Maj. Gen. Earl L. Johnson Story

How I First Met Charles Lindbergh

Page 4 of 4 Pages

Lunch and More Airplanes

After we had dried out a little we came to a small open-air sandwich place on the eastern shore of Guam and it seemed to be time for lunch. We pulled in and sat outdoors at a wooden-table and ordered something. By this time Lindbergh was doing most of the talking. I had always heard he was known as “Silent Lindy” or words to that effect, but not this day. He couldn’t keep from talking.

“Sea Breeze Restaurant” where Lindbergh and I had lunch. It is located on the eastern shore of Guam and near the southern end of the island.

A lot of our conversation was about flying and not in B-29’s or the modern airplanes of 1948, but about old Jenney’s, gliders, Waco’s, Eaglerock’s, Travelair’s, and the airplanes of his youth when I was merely a kid in knickers. At one point he asked me if I had “ever landed an airplane while looking at the tail”. I told him I hadn’t, but I guessed it could be done with a little practice. He said, “I used to do it a lot in an old OX-5 Eaglerock. It took some practice but I finally got pretty good at it. What you need to do is start looking at the tail the last fifty feet or so before touchdown and keep looking as long as you can, then finally you will feel confident to look backwards clear through the touchdown and until you stop.”

I could tell he was getting a real thrill out of telling me how he had finally mastered this feat. About all I could say was, “I’m sure you took several quick glances up ahead to see there were no cows or horses out in front of you.” He laughed and said, “you bet I did, but you’d be surprised how you could make a good, three-point landing looking backwards.”

Lindbergh Had Deep Thoughts

I don’t know what got him started but at one point in our Christmas Day together some 54 years ago, he made a statement to me which I will never forget. As this is written in the year 2002, it is almost eerie what he said in 1948, given the terrible “War of Terror” which has been turned loose on the civilized world. As best as I can remember, this is what he said: “I think my flight to Paris came too soon for the civilizations of the world. They were suddenly thrown together by air travel and they weren’t quite ready for it.”

To hear such a statement from my “boyhood hero” was shocking to say the least, although it would take me another 54-years to understand what he meant. But what he said required some comment so I think I mumbled about as follows: “Well sir, there were several other flyers about to attempt that same flight and you just happened to do it first.” He had to agree with that statement so we dropped the subject. But I could tell that he was bothered by what he had done which one has to admit has changed the so-called “civilized” world in which we live.

I have thought about this memorable Christmas Day many times over the years and decided that it was about time that I write it down for posterity. Not many are as privileged as I was to get to spend a whole day with their boyhood hero as I was with Charles Lindbergh.

Earl L. Johnson
Maj. Gen. USAF (Ret)

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