Saturday, July 5, 2014

Finding the "Final" Lindbergh Plaque on "Holy Ground"

You will recall the quest to find all the Charles Lindbergh memorabilia in San Diego on May 20th

Retracing Charles Lindbergh's Steps in San Diego

There was one "missing" plaque that Larry Barnes and I failed to see on that day.  Lindbergh mythology states that there is a plaque on a building on the site of the Ryan Aircraft Factory, property that is owned and used today by Solar Turbines just across the street from the departure end of the runway at Lindbergh Field.  But internet searches don't seem to ever reveal the plaque.  Here is a photograph taken in 1946 of the location of the old Ryan Plant.  The letter "A" marks the spot of the Ryan hangar.

(Note: Photo credit to John Fry's Website and to Howard Rozelle, photographer)

Larry did his usual excellent job of historical fact-finding and found a person in the public relations department for Solar Turbines who volunteered to help us.  Lisa Wuller located the plaque and agreed to be our hostess for its viewing.  On July 3rd we met Lisa at the main entrance to the complex of buildings for our tour.  She showed us a room dedicated to the history of Ryan Aircraft and Solar Turbines with displays their many products dating from milk cans, to early aviation, through World War II and to the jet age.  Impressive stuff.

Next, Lisa led us down a long row of buildings of the manufacturing complex with employees and electric carts zooming back and forth busy with the commerce of the company.  We went past a courtyard that was dedicated to a female employee who has worked at the company for more than 50 years -- and who is still working on the shop floor today!

Then, standing at the entrance to an inconspicuous plant building, Lisa pointed above the door, and there it was -- the "final" plaque!

Cool!  We asked Lisa to take our picture to prove we were there!

Here is an article from the Los Angels Times from May 7, 1997 describing the site we visited as "holy ground!"

"It is probably true that the first and only city that people associate with Lindbergh is St. Louis because of the plane's name," said Gene Bratsch, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Lindbergh Foundation. "But people who know aviation are well aware of San Diego and Ryan."

Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who immigrated to the United States after World War II and became a leader in the U.S. space program, came to San Diego in the late 1940s and visited the converted cannery that had been the Ryan factory.

By then, the building was owned by Solar Aircraft Co., now Solar-Turbines Inc. Solar engineer Robert Magness was with von Braun as he spotted a plaque identifying the building as the site where the Spirit of St. Louis was built.

"This," von Braun intoned, "is holy ground."


  1. As always, a tale well told. Anything Cary writes holds my interest from the first sentence. You possess talent and passion, Mr. Thomas!!!
    I have lived in San Diego since 1971, involved in aviation the entire time, and the thought of tracing Lindbergh's local history never occurred to me!! Thanks, Cary!
    Don Kingery

  2. Cary, you and fellow detective Larry Barnes, have managed to artfully document for us the valuable historical San Diego link to one of aviation's early triumphs. Bravo!
    Wayne Cowie