We have posted some of the most interesting questions sent to us by visitors
to this website.
All questions were answered by NLHS Historian, Rick Zitarosa.
From: Edward Packard
My father, Edward B. Packard, who died in 1970, was a Navy blimp pilot in WWI, stationed at Lakehurst, assigned to anti-submarine warfare duty. Unfortunately, my brother and I never inquired about his service as much as we wish we had. We know only that during WWI his blimp collapsed and that he and his crewman drifted for some time in a life raft before being picked up by a Chilean freighter. I also recall that he made a flight from Montauk to Key West, which may have been the longest ever undertaken at that time. The C.O. of Lakehurst at the time was George Gillespie, who married my mother's oldest sister, who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918.
I wonder if you have any records, contemporary writings, etc. at the museum that would cast further light on Navy blimp operations during WWI and how I might gain access to them.
Lakehurst did not become an active Naval Air Station until 1921 and many of the World War One era Navy blimp personnel had already left the service. I do have some information on Navy LTA operations during the "Great War" period and can confirm that Edward Burtt Packard appears received his training at Akron (the original hangar compound of the Naval Air Training Station, Akron (actually Wingfoot Lake, Suffield OH) is still in use today as headquarters for Goodyear Airship Operations. He was designated Spherical Balloon Pilot (SBP)#496 on March 20, 1918 and Naval Aviator #882 (Dirigibles)on July 25, 1918. He served at NAS Cape May, NJ and Rockaway, NY.
George Samuel Gillespie graduated the US Naval Academy in 1912 and was designated "Naval Aviator" #32 on May 19,1916. He did duty with "Kite" (towed) balloons aboard the cruiser USS SAN DIEGO but it does not appear that he ever qualified as a "Heavier Than Air" (airplane) of "Lighter Than Air" (dirigible or airship) pilot. There is no record of him ever serving at Lakehurst, but he was Commander of the Naval Air Station at Cape May, NJ in December 1917.
From: Hamp Miller
What ever happened to the Hindenburg's engines
As the wreckage was dismantled and gathered together, the engines were set aside and shipped back to Germany to be evaluated and stripped for usable spare parts. Contrary to some of the rumors that have come out over the years, there was no "secret conspiracy" by the surviving German crewmen to suppress or destroy anything concerning the power plant installation. ( Though the engines were considered "proprietary technology" there was little about them that American personnel...particularly US Navy and Goodyear Co. people closely associated witht he Zeppelin...did not already know about them.)
The Daimler-Benz LOF-6 engines used by the HINDENBURG and her later sister ship LZ-130 GRAF ZEPPELIN (launched in 1938) were modified versions of the Daimler DB-603 high-speed diesel developed for fast motor torpedo boats then being placed in service by the German Navy. Airship engines were different from airplane engines in that they had multiple requirements of reasonably high horsepower, good power-to-weight ratio, the ability to be self-reversing in the absence of reversible-pitch propellers which hadn't been developed yet, low fuel consumption at cruising speeds and TBO ("time between overhauls") of 1000 hours or more, making them suitable for use on long journeys. The Daimlers had their share of troubles in the beginning, particularly uneven cooling, unacceptably high carbon buildups in the cyliner heads and a tendency to "smoke" at high power settings, but this was overcome in time ( a lot being accomplished thru the use of special high-grade Royal Dutch Shell fuel oil as well as coal-based synthetic "Kogasyn-2" oil manufactured in Germany.)
An interesting side note is that when the United States developed PT Boats for use in World War II, one of the principle power plants used was the Allison V-1710 engine originally developed as a replacementfor the "original equipment German Maybach motors on the US Navy airships AKRON and MACON.)
From: David Vieira
Please send me information of how Clarence Terhune, a 19 year old, was able to enter Hangar 1 in the NAS Lakhurst undetected and stowaway in the Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127) for its return ride to Germany on Sunday, October 28, 1928. Any information about this event will be appreciated.
There isn't much to say that wasn't covered in the NEW YORK TIMES. Terhune was something of a celebrity for his flight. After this, extra precautions were taken to guard against stowaways; the (very)few stowaways that made it past the guards found were kept under virtual "house arrest" during the flight, put to work cleaning toilets, peeling vegatables etc. in addition to what has been referred to as being given "singing lessons" by members of the crew (presumably a bit of physical abuse to remember the event by.)Since the extra weight of a stowaway could impair the ship's ability to carry fuel, ballast and provisions it was considered a threat to the ship's safety and those aboard to have a stowaway compromising their careful weight distribution calculations. (180 pounds of human being equalls 30 gallons of gasoline or about 22 gallons of drinking water/water ballast which could be critical on a long flight.)
