by Charles A. Lindbergh
With the smiling humility that he personified following his solo flight across the Atlantic in May 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh shared the honors of his great feat with the airplane that carried him through thick and thin. That’s what “We” is all about.
This book is in two parts: The first threequarters, in Lindbergh’s own words, reflect on the 20 years before he began flying in earnest, through his barnstorming and mail-carrying days and his solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. The final quarter reflects his subsequent accolades, a section penned by another writer, since Lindbergh himself was too humble to write it.
“Lucky Lindy’s” matter-of-fact tone belies the fact that his experiences with barnstorming and mail-carrying exemplified the old aviation saw, “Flying is hours of boredom broken by moments of sheer terror.” Take, for example, his account of being trapped in his mailplane above a fog bank, with fuel approaching empty. His laconic description: “At 5,000 feet the engine sputtered and died. I stepped up on the cowling and out over the right side of the cockpit, pulling the ripcord after about a 100-foot fall….” No emotion. No elaboration. Just business as usual.
Lindbergh tells how he came to accept the challenge of Raymond Orteig, who offered a $25,000 prize for the first to fly from New York to Paris, or vice versa. Lindbergh did not stand out in the field of contestants gathered in the spring of 1927 at Curtiss Field on Long Island, a number of whom were already well-known aviators. But he had honed his skills to prepare for such a risky undertaking, and was mechanically savvy enough to oversee the design and construction of the plane he had built for the flight. While Jimmy Doolittle might be known as the “Master of the Calculated Risk,” Lindbergh was a practitioner of doing one’s home work to reduce the likelihood of failure in hazardous undertakings.
Written soon after the flight that propelled him onto the world’s stage, “We” reflects the famed flier’s life and times before he became embroiled in other media circuses—the up – roar over his child’s kidnapping and murder, his efforts to insulate the United States from the spreading war in Europe in the late 1930s, and his unofficial involvement in WWII, showing U.S. pilots how to get the most out of their aircraft in the Pacific.
“We” is a very readable, off-the-cuff look at an American icon.
Originally published in the November 2009 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.