While the first manned flight took place in 1903, it wouldn’t be until WWI that aeronautical advances were made that would turn aviation into more than just a county fair spectacle. While many men contributed to moving manned flight forward during this period, three men in particular stood out: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, and Charles Lindbergh.
All three made important contributions to aviation before, during, and after WWI, and became successful, world-famous celebrities. When World War II erupted, they were middle-aged and wealthy. They could have easily sat the war out while younger men fought. But they all answered the call to duty and provided their talents as ace aviators to the Allied cause.
My guest on the podcast today wrote a history of Rickenbacker, Doolittle, and Lindbergh. His name is Winston Groom. He’s authored numerous history and historical fiction books, including Forrest Gump, as well as the subject of today’s show, The Aviators, in which he details the engaging history of these pioneers of flight and their service to their country. Today on the show, we discuss each of these men and their respective heroics — from Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic, to Doolittle’s legendary raid on Tokyo, to Rickenbacker’s survival at sea for 23 days. We also dig into their complex characters and specifically, Lindbergh’s testy relationship with the press and how his initial opposition to the U.S. entering WWII got him labeled a traitor by FDR.
Winston is a masterful storyteller so you’re in for a real treat today. You’re going to be left both entertained and inspired by these three men.
- What aviation was like before WWI
- How the dangers of aviation attracted a certain type of person
- The traits and characteristics of those early daredevil pilots
- The beginnings of aviation heroes Eddie Rickenbacker, Charles Lindbergh, and Jimmy Doolittle
- The aeronautic advances made by these 3 famous pilots
- The story of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic
- How and why 3 WWI pilots insisted on being of value when WWII broke out
- The backstory of Doolittle’s famed raid on Tokyo
- Eddie Rickenbacker’s amazing survival story
- The connection that the 3 famed aviators had with each other
- The testing that Lindbergh helped the military conduct
- Life lessons that Groom took from researching and writing about the great aviators of the 20th century
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Forrest Gump (the book)
- El Paso
- Eddie Rickenbacker
- Charles Lindbergh
- Jimmy Doolittle
- Doolittle’s Raid
- Atlantic Fever
Winston is a masterful storyteller. The Aviators was an absolute pleasure to read and you’re going to learn a lot about the history of aviation in the process. Also make sure to check out his latest fiction book, El Paso.
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Read the Transcript
Last updated: May 19, 2017