On this date in 1932, Charles Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from the family’s home in East Amwell, New Jersey.
Here are some things you may not have known about the kidnapping.
Charles Lindbergh became a national hero in 1927 when he was the first person to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. For this feat, the U.S. Congress bent its own rules and awarded Lindbergh the Medal of Honor. He also won the Orteig Prize, which came with a reward of $25,000, or roughly $350,000 today. Lindbergh was named Time magazine’s first Man of the Year.
Five years after his historic flight, the Lindbergh family was at home in New Jersey, when Charles Jr. was found to be missing from his crib. Lindbergh told investigators he found a note in an envelope on the window sill. During the initial investigation, police found a single tire track in the mud and three pieces of a ladder in a bush.
The ransom note, which was filled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, demanded $50,000 for the safe return of the child. The case drew the top law enforcement officials of the day, including the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, H. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., the father of the general who led U.S. forces in the first Gulf War. The Lindbergh family and officials offered a $75,000 reward. A second ransom note upped the kidnappers’ demand to $70,000 because of the involvement of the police.
A retired teacher in the Bronx named John Condon offered a $1,000 reward of his own, which resulted in him receiving a letter written by the kidnappers, asking him to act as a go-between for the kidnappers and Lindbergh. Condon met with a person who claimed to be affiliated with the kidnappers and demanded proof that they had the child. The group sent him the pajamas the toddler was wearing the night of the kidnapping. On April 1, Condon made arrangements to hand over the ransom money to the kidnappers. In return, the kidnappers handed him a note which said the child was being held on a boat off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Searchers were unable to find the boat.
More than a month later, on May 12, the body of Charles Lindbergh Jr. was found less than five miles from the family’s home. Lindbergh Sr. identified the body and the child was cremated the same day. A coroner determined the toddler had died of a blow to the head about two months prior.
The ransom money paid to the kidnappers was made up of gold certificates, a type of paper money that was set to be withdrawn from circulation. Law enforcement hoped this would draw attention to anyone passing large numbers of the bills. The serial number of each bill was also recorded.
More than two years later, one of the gold certificates was discovered by a bank teller in Manhattan. It had a license plate number written on it, which belonged to a Dodge sedan owned by Richard Hauptmann of the Bronx. Hauptmann was found to have more than $14,000 of the random money. He said a friend and former business partner had left the money with him before he died. He denied any knowledge of the crime or ransom scheme.
During a search of Hauptmann’s home, police found a notebook containing a sketch of a ladder similar to the one found at the Lindbergh home on the night of the kidnapping. They also found John Condon’s telephone number written on a closet wall. They also found that a piece of wood in the attic of the house matched the wood used in the ladder.
Hauptmann was arrested and charged with kidnapping, extortion and murder. He was convicted on all charges and sentenced to death. He continued to proclaim his innocence, until he was executed by electrocution on April 3, 1936.
The Lindberghs moved to Europe for three years following the trial, returning to the U.S. in 1939. In 1940, Charles Lindbergh became involved with the America First movement, which pushed for American neutrality in World War II. This, combined with accusations of antisemitism and a stated belief in eugenics, led to the widespread belief that he was a Nazi sympathizer. Despite this, after the United States became involved in the war he served as a technical adviser for U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater.
He spent his later years in Hawaii, where he died on August 26, 1974. He was 72 years old.
Our question: Who played Charles Lindbergh in the movie “The Spirit of St. Louis”?
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