From: David Riethmeier
I see that the civilian ground crew had an ID badge. Did the naval ground crew have one?
Navy personnel wore their uniforms and were assigned to groups headed by Chief Petty Officers under the overall direction of the Ground Handling Officer and the Commander of the Air Station, so there was no neeed for them to wear ID badges.
Government officials and observers had badges that said "Official" press members had badges saying "press" and civilian ground crew had badges marked "ground crew" and these were all pin-backed celluloid badges bearing the signature of base Commander C.E. Rosendahl.
Any BRASS or metal "Hindenburg Ground Crew" badges you may see out there are 1980's era fakes that were common items at flea markets and air shows for a number of years.
From: Chuck Norman
My name is Chuck Norman and I was attached to Airship Test & Development (AT&D) in Lakehurst, NJ from January 1958 to March 1960. In late 1959, we received the first ZPG3-W Airship, BU# 144243, from Goodyear for testing. I was an AE2 and a crew member of that Airship. In early February of 1960, while on Temporary Duty at South Weymouth, MA, the Airship was lost due to a freak accident on the ground. I was a docking mule driver, on the starboard side as we were attempting to place the blimp into the hanger due to inclement weather. We were about halfway in when gust of wind, estimated at 50 mph, hit the ship broadside, causing the port side docking mule to be tipped on it's side, snapping their cable. In an attempt to stop the bag from hitting the side of the hanger, I immediately drove my mule at a 45 degree angle towards the port side and attempted to maintain tension on the cable while the tractor driver tried to back the mooring mast back outside. The combination of the mooring mast moving backwards and my cable tension, trying to keep the envelope from hitting the side, caused my docking mule to begin to be tipped, front to back. When I was tipped, to what I perceived to be approximately a 45 degree angle front to back, I fired the emergency cable cutter to keep from being tipped all the way over. With my cable cut, the wind drove the last 5 feet of the tail into the corner of the hanger and the bag just simply ripped and collapsed. Thank God no one was injured, but the world's largest blimp, at the time, was destroyed. This was the FIRST ZPG3-W to be lost. The one that crashed in July of 1960, killing 18, was actually the second to be lost.
The "243" was "badly damaged" but NOT (believe it or not) lost.
A spare envelope was sent up from Lakehurst with a crew from O&R and they re-rigged and inflated the ship (minus the internal radar antennae and topside radome) and flew the ship back to Lakehurst in May. The pilot for the return trip, George Allen (still around and living in Florida) decided to do a couple of "touch and go" landings to celebrate their return to Lakehurst. After his second one, word came from the tower to LAND IMMEDIATELY. The CO and XO met him once the ship was masted and told George " EASY! That ship was slapped together just enough to get it back here in one piece! "
The whole thing was mainly a PR move. Airships were winding down, O&R was facing closure. They could have easily sent the car, fins, etc back to Lakehurst by barge/overland transportation. The new envelope was a porous piece of garbage and it leaked like a sieve. The ship was then docked all the way in the back of Hangar One near the East doors.
After the loss of the "242" the remaining 3W's were officially grounded. A lot of suspicion pointed to the 2-ply Cotton envelope. 146296 was fitted with a Dacron envelope, as was sister "297." ( One envelope log I have seen says that the "296" arrived new from the factory with a Dacron bag.) The Dacron bags were eventually cleared to return to service, though only the "297" appears to have flown again....approximately May of 1961.
Around October (according to the envelope log I've seen) they finally determined that they weren't going to do anything more with the "243" and she was deflated.
In a twist of irony, the cotton envelope of the "243" was kept in storage until 1976...ostensibly to be used as an exhibit in ongoing litigation regarding a lawsuit by the widows of the "242." The car of the "243" remained at Lakehurst until 1988; it is now laying in pieces at Davis Monthan Air Base, pending a restoration which will probably never happen. "296" and "297" were but up by 1964 with their excellent Dacron envelopes(which were made into paint tarps.)
In the end, "243" was the FIRST ZPG-3W to be seriously wrecked, the SECOND removed from service and now, nearly 50 years later, the only one that remains in any form.
From: Richard Mathews
Is there a twin to "Hanger One" at the former Moffett Naval Air Staion at Lakehurst???
Lakehurst Hangar #1 is rather unique in layout/appearance (a British-influenced design for a two-bay rigid airship construction/operation hangar with counterweighted rolling doors at each end.)
Hangar #1 at Moffett Field is longer but not as wide. It is, however, far better-streamlined (elipsoid, with minimal protrusions.)
Moffett Field Hangars #2 and #3 are identical twins of Lakehurst wooden arch hangars #5 and #6.
