Lindbergh Helps 5th Air Force






visits since 10 September 2000




Lindbergh left North Island, San Diego on 24 April 1944 headed for the South Pacific as a technician, which allowed him to observe combat, but not to become involved and fire his guns.


However Lindbergh flew more than a dozen combat missions against Japanese targets on New Ireland and New Britain. The missions involved strafing runs and the dive bombing of Japanese troops at the bases of Rabaul and Kavieng. On 29 May 1944, he dropped a 500 lbs high explosive bomb on Kavieng, hitting a strip of buildings along the beach.


After spending some time flying with Navy and Marine pilots, he then decided to move to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) to observe P-38's in real combat action. He contacted his friend General Ennis Whitehead who invited him to Hollandia.




Charles Lindbergh (2nd from left) on Emirau Island May 1944

Can anyone identify the other persons in the above photograph?


Apparently Lindbergh had hitched a lift into New Guinea, arriving at Finschhafen on 15 June 1944. On 26 June 1944, he interrupted a game of checkers to introduce himself to Charles MacDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 475th Fighter Group ( "Satan's Angels"). Lindbergh met with General Whitehead at Nadzab on about 1 July 1944.


MacDonald allowed Lindbergh to go on his first mission the following day to Jefman Island and Samate, regular targets for the 475th Fighter Group. There were 4 aircraft, lead by MacDonald himself. Lindbergh's company in the other two aircraft were Fighter Aces, Thomas McGuire and Meryl Smith. Lindbergh strafed an enemy barge in Kaiboes Bay during that mission, whilst weaving his way through the ack-ack barrage.


After several more bombing missions, the 475th's crew chief noticed that Lindbergh's P-38 usually returned with much more fuel left than any other aircraft. MacDonald introduced Lindbergh to the rest of the group and asked him to explain why he would always return with more fuel left than the rest of the group.


Lindbergh explained that by raising manifold pressure and lowering engine revolutions, the P-38 would use much less fuel, thus allowing a great combat radius for the same fuel load. Over the next few weeks the 3 squadrons of the 475th Fighter Group found they could extend their 6 to 8 hours missions out to 10 hours, allowing them to strike deeper into Japanese territory. In this time Lindbergh flew 25 missions for 90 hours of combat flying. This was more missions than would have been expected from a regular combat pilot. He dive-bombed enemy positions, sank Japanese barges, patrolled allied landing forces on Noemfoor Island and was shot at by nearly every Japanese anti-aircraft gun in western New Guinea.


On 4 July 1944, General George C. Kenney, the Commander of the 5th Air Force, heard from a War Correspondent that Colonel Charles Lindbergh was in New Guinea. Apparently no one in General Headquarters was aware of Lindbergh's presence in New Guinea. Kenney asked General Whitehead in New Guinea to get a message to Lindbergh to say that he would like to see him in his Brisbane office.


Lindbergh arrived in Brisbane the following day and met with Kenney. He told Kenney he was in New Guinea to investigate new ideas for fighter aircraft design. He was particularly interested in the P-38 Lockheed Lightning. Lindbergh had an association with an aircraft company and he had obtained permission from the US Navy Department to visit the South Pacific Area.


As he did not have "legal permission" to be in the SWPA theatre of war, Kenny decided he should legitimise Lindbergh's presence in the SWPA by introducing him to General Douglas MacArthur. When MacArthur asked Lindbergh if there was anything he could do for him, Kenney butted in and indicated that he had an important job for Lindbergh. He advised that he wanted Lindbergh to get more operational radius from his P-38 Lightnings. If he could fly a little monoplane all the way from New York to Paris and have gas left over, he should be able to help his P-38 pilots in the 5th Air Force. MacArthur agreed that Lindbergh should help.


Once back in Kenney's office, Lindbergh indicated that he could increase the operational radius of the P-38s by almost 50%. Their current radius of operation was 400 miles. Lindbergh was hoping to increase this to 600 miles. Kenney told Lindbergh that he did not want him to be involved in any combat missions. It would not be good news if he were to be shot down or captured by the Japs.


He went to New Guinea and spent most of his time with Colonel Charles H. MacDonald's 475th Fighter Group at Biak. Lindbergh flew mainly with the 433rd Fighter Squadron (Possum Squadron) of the 475th Fighter Group.


Within 6 weeks the 600 miles radius was achieved, with 800 miles as a new possible target to achieve.


On 28 July 1944, near Ceram, Lindbergh shot down a Ki-51 Sonia of the 73rd Independent Flying Chutai flown by Captain Saburo Shimada. Lindbergh was nearly shot down himself on 1 August 1944 near Palaus.


Lindbergh returned to USA in mid August 1944.




Charles Lindbergh in the cockpit of a

"J" model P-38 Lockheed Lightning at Hollandia in July 1944


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