(From TIME Archives; permission to use requested)
Presented by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.
While watching a PBS special on televison about early aviation, Sylvia Sligar realized that aviation pioneer, James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger, was from Wheeling, West Virginia. She found his ancestors in the 1880 Ohio County census and knew from her own genealogy research that they were "definitely a part of the Kindelbergers who married Amend and Rupp families."
Sylvia noted that Kindelberger was barely mentioned on this website and she suggested that such an important Wheeling native was worthy of a biography. She summarized his accomplishments:
"He left school in the 10th grade and worked in the steel mills while taking engineering classes by correspondence. He became an airplane designer and was very responsible for the design of the Mustang fighter airplane, which made it possible for B-17s & B-25s to long range bomb Germany during WWII and have a fighting chance to get back to England to fight again. He was chief designer at Martin Aircraft and he worked with Douglas, head of Douglas aircraft. He was a pilot in WWI and knew James Dolittle and had a part in setting up Dolittle's raid on Japan early in WWII. He was the head of North American Aircraft. A very interesting man and career."
THE ANCESTORS OF DUTCH KINDELBERGER:
1st Ward, Wheeling, Ohio County (W) Virginia
JOHN KINDLEBERGER, 50, Cooper, b. Germany
Christina, 49, Keeping House, b. Germany
CHARLES, 22, Cooper, b. Germany
Jacob, 20, Cooper, b. Germany
Louisa, 15, b. Germany
Korrell, John, 20, Cooper, b. Germany
Charles Kindelberger, born about 1838, was the grandfather of James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger.
1870 Census, Ohio County, W. Va.
CHARLES KINDELBERGER, 33, Cooper, $900/$250, b. Bavaria
Louisa Kindelberger, 25, Keeping House, b. Prussia
Jacob Kindelberger, 5, b. WV
John Kindelberger, 2, b. WV
Margaret Kindelberger, 8 months, b. WV
1880 Census, District 195, Wheeling, Ohio County, W. Va.
CHAS. KINDELBERGER, Self, 43, Cooper, GER GER GER
Louisa Kindelberger, Wife, 35, Keeps House, PRUS PRUS PRUS
John Kindelberger, Son, 12, Laborer, WV GER PRUS
Maggie Kindelberger, Dau, 10, WV GER PRUS
CHARLES KINDELBERGER, Son, 9, WV GER PRUS
August Kindelberger, Son, 7, WV GER PRUS
Henry Kindelberger, Son, 5, WV GER PRUS
Carrie Kindelberger, Dau, 4, WV GER PRUS
Eliz. Kindelberger, Dau, 2, WV GER PRUS
George Kindelberger, Son, 3, WV GER PRUS
Margret Youngblut, Mother-in-law, widow, 66, PRUS PRUS PRUS
Charles Frederick Kindelberger and Rose A. (Riddle) were the parents of James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger. Charles F. and Rose Ann were married in Wheeling on October 12, 1893. Charles Frederick died July 6, 1951, and his death record names his parents as Charles Kindelberger and Louise Yungblut. At the time of his death, Charles F. lived at 30-Fourth St., Wheeling. Rose Ann died in 1953 and she, too, resided at that address.
1900 Census, Washington District, Ohio County, WV
CHARLES F. KINDELBERGER, Head, b. Dec 1870, 29, Married 6 yrs, Stove Moulder, WV GER GER
Rose A., Wife, b. July 1873, 26, 2 children/2 living, WV PA MD
JAMES H., Son, b. May 1895, WV WV WV
Charles E., Son, b. Dec. 1899, 5 months, WV WV WV
1910 Census, Washington District, Ohio County, WV
CHARLES F. KINDELBERGER, Head, 39, Married 17 yrs, Moulder in Foundry, WV GER GER
Rose A., Wife, 36, 3 children/3 living, WV PA MD (Note: d/o James & Catherine Riddle)
HOWARD J., Son, 15, WV WV WV (James Howard)
Edward C., Son, 10, WV WV WV (Named Charles E. in 1900 & Edward in 1920)
George L., Son, 2, WV WV WV (Named Lewis in 1920)
James H. Riddle, Father-in-law, 75, Married 56 years, PA IRE SCOT
Catherine Riddle, Mother-in-law, 74, 12 children/10 living, MD GER MD
In May 1917, James Howard Kindelberger registered for the draft. At that time he was an engineering student at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University.