From: Ryan Short
I run a website at www.doolittleraid.com and have been interested in various aspects of research related to the Navy blimp L-8, which brought out parts for the B-25s after the USS Hornet left San Fransisco. The L-8 was the former Goodyear Airship Ranger, and later served as the America.
Do you know of a set of drawings for the L-series blimps that might be suitable for designing a model off of them? What would I need to do to obtain them? If not, do you know of another resource I should check with on this subject?
The one "identity" that a blimp usually carried was the number on the control car; the envelope (bag) could sometimes be changed many times over the life of an airship.
L8 started life as an L-ship, the car was heavily modified by Goodyear for use as the AMERICA in the 1969-82 period. Today, the car is restored in its original L=type configuration and sits on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL.
There was actually an L-ship model manufactured some years ago (L2) and plans for an L-ship can be found in the book US NAVY AIRSHIPS by James R. Shock (Atlantix Publications, 1993,2008.)
From: Donald Layton
I have read that during a celebration at Lakehurst, LT Al Williams took off from inside Hangar One through the open doors at the other end. Do you have info as to the date and the type of airplane?
I have CD's of lectures that I give - Airships, Past, Present and Future; Count von Zeppelin's Passenger Airships; USS Macon - The U. S. Navy's Last Rigid Airship; and The Great Airships of the Great War.. I would like to donate copies to the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society.
It was NAS Lakehurst's first-ever Air Show, the "Air Carnival" of May 31, 1924. Highlights of the day included the USS SHENANDOAH moored to the 160-foot "high mast" and a brief flight by the ship in the afternoon, flights by free (spherical) and kite (tethered) balloons, Navy blimp J-1, an overflight/simulated dogfight by Army DeHavilland biplanes and a "special aerial demonstration" by LT Alford Williams flying a Vought VE-7. As a highlight of the show, Williams flew the VE-7 right through Hangar #1. ( The Air Station log simply states that "LT WILLIAMS did special stunts" there exists a photo of his plane emerging from the west end of hangar one, contrary to rumor this is apparently the ONLY TIME anybody ever flew an airplane thru Hangar #1.)
We look forward to any and all donations of archival material, they can be sent via our "snail mail" address PO Box 328 Lakehurst NJ 08733.
From: Hanson and Margo Pickerl
I'm doing a project on the Hindenburg - more specifically trying to prove that the US was responsible for the disaster because we would not sell helium to Germany for their commerical airships. Can you direct me to information on this? Would the text of the Helium Control Act of 1927 be beneficial?
Helium was considered a stratetic resource and was thus subject to the Helium Control Act.
You must take into account that Germany indeed WANTED helium, but they were not crazy about the idea of PAYING for it. (Since the advent of National Socialism, the German economy was strictly internalized and foreign exchange was limited.)
After the R101 disaster, there was strong sentiment that helium might be made available to Britain. (As it was, they did not continue their program for economic reasons.)
Good ship that she was, the GRAF ZEPPELIN was not capable of transoceanic flight using helium, being too small among other things. Dr. Hugo Eckener realized that if the British (or anybody else) were to fly passengers across the oceans with helium, they would have a commercial advantage from the standpoint of being able to advertise safety, even if their airships were not on par with German built ships.
Thus, the LZ129 HINDENBURG design was substituted for the hydrogen LZ128 design in 1930-31.
The Germans WERE NOT AFRAID of using hydrogen and regarded it as a CONVENIENCE rather than a necessity. To obtain helium would have required special transport/shipping/storage/reserves between the American port of Galveston, TX and Friedrichshafen/Frankfurt, witn annual expenses averaging over $150,000, while hydrogen gas was a cheap byproduct of various industrial processes available anywhere in the world.
Eckener was HOPING that helium might become available through some type of "seamless" building/operating arrangement involving German Zeppslins and British, Dutch, Spanish and U.S. operators. However, Germany NEVER MADE A FORMAL APPLICATION TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT for the use of helium until AFTER the HINDENBURG disaster. Up until that point, they had the market to themselves along with a near-perfect safety record without going for the extra expense.
Had their been any real "competition" from another (helium) passenger airship operation, things might have been expedited. By the time the Germans found the need for helium truly urgent, the international situation was turning and the fact that they would later use the LZ130 GRAF ZEPPELIN II for spy flights in 1939 (inflated with hydrogen) shows that they were indeed willing to stray from their stated insistence that Zeppelins were suited for "peaceful commerce purposes" only.
