Speeches as President (1923-1929)

Address Bestowing Upon Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh
the Distinguished Flying Cross

Washington, DC | June 11, 1927

My Fellow Countrymen:

It was in America that the modern art of flying a heavier-than-air machines was first developed. As the experiments became successful, the airplane was devoted to practical purposes. It has been adapted to commerce in the transportation of passengers and mail and used for national defense by our land and sea forces. Beginning with a limited flying radius, its length has been gradually extended. We have made many flying records. Our Army flyers have circumnavigated the globe. One of our Navy men started from California and flew far enough to have reached Hawaii, but being off his course landed in the water. Another officer of the Navy has flown to the North Pole. Our own country has been traversed from shore to shore in a single flight.

It had been apparent for some time that the next great feat in the air would be a continuous flight from the mainland of America to the mainland of Europe. Two courageous Frenchmen made the reverse attempt and passed to a fate that is as yet unknown. Others were speeding their preparations to make the trial, but it remained for an unknown youth to tempt the elements and win. It is the same story of valor and victory by a son of the people that shines through every page of American history.

Twenty-five years ago there was born in Detroit, Mich., a boy, representing the best traditions of this country, of a stock known for its deeds of adventure and exploration. His father, moved with a desire for public service, was a Member of Congress for several terms. His mother, who dowered her son with her own modesty and charm, is with us to-day. Engaged in the vital profession of school-teaching, she has permitted neither money nor fame to interfere with her fidelity to her duties. Too young to have enlisted in the World War, her son became a student at one of the big State universities. His interest in aviation led him to an Army aviation school; and in 1925 he was graduated as an airplane pilot. In November, 1926, he had reached the rank of captain in the Officers’ Reserve Corps. Making his home in St. Louis, he had joined the One hundred and tenth Observation Squadron of the Missouri National Guard. Some of his qualities noted by the Army officers who examined him for promotion, as shown by reports in the files of the Militia Bureau of the War Department, are as follows: “Intelligent”, “industrious,” “energetic,” “dependable,” “purposeful,” “alert,” “quick of reaction,” “serious,” “deliberate,” “stable,” “efficient,” “frank,” “modest,” “congenial,” “a man of good moral habits and regular in all his business transactions.” One of the officers expressed his belief that the young man “would successfully complete everything he undertakes.” This reads like a prophecy.

Later he became connected with the United States Mail Service, where he exhibited marked ability, and from which he is now on leave of absence.

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.

This country will always remember the way in which he was received by the people of France, by their President, and by their Government. It was the more remarkable because they were mourning the disappearance of their intrepid countrymen, who had tried to span the Atlantic on a western flight.

Our messenger of peace and good will had broken down another barrier of time and space and brought two great peoples into closer communion. In less than a day and a half he had crossed the ocean over which Columbus had traveled for 69 days, and the Pilgrim Fathers for 66 days, on their way to the New World. But, above all, in showering applause and honors upon this genial, modest, American youth, with the naturalness, the simplicity, and the poise of true greatness, France had the opportunity to show clearly her good will for America and our people. With like acclaim and evidences of cordial friendship our ambassador without portfolio was received by the rulers, the governments, and the peoples of England and Belgium. From other nations came hearty messages of admiration for him and for his country. For these manifold evidences of friendship we are profoundly grateful.

The absence of self-acclaim, the refusal to become commercialized, which has marked the conduct of this sincere and genuine exemplar of fine and noble virtues, has endeared him to everyone. He has returned unspoiled. Particularly has it been delightful to have him refer to his airplane as somehow possessing a personality and being equally entitled to credit with himself, for we are proud that in every particular this silent partner represented American genius and industry. I am told that more than 100 separate companies furnished materials, parts, or service in its construction.

And now, my fellow citizens, this young man has returned. He is here. He has brought his unsullied fame home. It is our great privilege to welcome back to his native land, on behalf of his own people, who have a deep affection for him and have been thrilled by this splendid achievement, a colonel of the United States Officers’ Reserve Corps, an illustrious citizen of our Republic, a conqueror of the air and strengthener of the ties which bind us to our sister nations across the sea, and, as President of the United States, I bestow of distinguished flying cross, as a symbol of appreciation for what he is and what he has done, upon Col. Charles A. Lindbergh.

Citation: John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters,The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=426