The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: Lindbergh has continuing tie to Fort Leavenworth

  • Fort Leavenworth has been making history since its founding in May 1827. More precisely, perhaps, I should say the people who passed through, by, near, or over it have made the history.
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  • Fort Leavenworth has been making history since its founding in May 1827. More precisely, perhaps, I should say the people who passed through, by, near, or over it have made the history.
    A little known bit of that history occurred 86 years ago this month when one of the 20th Century's most famous men came close to the fort.
    About 10 years ago a reader tipped me to check the Aug. 19, 1927 edition of The Leavenworth Times. I did, and was amazed to read an article about one of America's most famous aviators, Charles "Lone Eagle" Lindbergh, and his continuing tie to the fort.
    To explain. In August 1927 some 2,000 young men were training at the fort with the Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC).
    Arthur Reichley, my late father, was a 22-year-old member of the CMTC but was not at that gathering at Fort Leavenworth.
    On the front page of the Times in question was a two-paragraph mention of Lindberg having flown his plane over the fort.
    The headline said "Lindy circles over camp and drops message."
    A subheadline said "Spirit of St. Louis went over Leavenworth at 8:55 o'clock —here ahead of schedule —transatlantic flyer on the way from Wichita to St. Joseph, Mo., and Davenport, Iowa, today."
    CMTC organizers had known of Lindbergh's impending flight across the Midwest, and contacted his organizers in hopes of enticing him to land at the fort.
    That would indeed have been a highlight for the 2,000 hard-training young men.
    A landing at the fort was not feasible for several reasons, but the invitation was briefed to Lindbergh.
    As he flew over the formation, Lindbergh dropped in altitude to be close to the waving young men, and waved back.
    As the Times article put it, "Dropping like a plummet from the sky, the Lone Eagle straightened The Spirit of St. Louis into the air when but a short distance above the youths, all of whom frantically cheered the world famous aviator.
    "But The Spirit of St. Louis did not stop. After circling the camp twice, flying almost silently above the War College and residential districts of the garrison, the silvery monoplane headed straight up the Big Muddy, bound for St. Joseph, Mo.
    "A wave of the hand from the enclosed cockpit of the plane was Lindbergh's farewell."
    But not so fast. Not in the article was the fact that before he flew off Lindbergh threw something from the cockpit.
    Youths retrieved a message printed on a large piece of rolled up paper.
    It said "Greetings—because of the limited time and extensive itinerary of the tour of the United States now in progress it is impossible for The Spirit of St. Louis to land in your city.
    Page 2 of 2 - "This message from the air is sent to express our sincere appreciation of your interest in the tour.
    The concerted efforts of the citizens of the United States in this direction (supporting commercial air) will result in America's taking her rightful place as a world leader in commercial flying."
    The message was posted for all to see, then presented to the CGSC commandant, Brig. Gen. Edward L. King.
    I wondered what happened to the message, and checked with the Frontier Army Museum, where there was no record of it. I checked with CGSC's Combined Arms Research Library (CARL), and bingo!
    In drawer 125 in the library's classified section was the message, which I immediately went to look at.
    All this was 10 or so years ago, and I haven't checked recently, but now that the CARL's renovation is over, my guess is the not-so-famous piece of history is in a drawer, if not back in drawer 125.
    Might be nice to frame it and put it where all can see this piece of aviation history.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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