Monday, May 6, 2013


May 6, 2013


Lakehurst, New Jersey (JFK+50) The great German airship Hindenburg*, the largest aircraft ever to fly, exploded, crashed and burned 76 years ago this evening, May 6, 1937, at the airfield of the Naval Station here in Lakehurst.

                 The Hindenburg in Flames
                              May 6, 1937
                  Photo by Gus Pasquerella

**The Hindenburg (LZ129) was a rigid airship designed and built by the ZEPPELIN COMPANY.  It was named in honor of Paul von Hindenburg, President of Germany (1925-1934).  The lift for the airship was provided by highly flammable hydrogen gas as the more preferable safer helium was rare and more expensive.  The ship was propelled by 4 Daimier-Benz DB602  diesel engines with 1200 HP each with a maximum speed of 85 mph.

                         The Hindenberg
                         US Dept of Navy
             Bureau of Aeronautics Photo

35 of the 97 passengers and crew on board died in the tragedy along with one on the ground.  The victims included 13 passengers and 22 crew.

Miraculously, there were 62 survivors many who waited until the airship neared the ground before leaping out.

Herb Morrison of WLS RADIO CHICAGO was recording a description of the Hindenburg coming into Lakehurst Naval Station when the tragedy occurred. The recording did not air until the following day.  

As he witnessed the tragedy, Morrison spoke these words into his microphone...

"It's burst into flames.  It's burning and bursting into flames...this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world...the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast.  Oh, the humanity."

The Hindenberg had departed Frankfurt on May 3, 1937 on the 1st of 10 scheduled roundtrips to the United States.  The airship was in its 2nd year of commercial service.

       Hindenberg Prepares for Landing
               Lakehurst, New Jersey
                       May 9, 1936
               US Coast Guard Image

Nearing Lakehurst, NJ on May 6, CAPTAIN MAX PRUSS was warned of poor weather conditions and forced to delay landing.  When the weather cleared, the airship was in the process of landing when she caught fire and was immediately engulfed in flames.

The tail hit the ground first followed by the bow.  The tragedy took place in a little more than half a minute.

Captain Pruss was badly burned but survived, while Captain Ernst Lehmann suffered severe burns and died the following day.

There are various theories as to the cause of the disaster from a static electrical spark to sabotage against Nazi Germany.

                 Hindenberg Memorial
                Lakehurst, New Jersey
          Photo by User: Paxswill (2007)

                        You Tube Video