Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974) was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the 33 1⁄2-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.
Lindburgh's flight was not the first transatlantic flight; the Curtiss NC-4 achieved the goal of the first successful transatlantic flight by flying from Rockaway, New York to Lisbon, Portugal on May 27, 1919. Lindbergh's flight was, however, the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight, and one made between two major cities, and by a man barely 25 years of age. Lindbergh was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, and he received the United States' highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for the feat, and many other awards and other forms of recognition from many countries. Lindbergh's achievement spurred interest in both commercial aviation and air mail, and he devoted much time and effort to promoting such activity.
Lindburgh's historic flight and extraordinary celebrity status also led to tragedy. In March 1932, his infant son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what American media called the "Crime of the Century" and was described by H. L. Mencken as "the biggest story since the Resurrection". The case prompted the United States Congress to establish kidnapping as a federal crime once the kidnapper had crossed state lines with their victim. By late 1935, the hysteria surrounding the case had driven the Lindbergh family into voluntary exile in Europe, from which they returned in 1939.
Before the United States formally entered World War II, some people accused Lindbergh of being a fascist sympathizer. An advocate of non-interventionism he supported the antiwar America First Committee, which opposed American aid to Britain in its war against Germany, and resigned his commission in the United States Army Air Forces in 1941 after President Franklin Roosevelt publicly rebuked him for his views. Nevertheless, he publicly supported the U.S. war effort after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and flew fifty combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant, though Roosevelt refused to reinstate his Air Corps colonel's commission.
In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist.
Lindbergh and his wife, the former Anne Morrow, were the parents of six children. He fathered seven more children as a result of several covert adulterous affairs with three German women (two from Bavaria, one from East Prussia) beginning in 1957 when he was 55 years old. In 2003, twenty-nine years after Lindbergh's death and two years after his wife died, one of those children, Astrid Hesshaimer, revealed the story of Lindbergh's affairs to the world.