Details of the life and experiences of Dutch Kindelberger are told in the following Time magazine story:
TIME Magazine, Monday, Jun 29, 1953
(Purchased from TIME Archives; permission to post on this site requested)
It was, as the briefing officer said, "a day worth drooling over," a fine day for hunting MIGs. With the howl of a tornado, four F-86 Sabre jets roared up from the Korean airfield and headed north for MIG Alley. For half an hour they climbed steadily, timing their ascent to conserve fuel and reach the Yalu at 45,000 ft. At that altitude, everything was silvery and incredibly bright; above, the sky was dark and greyish.
The air was so thin that the pilots had to take in their oxygen under pressure to get it into their lungs. Working 90-odd controls with the light-fingered touch of master watchmakers, the pilots glanced now & then at the dozens of dials and flashing instrument lights that might warn of trouble, while they searched the sky for MIGs. Suddenly, from far below, came a glint of silver.
"Ten MIGs at 2,000 feet," crackled a Sabre jet pilot's voice on the VHF radio.
Peeling off in a split S, the four Sabres screamed into a dive. Flight Leader Major Vermont Garrison, 37-year-old World War II ace who is known as "the greying eagle," leveled out at 2,000 ft. on the tail of a MIG. After a quick burst from the Sabre's .50-cal. machine guns, the Red plane exploded. A few minutes later, Garrison downed another MIG. Captain Lonnie Moore, 32, drew a bead on a third MIG and brought it down; ist Lieut. Harry Jones Jr., 23, got another. Then at 1,500 ft., Wingman William F. Schrimsher, 24, a 2nd lieutenant from Alabama, got on the tail of a fifth MIG. The Red pilot shoved the throttle wide open, went into a steep left bank trying to get away. Instead, the MIG snapped on its back, went into a spin and crashed into a hillside. Thus did one more U.S. pilot bag his first MIG "the easy way"—without firing a shot. Could Schrimsher's F-86 have performed the maneuver that crashed the MIG? Said Schrimsher: "Sure, no sweat."
After the Sabre. On the Quonset wall of a pingpong room at Kimpo airfield, a crudely drawn cartoon sums up the pilots' feelings about the Sabre jet and North American Aviation, Inc., the Los Angeles company that makes it. The cartoon shows a MIG pilot, closely pursued by an F-86, yelling "Break!" as he clambers out of his cockpit armed with a large paddle against a watery landing. The caption: "Look to North American for leadership."
The man to look to for leadership at North American itself is Board Chairman James Howard ("Dutch") Kindelberger, 58, a beefy (6 ft., 194 Ibs.), salty-tongued West Virginian whose fringe of white hair and twinkling blue eyes make him look like a modern-day Friar Tuck. Kindel-berger, who learned to fly in World War I. has devoted his life to turning out better and faster planes for the U.S.
In the process, he has produced more planes than anyone else in the world. Among his prize productions: the T-6 Texan trainer in which thousands of World War II pilots learned to fly; the PSI Mustang, one of the best World War II fighters; the 6-25 Mitchell bomber, which General Jimmy Doolittle flew off a carrier in 1942 for the first bombing raid on Japan. Typically, Dutch Kindelberger has already stopped thinking about the feats of the F-86 Sabre and is looking ahead to his next hot fighter. "In this business," says he, "once we get to know what we are doing, we know that thing is obsolete."
The F-86's successor is the F-100, the first jet combat plane able to go through the sound barrier in level flight. Already test-flown, the swept-wing F-100 is bigger than the F-86 and is powered by the Pratt & Whitney J57 engine (10,000 Ibs. thrust).
Long Odds. But last week, while obsolete in the mind of its maker, the F-86 Sabre was busier than ever as the Korean war neared its third anniversary and truce hung in the balance (see WAR IN ASIA). In 2,500 sorties, the Sabres brought down 19 MIGs.They sustained their worst losses to date—twelve planes knocked down, mostly by antiaircraft batteries as the Sabres took on a job not expected of most fighters: bombing in close support of the hard-pressed infantry. But in air-to-air combat, the F-86 reigned supreme.
