St. Louis Public Radio News
Thu October 10, 2002
Lindbergh Did Secret Military Tests During WWII
Rochester, MN – The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has compiled research that shows Charles Lindbergh secretly helped the military during World War Two by testing the effects of high-altitude flight on humans.
The research by Lindbergh and others helped keep wartime pilots alive at altitudes reaching a then-unprecedented 40,000 feet. He also helped establish the first procedures for surviving parachute jumps from such a height.
Evidence of the work was unveiled this week at the Mayo Clinic as part of a display on secret aviation research done there since the war.
Pieces of the research had been available publicly for many years, but this was the first comprehensive presentation emphasizing Lindbergh's role, said Dr. Jan Stepanek, an aviation medicine specialist who compiled the display from archived film, photographs and documents.
Lindbergh's grandson Erik said he was astounded to learn about his family's history with Mayo.
"What happened here at the Mayo Clinic not only with my grandfather but with everything that was done it's extraordinary," Lindbergh said. "I had no idea how extensive this was or what it entailed."
The research also led to the development and improvement of an in-flight oxygen tank, a parachute tank and flight suits.
"A lot of very basic aviation science that holds true to this day was done in Rochester [Minnesota]," Stepanek said. "These are things that were imperative to us winning the war."