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Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg Airships in Color

Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg Airships in Color

In 1929, the German airship Graf Zeppelin began her round-the-world voyage from Lakehurst, New Jersey. A worldwide media success, the airship continued regular passenger service to North and South America.

 Full color footage Video of the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg airships including the Hindenburg burning.

In 1936 the new Nazi-built airship, the Hindenburg (named after the former President of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg), made its first flight.

  • The Hindenburg was the largest airship ever built. It had been designed to use non-flammable helium, but the only supplies of the gas were controlled by the United States, which President Roosevelt refused to allow its export.
  • So, the Hindenburg was filled with flammable hydrogen in what proved to be a fatal decision. Nevertheless, the Hindenburg provided transatlantic passenger service alongside the Graf Zeppelin between Germany to North and South America.
  • May 5, 1937, while landing in Lakehurst after a transatlantic flight, the tail of the ship caught fire, and within seconds, the Hindenburg burst into flames, killing 35 of the 97 passengers and crew on board and one member of the ground crew.
  • Many Americans were killed and blamed President Roosevelt for not supplying safe non-flammable helium. The investigation into the accident concluded that static electricity had ignited hydrogen, which had leaked from the gasbags, although there were allegations of sabotage. Graf Zeppelin retired one month after the Hindenburg wreck and became a museum.

The Airship Hindenburg was the last great passenger zeppelin.

  • The fastest and most comfortable way to cross the Atlantic in its day was the great airship Hindenburg.
  • The great airship is better remembered today for the film of its fiery crash at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and for its association with the Nazi regime, than for its technological achievements.

 Graff Zeppelin passengers disembarking after trans-Atlantic flight and arrival in Lakehurst, New Jersey. 

  • Though it would probably have been made obsolete within a few years by the advancing technology of heaver-than-air flight (Pan Am Clipper flying boats were crossing the Atlantic by 1939) it was a remarkable achievement for its time.

The Hindenburg’s size in comparison to the RMS Titanic and a Boeing 747.

In 1936, the Zeppelin Company, with the financial aid of Nazi Germany, built the Hindenburg (the LZ 129), the largest airship ever made.

  • Named after the late German president, Paul von Hindenburg, the Hindenburg stretched 804-feet-long and was 135-feet-tall at its widest point.
  • That made the Hindenburg just 78-feet shorter than the Titanic and four times larger than the Good Year blimps.
  • The Hindenburg was a rigid airship definitely in the Zeppelin design. It had a gas capacity of 7,062,100 cubic feet and was powered by four 1,100-horsepower diesel engines.

Menu, deck plan and photo of cabin.

Though it had been built for helium (a less flammable gas than hydrogen), the United States had refused to export helium to Germany (for fear of other countries building military airships). Thus, the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen in its 16 gas cells.

North Atlantic and South America fares and service information.

On the outside of the Hindenburg, two large, black swastikas on a white circle surrounded by a red rectangle (the Nazi emblem) were emblazoned on two tail fins.

  • Also on the outside of the Hindenburg was “D-LZ129” painted in black and the airship’s name, “hindenburg” painted in scarlet, Gothic script.
  • For its appearance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin in August, the Olympic rings were painted on the side of the Hindenburg.
  • The inside of the Hindenburg surpassed all other airships in luxury.
  • Though most of the airship’s interior consisted of gas cells, there were two decks (just aft of the control gondola) for the passengers and crew.
  • These decks spanned the width (but not the length) of the Hindenburg.
  • Deck A (the top deck) offered a promenade and a lounge on each side of the airship which was nearly walled with windows (which opened), allowing passengers to watch the scenery throughout their trip. In each of these rooms, passengers could sit on chairs made of aluminum.

The lounge even featured a baby grand piano that was made of aluminum and covered in yellow pigskin, weighing only 377 pounds.

Between the promenade and the lounge were the passenger cabins. Each cabin had two berths and a washbasin, similar in design to a sleeping room on a train.

But in order to keep weight to a minimum, the passenger cabins were separated with only a single layer of foam covered by fabric. Toilets, urinals, and one shower could be found downstairs, on Deck B.

  • Deck B (the lower deck) also contained the kitchen, and the crew’s mess.
  • Plus, Deck B offered the amazing amenity of a smoking room. Considering that hydrogen gas was extremely flammable, the smoking room was a novelty in air travel.
  • Connected to the rest of the ship through an air-lock door, the room was specially insulated to keep hydrogen gases from leaking into the room. Passengers were able to lounge in the smoking room day or night and freely smoke (lighting from the only lighter allowed on the craft, which was built into the room).
  • The Hindenburg, a giant in size and grandeur, first emerged from its shed in Friedrichshafen, Germany on March 4, 1936.

Two birth cabin on the Hindenberg.  A wash basin was included in each small cabin, with the toilets and shower on another deck.

After only a few test flights, the Hindenburg was ordered by the Nazi propaganda minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, to accompany the Graf Zeppelin over every German city with a population over 100,000 to drop Nazi campaign pamphlets and to blare patriotic music from loudspeakers.

The promenade provided passengers with a spectacular view of the earth below.

The Hindenburg’s first real trip was as a symbol of the Nazi regime.

The adjacent dining area could accommodate all fifty passengers in one sitting.

On May 6, 1936, the Hindenburg initiated its first scheduled transatlantic flight from Europe to the United States.

  • Though passengers had flown on airships for 27 years by the time the Hindenburg was completed, the Hindenburg was destined to have a pronounced affect on passenger flight in lighter-than-air crafts when the Hindenburg exploded on May 6, 1937.

Writing and reading room aboard the Hindenburg (LZ 129) transatlantic airship of the Zeppelin Transport Company.

  • You might say that Lady Wilkins, wife of Sir Hubert Wilkins, is on the air as she sings during a concert aboard the Hindenburg. The air was the pillow of several thousand feet of atmosphere that kept the Hindenburg, world’s largest airship, out of danger. The concert took place during the maiden voyager of the air queen to the United States. Franz Wagner, noted European pianist is at the specially built lightweight piano. Later his Chopin Waltz was picked up by a radio network.

  • The smoking room, seemingly dangerous in an airship filled with hydrogen, was kept under positive pressure to prevent any of the gas from entering. A single electric lighter was provided to light your pipe, cigar or cigarette.

  • Hindenburg lounge was decorated with a large wall mural which traced the path of famous explorers. A Bluthner baby grand piano, made mostly of aluminum and covered with pigskin, was provided for the passengers’ entertainment.

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