“Never in my life have I seen anything like that human sea. Dozens of hands took hold of me, my legs, my arms, my body. I found myself on top of the crowd, in the center of an ocean of heads that extended as far out into the darkness as I could see.” Charles A. Lindbergh recalled the galvanized moments following the landing of his plane at the end of his 33.5-hour historical journey.
The 25-year-old pilot of the U.S. Air Mail landed at Le Bourget Airport, Paris, in the evening of May 21, 1927 after finishing his pioneering, solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic. A 25 thousand dollar reward was offered for accomplishing the great challenge that had already claimed the lives of six. Lindberg was welcomed by the crowd of 150 thousand at the airport. Following the successful touchdown, the new hero of the USA, dubbed “Lone Eagle,” spent the night at the U.S. Embassy in Paris in a pair of pajamas borrowed from the ambassador.
Lindbergh’s aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis, laden with fuel, had taken off from a muddy runway near New York at 7:52 a.m. on May 20, 1927. Without radio and parachute, Lindbergh could only rely on his map and compass; yet, the greatest challenge for him was his own tiredness. When the Spirit of St. Louis ascended into the sky, Lindbergh had already been awake for 23 hours since the previous night his sleep had been disturbed by a midnight poker game – not to mention the tension growing inside him as the time of departure approached. Despite his constant fight with fatigue – Lindbergh constantly had to force himself to keep his eyes open and even plunged into hallucinations, seeing ghosts floating in the air – he successfully touched down on the other end of the Atlantic.
The epic journey made Lindbergh a celebrated hero and he received nearly 100 thousand telegrams and 3.5 million letters praising his impressive deed. American President Calvin Coolidge sent a warship for him, and his groundbreaking flight was depicted in numerous poems as well. Lindbergh was showered with gifts: a plane, a German shepherd and even a lifetime pass to the American major league baseball games. The annual “Man of the Year” issue of Time magazine debuted with Lindbergh in 1927, and on the top of everything else “Lucky Lindy” also received America’s highest military award – the Medal of Honor – the same year.
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