Wednesday 9 April 2014

Charles Lindbergh Pays a Visit to Crowd in England

"Not since the Armistice of 1918 has Paris witnessed a downright demonstration of popular enthusiasm and excitement equal to that displayed by the throngs flocking to the boulevards for news of the American flier, whose personality has captured the hearts of the Parisian multitude."
(New York Times, May 21, 1927.)

The Parisian multitude waited anxiously at Le Bourget airport on that foggy night of May 21, 1927, for the arrival of the pilot, Charles Lindbergh.  Orteig had offered a 25,000 dollar prize to the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  Two French aviators had tried a couple of weeks before but had disappeared. Now it was the American's turn.  

Automobiles jammed the French boulevards ten abreast.  Thousands of spectators had already been waiting for six or seven hours at Le Bourget for the arrival of the Ameircan pilot.  Darkness had fallen, the wind had picked up and a few stars had appeared.  But still there was no sign of the Spirit of St. Louis.  The drone of an engine broke the silence and the crowd was ready to erupt in cheers.  However, it was only a plane from across the English Channel.  People were beginning to wonder if Charles Lindbergh had disappeared.

Finally, at 10:15 pm, another plane appeared in the sky above Le Bourget, this one a white and gray monoplane.  It was Lindbergh!  Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis skillfully.  The crowd cheered "Vive Lindbergh!" and "Vive l'Americain!"

With unkempt hair and bags under his eyes after a 33 hour journey, the American pilot exclaimed "Well, I made it!"  He attempted to get out of his plane, but several men were ready to pull him out of the cockpit, hoist him on their shoulders, and parade him around the air field.  The enthusiastic crowd, unable to contain itself, broke through the lines of bayonet carrying soldiers, through the ranks of policemen, through the iron barrier, to engulf the new hero.

In order to prevent a complete mob scene, two men whisked Lieutenant Lindbergh away in a Renault automobile.  In the meantime the mob now seized the opportunity to steal souvenirs from his plane; anything that was removable was taken.  

Lindbergh was a celebrity overnight.  He received 700 cablegrams congratulating him on his successful flight. Still riding a high from the flight, he stayed in Paris for a week, then flew to Brussels, Belgium, then to London, England.  There, he was greeted by 150,000 fans.  A photographer captured an aerial photograph of his London reception.  

Lindbergh sailed home on the USS Memphis along with his disassembled plane.  Parisians would never forget his feat.  The world would never be the same.  

Spirit of St. Louis, June 1927, London, England courtesy

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