his story as utterly human, fallible yet sympathetic, occasionally victims of outside forces like the press and public celebrity-hounding, but ultimately responsible for the courses of their own destinies.
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