hindenburg disaster

Wayback Wednesday: Hindenburg Disaster 1937

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Hindenburg Image One
Photo Credit: airships.net

Eighty-three years ago, today, the Nazi German dirigible, the LZ-129 Hindenburg, exploded at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey.

[T]he largest dirigible ever built, [it burst] into flames upon touching its mooring mast […]. There were 35 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen) from the 97 people on board (36 passengers and 61 crewmen) and an additional fatality on the ground.

The rigid airship, often known as the Zeppelin after the last name of its innovator, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, was developed by the Germans in the late 19th century. [It] had a light framework of metal girders that protected a gas-filled interior [of] highly flammable hydrogen gas, vulnerable to explosion.

Hindenburg Image Two
Photo Credit: Nationaal Archief/Spaarnestad Photo
Nationaal Archief Flickr
Sam Shere
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

On May 3, the Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany, for a journey across the Atlantic to Lakehurst’s Navy Air Base. While attempting to moor, […] the airship suddenly burst into flames, probably after a spark ignited its hydrogen core. Rapidly falling 200 feet to the ground, the hull of the airship incinerated within seconds. [M]ost of the survivors suffered substantial injuries.

The disaster was the subject of newsreel coverage, photographs and [radio announcer] Herbert Morrison‘s recorded […] eyewitness reports from the landing field, which were broadcast the next day. He is known for his famous emotional declaration “Oh, the humanity!”

A variety of hypotheses have been put forward for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. The event shattered public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and marked the abrupt end of [that] era.

Additional Reading & Sources:
Hindenburg Survivors & Crew (Airships website)
LZ-129 Hindenburg: A Detailed History (Airships Website)
The Hindenburg Disaster (Airships Website)
The Hindenburg Disaster (History Channel)
The Hindenburg: Nine Surprising Facts (History Channel)
Hindenburg Disaster (Wikipedia)
Zeppelin (Wikipedia)

British Pathé News Footage

National Geographic Documentary