Over the next year Washington loosened a bit. Lindbergh’s undeniable expertise with aircraft and pilots thawed the bans against him. Indeed, his diary shows an enormously busy schedule of test flights that solved pressing problems of new aircraft. In that process the Lone Eagle flew, and came to know well, almost every combat craft in the U.S. inventory. But Lindbergh hungered for combat and as early as January 1944 had made inquiries as to that possibility. The Marines responded first. Cautiously, a tour of Corsair bases in the Pacific was arranged.
In April a friendly U-S- Navy sanctioned and covered Lindbergh’s trip. He would go to their theater, the Pacific, as a civilian technical assistant. Neither the White House nor even Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox knew of this trip. After kitting up with Navy uniforms from Brook; Brothers (sans any insignia) and taking the usual rounds of shots, Lindbergh left San Diego for the War Zone.
By March he had already regularly contacted the United Aircraft Corporation, producer of the F4U Corsair, and had agreed to act as its liaison in the field. Once situated at Guadalcanal, South Pacific Area, he corrected problems of the “bent-winged bird” established better communications between United Aircraft and the Marines.
There, local Marine officers consented to take Lindbergh on a patrol to Rabaul, the first of fourteen combat missions he would fly with the Corps. With the exception of air-to-air combat, Lindbergh flew patrol, escort, strafing, and dive-bombing assignments- As would later occur with the Army Air Forces, officers winked at his extraordinary activities by according him “observer status.” Lindbergh concluded his business on the Canal. By 15 June he landed at Finschafen bound for the 475th Fighter Group.
Charles Lindbergh on Emirau Island, May 1944. The plane is an F4U, earlier nicknamed “the Dippy-Winged Widow Maker”, because of erratic flying characteristics during its development.
The next day Colonel Robert L. Morrissey briefed Lindbergh on the Lightning. For all his flying experience he had never flown the P-38. A major motivation for the civilian’s trip to New Guinea centered around United Aircraft’s interest in the feasibility of a new twin-engined fighter. The P-38 was the sole American representative of that genre. He had heard that the 475th was a hot Lightning outfit so Lindbergh sought to learn from the best.
He announced his presence to V Fighter Command at Nadzab. -Colonel Merian C. Cooper lunched with Lindbergh and on Sunday. evening, 18 June, the civilian dined with Whitehead, talking of New Guinea developments and, doubtless, Lindbergh’s plans. This proved later insufficient for proper authorization in the theater. On Tuesday he got in an hour and twenty minutes Lightning time with 35th Squadron, 8th Group. A week later Lindbergh flew to Hollandia and walked in on MacDonald and Smith’s checker game.
After obtaining permission to accompany the group on the next day’s mission, Lindbergh retreated to V Fighter Command Headquarters only to be retrieved later by MacDonald. The mission, explained the colonel, would launch at dawn. It would be better to rest at the 475th camp and cut down transportation problems. Lindbergh agreed.
Meanwhile the “word” spread quickly. Lindbergh was among Satan’s Angels. In the 433rd camp, First Lieutenant Carroll R. “Andy” Anderson tried to summon up enough strength to write a long overdue letter to his wife, Virginia Marie. Suddenly friend C.J. Rieman popped in and announced, “Charles A. Lindbergh is going to fly with us!” Letters were quickly forgotten.
The next day’s mission was………..