James H. Kindelberger

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James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger

James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger (May 8, 1895 in Wheeling, West Virginia – July 27, 1962) was an American aviation pioneer. He led North American Aviation in 1934-1960.[1][2] The International Aerospace Hall of Fame inducted Kindelberger in 1977.

An extroverted character, Kindelberger was famed for his emphasis on hard work, orderliness and punctuality.[citation needed]

His nickname referred to his descent from German (Deutsch) immigrants from Nothweiler, Pfalz.[3]

Aviation career[edit]

During World War I, Kindelberger was a member of the US Army Air Service.

Kindelberger formed a lifelong working association with J. L. "Lee" Atwood young engineers when they met at Douglas Aircraft Company in 1930, working on the DC-1 and DC-2 transports.

With Atwood he left Douglas in 1934, to become president and general manager of North American Aviation. Atwood became chief engineer. When the two arrived at North American, the company had orders for one passenger aircraft. Kindelberger managed to get a $1 million order for BT-9 military trainer.

Before the US officially entered World War II, the British Air Ministry asked North American to build Curtiss P-40 fighters for the RAF. Kindelberger told his UK contacts that North American could create a better design, and completed the prototype of the legendary P-51 Mustang in four months.

In all, 42,000 aircraft were built by the company by the end of the war.[4][5][6]

After World War II Atwood expected there would be a need for improved rocket engines based on those developed by the Germans for the V-2. The two decided in 1946 to invest $1 million[citation needed] in a rocket engine test facility in Santa Susana, California, and a supersonic wind tunnel at Los Angeles International Airport. This paid off when North American landed the contract to develop the Navaho, a rocket-boosted intercontinental cruise missile.

Kindelberger was promoted to chairman and chief executive officer in 1948, with Atwood replacing him as president.

James H. Kindelberger on the cover of Time (June 29, 1953)

Navaho allowed North American to develop expertise in rocket engines, inertial navigation systems, and supersonic aerodynamics. This in turn led to securing contracts for many advanced aerospace vehicles in the late 1950s – the X-15 manned hypersonic spaceplane, the Hound Dog missile, and the XB-70 Valkyrie triple-sonic bomber. The XB-70 required the company to develop new materials, welding, and manufacturing processes.

In 1960, Kindelberger retired and Atwood took over as chief executive. Kindelberger remained chairman of the board until his death in 1962. "Under his guidance, North American Aviation broke technological barriers; produced propeller- and jet-powered fighters and bombers, military trainers, rocket engines, and rocket-powered aircraft; and began its role as the prime contractor for the country's space program".[citation needed] Between the years 1935 and 1967, North American Aviation (under Kindelberger's direction) built more military aircraft than any other airplane maker in U.S. history.[citation needed] When Kindelberger died in 1962, and Atwood became chairman of the board.

Kindelberger featured in a 2006 documentary by filmmaker William Winship and aired by PBS, Pioneers in Aviation: The Race to the Moon, which profiled four US aerospace pioneers:William Boeing, Donald Douglas, Dutch Kindelberger, and James McDonnell. The film included previously unreleased interviews, photos, and film footage of Kindelberger.


  1. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 77, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  2. ^ Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, p. 244, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
  3. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 77, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  4. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 11, 88, 140, 143, 151, 203, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  5. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 77–92, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  6. ^ Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 74, 244, 268–9, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.