From: Howard Wilk
A few years ago my daughter and I visited your Society, Hangar No. One, and the site of the Hindenburg disaster. For her school's science fair she displayed some photos and information, and we built an "airship" that was a Lego "gondola" with electric motor and propeller, suspended underneath a weather balloon inflated with helium. We were sure to keep it tethered in the school auditorium!
The New York Times had an article July 5, 2008 "Why Fly When You Can Float" > in which it is stated, "Today's airships fly with helium, as did the Hindenburg until the United States imposed an embargo on what was then a fairly valuable > commodity. Hence, the Hindenburg had to start using inflammable hydrogen on its flights."
I have always believed that the Hindenburg had never been inflated with helium. I sent a note to the New York Times, but they haven't published a correction, perhaps because I didn't cite any sources. Your Mail Call page addresses the hydrogen v. helium question, and I'd just send it along to the Times, but they might respond that the page does not unequivocally state that the ship had never been inflated with helium.
HINDENBURG was designed to be inflated with helium, but there were legislative hurdles (the Helium Control Act of 1927) as well as economic realities (Helium was produced in the United States and it would have been an expensive proposition......logistically as well as economically....the ship sufficient reserve quanties to service the ship at its German home base, its Rio base, etc. "Rule of Thumb" called for a standing reserve of 10% lifting gas at each port.) And being older and smaller, the GRAF ZEPPELIN would not have sufficient lift use helium for intercontinental service at all.
One clincher to all this....NOBODY ELSE was flying passengers in rigid airships, the Germans had NO COMPETITION and with foreign exchange reserves being critical (due to banking restrictions and the artificial currency on the new Reich) so there was little urgency for the Zeppelin people to actively pursue the helium option. They had been flying with hydrogen for over 30 years, they had been hit by lightning, shot at, etc. and their safety record with passengers was clean...until the HINDENBURG. As it was expected that Germany would take the lead in any future commercial operations worldwide (there were business interests in the US, UK, Spain and Holland who were paying a lot of attention to passenger Zeppelin service) there was the realistic expectation that American helium might just become available as part of the "seamless" international service that the Zeppelin Co. hoped to spearhead by 1940-45.
Germany never actually FORMALLY REQUESTED helium until after the HINDENBURG disaster...and then the International situation regading Nazi Germany's behavior and gathering war clouds in Europe precluded amendment of the Helium Control Act to accomodate any German requests for helium.
From: Bill Devine
What caused the USS Los Angeles to go vertical at her mooring mast?
August 25, 1927 was a HOT day at Lakehurst. LOS ANGELES had been taken out of the hangar for the first time in two-and-a-half months and had about 70% inflation on her gas cells with a rather light fuel load with the intention of making a high altitude trial flight to 10,000 feet. The "head stand" of the LOS ANGELES was caused by rather sudden wind shift which brought a large mass of cool air from the ocean (15 miles away) that came directly at the stern of the ship, giving it more buoyancy without having a chance for the ship to veer into the wind.
From: Fred Bordoff
I just read the mail from Norman Blagbrough re: the engines on the ZP1 airship. I too was a crew member 1960-1962 aboard ZPG-2 #141561. If memory serves me the engines on that ship were Pratt & Whitney R1300 seven cylinder radial inboards. The biggest problem we had with those engines was oil consumption, about 20 gallons for an 8 hour flight. Please let me know if I am right.
Your memory serves you well, sir. They were the R-1300's, adapted (as was most of the hardware, electronics, instruments and avionics)from Heavier Than Air (HTA) use. Considering the length and low-speed nature of some of the flights, everything performed fairly well as a package. The ZPG-2's/ZPG-2W's were second only to the K-ships in great "all around" performance and legendary reliability, but they did generate their share of comments for the proverbial "wish list."
The engines performed better than anybody had a right to expect, especially on endurance flights of up to 264 hours, but they leaked oil, they had to be "gunned" periodically to prevent carbon fouling and the internal/external engine/gearbox/propeller drive system was complicated and tempermental.
Still, they were among the best airships that ever flew, and the "561" was perhaps the best of them all.
From: Dick Gray AFCM (ret)
I was stationed at NEL in 1956 & 1957. Was attached to HTA, & thought I remembered our Hanger being called Hanger 4? It was down behind Hanger 3, on East field. East field was not utilized then, we taxied to West Field for everything. I flew on the NAS R4-D, 50789. Pappy Burns was a pilot in those days. Used to take all the leftover box lunch items he could get to BOQ to eat later. He knew every building & smell on the East coast, and was dun to fly with.
I was an ADAN & AD3 back in those days. We flew out during the big fire in 1956, and hauled "gear" to NV. for "Operation Plumbob", and hauled it back as the blimps "expired"!!.
