Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly non-stop from New York to Paris, has been confirmed by DNA testing as the father of three German siblings who claimed the flying ace had a 17-year affair with their mother.
Lindbergh's flying exploits won him many hearts and, it seems, one in particular in Germany.
DNA tests have proved that Charles Lindbergh, the American aviation hero who won the hearts of millions around the world for his non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, fathered three children in Germany unbeknown to his wife back in the United States.
The tests were carried out after Astrid Bouteuil discovered more than 100 letters in the attic of her mother's house in Ammersee, Upper Bavaria which hinted at the identity of the father she and her two brothers, Dyrk and David Hesshaimer, had only known by the pseudonym Careu Kent and through the frequent visits he made to Germany in the 1960s while they were growing up.
Letters hinted at identity
Bouteuil told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in August that the letters, mostly handwritten, were signed with "C" and referred to "our children." The three Hesshaimer children were born between 1958 and 1967 and each have "father unknown" on their birth certificates.
The German paper said it contracted an independent analysis, Lindbergh's biographer, A. Scott Berg, who indicated that the letters came from Lindbergh. Berg told the New York Times in August that he believed the letters could be genuine because of the dates, contents and Lindbergh's prolific correspondence. "I could easily see that these are Charles Lindbergh's letters," Berg said at the time but insisted that the letters did not prove Lindbergh had an affair.
"Is it chronologically and geographically possible? Yes," he said in the interview. "Does it sound true to his character? No."
U.S. relatives informed
Now it seems that the tests from the Munich-based LMU Institute have confirmed that Lindbergh was the father of a secret German family. Lawyer Anton Schwenk, representing the Hesshaimer family, released a statement saying that Lindbergh’s family in the United States had been informed of the test results. Lindbergh married Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1929, and they had six children.
Although the German siblings intend to publish a book on their mother Brigitte Hesshaimer's 17-year relationship with one of the 20th-century's best-known figures and a television documentary on the siblings' revelation will be aired in Germany next year, they have no plans to stake claim as legal heirs, according to a report issued by the Associated Press.
Involved until death
The Hesshaimer children claim that the man who was to become their father met their mother in Munich in 1957 when he was 55 and she was 31. They claim the relationship lasted until his death in 1974.
Lindbergh was an American national icon, named by Time magazine as one of the 20 most inspiring figures of the 20th century, despite the fact he was widely known to have been an admirer of Adolf Hitler's Germany.
Admiration for Hitler's Germany
In his biography, Berg notes that as late as April 1939 -- after Germany overtook Czechoslovakia -- Lindbergh was willing to "make excuses" for the Nazi dictator.
"Much as I disapprove of many things Hitler had done," Lindbergh wrote in his diary of April 2, 1939, "I believe [Germany] has pursued the only consistent policy in Europe in recent years. I cannot support her broken promises, but she has only moved a little faster than other nations ... in breaking promises. The question of right and wrong is one thing by law and another thing by history."