Mingled feelings of admiration and contempt were manifest in the Paris crowds which gathered to pay tribute to the French flyers of the “Yellow Bird” when it landed Sunday from Comillas, Spain, after its trans-Atlantic flight from Old Orchard, Me., bringing with them the 22-year-old American Jewish boy, Arthur Schreiber, who boarded the plane as a stowaway.
The fliers took the boy to Paris, although it was said that the extra weight raused by his presence prevented the “Yellow Bird” from reaching its goal, Le Bourget, and compelled it to land in Spain instead. According to some accounts, the fliers, when they became aware of Scheiber’s presence, were confronted with the possibility of having to turn back.
“In the beginning we were unable to decide whether to strangle our stow-away or drop him out into the ocean or leave him in his cubby hole,” said Jean Assolant, member of the plane’s crew, “but we realized that since we had got past the great difficulty of getting up in the air with him it would be best to take him right along. We also thought Providence had guided us in the take-off from Old Orchard and that it was our duty to guard this daring youth who was ready to share our perils.”
The Paris Sunday crowds gave Arthur a wonderful reception. They rushed him out of the field at Le Bourget, seized him, threw him into the air and carried him off on their shoulders, many thousands following in merriment. There was a peculiar Parisian air about the spectacle which consisted both of mockery and admiration. When the young stowaway started to wave an American flag, some of the crowd shouted, “Hooray for Arthur, hooray for America.” When they reached the place where Assolant and the other flyers were assembled and Schreiber started what could have been construed as the beginning of a speech, uttering the words, “On this occasion,” someone standing nearby, said to be an American, pulled him down.
Newspaper correspondents sought Arthur out, besieging him with many questions. “Are you a hero?” one American newspaperman asked him. “You will have to ask Mr. Lotti. He is handling my financial affairs,” Arthur replied. Lotti, backer of the flight and co-pilot, cut the interview short by inviting Schreiber to the hangar where a reception was being held before the flyers proceeded to Paris. Newspapermen followed, continuing to ask him questions. “Did you not know when you stowed away that you were likely to kill everybody?” He replied, “I did not know anything about the danger. I did not have any idea I might imperil their lives and when I did, I was awfully sorry, but they were sports and took it in the right way.” He was asked, “Did you lose your nerve during the trip?” Arthur said, “I was scared stiff. But when I saw how cool those other fellows were in the face of death I did my best not to show how I felt.”
Jean Assolant and Rene Lefevre, two of the fliers, in an interview with the United Press on June 15 at Comillas, Spain, lauded the courage of Arthur Schrieber. “The boy put himself in the tail of the machine,” Assolant said, “and hid away about four hours before the start in a spot where we had intended to place our food supply. When we tried to balance the plane on the runway we thought it was rather heavy toward the tail and we had to force the Yellow Bird to full speed to take off.” Armeno Lotti, Jr. said : “Was Schreiber afraid? Well, just so-so. You know we went through a terrific storm and when we found our selves in air pockets and dropped sometimes 2,000 feet at a time, there was plenty of cause even for hardened fliers to become a little pale. Once during a terrific bump he said, ‘We won’t come out of this.’
“We are going to take him to Paris with us. We cannot leave him in Spain without money and unable to speak the language; it would be almost as bad as abandoning him on the trip across the ocean. After all, he may have been our lucky mascot, who knows?”
The Associated Press in a despatch from Le Bourget on June 16 reported: Schreiber found it hard to believe that the French really feel friendly toward him and he clung to Lotti like a child, turning to him for approval before he spoke. “They are not sore at me?” he asked. “I haven’t gummed things up, have I?” Then he heard the cries of “L’Americain,” and waved in answer the little American flag he had prepared. He admitted quite frankly he was “Out for the money,” and, in fact, he said he didn’t want to talk much because “I am in this for what there is in it.”
Other sources quoted Lotti, who described how, when Schreiber’s presence on the plane was discovered, he demanded that the boy agree to split fifty-fifty with the other two aviators on any financial returns. Reporters asked. “How did Schreiber react to that?” Lotti laughed: “Schreiber said it was all right. Oh, he’s a straight enough boy. He’s a bit ‘cuckoo,’ that’s all.” (Continued on Page 4)
“Lindbergh is the greatest man I know about,” Schreiber said in Spain. “I was unable to pilot a plane myself, so I decided to do the next best thing to it.” To another reporter he said: “I am very glad that I have placed my name on the heights with those who have followed in Lindbergh’s footsteps.”
There appears to be a disagreement as to whether Arthur Schreiber actually boarded the plane as a stowaway. Samuel Pinansky, of Portland, Arthur Schreiber’s brother-in-law and a brother of Judge Max L. Pinansky, stated to newspapermen in Portland that Assolant agreed in advance that Arthur should secret himself on the “Yellow Bird.” The pilot consented to this proposal of Schreiber in consideration of service rendered him by the youth, who helped him complete arrangements for his marriage before the flight.
Arthur Schreiber at Le Bourget emphatically denied the report that he had gone into the plane with the knowledge of Assolant. In New York Mrs. Assolant said: “There is no truth in the report at all. Neither I nor my husband ever saw this young man. It is ridiculous to pay any attention to the report.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.