Why Charles Lindbergh Was Once Given An Award By The Nazis

Charles Lindbergh is one of the earliest heroes of aviation, captivating headlines around the world for his trans-Atlantic flight and becoming one of the first modern celebrities. Of course, his good looks, dramatic personal life, and controversial political leanings only added to the public's fascination with the pilot. Much of that controversy stemmed from his connections to Nazism, encouraging eugenics, U.S. isolationism, and negotiations with Hitler, followed by anti-Semitic remarks, according to PBS.

A big contributor to Lindbergh's fall from grace was his acceptance of a Nazi medal, the Service Cross of the German Eagle bestowed on behalf of Hitler by Hermann Goering to Lindbergh in 1938, according to the Riverfront Times. The medal was presented under the guise of his meaningful contributions to aviation, but was undoubtedly influenced by Lindbergh's vocal support of American isolationism and constant admiration for Germany's military prowess, both of which would have likely pleased Hitler.

Lindbergh spied on the Germans

According to UPI, Charles Lindbergh functioned as a spy for the Allies against Germany, as Goering and other high-ranking Nazi officials were happy for the celebrity pilot to examine and compliment the Third Reich's air force. The pilot made four trips to Hitler's domain and helped write two reports for military intelligence, describing planes that had not been shown to any other foreigners; Lindbergh was not only shown some of these secret German aircraft, he was allowed to fly them. A later report claimed that Lindbergh was always working for the Allies, and had only accepted the Nazi medal, so he wouldn't offend.

To say that Lindbergh's personal views did not line up with the Nazis is incorrect, however. The pilot was enamored with Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who was also a proponent of eugenics, the act of weeding out "weaker" members of the population that Hitler based much of his beliefs on. Lindbergh echoed these largely racist and ableist ideals, and would later criticize President Roosevelt for wanting to go to war with the Nazis; he even singled out the Jewish population as an enemy of America (via PBS). While he was able to reconstitute his public profile by the end of his life, it might be hard to believe that he really objected to the medal appointed to him on behalf of Adolf Hitler.