"Hangar Four" as it is known is an old (in fact the oldest) airship hangar in the Navy, originally built at NAS Hampton Roads in 1917 and moved to Lakehurst in 1931. It sits near the Main Gate as you drive in, off to the right.
The hangars you speak of are a pair of twin corrugated metal hangars next to Hangar #1, behind Hangars 2 &3 facing South toward the old HTA Runways. These were built in 1933, they originally faced the old Rigid Airship mooring circle area in front of Hangar #1; they were relocated and "turned" when Hangars 2 &3 were built early in World War II.
From: Jim Frawley
Two questions, When did the Navy Parachute school close at Lakehurst. Finally, I attended the Jump school in the 70's and were any records kept or completion certificated maintained so that I could get a copy of my training
The Parachute Rigger School became part of the Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) and as the Aircrew Survival Equipmentman School it was absorbed into the functions of the NATTC Command at NAEC (Naval Air Engineering Station) Lakehurst after Naval Air Station (NAS) Lakehurt was disestablished on March 10, 1977.
There were jump classes held as late as 1981. All records are part of the operational history of the Naval Air Technical Training Center command.
I remember seeing a picture when I was a child of an airship ( I think that it was the Shenandoah) attempting a docking at a mooring mast on the roof of the Empire State Building in New York City. The craft was photographed in a vertical position. The attempt was abandoned although the mooring mast is still an integral part of the building. Do you have a copy of that photo?
The USS LOS ANGELES (ZR-3) did a famous "head stand" on the Lakehurst mooring mast on August 25, 1927. This was captured in a series of photographs which were originally "classified" but which have been extensively published over the years, the first time around 1938.
The Empire State Building mooring mast was built and fully equipped, but it was mostly a "gimmick" and neither the Navy nor German Zeppelin operators ever seriously entertained the risky proposition of docking one of their precious rigid airships to the skyscraper.
A small commercial advertising blimp did make an exploratory approach to the top of the ESB in 1932, but it did not moor and at any rate the mooring fittings were not really compatible.
From: Ben Sonstein
I saw a reference to your organization in a recent article in my local newspaper and hope you might answer some questions left long unresolved regarding a visit of the Graf Zeppelin to the Philadelphia area in 1935. The event figures into a short story I've written, and the information resulting from the answers could significantly deepen the writing. I understand these questions might be outside your purview. If so, perhaps you can suggest other possible resources from which to seek answers.
My understanding is that the Graf Zeppelin passed directly over the city of Philadelphia during one of its trans-oceanic trips during 1935, probably in Autumn. I checked copies of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Ledger (I think) but found no record of anything that qualified. My assumption is that the zeppelin was mooring at Lakehurst and either made a pass over Philly en route to or from Lakehurst or made a special trip from Lakehurst and passed over the city before returning to Jersey. Do you have any record of such an event?
Regarding that same trip, do you know when the German National Socialist government added swastikas to the tailfins of its airships? Did the Graf Zeppelin have swastikas displayed there, like the Hindenburg? Were there swastikas on the fins at the time the Graf Zeppelin overflew Philadelphia in 1935?
Concerning a different airship and a different event, I have been told the Hindenburg flew over Cape May, NJ during 1937. I was told during the summer of 1937; however that would be impossible. Do you have record of the Hindenburg flying over Cape May either during the summer of 1936 or before its destruction in May 1937? Would the Hindenburg have sported the Nazi flag then?
GRAF ZEPPELIN did not come to the United States after 1933 (when she came as part of a Friedrichshafen-Rio-Opa Locka-Akron-Friedrichshafen "Triangle Flight" bearing the new swastika on her tail fins...port side.)\
GRAF ZEPPELIN only came to the U.S. FIVE times in her 590 flights and 144 ocean crossings (first arrival, 1928, to and from Lakehurst in 1929, a 1930 "triangle flight" which included her last visit to Lakehurst and the 1933 flight which visited Akron and Chicago and headed directly Eastward without visiting Lakehurst at all.)
From 1932 onward, the ship held down the South American route which had held promise for the Zeppelin Co and its successor organization DZR (Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei) and the next U.S. visits by a German Zeppelin were all done by the HINDENBURG on her 10 round trips in 1936, as well as the October 9, 1936 "millionaire's flight" which took 75 financial, industrial and military leaders on a 10-hour demonstration flight over the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic States.
From: Norman Blagbrough
As an aircrew member of ZW-1 then ZP-1 (1959-1961) I knew the engines were inboard. Recently a fellow volunteer at DVHAA asked "who made the engines on the blimps". OK, who made the engines used in the 2's and 3's we flew?
