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Jon Lindbergh, Aviator’s Son Who Took to the Sea, Dies at 88

Jon Lindbergh, Aviator’s Son Who Took to the Sea, Dies at 88
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Jon Lindbergh, Aviator’s Son Who Took to the Sea, Dies at 88

Jon Lindbergh, Aviator’s Son Who Took to the Sea, Dies at 88

Jon Lindbergh, an acclaimed underwater diver and expert in underwater demolition whose life as the son of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh was shaped by the height of glory and the depths of tragedy experienced by his family, is died July 29 at his home in Lewisburg, West Virginia. He was 88 years old.

Her daughter Kristina Lindbergh said the cause was metastatic kidney cancer.

Mr. Lindbergh was one of the world’s first aquanauts. He explored the depths of the ocean, pioneered cave diving, and participated in daring underwater recovery missions, including one to find a hydrogen bomb lost in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain in 1966.

The quest for adventure was in his DNA. In 1927, his father flew the first non-stop solo transatlantic flight in history, an epic feat that made him arguably the world’s greatest celebrity. Colonel Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a writer and the first woman in the United States to obtain a glider pilot’s license, were glamorous symbols of the American spirit, and they flew all over the world together, sparking the interest in the nascent pursuit of aviation.

But their importance has also made them a target – of curious people, paparazzi, and amazed criminals. On March 1, 1932, their 20 month old son Charles Jr. was kidnapped for ransom from their New Jersey home and killed in what the press called “the crime of the century.”

Between the kidnapping and trial, Jon Morrow Lindbergh, the couple’s second child, was born in Manhattan on August 16, 1932. The birth, for safety reasons, took place at his mother’s parents’ home in the Upper East Side, Kristina Lindbergh said by phone.

The kidnapping of her brother, she said, affected him deeply.

“They are now saying that the trauma suffered by the mother carrying the child affects the baby,” Ms. Lindbergh said. She said that Anne Lindbergh admitted years later, after many therapies, that she was so terrified of something happening to Jon that she didn’t allow herself to love him. as much as she thought she should have.

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He grew up with constant security protection, first with his parents in his maternal grandmother’s heavily guarded estate in Englewood, NJ. Even as a baby he received death threats. The New York Times reported in 1933 that two men were accused of attempting to extort $ 50,000 from the family by threatening to kidnap Jon, then 6 months old, in a copied version of his brother’s kidnapping. elder.

His parents were away frequently during his early years, leaving him with his grandmother as they traveled to various cities around the world for test flights and promotional tours. When he was 3 years old, a car driving him home from school was driven off the road by photographers. The incident forced the Lindberghs to take refuge in Europe in 1935.

They lived for a time in England, where the press still pursued them, then bought a small French island, Ile Illiec, off the rocky north coast of Brittany. Jon, who went to school in Paris, was bilingual by the age of 5.

The family returned to the United States in 1939, fleeing the storm of World War II. They moved often, living in Westport, Connecticut, on Martha’s Vineyard, then Detroit, where Charles Lindbergh worked in the aviation industry, in part testing bombers.

(Colonel Lindbergh, an isolationist who opposed America’s entry into the war and whom many saw as a Nazi sympathizer, was expelled from the armed forces by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But he sought to demonstrate his patriotism through his work in Detroit and flying combat missions in the South Pacific while commanders looked away, according to A. Scott Berg’s 1998 biography, “Lindbergh.”)

The family eventually settled in Darien, Connecticut, where Jon attended high school and spent as much time as he could on Long Island Sound. “Always lonely,” Kristina Lindbergh wrote on Facebook, “he loved the ocean as a child, and it became the canvas upon which much of his life was drawn.”

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He went west to college, enrolling at Stanford; after a while, he lived alone in a tent a few miles from campus to avoid dorm life. He studied marine biology; started mountaineering, parachuting and cave diving; and joined the Naval Reserve. He graduated in 1954, the same year he married Barbara Robbins, also a Stanford student. They had six children.

After the couple divorced in the early 1980s, he married Karen Pryor, a renowned animal trainer. They divorced in the mid-1990s and he married Maura Jansen, a veterinarian in West Virginia, where he moved and with whom he had twins. She survives him.

In addition to her and daughter Kristina, Mr. Lindbergh is survived by twins, Anne and Alena Lindbergh, and five other children from his first marriage: one daughter, Wendy Lindbergh, and four sons, Lars, Leif, Erik and Morgan. He is also survived by two brothers, Land and Scott; one sister, Reeve Lindbergh Tripp; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

His father died in 1974 at the age of 72; his mother died in 2001 at the age of 94.

Jon Lindbergh obtained his pilot’s license before going to college, but his father took him away from aviation as a career, believing the fame of being Charles Lindbergh’s son would consume him, Kristina Lindbergh said .

“Our grandfather was always worried about too much exposure,” she said. “When my mother was pregnant with me, he told my parents that if I was a boy, not to call me Charles.”

And so, as Charles Lindbergh had taken off, Jon headed in the opposite direction. After college, he graduated from the University of California at San Diego and spent three years as a Navy Frogman, working with the Underwater Demolition Team. He appeared as an extra in the “Sea Hunt” television series and had small roles in a few films, including “Underwater Warrior” (1958).

He also worked as a commercial scuba diver and participated in several diving experiences. They included a 1964 project in the Bahamas called “Man-in-Sea” in which a submersible decompression chamber designed by Edwin Link allowed divers to stay deeper underwater for longer periods of time.

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As part of this project, Mr. Lindbergh and Robert Sténuit, a Belgian engineer, set a record by staying in a submersible dwelling for 49 hours at a depth of 432 feet, breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen that gave them allowed to swim outside the house without nuisance despite the enormous pressure of the water above. Mr. Sténuit wrote an account of the experience in the April 1965 issue of National Geographic.

Mr. Lindbergh was also involved in the development and testing of the Navy’s Alvin offshore submersible, which he used in the recovery of the hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean. An American bomber hit an aerial refueling tanker and dropped four hydrogen bombs, two of which released plutonium into the atmosphere, but no warheads exploded.

He then helped install Seattle’s water treatment system in icy waters as deep as 600 feet. Finding that he loved the area, he bought a detached Georgian-style house on Bainbridge Island in the mid-1960s and raised his family there. He later farmed salmon in Puget Sound and Chile as part of an emerging aquaculture industry and sold the fish to airlines and restaurants.

Charles Lindbergh lived long enough to see Jon flourish in his career and was relieved that his son had not followed him into aviation. “He took all the burden of his own career off the shoulders of his son,” Berg wrote in his biography, telling Jon that much of what first drew him to aviation in the 1920s no longer existed.

“Thirty years ago flying an airplane was an art,” Charles Lindbergh told his son, but it no longer felt like an adventure.

Rather than becoming a flyer, Charles Lindbergh added: “I think I would follow in your footsteps in the oceans, with the certainty that chance and imagination would combine to justify the course I have set for myself.

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