Historians will argue for many years over what the U.N. accomplished in Korea, but no one will ever question the outcome of the Korean air war. Ever since the Sabres arrived on the scene, they have been outnumbered, sometimes as high as 30 to 1; two or three of them have, on occasion, boldly dived into a formation of 100 or more MIGs. Nevertheless, they have knocked 719 MIGs out of the sky, v. an air-combat loss of only 56 Sabres. In the last six months alone 200 MIGs have been downed in air-to-air combat, v. only nine Sabres—a phenomenal kill ratio of more than 20 to 1. The Sabre has proved to be the only operational U.N. plane capable of controlling the Korean skies against the MIG. Yet the Sabre, like the P-40 in World War II, has come in for criticism aplenty.
The complaints started when U.S. pilots found to their dismay that in Korea the Reds could pick the time and place of battle. This was due partly to the sanctuary beyond the Yalu, where Reds could always flee when the going got rough. But it was due also to the MIG itself: its greater rate of climb and operating ceiling (51,000 ft, v. 45,000 ft. for the Sabre) enabled it to lie in wait for F-86s and pounce on them from above; its greater acceleration enabled it to break off combat at will. Pilots complained that the Sabre, at 16,500 Ibs., v. about 12,000 Ibs. for the MIG, was loaded down with too much armor and far too many "gadgets" —emergency fuel pumps, self-sealing fuel tanks that didn't hold up against the Reds' 23-and 37-mm. cannons. Such top aces as Colonel Francis Gabreski (6˝ MIGs) and Captain Joseph McConnell Jr. (16 MIGs) thought the Sabre's electronic gunsight was unreliable, hard to maintain, and should be eliminated. Cracked Gabreski:
"I just stick a piece of chewing gum on my windscreen and use that as a sight." On the other hand, Captain Manuel J. Fernandez Jr. (14˝ MIGs), says the Sabre is a "fabulous plane."
Flying Arm Chair. But as the kill ratio, over the MIGs has soared, so has the pilots' respect for the sturdiness and dependability of the F-86. They have found that odds are with the MIG only until actual combat starts. Then the reliable Sabre takes over. Said Jet Ace (11 MIGs) Major James Jabara: "It's like flying an arm chair." The MIG cannot pull out of a left spin, but U.S. pilots never have to worry about the Sabre. The Sabre is also stronger than the MIG; pilots have seen the wings shear off a MIG or the tail disintegrate, but an F-86 has never come apart in the air.
Above all, the Sabre is versatile. The MIG was designed as a shortrange, fastclimbing bomber interceptor to defend Russia. It is ideally suited for Korea. But the Sabre was designed for air-to-air combat — and light bombing — anywhere in the world.
New Problems. In producing the F-86, North American Aviation ran into problems such as were never encountered in the days of propeller-driven aircraft. Says Dutch Kindelberger: "There's as much difference between the Mustang's electrical system and that of a Sabre as there is between a doorbell and a television set." For a full year, engineers worked on ejection seats to bail the pilot out in case of emergency. Because the friction heat at 600 m.p.h. raises a plane's cockpit temperature enough to roast the pilot, the F-86 had to have a cooling unit with the power of 35 household refrigerators; because it would run into temperatures of 65° below at high altitudes, it needed a heating unit capable of warming 30 average houses.
As new models came off the line, refinements were added. To give greater control at top speed, a "flying tail" was designed, enabling the entire horizontal tailpiece to move. It was then found that pilots "lost the feel" of the ship because of the new power control system; to supply "artificial feel," a spring and a bob-weight were built in so that the pressures on the stick would vary with changes in speed and altitude. The nose of one model, the F-86D interceptor, was loaded with special radar equipment which will track down an enemy plane, figure its speed and angle of approach, automatically steer the F-86D on an intercepting course and fire its load (24 "Mighty Mouse" rockets) before diverting the F-86 so it won't collide with the enemy.