Engines on the "Nan" ships were 700 Hp. Wright aircraft engines mounted in sealed-off "nacelles" within the car driving the props thru gear boxes, interconnecting clutch transmissions and shafting.
The transmission system was reputed to be tempermental and expensive to maintain, but they were good ships nonetheless.
For the ZPG3W's, the Navy reverted to engines mounted completely outside the car.
From: Susan Malinowsky
I am looking for information about the construction of the Hindenberg - in particular the ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications. Do you have an idea of where to find this? Also a question if you know. Which branch of service was sent in to guard the crash site?
The communications systems of the ship consisted of shortwave and longwave transmitters/receivers manufactured by Telefunken A.G. There were radio operators on duty throughout the flight with principle duties involving receiving of weather reports (very important, since they deliberately "chased" storms to find the best weather/wind conditions also transmitting ordinary business traffic to and from the ship, radiograms to and from the passengers and position reports between company headquarters and the Air Ministry in Germany and the landing field at Lakehurst (North American flights) or Rio de Janiero-Santa Cruz (South American flights.) The ship's call letters were " D-E-K-K-A."
During landing maneuvers, signals were exchanged with the ground crew using flag and blinker light signals.
At the time the HINDENBURG was lost, guarding of the wreckage was carried out mostly by Navy bluejeckets and Marines. Coast Guardsmen from Cape May were loaned to Lakehurst for a few days for initial security duties, there were also some FBI and New Jersey State Police personnel present at various times.
From: James T Lynch
Just recently I completed a 6000 km road trip from my hometown in São Paulo to the Amazon region of Brazil with a group of 11 other men in six off-road vehicles. One of the objectives of the trip was to visit an abandoned Air Force Base in the state of Amapa, just south of Brazil's border with French Guiana and 18 km west of the Atlantic Ocean (2.077356 degrees north Lat.; 50.857866 degrees west Long.). The Base was under the control of the Allied forces from 1943 to 1945. We understand that this base was used to help supply the North African theater with men and equipment. The base was decommissioned by the Brazilian military some time in the late 1950s.
We had heard that before the Allies left the base of they buried aircraft and other equipment. The question that arose in our minds was why they would go to the effort of burying airplanes. If the airplane was in flying condition, why didn't they fly the aircraft back to the United States? If on the other hand, the aircraft was not in flying order, and repairs were not feasible, why didn't they just leave the aircraft where it stood? Our objective was to find out if in fact the rumor that the aircraft had been buried was true, and if so, try to find out why this had happened.
We were able to locate what remained of the base by speaking to people in the nearby village. They not only told us where the Air Force Base was located but also confirmed that many years before airplanes jeeps and other equipment, which had been buried were dug up; the aluminum was sold off as scrap, and whatever else was still functional, was taken by the Village people. When we located the base we found large holes dug in the terrain around the airfield and piles of metal scrap dumped around the holes. Most of the material that we found had been parts of vehicles, but we did find pieces that were clearly identifiable as being aircraft components. What really surprised us was that we found a blimp docking tower still standing out in a field.
With the confirmation of the rumors about the buried equipment, and our surprising discovery of the existence of a blimp docking tower, we've decided to dig deeper into history to try to understand why the Allies would have gone to the immense effort of burying airplanes in the Amazon, rather than just letting them deteriorate where they stood. Also, we are curious to understand what the Allies used blimps for in the Amazon.
Can anyone shed light on these questions?
From 1943-1945, Navy blimps dispatched for operating in the Brazilian Sea Frontier had a large headquarters at Recife (in an area used formerly by the GRAF ZEPPELIN) used the former German Zeppelin hangar at Santa Cruz as their main operation/maintenance headquarters and had mooring mast/operational detachments a Amapa, and several other remote/coastal locations in Brazil for the purposes of Anti Submarine Warfare, Air-Sea Rescue, patrol, etc.
U.S. Navy airship presence got rather extensive in Brazil to the point that the Brazilian Air Force actually established a detachment of officers and men to take Lighter Than Air training, the idea being that the airships and equipment sent to Brazil would be "lendleased." However, with the coming of VE Day, these plans quickly ended.
Standard Navy patrol blimps of the period were the K-type ("K" ships) and all of them were flown from bases in the contenental U.S. to the Brazilian Theatre of Operations. By the end of the war, wear and tear in the harsh operating environment (particularly in terms of UV rays and their effect on the rubberized fabric envelopes of the ships) and other general operation incidents left a few of the ships wrecked, cannibalized for spare parts or in marginal condition. Some parts were left in Brazil, as the U.S. Navy airship inventory quickly shrank from a high-point of 144 operational airships in 1944 down to just 18 Fleet operational ships in commission by late 1945.
