New Jersey Historic Preservation Office
ON THIS SAD DAY in 1937 at 7:25pm, the Hindenburg disaster occurred at Lakehurst, NJ, bringing an abrupt end to 30 years of passenger travel on commercial zeppelins. All research agrees it was caused by a spark that ignited leaking hydrogen. The airship was destroyed in 32 seconds.
Hindenburg was built in Friedrichshafen, Germany beginning in 1931, named after the late Field Marshal, Paul von Hindenburg (former President of Germany). For the 14 months it operated, the airship flew under the newly-changed German national flag – the swastika flag of the Nazi Party. It made 17 round trips across the Atlantic Ocean in 1936, transporting 2,600 passengers at speeds up to 85 mph.
The airship contained comfortable accommodations for passengers, including a dining room and lounge where viewing windows could be opened during flight; and a modern, electrically equipped kitchen.
The disaster killed 35 persons on the airship, and one member of the ground crew. Miraculously, 62 of the 97 passengers and crew survived, although many were severely burned. Funeral services for the 28 Germans who lost their lives in the disaster, including the former commander, Capt. Ernest Lehmann, were held on the Hamburg-American pier in NYC five days later on May 11, 1937. About 10,000 members of German organizations lined the pier. The swastika-draped caskets were placed on board the SS Hamburg for their return home.
Hanger No. 1, where the Hindenburg would have been housed after landing was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968.
Please view these photographs, some rarely seen, from the National Archives.
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