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It's been 75 years since the Hindenburg disaster

Coming up next week is the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg Disaster. It was a disaster of such magnitude that it essentially marked the end of travel via dirigibles which were giant airships filled with lighter-than-air gas and powered by diesel motors. On the stormy evening of May 6, 1937 the German airship Hindenburg burst into flames as it was being moored at the Naval Base at Lakehurst, New Jersey after a three-day flight. The airship had made 10 round trips between Germany and the United States in 1936. Travel by airship was a popular mode of travel during the 1930s. While not the fastest way to travel, the luxury the Zeppelins afforded the passengers was an important factor in choosing those giant airships. Along with Germany, the United States also plied the skies with dirigibles before intercontinental airplane travel was firmly established.
I was confused about the difference between a Zeppelin, a Dirigible and a blimp. I found that a dirigible is any lighter-than-air craft that is both powered and steerable. That definition covers both blimps and Zeppelins. Blimps are completely inflated with gas with the gas pressing against the inside of the skin of the craft. Zeppelins are semi-rigid airships with a steel framework that has sections filled with gas that enable the craft to stay aloft. We see the Goodyear Blimp and the Met Life Blimp often on television.
The Zeppelin Hindenburg had left the Frankfurt airfield at 7:16 p.m. on May 3, 1937, carrying 36 passengers and 61 officers, crewmembers, and trainees. The death toll included 13 passengers and 22 crewmembers.
Herb Morrison, a radio reporter for WLS Chicago, was on hand to cover the landing of the Hindenburg when the disaster occurred. The event was also recorded on newsreel and shown in theaters. I have a cassette tape of Morrison’s description of the disaster. He was overcome with the horror of the event and took a brief break before continuing his report. “Oh the Humanity,” he exclaimed as he witnessed the disaster. Some jumped from the craft, landed in soft sand and survived. Some were trapped and perished in the flames.
The Hindenburg was huge. It was 803 feet long and weighed 242 tons. It contained over 7,000,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas that was highly flammable. America was using helium, a non-flammable gas in her dirigibles at the time. The Hindenburg had sleeping quarters, a library, a dining room and a huge lounge. Its top speed was 80 miles per hour.
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin began construction of a lighter than air craft in June of 1898 but it was the summer of 1900 before he attempted to fly his creation. While it was imperfect, his invention was improved and became a popular mode of travel between Germany and the United States.
The crash site is still part of an active Naval Base. It is marked by a metal wind-turned silhouette of the Hindenburg atop a pole and an outline of the Zeppelin consisting of anchor chain. Hugo Eckener was in command of the Hindenburg when it burned and fell to the ground that fateful day in 1937. He survived and lived 17 more years, dying August 14, 1954.