Monday, May 9, 2011

The Hindenburg over New York, still a startling sight

Taken during one of its 1936 voyages, with the New York Times building in the foreground. (source: straatis/Flickr)

The anniversary of the 1937 explosion of the German passenger airship Hindenburg over Lakehurst, NJ, was last Friday, May 6, and I spent some time this weekend looking up old videos of the famous Zeppelin floating over Manhattan. Sure, we occasionally get blimps over the city -- who can forget the Conan O'Brien-themed airship last year? -- but the German-built Hindenburg was the largest and most luxurious air conveyance of its day.

And fated for a short life. It's first appearance over New York was on May 9, 1936. Less than a year later, it would explode over the New Jersey air station runway, killing 36 people, a disaster accompanied by the world's most famous freak-out by radio announcer Herbert Morrison.

The Hindenburg came to America a handful of times in 1936, including two complete roundtrip flights between Frankfurt, Germany, and Lakehurst in the month of May that year. [source]




This video shows a lot of mid-1930s New York. The Hindenburg makes an appearance at the 1:30 mark:


Yes, in case you were wondering, that is a set of swastikas on its vertical fins. Nazi insignia flying over New York during the 1930s!

Here's an entire list of flights the German airship took during its short existence.  And here's a link to an older Bowery Boys article on a New York history of blimps and zeppelins.

2 comments:

  1. imagine the Hindenburg flying over NYC. that would have been so interesting to see. heck, imagine a blimp flying over NYC today! wonder when the last one has flown over NYC. probably a long time ago?

    another great post by TBB!

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  2. I met a man 2 years ago, who grew up in Hoboken NJ and died in January of this year, age 91: who recalled to me of his seeing the Hindenburg on the few occasions it went over NY, and actually went to see it land in Lakehurst the day it blew up.
    He said, " can you imagine an entire city of people coming out in the streets and watching something the size of the Queen Mary floating in the sky, with no wings? It was like something from another planet! That's what it was like to us back then."
    He told me that to watch that thing go over the city was an awesome sight as a young man of 15 or so, and that watching it decend for it's landing and blowing up was the worst thing he'd ever seen. He told me that it was over so fast, that people couldn't believe what they'd just seen. He told me that it had stopped raining about 30 minutes or so when it was making it's approach, and almost as soon as the landing lines were in hand, it just began to burn from the rear thru to the front. He said he watched as people began to leap out of it, and that as they were jumping the ship was falling to the ground "butt first". "For the longest, we all thought that everyone in it was killed."
    This man's name was Ralph DiPalma.RIP Mr. RALPH.

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