Sunday 20 April 2014

Hindenburg Disaster

"Oh, the humanity!  It's just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage."
(Herbert Morrison, Chicago broadcaster)

It was May 6, 1937.  The dirigible Hindenburg had just arrived from Frankfurt, Germany.  Due to bad weather, however, the airship killed time by sailing over Manhattan and touring the New Jersey seashore. Finally, the airport was ready for the Hindenburg to land as it hovered over Lakehurst, New Jersey.  The rain seemed to have subsided, but the headwinds were still strong.  The airship got into position for docking. Radio reporters had their microphones in hand.  Cameramen had their cameras ready to shoot film footage. Family members of the passengers waited on the runway.  

Then, the unthinkable happened:  the dirigible ignited, turning into a ball of fire.  A fuel tank burst.  Its tail collided with the ground.  In 34 seconds, the airship turned into a giant metal skeleton. Reporters were stunned.  Cameramen were reeling.  And family members wept in horror.  

When the death toll was confirmed, 35 passengers and crew were dead; miraculously, 62 survived the accident.  Questions remained about the tragedy.  Was it Nazi sabotage?  Was the airship hit by lightning? Or was it a physical problem like a static spark, engine trouble, incendiary paint, a puncture, structural faults or a fuel leak?  No one would every have all the answers.  The Hindenburg disaster marked the end of the airship era.

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