Any idea? Does it help if I throw in the Spirit of St Louis and the artificial heart?
However much I try to avoid it, Aviation seems to find a way to slip into every aspect of my life. I should just give in and accept that Aeronautics are now as much a part of my life as writing and reading. For example in the search for a birthday present for the OH (big 4 0 is just around the corner) I discovered an aviation related connection to the timepiece. With him being an avid fan of the military watch I began my online search using those terms and came across a historical timeline of the military watch at http://www.thewatchgallery.com/magazine . Thinking it may be of interest I watched it and interesting was an understatement. Did you know that revered pilot and U.S Army Air Corps Reserve Officer Charles Lindbergh was the inventor of the rotating bezel? It was sure news to me!
Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902-1974) is probably best known for his solo flight from New York to Paris in a custom-built monoplane named Spirit of St. Louis. This 3,600 mile trip made him the first person to be in America one day and France the next, long before Concorde took to our skies. This 33 ½ hour flight also earned him the honour of the nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of honour (he was later awarded the Service Cross of the German Eagle by Goering himself but that’s a tale for another time). This amazing feat certainly put flying on the map and made Lindbergh into a household name and national hero.
However this was by no means his only foray into the world of aviation. Having begun his flying life in 1922 as passenger in a Lincoln Standard ‘Tourabout’ biplane he went on to spend most of 1923 barnstorming under the nickname ‘Daredevil Lindbergh’.
In 1924 he joined the United States Army to train as an Army Air Service Reserve Pilot, graduating a year later as best in his class. By the second World War he had flown regularly, first as an Air Mail pilot and later travelling with family. He had moved his family to live in England following a very public personal tragedy, traveled around Europe, returned to the US and had invented the first incarnation in the 30’s. Later in 1941 he resigned from his appointment with the Army Air Force Reserve after Roosevelt questioned his loyalty in a speech.
Lindbergh was actually against giving in to the threat of war from Adolf Hitler having stated in a very controversial 1939 article in the Reader’s Digest “Our civilization depends on peace among Western nations … and therefore on united strength, for Peace is a virgin who dare not show her face without Strength, her father, for protection”. He became the spokesperson for the antiwar movement, America First Committee in 1940, however despite his obviously strong onions on the war he still requested to be recommissioned in the USAAF after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. This request was denied and he went on to become a technical advisor to both Ford (working on the production and problem shooting the B-24 Liberator bomber) and United Aircraft (which saw him joining the Pacific theater). In the Pacific he taught pilots how to deploy bombs safely, he flew his first combat mission on May 21st 44 and although technically a civilian he went on to fly in 50 combat missions while stationed there.
(B-34 Liberator bombers, I wonder if Lindbergh got up close and personal with ‘Black old Magic)
(Lindbergh in front of P-38 Putt Putt Maru of the 475th Fighter Squadron)
Lindbergh did not actually have his assignment with the US air force reinstated until 1954 when then President Eisenhower made him a Brigadier General.
So back to the bezel that piqued my interest in the charismatic and colourful Lindbergh…Lindbergh had long been a fan of the pilot’s watch and during his solo flight across the atlantic had worn one made by Longines. Having not actually learnt to navigate before the flight, Lindbergh used a technique known as ‘dead reckoning’ (using an airspeed indicator, compass and watch) which despite its slightly worrying nickname was a relatively accurate way to estimate your location as long as your equipment was up to scratch.
I won’t go into the science of how the hour angle watch works and aids navigation as to be honest it’s way above my grade but suffice to say that it was a significant upgrade on the previous Weems model. After his transatlantic flight Lindbergh met with Longines and described in detail what he required from a navigation watch and it was then made to his specifications. Since it’s 1931 birth it has adorned the wrists of pilots and public alike. It allowed pilots to more easily determine the longitude based on the Greenwich mean time and looks rather good too.
He certainly had a colourful and varied life, his actions have caused outrage and standing ovations. His personal life has exuded scandal and heartbreak. What should be remembered for most? His prodigious achievements in the world of science? His life and lifestyle changing inventions? His opinionated views on war, race and religion? His extensive aviation exploits? What do you think? Whatever it is he is remembered for he will certainly never be forgotten. Unfortunately the Mr will not be receiving a Longines/Lindbergh watch for his birthday, as much as I would like to lovingly present him one, I have yet to win the lottery so it’s off to the drawing board for me. I wonder what other little gems I will discover in my search for his present.
To view the Military watch timeline click here :