All these things added weight: one extra pound of gadgetry can add ten pounds to the plane because of needed structural changes, extra fuel capacity, etc. They also added to the cost: F-86s cost $500,000 apiece, v. $100,000 for World War II's Mustangs. But with all due credit to the superb pilots, Dutch Kindelberger is convinced that the gadgets have more than paid off in Korea. Says he: "The best jockey in the world can't win on a lousy horse?'
Better Bow. James Howard Kindelberger is the kind of man who thinks there is nothing in the world that cannot be improved. A man with a quick smile and a quicker wit that has made him famous as a teller of ribald stories, he is also a dedicated tinkerer. He once took up surf-boating, gave it up when the boat he designed came apart on its first test and he almost drowned. He also took up archery—not for the sport, but because he "wanted to redesign the bow." He is usually affable—but woe betide the man who gets in Dutch with Dutch. He once gave vent to his terrible temper on the golf course by breaking all his clubs, one by one. Last year, at England's Farnborough Air Show, Kindelberger was asked how he liked it. Said Dutch: "It's okay, but we're putting on a better air show every day—in Korea."
Stomach v. Head. Up at 8 each morning, Kindelberger takes "exactly 15 minutes" to shave, wash and dress (usually in a blue suit). He breakfasts on "orange juice, toast, coffee and the Los Angeles Times," drives himself to work at 9 or 9:30. He runs North American like a wing commander. Says North American's President John L. (for Leland) Atwood: "All my executive authority stems from Mr. Kindelberger."
Into Kindelberger's big paneled office each day troop platoons of admirals, generals, engineers, salesmen, designers; out from it, over the scream of North American jets flying near by, go unnumbered phone calls to Washington and North American's, four plants at Los Angeles, Downey and Fresno, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio. Says Dutch: "My day is nothing but trouble, because the things that are running smoothly don't need my attention."
At lunchtime, Kindelberger joins his department heads in a small dining room to mull over the latest company problems. Then he falls into a contour chair for a 15-minute nap. Says Dutch, who had a serious ulcer operation years ago: "I've decided that at my age, it's wise to be as smart as a pig. There's no point having your head and your stomach fighting over your blood supply. By taking a nap, I let my stomach have the blood for a while."
Kindelberger is such a foe of waste that the story is told of a new employee whom he found cutting scraps of metal into tiny shavings. When Kindelberger asked what he was doing, the employee said: "I don't know. The foreman just told me to chop up this stuff before the Old Man comes around and tries to make a plane out of it."
Ice Mike. In the evening, when Kindelberger heads his Lincoln into the driveway of his Los Angeles home, an ultrasonic whistle on the car alerts an electronic ear, and the garage doors of his eight-room house, which he designed himself, go up automatically. He pours himself a Scotch at a leather-covered bar he built in the living room; if ice is needed, he speaks into a pilot's microphone behind the bar connected to the kitchen. Built-in cabinets hide a living-room slot machine and shelves for his ten cameras and photographic gear.
Most evenings, Dutch heads into the kitchen, where he prides himself on his cooking, on his battery of ovens, and on his magnetized potholders which he can "hang" on the refrigerator or other metal objects. Kindelberger and his wife do most of the cooking; they have a couple who help with the dishes and cleaning. Often, Dutch's daughter Joan and her husband, Ford Dealer Ralph Graham, drop in with their three children (Kindelberger refers to them fondly as "the Vulture Family").
Parties are a Kindelberger specialty; last week he cooked up a dinner for 60 (chicken in wine, rice, salad, and bread "with just a touch of garlic"). But Dutch always tries to get to bed early; loves to lie there reading magazines and listening to his bedside radio, which has a special attachment to plug into his good ear.
Saved from the Trenches. Born in Wheeling, W.Va., where his father was a steel molder and his mother pieced out the family income papering walls at 50˘ an hour, Dutch quit high school after one year, went to work (at $5 a week) for National Tube Co., "throwing pig iron around from 7 in the morning to 5:30 at night." Later, as a civilian draftsman for the Army Engineers, he found time to take International Correspondence School courses at night, crammed in enough drafting, engineering and math to pass the entrance exams to Carnegie Tech. Dutch worked his way through a year of college (and into the presidency of the freshman class) before he decided he was wasting his time.
