78 Years Ago Today: “Camera Tells Graphic Story of Spectacular Destruction of Giant Hindenburg”

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 24, 1936 (2006.23.1)

Ready for the return voyage on her second visit to the United States. The Hindenburg tied up to the mooring mast at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst. The photograph, made by special arrangement, was taken at a distance of fifty feet with an extreme wide angle lens, showing the impressive size of the giant airship as it appears to a person standing near.

Sam Shere, [Crash of the Hindenburg, Lakehurst, New Jersey], May 6. 1937 (225.2003)

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 9, 1937, p.10 (2006.23.5)

The world’s greatest airship meets disaster at the end of her first North Atlantic crossing of the year.
The dirigible Hindenburg, carrying thirty-nine passengers and a crew of sixty-one, plunging in flames to the ground at Lakehurst, N.J., following an explosion as she was maneuvering for a landing after riding out a violent electrical storm. The picture, one of the most remarkable news photographs ever taken, shows the huge craft enveloped in fire at both ends as the 7,300,000 cubic feet of hydrogen in her gas chambers ignited to make her an enormous torch. Less than four hours earlier millions of New Yorkers had admired the beautiful ship as she flew over the city en route to her American port. (Times Wide World Photos.)

The metal skeleton of the enormous craft melts to scrap in the intense heat of the conflagration.
A view of the burning of the Hindenburg, with a huge cloud of flame and black smoke rising high in the air. Half of the framework already has been consumed and the rest rapidly is disappearing, with spectators powerless to check the flames. (Times Wide World Photos.)

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 9, 1937 (2006.23.5)

The Flaming Pyre that a few seconds before had been the dirigible Hindenburg.
The great air-ship burning fiercely from end to end as the crumpled, twisted mass sank to the ground on the landing field at Lakehurst. Filled with inflammable hydrogen, the big craft was reduced to smoking embers with a swiftness which awed those gathered to cheer the completion of the ship’s twenty-first crossing of the North Atlantic. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

A Fragment of the craft which was among the last bits to yield to the flames.
A close-up of the wreckage, showing the destruction of one of the motor gondolas by the fire after the framework of the Hindenburg had been burned bare and reduced to twisted metal. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

The tragic end of 135,000 miles of air travel.
The flames crackling about the intricate framework of the Hindenburg after the craft had plunged to the ground. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

The crumbling framework as the flames complete their work of destruction.
Spectators surrounding the wreckage of the airship, seeking to help those of passengers and crew who managed to survive the disaster. (Times Wide World Photos)

newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp; fire
Albany Evening News, May 7, 1937, p. 12 (2006.23.2)

Nose Down, Tail Still Aloft and Spouting Flames, the Hindenburg Crashes

newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp; fire
Albany Evening News, May 7, 1937, p. 13 (2006.23.2)

Camera Tells Graphic Story of Spectacular Destruction of Giant Hindenburg.
Flames, starting in ship’s stern, sweep forward with incredible speed to envelope the yet undamaged bow which keeps craft afloat.

Fire trucks of little avail in crash as this striking picture of the disaster shows.

Flaming skeleton all that remains of the huge, proud craft of a few minutes before.

Closeup view of skeleton shows how completely the craft fell prey to hungry flames.

This woman, one of the few survivors, is led from the tragic scene.

The search for bodies in the hot debris begins.

The Hindenburg hits the ground, a seething funeral pyre for scores.

Die Volks Illustrated, (Photo-montage by John Heartfield, Volume 16, No. 20, May 19, 1937 (87.2005)

The Cause
Autarky. To save foreign currency, the perished airship ‘Hindendburg’ was filled with highly explosive hydrogen gas instead of nonflammable helium gas. This was because the ‘Four Year Plan,’ on account of the gigantic armaments expenses, must exercise autarky (self-sufficiency and isolation from the world economy) in all other areas. (Translation of caption, from TMS.)

78 Years ago today, on May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg exploded in Lakehurst, New Jersey. A few newsreels from archive.org:

Hindenburg Explodes, from the great Prelinger Archives on Archive.org.

A few links from the Internet:
“The Hindenburg 75 years later: Memories time cannot erase” – NJ.com
New York Times – On This Day
Preserving the Heritage of Naval Air Station Lakehurst:
Navy Lakehurst Historical Society

Audio can be heard here.
A page from the National Archives.

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