Chapter 27, Exit 17A (Hawthorn Street): San Diego International Airport
Turn left from the Hawthorn Street exit and follow it to Harbor Drive. Turn right and the airport will be ahead at 3225 N. Harbor Drive.
There was a time when San Diego International Airport was known to all as Lindbergh Field, named after aviator Charles Lindbergh, who spent a lot of time in town supervising the construction of his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis”, by Ryan Aircraft. After the job was done, Lindbergh made several stops across the country on the way in New York, including St. Louis. It was there that the donors who had financed his plane lived. Then, on May 21, 1927, Lindbergh, the 25-year-old pilot, made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming an international celebrity. If he had simply retired on his laurels at that point in his life, the name “Lindbergh Field” could still be inscribed today at the entrance to the airport.
However, Lindbergh fell in love with “eugenics”, the pseudo-science which postulated that the human race could be improved by eliminating defective people, whether mentally, physically or racially. He and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler developed a society of mutual admiration, with Hitler bestowing honor on Lindbergh, who then spread information that the German war machine was far superior to that of any other nation. In the build-up to World War II, Lindbergh, as part of the organization “America First”, supported the idea of a peace pact with the Nazis, blaming the Jews for stirring up opposition to the pact proposed peace. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States, Lindbergh, ready to fight an Asian enemy, flew fighter escort missions against the Japanese in the Pacific theater of the war.
Any airport wanting to be a real one international the airport would like to put as much distance as possible between him and Lindbergh’s racist diatribes. Recently, Candace Fleming published the well-researched biography, The rise and fall of Charles Lindbergh, in which she drew heavily on Lindbergh’s writings and speeches. Arguing unsuccessfully for the United States to stay out of World War II, Lindbergh said Germany was protecting itself against “the real enemies of the West”, whom he described as the “Asian hordes” of Russians, Chinese and Japanese. Although early in his career he was financially supported by Jewish philanthropist Harry Guggenheim, who even provided a lavish estate for Lindbergh’s family, the aviator was no friend to Jews either. “The Jewish races… for reasons that are not American, want to involve us in this war,” he said during an America First speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941. they think it is in their own interest, but we also have to take care of ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.
Historian Fleming commented: “Other peoples? Charles said that the Jews living in this country were not Americans, but others-a group living in the United States with no allegiance to the nation.
While San Diego Airport was governed by the San Diego Unified Port District, several art projects glorifying the aviator were installed. One was a 40-foot mural by John and Jeanne Whalen depicting Lindbergh holding a model of “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Installed in 1997 on the side of the commuter terminal, it was removed in 2012 and then sold to commercial interests in Ramona, California, where it was mounted on the side of a building. Another was a sculpture by Paul T. Granlund depicting Lindbergh as a boy and man who stood in front of Terminal 2 before a major construction project. Originally donated to the Port of San Diego by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, who had built “The Spirit of St. Louis”, it was recommended for disposal in 2020 by the Airport Authority’s Arts Advisory Board. A 1997 bust of Lindbergh by Paul Fjelde has also been slated for sale or donation. Eventually the sculptures were sent to the San Diego Aur & Space Museum
In 2003, the new San Diego Airport Authority took over from the Port District as airport governor. Its board of directors voted to rename the airport San Diego International Airport, reflecting San Diego’s ambitions to become a destination for other nations. A service road retained the name “Lindbergh Field Way”.
Sandra Armijo of the Airport Records and Information Management Office told me that since the name was changed, “We have worked diligently to educate the public about the name change, and while we see the name “Lindbergh Field” occasionally over time it has become less common…While most of our stakeholders and audiences now use the correct name, we continue to work with the media and community to make them aware of the change.You might be interested to know that it is the daily responsibility of one of the Public Information Officers to monitor news stories for the name “Lindbergh Field” and to personally contact every reporter who uses the incorrect name.
In its 2020 recommendation to eliminate Granlund’s “Charles Lindberg: The Boy, The Man” sculpture from the airport’s collection, the Art Advisory Committee said: “It cannot be said that the airport authority and the community it serves adopt all principles and beliefs Lindbergh has subscribed to and are therefore inconsistent with our community values. Further, “given the official name change of the Airport Authority from Lindbergh Field to San Diego International Airport in 2003, and the lack of a close connection between Charles Lindbergh as an individual and the San Diego area Diego, the airport is not a suitable site for work.”
Administrators of San Diego International Airport knew that the “undoing” of Charles Lindbergh’s legacy would spark resentment among aviation enthusiasts who believe his place in history should be preserved, regardless of his political and racial opinions. The San Diego Unified School District, on the other hand, was less circumspect about Lindbergh’s dishonor. He voted in 2021 to rename an elementary school co-named for Charles Lindbergh and Albert Schweitzer. The replacement name was Clairemont Canyons Academy.
If so, one wonders why a service road to the airport has retained the name “Lindbergh Field Way”.
Next Sunday July 10, 2022: Exit 17B (Sassafras Street): Port of San Diego
This story is copyright (c) 2022 by Donald H. Harrison, Editor Emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. This is an updated serialization of his book Schlepping and Schmoozing along Interstate 5, Volume 1, available on Amazon. Harrison can be contacted via [email protected]