Deep-sea diver son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh dies aged 88 after battle with cancer – 90 years after his brother was kidnapped and killed in the ‘crime of the century’

  • Jon Lindbergh, the son of famed aviators Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, died on July 29 at the age of 88
  • His daughter, Kristina, announced his death – attributing it to renal cancer
  • Jon made a name for himself as a deep-sea diver and underwater demolitions expert, helping to find a hydrogen bomb that was lost in the Mediterranean Sea
  • He grew up with a lot of protection following his older brother Charles Jr’s kidnapping and death in the ‘crime of the century’
  • His family moved to Europe after paparazzi’s forced a car he was riding in from school off the road
  • They ultimately moved back to the US as tensions were rising in Europe ahead of World War II, and Jon became interested in the sea
  • He went to Stanford for marine biology and joined the Navy
  • Jon participated in several experimental dives
  • He is survived by his most recent wife, eight children, two brothers, a sister, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren 

Jon Lindbergh, a pioneering aquanaut and the son of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh, has died aged 88.  

He passed away on July 29 after a battle with metastatic renal cancer, his daughter told the New York Times.  

While his father took to the skies, Jon took to the ocean – carving out a name for himself scavenging the depths of the seas as one of the world’s earliest aquanauts.

He pioneered cave diving and participated in dangerous underwater rescues – including one to find a hydrogen bomb that was lost in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain in 1966, and became an acclaimed deep-sea diver and underwater demolition expert. 

Jon spent most of his life in the public eye, initially because of his impressive parents. His father Charles was the first person to pilot a solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, and his mother Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the first woman in the United States to earn a glider pilot’s license.

It was tragedy, however, that cemented the couple as a household name after their first child, Charles Jr, was abducted and murdered in 1932 in what was branded ‘the crime of the century’.  

Jon Lindbergh, the son of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who charted his own path as a deep-sea diver and aquanaut died on July 29 at the age of 88

Charles and Anne arguably became America’s first celebrity couple as they flew around the world drumming up interest in the fledgling career of aviation. 

On March 1, 1932, their 20-month-old son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped from their home in New Jersey and was killed in what the press at the time called the ‘crime of the century’.

A lengthy FBI investigation then followed, until finally, Bruno Richard Hauptman, a carpenter, was arrested in September with the murder. 

He was convicted after a sensational trial in 1935, and was electrocuted the following year, still maintaining his innocence.

In between Charles Jr.’s kidnapping and the trial, Jon Morrow Lindbergh was born in Manhattan on August 16, 1932. 

Lindbergh grew up very protected, after the kidnapping and death of his older brother

For security purposes, the Times reports, Jon was born in his maternal grandparents’ house on the Upper East Side, and spent much of his childhood sheltered, as his parents feared history may repeat itself with him.

And it almost did.

Just six month after his birth, in 1933, two men were charged with once again trying to extort $50,000 from the family by threatening to kidnap Jon. 

Kristina Lindbergh, Jon’s daughter, told the Times Anne admitted to Jon many yeas later that she had been so afraid something would happen to him that she did not allow herself to love him as much as she thinks she should have. 

‘They now say that trauma experienced by the other carrying the child does affect the baby,’ Kristina said.

Eventually Lindbergh’s parents started leaving him with his grandmother as they flew to various cities around the world on test flights and promotional tours. He is pictured here with Anne Morrow Lindbergh leaving their Englewood, New Jersey home on their way to Jon’s kindergarten 

Jon grew up with constant security protection, initially with his parents at the heavily-guarded estate of his maternal grandmother in Englewood, New Jersey. 

Eventually, though, his parents started leaving him with his grandmother as they flew to various cities around the world on test flights and promotional tours, but when he was 3, a car carrying him home from school was run off the road by paparazzi, convincing the Lindberghs to move to Europe in 1935.

They lived for a time in England, where press still pursued them, and eventually bought a small French island off the coast of Brittany. 

Jon went to school in Paris, and was bilingual by the age of 5.

But as the Nazis started to gain power and tensions were rising throughout Europe, his parents decided to return to the United States in 1939.

They moved around often, according to the Times, first living in Westport, Connecticut, then to Martha’s Vineyard and Detroit, Michigan, where Charles worked in the aviation industry.

He test-flew bombers for the war, even though then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt prevented him from fighting in World War II due to his isolationist views, but sought to demonstrate his patriotism by flying combat missions in the South Pacific while commanding officers ‘looked the other way.’

The family ultimately settled in Darien, Connecticut, the Times reports, where Jon went to high school and spent as much as he could on the Long Island Sound, thus beginning his interest in the sea.

He earned his pilot’s license before he went off to college, but his father reportedly tried to steer him away from aviation as a career, believing the fame of being Charles Lindbergh’s son would consume him.

‘Our grandfather was always worried about too much exposure,’ Kristina told the Times. ‘When my mother was pregnant with me, he told my parents that if I was a boy, not to name me Charles.’ 

Jon went to Stanford for college, where he studied marine biology, started mountain climbing, skydiving and cave diving and joined the Naval Reserve.

After a brief time living on campus, Jon decided to set up a tent a few miles away to avoid dorm life.

He graduated in 1954, and married co-ed Barbara Robbins that year. 

They had six kids together, before they divorced in the early 1980s, when Jon married Karen Pryor, a renowned animal trainer.

He divorced her in the mid-1990s, and he married Mara Jansen, a veterinarian in West Virginia, where he moved and with whom he had twin daughters. 

Lindbergh, right, helped set up the Seattle water treatment system

After college, Jon did postgraduate work at the University of California San Diego, and spent three years as a Navy frogman, working with the underwater demolition team.

Over the years, he appeared as an extra in the television series ‘Sea Hunt’ and had larger roles in a few movies, including ‘Underwater Warrior.’

He worked as a commercial deep sea diver and participated in several diving experiments, including one in 1964 in the Bahamas known as ‘Man in Sea,’ in which he tested out a submersible decompression chamber developed by Edwin Link  to allow divers to stay underwater for longer periods of time.

He and Robert Stenuit, a Belgian engineer, set a record in the study by staying in a submersible dwelling for more than two days at a depth of 432 feet, breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen.

They wee able to swim outside the dwelling as a result, despite the water pressure.

Jon was also involved in the development and testing of the Navy’s Alvin deep-ocean submersible, which he used during the recovery of the hydrogen bomb, which went missing when an American bomber hit a refueling tank in midair and dropped the bombs.

Two of them released plutonium in the air, though no warheads were detonated.

And Jon later helped install Seattle’s water treatment system in icy water as deep as 600-feet, ultimately realizing he liked the area and buying his family a secluded Georgian-style home on Bainbridge Island in the mid-1960s.

He also farmed salmon in the Puget Sound and in parts of Chile as part of an emerging aquaculture industry and sold fish to airlines and restaurants.

His father lived long enough to see Jon’s success and was reportedly proud of him.

‘He removed any burden on his son’s shoulders’ by telling Jon that much of what first attracted him to aviation in the 1920s no longer existed, according to a biography on Charles Lindbergh, saying: ‘Thirty years ago, piloting an airplane was an art.

‘I think I would follow your footprints to the ocean, with confidence that chance and imagination would combine to justify the course I set. 

Lindbergh is pictured, center, aboard the USS Boston, which he would use to find a sunken hydrogen bomb

Lindbergh is survived by Kristina; his wife, Maura Jansen; his twins, Anne and Alena Lindbergh; and five other children from his first marriage: a daughter, Wendy Lindbergh and four sons: Lars, Leif, Erik and Morgan.

He is also survived by two brothers, Land and Scott; a sister, Reeve Lindbergh Tripp; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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

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