HINDENBURG The Hindenburg, originally designated the L. Z. 129, was a rigid AIRSHIP built by the firm of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Completed and tested in 1936, it was the world’s first transatlantic commercial airliner. The airship was 245 m (804 ft) long, had a maximum diameter of 41 m (135 ft), and was kept aloft by 200, 000 cu m (7, 000, 000 cu ft) of hydrogen in 16 cells. Four 1, 050-hp Daimler-Benz diesel engines provided a top speed of 132 km / h (82 mph).
In May 1936 the Hindenburg inaugurated the first scheduled air service across the North Atlantic, between Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and Lakehurst, N. J. It accommodated more than 70 passengers and had a dining room, a library and lounge with a grand piano, a cocktail lounge, and promenades with large windows. The flight to the United States took 60 hr, and the return trip to Europe, 50 hr. In 1936 the Hindenburg carried more than 1, 300 passengers and several thousand pounds of mail and cargo on transatlantic flights. After making more then ten Atlantic crossings the Hindenburg finally met its end.
While manoeuvring to land at Lakehurst on May 6, 1937, the airship’s hydrogen was ignited and the Hindenburg was destroyed by the resulting fire As the Hindenberg touched the landing platform there was a bright blue-white flash on the front of the bulkhead of cell 6 (section of Hindenburg).
There was a fire inside cell 6. Its reflection could be seen on the outside wall of cell 6, but it was small and flickering. The fire was taking control and suddenly the cell disappeared with all the heat. The fire had received further air and had turned very bright. A giant flame rose on the starboard side, burning fabric began to rain down onto the hull.
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There was a tremendous second detonation as the flame burst through the top of the ship. The explosion shook the whole fin left to right. Girders, melted aluminium, wires, struts, pieces of steel and burning fabric started falling to the ground. The stern was falling rapidly and it would soon hit the ground.
In the command gondola everyone felt the ship lurch. They then saw a red glow spreading on the ground beneath them. Captain Bauer tried to drop the water ballast by the manual controls but he could not tell if anything happened. The navy men underneath the Hindenburg stood there frozen like statues, their arms were still reaching up on the lines of the ship. They then all started running away from under the ship. The linen doped outer skin of the ship started peeling off away from its aluminium skeleton.
It was as if a Japanese Lantern had caught fire. The ship then lurched forward and began to tilt down at the stern. There was a terrific crash as the ship hit the ground. One of the windows burst from its frame. Stoekle, who was one of the passengers then jumped through the window in desperation and landed on his hands and knees. As the seven million feet of hydrogen were consumed a great ball of fire rose above the ship, it was sort of mushroom shaped.
The people were jumping out of windows and some were waiting for the ship to hit the ground. The ship did hit the ground but it rose again a little way before settling down with another crash. Panic was starting to set in amongst the passengers and people were starting to push and shove one another and screaming could be heard from all direction. The flames were being driven by the wind towards the starboard side of the ship. By this time deck A was at ground level.
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People started running out of the ship. Some of them had been very badly burnt and some were actually still on fire, it was a most horrific sight. There were ambulances and fire engines attending frantically to the injured and burnt people. Werner France was a cabin boy fourteen years old. He was in the officers mess looking out of the window when the heard the explosion… He then ran onto the gangplank but the steep tilt made him fall.
Everything was on fire. There was a water tank above him burst and he was drenched by two tonnes of water. That saved his life. It took thirty four seconds for the whole ship to burn. Oil fires burnt on for two hours and so did the dur aluminum rings, girders, struts, tension wires, stairs, tables, navigational equipment, pots, wine racks and landing lines.
The hydrogen fire-ball boiling up from the Hindenburg was four hundred feet in diameter, where as the sun is estimated to be eleven and a half million times as big. At dawn exempt for a half burnt swastika still showing its dislocated tail and eerie twisted skeleton of a beached whale its aluminium rib cage was still glowing.