In 1917 he enlisted in the Signal Corps, whose few planes were the forerunners of the Air Corps. Says he: "I just didn't want to end up in a trench." Flying came hard to Private Kindelberger; landings came harder. He once smashed up a plane, then brashly stepped from the wreckage and blamed it all on defective materials.
Systematic Drinking. At war's end, Kindelberger answered an ad of Glenn L. Martin Co., landed a job as draftsman at $27.50 a week. For months, he worked in his old uniforms because he could not afford to buy civilian clothing, augmented his salary by teaching aviation classes , at night, developing photos in a bathroom and writing for Popular Mechanics (at $3 to $5 an article). Raised to $32 a week in 1919, he married his childhood sweetheart, Thelma Knarr. (She divorced him in 1945, and Kindelberger is now married to Helen Allen, a onetime model.)
As assistant chief engineer, Kindelberger worked on the first of Martin's famed bombers. When Martin's chief engineer, Donald Douglas, quit to start a company of his own, he asked Dutch to come along to California as engineering boss. Kindelberger accepted—but did not arrive till five years later ("Had to save up the fare, you know"). Under Boss Engineer Kindelberger, Douglas produced the DC-1 and DC-2, laid plans for the famed DC-3. About that time, Kindelberger, up until then a teetotaler, decided to investigate drinking. With his customary zeal, he drew up a list of every drink known, systematically made and sampled each. Says he: "In my life I have made and drunk every conceivable drink, even some you had to chew. But in my old age I've learned one thing: there's nothing that beats a good Scotch on ice, with just a drop of water."
First Fiddle. Never satisfied with playing second fiddle (which he would have had to do at Douglas), Kindelberger snapped up an offer from General Motors to take over a Maryland subsidiary of G.M.-controlled North American Aviation (G.M. has since sold its interest). North American, then a holding company (for such companies as Sperry Gyroscope, Eastern Airlines, Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.), had been ordered by the Government to concentrate either on aircraft production or airlines. It decided to keep its planemaking business, and it needed a production man. From Douglas, President Kindelberger took two men with him: crack Designer "Lee" Atwood, now North American's president; and J. S. ("Stan") Smithson, a topnotch designer who is now North American's manufacturing vice president.
At the time, North American was working on a passenger plane, and was losing money. Says Kindelberger: "We started with an obvious advantage—it couldn't have been any worse."
Quick Switch. Dutch liquidated contracts on the money-losing plane, sold the prototype to a junk dealer for $1,500, and laid plans to build a trainer to compete for Air Corps contracts. He had nine weeks to do the job—and under NRA could not officially work his employees overtime. One night he entered the plant and found his employees shouting and singing at their jobs. They had checked out, had a few beers and come back to "have some fun"—against which there wasn't any law. The plane (BT-9) was completed on time, and North American beat out Seversky for a $1,000,000 contract.
Kindelberger moved the company from Maryland to California, built trainers for foreign countries as Europe armed for war. At a 1938 meeting with Airmen Curtis LeMay, Hap Arnold and Tooey Spaatz, he read a statement on why the U.S. should buy more North American trainers. The airmen agreed, but pointed out that they had no money. Later, when Dutch approached Arnold again, the need was for fighters, not basic trainers. Said Kindelberger: "My dear general, these are not basic trainers. These are basic combat planes." He plugged the idea, eventually got an order for the T-6 Texan (to the British, the Harvard; to the U.S. Navy, the SNJ). Early in 1940, when the British asked North American to build Curtiss P-40s Kindelberger answered that he could design and produce a better airplane quicker. In 127 days, he turned out the P-51, the first of the famed Mustangs. The U.S. was cool towards it, would place no orders. Since the services were looking for dive bombers, Kindelberger pulled another quick switch: "We told them the P-51 was a dive bomber, not a fighter, and got an order for 500 of them in the same mail with a letter that said 'We don't want any.' " Thus, thanks to British orders, did the U.S. have the Mustang ready when it entered World War II.
With the P-51, Kindelberger made good use of mass-production techniques. His methods: 1) design a plane with production problems in mind; 2) break down the most complicated jobs into simple separate functions; 3) keep the air frame from "getting too big too fast," i.e., don't make workers crawl in on their bellies if they can do the job before the parts are joined. North American's World War II production: 15,670 Mustangs, 9,816 B-25s and 15,498 trainers.
