On June 11, 1927, Charles Lindbergh received the first Distinguished Flying Cross ever awarded. Since 1927, aviators honored with this medal have included World War II pilots President George Bush, Senator George McGovern, and astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom who flew one hundred missions during the Korean War.
Lindbergh’s nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1927, made aeronautical history. The stunt-flyer-turned-airmail-pilot’s flight was underwritten by a group of St. Louis businessmen. Flying his monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh captured the $25,000 prize offered for the first flight between New York and Paris.
“Lucky Lindy’s” arrival in Paris after thirty-three-and-one-half hours in the air was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. At the award ceremony in Washington, D.C., President Calvin Coolidge remarked:
On a morning just three weeks ago yesterday, this wholesome, earnest, fearless, courageous product of America rose into the air from Long Island in a monoplane christened “The Spirit of St. Louis” in honor of his home and that of his supporters. It was no haphazard adventure. After months of most careful preparation, supported by a valiant character, driven by an unconquerable will and inspired by the imagination and the spirit of his Viking ancestors, this reserve officer set wing across the dangerous stretches of the North Atlantic. He was alone. His destination was Paris. Thirty-three hours and thirty minutes later, in the evening of the second day, he landed at his destination on the French flying field at Le Bourget. He had traveled over 3,600 miles and established a new and remarkable record. The execution of his project was a perfect exhibition of art.
Calvin Coolidge. “Address…Bestowing Upon Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh the Distinguished Flying Cross.” Washington, D.C., June 11, 1927. Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929
Coolidge went on to commend Lindbergh’s “absence of self-acclaim, [his] refusal to become commercialized, which has marked the conduct of this sincere and genuine exemplar of fine and noble virtues.”
From Washington, Lindbergh traveled to New York City where he was honored with a ticker tape parade. Over the next several months Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis visited eighty-two cities in forty-eight states. Hailed as a national hero, Lindbergh became an influential spokesperson for the emerging aviation industry.
Following his record-breaking flight, Lindbergh married Anne Spencer Morrow in 1929; she became a well-known author. Their life together was marked in its early years by the avid attention of the public and the press and by the notorious kidnapping and murder of their son, Charles Augustus Jr. in 1932.
Later in his life, Lindbergh was a consultant to commercial airline companies and became a wildlife conservationist. He worked for both the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. His Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis (1953), describes his historic flight. Charles Lindbergh died on August 26, 1974. Today, Lindbergh’s planeExternal is displayed at the National Air and Space MuseumExternal.
- See more photographs of the man and his plane. Search the collection Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 on Lindbergh and Spirit of St. Louis.
- Search on the name Lindbergh in the collections: History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library External and Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, 1902-1933 to find related images.
- Learn more about the early years of flight by exploring The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress.
- Known as “Lady Lindy,” Amelia Earhart made her solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1932. In 1935, she became the first person to complete the even longer flight from Hawaii to California. Palmist Nellie Simmons Meie prepared an Earhart palm print and character analysis in June 1933. This unusual document is available through the collection Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division’s First 100 Years.