06.05.

1937: Explosion of German Passenger Airship Hindenburg

1937: Explosion of German Passenger Airship Hindenburg
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons / Current marker at the disaster site, shown with Hangar No. 1 in background

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 6 May 1937
  • Hindenburg was the largest airship in the world, the length of 245 meters and volume of 200 million liters. Four Daimler-Benz diesel engines, with 1200 horsepower each, allowed maximum speed of up to 135 kilometers per hour.
  • Hindenburg was the largest airship in the world, the length of 245 meters and volume of 200 million liters. Four Daimler-Benz diesel engines, with 1200 horsepower each, allowed maximum speed of up to 135 kilometers per hour.

On this day the German airship Hindenburg exploded while trying to dock with its mooring mast in Lakehurst in the U.S. state of New Jersey. 

It was the largest airship in the world, with a length of 245 meters and volume of 200 million liters.

Four Daimler-Benz diesel engines with 1200 horsepower each allowed a maximum speed of up to 135 kilometers per hour. It was built by the Zeppelin Company, founded by German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.

On its final flight the Hindenburg left Frankfurt and crossed the entire Atlantic Ocean in three days. On board were 97 people, including 36 passengers and 61 crew members. Reaching North America, they flew over Manhattan, which caused a great sensation, and headed for the Naval Air Station in New Jersey.

They dropped landing lines, which were grabbed by the ground handlers who were trying to attach the ship to the mast. When the ship was moored there was a fire, which quickly caused the explosion.

Flammable hydrogen gas exploded and the remains of the ship hit the ground from a height of about 90 meters. A total of 36 people were killed.

To this day it is not clear what exactly caused the explosion. There are many popular theories of sabotage, but some believe that the accident was simply caused by static electricity or lightning, which ignited the leaking gas.

Numerous films about the event were made based on different theories. It is important to note that the Germans were forced to use flammable hydrogen gas for Hindenburg because the United States had banned the export of helium.

Helium gas, namely, is non-flammable and is immeasurably safer for use in airships, but the United States was the only major world producer of this gas, so the Germans had no place to acquire it from.

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