I read the Feb. 4 article on the Lindbergh kidnapping (under the aegis of an article on Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf) in the Style section.
In that article, reporter Martha Sherrill cited a couple of books on the Lindbergh kidnapping, both built on the assumption that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was framed and was innocent.
I happen to have read one of the books, "The Airman and the Carpenter," and found it moderately convincing. Then I read "The Ladder," which assumed Hauptmann was guilty.
That book describes how a lumber expert spent two years tracing the ladder found at the kidnapping site to a particular factory and a particular week of manufacturing (based on marks left by the saw teeth and their rate of wear). Then he traced the ladder to a wholesaler, who lived two blocks from Hauptmann. He was canvassing the neighborhood when Hauptmann was caught trying to pass some of the kidnap money. Subsequently, the expert matched the boards from the ladder to the boards in Hauptmann's attic. Amazing and absolutely convincing.
Sherrill's article ignored all this and a lot of circumstantial evidence that also gave overwhelming proof of Hauptmann's guilt. -- Robert E. Machol
I have been reading your paper for 42 years and, while often irritated, have never before written a complaint. The Style article about Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's father, however, was intolerable.
Style coverage has consistently trivialized the war. This particular article, however, was both gratuitous and snide. What conceivable reason was there to publish this article except to make the general's life more difficult.
You remind us, ad nauseam, of the First Amendment, which you often tell us carries with it a sense of responsibility. Where was yours? -- Richard Lehman
From your piece on Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, your readers would surely conclude that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was innocent of the kidnapping and death of the Lindbergh baby and that Schwarzkopf was responsible for this miscarriage of justice. Neither conclusion is supported by facts.
Hauptmann, convicted of armed robbery and burglary in Germany, escaped jail and fled that country in 1923. He illegally entered the United States and began working as a carpenter. Although poor before the kidnapping, he quit his job the day the Lindbergh ransom was paid, April 2, 1932, and never worked again. He spent money lavishly during the next 2 1/2 years until his arrest on Sept. 19, 1934. Nearly $15,000 was found hidden in his house and garage -- every bill part of the Lindbergh ransom.
The ladder abandoned by the kidnapper was an ingenious, homemade collapsible one that could only be constructed by a carpenter. Despite the varying testimony of more than a dozen handwriting experts, the fact remains that Hauptmann in his writing samples committed every identical error in spelling and grammar that the kidnapper did in 14 ransom notes.
Inevitable inconsistencies in the voluminous records of this case will never obscure the conclusive guilt of Hauptmann.
Incidentally, the crime for which Hauptmann was convicted and executed was murder, not kidnapping. In 1932 kidnapping was so rare it was not a violation of federal statute or New Jersey law. -- Jack French