The Brazilian operation was a credible success for Navy LTA because so much was established using the barest minimum facilities, far from from and the regular "supply chain." (Helium, in particular, had to be shipped in by cylinders, a cumbersome and expensive process; hot temperature conditions sometimes required wetting the blimps down with fire hoses to keep the helium cool so it wouldn't expand and automatically valve off as they sat on their mooring masts on the field, very little other shelter being available as their was only one airship hangar available in the whole region and that was routinely used for maintenance/repair rather than operational support.)
From: Brad Overmoe
I'm doing some research on the hindenburg and found your site. I have a cover that i'm try to determine if its genuine. it has a date stamp of June 23, 1936 from New York. And a receiving date stamp of June 27, 1936 in Landau(pfalz) if the spelling there is correct. Can you confirm if the Hindenburg did in fact fly on these dates from NY to Germany. any info or links to other sites would be appreciated.
The HINDENBURG's 23rd flight was a return flight (Eastbound) which departed Lakehurst on the morning of June 24 1936 and landed at Frankfurt on the afternoon of June 26. Dr. Hugo Eckener was in command, there was about 400 lbs of mail aboard for the trip.
Mail is generally the most VERIFIABLE souvenir you can have from the Zeppelin era. The HINDENBURG carried tens of thousands of pieces of mail in its 14 months of service and consequently, these are not terribly valuable or expensive, though some flights have mail that is worth more than others (the last flight, from which only a few pieces of mail survived, for instance, as well as the 1936 flights over the Olympic Stadium with special postmark.)
From: Charles Gillett
Why was there an embargo by the US on helium at the time of the disaster? Just curious.
The Helium Control Act of 1927 had been created to safeguard scarce U.S. helium supplies for domestic use priority, particularly in the Navy's rigid airships.
The Germans would have liked to have had helium for the HINDENBURG and she was in fact designed to accomodate helium or hydrogen, but the exteme expense, reduced lifting capacity and logistics/transport difficulty (a standing reserve of at least 10% was necessary on each end of the operation for realistic supply needs) caused the Germans to stop short of formally requesting helium.
In other words, the desirability of helium was known, the Germans would have surely liked to use it, but they frowned at the expense, had little fear of using hydrogen themselves and remember that they had the commercial airship market to themselves at this point so unless an American or British operation started carrying passengers with "safe helium" there really was no urgency of competition.
Helium finally DID become an urgent priority for the Germans after the HINDENBURG burned; while negotiations were going on, Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia and it pretty much destroyed any chances of the Helium Control Act being amended on behalf on an increasingly-warlike Nazi Germany.
Did the Hindenburgh come to Hartford, Ct. in the 1930's.? I remember going out in the school yard with our class to view an airship. Was this the airship?
Hartford was usually along the way of the HINDENBURG's westbound trips, especially if she made landfall around Newfoundland/Maine and then came south along the Atlantic Seaboard (which she did on her last flight.) Navy dirigibles SHENANDOAH, LOS ANGELES, AKRON and MACON all appeared over the Hartford, CT area at one time or another between 1923 and 1933.
My Grandmother bought a ticket for the final flight of the Hindenburg. At the last minute she was told she had been " bumped " off to make room for another more important passenger. That bit of class distinktion saved her life. It was so close to departure that she couldn't contact my Grandfather and father here in the United States. They were on there way to Lakehurst to pick her up when they were turned back by police. For two hours they thought she had died. Then they found out she wasn't on the passenger list. Her name was : Elizabeth Doerr Tippenreiter. Do you have any idea where I can look or who to contact to find out if a list of Ticket Buyers for that last flight, or a bumped passenger list, still exists? I have tryed everything I can think of except contact whatever company owned the Hindenburg. Do you possibly know who they were? Maybe they still have some typy of business. Anything would be helpful.
To our knowledge, nobody was "bumped" from the last flight of the HINDENBURG. The Zeppelin was capable of carrying 72 passengers and there were in fact only 36 passengers aboard on the last flight so there was plenty of room. (There were 61 crew aboard, including many who were in training for a new sister-ship to be launched in the fall.)
The return trip to Germany from Lakehurst would have been different, as a major event, the Coronation of King George VI was only a week away (May 12, 1937) in London. Consequently the HINDENBURG was booked solid for the return trip, set to depart Lakehurst around 1130pm. on May 6. This of course did not occur due to the accident which destroyed the airship and took the lives of 13 passengers, 22 crewmen and one civilian Lakehurst ground handler.
From: Jim Lambert
Who was the prime contractor who built the Shenadoah,Akron and Macon?PS,this is a great site.