Rising Fortune. At war's end, like other planemakers, North American went into a dive. Its employment dropped from 91,000 to 5,000, its order backlog from 8,800 planes to 24. But unlike most of his competitors, Dutch Kindelberger shunned such products as aluminum canoes and caskets to take up the slack; he started producing the four-seater Navion private plane instead. As costs rose and orders sank, the Navion flopped (loss: $8,000,000) and Kindelberger sold off the project to Ryan Aeronautical in 1947. But with the Navion project, he was able to keep his topflight engineers working on new military designs, landed contracts for the B45 four-jet light bomber and the Navy's attack plane, the AJi, in addition to the F-86 Sabre.
Since then, North American's fortunes have climbed steadily. Five years ago, with sales of $94 million, it earned $6,800,000. Last year, with sales of $315 million, it netted $7,800,000, and its backlog of $1.5 billion is fourth biggest in the industry. Last week it declared a dividend of 75˘ a share, making the year's total 25˘ more than the $1.25 the year before. One project that Dutch Kindelberger hopes will pay off some day: atomic energy. One of the biggest contractors with the AEC, North American got into atomic energy after the war in hopes of developing it to power planes and missiles. Kindelberger decided (and Washington agrees) that atomic planes will not be possible for years, and dropped the project. Instead, his engineers designed a reactor that may point the way to commercial atomic power (TIME, June 15).
Kindelberger has fared just as well as his company. He gets $140,000 a year, plus $11,000 a year for a retirement fund.
The New Bosses. In the past, Kindelberger has done his share of griping at Washington inefficiency, particularly the Air Force's system of shuttling green officers in & out of procurement jobs, and its habit of not knowing exactly what it wants. But, he has nothing but good to say about the Pentagon's new civilian bosses; he is not worried about the projected $5 billion cut in the Air Force budget, since none of North American's contracts has been affected. He is hopeful, in fact, that the new team will develop a long-range air program for the U.S. to avoid the feasts and famines of the past.
By this, Kindelberger does not mean a program to freeze designs. Says he: "Such talk is as silly as freezing the design on a flintlock rifle when the enemy has a Garand. The first sketch of a plane is only the bare bones, and by the time you've finished you even have new bones." Nor does he mean any kind of subsidy program. "Over the long haul," says Kindelberger, "there is no practicable substitute for competition in maintaining the quality of product. Nobody has yet come up with a solution of how to spoon-feed an industry without stifling it."
Looking ahead, Kindelberger sees the time fast approaching when the piloted plane will be obsolete. "It will not be tomorrow, nor ten years from now," says he. "But our planes are rapidly approaching the point where they are penalized rather than aided by the presence of a human pilot. The time is coming when the defense of the U.S. will be pretty much automatic." North American, loaded up with guided-missile contracts, is planning for that day (its X-10 Navaho, forerunner to an intercontinental guided missile, will be test-fired soon). But those who think that guided missiles are a cheap way to security are wrong. In many respects, says Kindelberger, missiles are even more complex than today's aircraft; and with no pilots to bring them home, each one is a total loss after it is fired.
In the supersonic age, Kindelberger and other planemakers face a new challenge to tax their ingenuity: the thermal barrier. At speeds contemplated for the near future, tough aluminum will lose much of its strength because of friction-generated heat (titanium will replace it for many uses). Cockpit canopies of today's materials will soften like putty; present-day electronic equipment may fail. The U.S. will have its hands full keeping ahead on such problems. Despite the success of the Sabre in Korea, Kindelberger does not underestimate the mechanical ability of the Russians. Says he: "Our conception of the Russian is crazy. We've thought of him as a peasant with a cow, and his wife out pulling a plow—stopping only now and then to scratch. But Russia is building up and improving her industries all the time."
Kindelberger knows—as no layman can —how much time, money and sweat the U.S. must put into getting "the right airplane to the right place at the right time." In World War II, with the PSI Mustang, and in Korea, with the F-86 Sabre, it almost looked as though somebody had pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Says Dutch Kindelberger: "Nobody ever pulled a rabbit out of a hat without carefully putting one there in the first place."
The Lima News, Sunday, July 29, 1962