Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974) was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the 33 1⁄2-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. This was not the first flight between North America and Europe, but he did achieve the first solo transatlantic flight and the first non-stop flight between North America and the European mainland. Lindbergh was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, and he received the United States' highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for the feat.Lindbergh's achievement spurred interest in both commercial aviation and air mail, and he devoted much time and effort to promoting such activity. But his historic flight and celebrity status also led to tragedy. In March 1932, his infant son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what American media called the "Crime of the Century" and was described by H. L. Mencken as "the biggest story since the Resurrection". The case prompted the United States Congress to establish kidnapping as a federal crime once the kidnapper had crossed state lines with their victim. By late 1935, the hysteria surrounding the case had driven the Lindbergh family into voluntary exile in Europe, from which they returned in 1939.
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