SHENANDOAH (ZR-1) was built by the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia with most of the duralumin metal framework coming from the Aluminum Co of America, gas valves and gas cells from the Goodyear aeronautical division and motors manufactured by Packard.
AKRON (ZRS4) and MACON (ZRS5) were built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin firm in Akron, Ohio. This was a new venture launched in 1924 using German engineers and patents from the original Luftschiffbau Zeppelin firm in Germany transplanted into a wholly-owned American subsidy of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co (many workers and engineers from the original Goodyear Aeronautical Department transferred to Goodyear-Zeppelin as well, the company later became known as Goodyear Aircraft Corp. and still later as Goodyear Aerospace Corp, Loral Air Defense Systems Corp and is currently known as Lockheed-Martin Defense Systems, Inc.)
Dozens of subcontractors produced various parts and subassemblies for the AKRON and MACON. For example, German Zeppelin subsidiary Maybach Motors built the engines, Roebling made much of the wire and cable used in the ships, Tappan made the galley stove, the original propellers came from Hartzell Propeller Co, etc.
From: Tom Mitchell
In October 1924 the USS Shenandoah made a cross country trip from Lakhurst to California. It came via way of Texas. Could you please tell me the route it took and stops if any. Thank You
SHENANDOAH left Lakehurst on October 7, 1924 and flew slightly over 9000 miles in 235 flight hours around the rim of the country and back.
Stops were made at Fort Worth and San Diego both outbound and return and the turnaround point was at Fort Lewis, Washington.
The outbound trip took the dirigible over Washington DC, down the eastern seaboard and across Mississippi, Alabama, etc, into Texas. In order to conserve helium, the ship was required to fly through the mountain passes across the Continental Divide rather than over them. There were no aviation beacons or aviation maps...the most reliable form of navigation was to follow the "Iron Compass" of known major railroad lines with aid from a dog-eared copy of a Railroad Atlas.
Originally, it had been hoped to use the previaling westerly winds to make the return flight non stop from San Diego to Lakehurst but the ship balked and stalled in the air near the California-Arizona border as they flew her 12-degrees nose up with full speed on the engines and 18,000 pounds of fuel on board. Four fuel tanks had to be dropped as emergency ballast and so the SHENANDOAH ended up having to once again stop at Fort Worth to take on fuel and helium.
The final leg up and across the central plains was easy, the ship proceeding via Wheeling, Youngstown and across Pennsylvania and on to Lakehurst.
The flight was quite a triumph (the only dark side was that despite helium conservation measures they valved or vented over 600,000 cubic feet of helium....nearly a quarter of the ship's total volume and representing several months' production capacity from the Bureau of Mines' single operating helium extraction plant at Fort Worth.
From: Wayne Granger
My father left me a small section of what he told me is a section of the metal frame of the Hindenburg.It's "Z" shaped with the top and bottom section about 5" in length and the diagonal section 61/2 to 7". It apparantly was painted green. The top part of the "Z" has a cloth or canvas covering wrapped around it held in place with a piece of rope or string. There is no sign of any fire or heat damage on this part. Can you suggest how I can verify the authenticity of this remnant. I will gladly provide pictures and a more detailed description to anyone you can suggest. Thanks in advance for your help.
The original color of the protective varnish on the girders was a cobalt blue. Exposure to the fire (and age) caused the varnish to turn dark greenish black. The girders are built of duralumin, triangular in section with latticework. There are lightening holes in the latticework. The rivets often display a * shape on the rivet head, the result of a distinctive characteristic of the riveting tool.
From: Bill Weckel
I'm researching the Los Angeles as part of the first step of building a scale model of her. I'm having a tough time finding basic specs on the web, and was wondering if you have any information as to her length, height, etc... Any help you might provide would be greatly appreciated!
LOS ANGELES,(ZR-3) as completed, was built by the Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin works as LZ126. As completed,on her builder's trials in Germany, the airship measeured 658 feet long, 91 -feet-4 inches in diameter and she had a fully streamlined profile for a nominal gas volume of 2,470,000 cubic feet, a useful lift (with hydrogen) of 101,430lbs with five Maybach VLI engines of 400 hp. each giving an original top speed of 79mph.
These numbers were considerably different in her "American" period of service (1924-1932.)
(Note: for subsequent U.S. Navy service with HELIUM, water-recovery apparatus and upgraded Maybach engines and propellers, see below.)
For FULL SPECS on the LOS ANGELES see the book UP SHIP! US NAVY RIGID AIRSHIPS 1919-1935 by Douglas Robinson and Charles Keller (Naval Institute Press, 1982)
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