The Smear Terror - John T. Flynn

V. The 'Lindbergh Project'

Let us now have a look at the Friends of Democracy as it got down to business around 1940.

A good example of the work or Birkhead and Stout in the field of defamation is what they called the "Lindbergh Project." To make this incident clear I must first tell briefly a story about Lindbergh. In 1936 Lindbergh was in Europe studying aviation problems. In Berlin the American Embassy was trying to get information about Hitler's war preparations. It learned plenty about the army and navy but could get nothing reliable about Hitler's air program. Colonel Truman Smith, U. S. military attaché at the Embassy, did not know Lindbergh but wrote to him at London asking him to come to Berlin and help him. Lindbergh gladly complied. Colonel Smith figured that, because of Lindbergh's great reputation and Goering's vanity, the latter might like to show off his air power. Colonel Smith submitted his plan to the Army and received its full approval.

On his arrival in Berlin, Lindbergh was introduced to Goering by Colonel Smith. Lindbergh expressed a desire to see what Goering was doing in plane production. Goering proceeded to entertain Lindbergh extensively and to escort him around to German airfields and factories. Lindbergh was allowed to fly in their planes and study them. He had stipulated that a United States army officer must accompany him everywhere and this was done. As a result Colonel Smith was enabled, with Lindbergh's collaboration, to write an impressive report on Germany's rising air power.

But the report was not complete. Lindbergh had not seen everything. The next year—1937—the Germans were preparing for the Olympic games. Again Colonel Smith figured that the Germans would pay a high price for another visit from Lindbergh because they were anxious to put their best foot forward. They agreed that if Lindbergh came they would show him the rest of their air armament. Before Lindbergh left Berlin, Colonel Smith, with the information thus obtained, was able to prepare a voluminous report putting into the hands of our Army the fullest information of Hitler's great air power—and for the first time. I have a copy of that report. It contains a sketch of every airfield, every plane factory, with the number and types of planes based or made at each one and the fullest information about the planes, engines, etc.

The whole purpose of these visits was to get these hitherto concealed facts for the purpose of arousing France, Britain and the United States to the pressing need of arming in the air. It was a patriotic commission by Lindbergh for his government, executed with great skill and success and without any compensation or reward.

Lindbergh's next visit to Berlin was in 1938 at which time has was handed the medal by Goering which has been so cruelly used against him. In 1938 Lindbergh did not go to Berlin for information. Thanks to him his government and Britain had that in full. He went upon another mission. I am not at liberty to tell it here. One day it will be revealed and then those who so shamefully traduced him will have ample reason to blush with shame. Suffice it to say he was there in the interest of Hitler's enemies. The American Ambassador was eager to talk with Goering, but the latter evaded him. The Ambassador felt that if he tendered a dinner to Goering and had Lindbergh present, Goering would come. He did come. Lindbergh knew the reason for the invitation and when Goering arrived and presented a medal to the surprised Lindbergh, what was he to do? His business was with Goering. It was of supreme importance to the allies. Of course he could do nothing about the medal and to this day Lindbergh has refused to permit the story of that mission to be told. But the time will come shortly when this can be safely done.

Lindbergh opposed our entry into the war. His speeches were models of sobriety and tolerant reasoning. He attacked no one. However, someone decided that something must be done about Lindbergh. He was delivered over to the formula: "Don't argue with him; smear him. And Birkhead and Stout were entrusted with the task.

I have in my possession a document entitled: "Report on the Status of the Lindbergh Project." It went from Rex Stout to persons who were asked to put up the money for the job. It outlined various other "projects"—programs for destroying various other reputations. It pointed out that the techniques evolved in these cases would be used in the Lindbergh Project. The report said:

"Now we have completed the groundwork for applying this technique to Lindbergh. Because of the nation-wide ramifications it is the most ambitious project we have undertaken."

Rex Stout wrote to contributors:

"It will take time and money to destroy Lindbergh politically. But it will take only a little of your time to read the enclosed report. . . . As for money probably you can't spare easily $10 or $25 or $50—but the return of Lindbergh to the seclusion he used to crave is of vital importance to all decent Americans. . . . A check or money order to Friends of Democracy . . . will be a nail in Lindbergh's political coffin."

At another point the report said:

"The Lihdbergh Project, although the most militant at the moment, is only one of several projects now under way. . . . This project, and many others must remain unrealized until we are provided with the necessary funds. . . The Lindbergh Project will require at least $15,000."

Here was a coldly calculated plan for destroying the reputation of an honorable man with whom Birkhead and Stout disagreed. How did they proceed?

Birkhead and Stout took the episode of Lindbergh's visit to Germany and completely distorted the facts. Lindbergh went at the request of his own government. Birkhead and Stout pictured him going as the friend of Goering and Goebbels. His report on the strength of the German air force they treated as a lie told by Lindbergh to Chamberlain and the British in the interest of "his Nazi friends" to frighten the British. His opposition to American entry into the war they described as an effort to save his Nazi friends from defeat. They showed pictures of him giving a Nazi salute. These were photographs of Lindbergh at an American meeting using the traditional salute employed by the American Legion and all American school children in reciting the pledge to the flag. They showed photographs of him in company with Goering and other Nazi leaders, some taken in the American Embassy at a reception to these men given by American officials. A more dastardly crime against the good name of a fine American cannot be conceived.

Lindbergh's Reward

Of course Lindbergh was pictured as anti-semitic because he was pilloried as the "friend of Hitler and Goering," The object of the whole enterprise was to arouse the Jewish population against Lindbergh. It was eminently successful. The Jewish people, Jewish organizations by the score, Jewish leaders poured out upon Lindbergh's head from January to December, 1941, a flood of abuse such as few men have had to endure. He was called a traitor to his country. All this Lindbergh received for having performed a service of signal importance to his country at the request of its official representatives.

I suggest that interested students reread the speeches which Lindbergh made prior to October, 1941. He did not utter a single word in condemnation or criticism of the Jews. It was not until October, after this storm of hatred had beaten upon his head for nearly a year, that he made any reply. A man of less calm and sober spirit would have been roused to furious invective. He bore it with patience and forbearance. No one can blame the Jewish population in general for believing that Lindbergh was an enemy of the Jews. They were told so daily by the Birkheads and the Stouts, and Franklin D, Roosevelt added his contribution by calling him a "copperhead"—though Roosevelt knew as well as anybody the truth about Lindbergh's visit to Germany. When Lindbergh finally said that the "Jews were seeking to take us into the war," he also added a word of sympathy for the persecutions they had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, saying that they would be less than human if they were not aroused by it.

When we were finally brought into the war, Birkhead and Stout continued their persecution of Lindbergh and others. Lindbergh himself immediately gave his services to his country, made great contributions to the efficiency of the air force and actually flew in air combat, without ever receiving any other reward for his services than the approval of his own loyal heart, while his detractors here continued their pursuit, some of them making rich financial rewards from it.