Magnificent Inscribed Photograph to General “Hap” Arnold Just Prior to the Outbreak of WWII
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LINDBERGH, CHARLES A. (1902-1974). American aviator and the first to make a solo non-stop transatlantic flight. SP. (“Charles A. Lindbergh”). 1p. Small folio (mat size: 11” x 14”, image size: 7½” x 9½”). N.p., July 1939. Inscribed toCommanding General of the Army Air Forces, HENRY HARLEY “HAP” ARNOLD (1886-1950). A stunning black-and-white bust photograph of Lindbergh in his uniform displaying the silver eagle insignia of the rank of colonel. Inscribed in dark black ink in the light, lower right portion of the image.
Exhausted by the publicity surrounding the tragic kidnapping and murder of their infant son four years earlier, Anne and Charles Lindbergh retreated to England in early 1936; a move that afforded him the opportunity to closely observe the continent’s major air forces. “He was most impressed, perhaps inordinately so, with the Luftwaffe, and warned both public officials and private citizens in the West of Germany’s current and potential air power,” (DAB). Among those he contacted was Arnold, then chief of the Air Corps, whom he urged to “visit Germany immediately to assess the military situation there for himself,” (Lindbergh, Berg). While Lindbergh made arrangements to return on a fact-finding mission, Kristallnacht, Germany’s worst pogrom up to that date, shocked the world. The press criticized Lindbergh for his plans to return to Germany and for his recent acceptance of the Service Cross of the German Eagle bestowed on him by Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering.
As Lindbergh was returning to the U.S., Arnold summoned Lindbergh mid-voyage asking that he contact him immediately upon his April 1939 return. Meeting at West Point, “Lindbergh and Arnold discussed the European situation. Acknowledging that Lindbergh had already supplied what Arnold called ‘the training methods, and present defects’… the General spoke of a new mission for Lindbergh. Meeting again two days later in Washington, Arnold asked if Lindbergh would go on active duty and ‘make a study of an attempt to increase the efficiency of American [aeronautical] research organizations.’ The next morning Lindbergh accepted the call to active duty, as a Colonel in the Army Air Corps” and began to assist in developing a long range bomber,(ibid.). He met with President Roosevelt and then “embarked on a three-week inspection tour with twenty-three stops. Through the summer he traveled, visiting laboratories, educational facilities, factories, and airfields from coast to coast… At General Arnold’s request, he also sat on a board charged with revising the Air Corps’ research-and-development program and proposing specifications for military aircraft that could be procured within the next five years… Lindbergh accepted only two weeks of pay for his months of government work,” (ibid.).
Lindbergh’s assessment of Germany’s threat and his new assignment did not, however, alter his conviction that America should stay out of European affairs. After preparing remarks to that effect for a radio address to be delivered on September 15, 1939, Lindbergh spoke to Arnold who “recognized the strength of Lindbergh’s commitment and therefore suggested that he discontinue his current ‘inactive-active’ status in the Air Corps so long as he was taking an active role in politics. Lindbergh concurred. Anxious not to embarrass the Air Corps, he offered a copy of his speech for Arnold to read. The General found that ‘it contained nothing which could in any way be construed as unethical’ due to Lindbergh’s connection with the Air Corps; and he felt that Lindbergh was ‘fully within [his] rights as an American citizen’ to broadcast the remarks,” (ibid).
By 1940, Lindbergh had become one of the most prominent members of the newly formed America First Committee, a group that advocated America’s complete abstention from the war in Europe – a stance they recanted four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Lindbergh’s involvement with the organization and his isolationist speeches stymied his attempts to aid the war effort. Shortly after Pearl Harbor he contacted Arnold again offering his services, a fact which Arnold announced in a radio address. However, “Lindbergh had no idea to what extent politics had been the controlling factor” in the fate of his involvement, (ibid.). After getting no response to his offer, he finally met with Arnold and the assistant secretary of war. He wrote letters to President Roosevelt. But not only was he denied a military commission by FDR himself, but the president also dissuaded aviation manufacturers from working with Lindbergh. “With billions of dollars in defense contracts waiting to be dispensed, no manufacturing company in America could afford to offend the Administration,” (ibid.). Finally, in 1942, Lindbergh became an advisor to Henry Ford who was manufacturing the B-24 “Liberator” bomber. The following year he became a consultant to United Aircraft and, as their civilian technical advisor in the Pacific Theater, accompanied marines on 50 combat missions.
Commissioned into the infantry after graduating from West Point, Arnold’s interest in aviation prompted him to transfer to the Signal Corps where he received flight instruction from the Wright brothers. He became one of the Signal Corps’ Aeronautical Division’s first flight instructors and broke a number of aviation records. He was in the midst of organizing his first command, the 7th Aero Squadron, when the United States entered World War I. As a result, Arnold became the youngest colonel in the Army, and in that capacity greatly advanced the Army’s use of airplanes. After the war, he continued to oversee research and development but his career advancement was delayed by a political struggle over which armed service should oversee aviation. Finally, in 1938, President Roosevelt appointed him chief of the Army Air Corps. Although Arnold was occasionally at odds with FDR (such as after the 1939 repeal of the Neutrality Act when he objected to Roosevelt’s diverting aircraft to Britain), he found in the president a staunch ally in his goal to build up the U.S. Army’s air defenses. By 1942, Roosevelt had eschewed the chain of command to seek out Arnold’s advice on a variety of strategic matters. “Arnold had earned Roosevelt’s confidence, even admiration. Both leaders shared the trait of believing their subordinates could will themselves to accomplish much more, insisting they set their objectives much higher,” (“Commander in Chief,” Air Force Magazine, Wolk). With FDR’s backing, Arnold was able to aggressively pursue development of a B-29 program, which dramatically influenced the course of the war.
Archivally matted and framed. In virtually mint condition and an historic association!
TIME magazine June 19, 1939 cover showing Lindbergh in uniform
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