The Hindenburg: A look back – from first flight to blazing inferno

According to the German airship Hindenburg’s flight schedule, LZ-129 Hindenburg, beginning on May 6, 1936, was the first airliner to provide regularly-scheduled service between Europe and North America. The Hindenburg made 11 flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey, but on May 6, 1937, the German airship  burst into flames at Lakehurst Naval Air Station. Thirty-five people aboard and one person on the ground died.

Here’s a look back at the Hindenburg from it’s construction and life aboard, to that horrible night of the deadly explosion.


To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster, the Associated Press has re-published their coverage from the scene.

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Its silvery bulk shattered by a terrific explosion, the German air liner Hindenburg plunged in flames at the United States Naval air station tonight, with indications that 34 of the 100 aboard and one spectator perished.

As minor explosions continued to tear its twisted aluminum skeleton and ribboned fabric for hours afterward, an official announcement listed as having survived 24 of 39 passengers aboard and 42 out of the 61 members of the crew, thus leaving a total of 34 unaccounted for. Twenty-four bodies were counted in two places, thirteen at the naval sick bay and eleven in the great hangar itself.

Timothy W. Margerum of Lakewood said there were more corpses in the naval station’s garage which had been hurriedly transformed into a morgue. Many of the dead were horribly burned by the oil fed flames. Margerum reported others were dying. Hospitals for miles around were filled with the injured.

The navy department in Washington said it was advised at least 48 persons were killed.

An explosion of the No. 2 gas cell toward the stern of the ship was named as the cause of the disaster by State Aviation Commissioner Gill Robb Wilson, who called the blast “strange.” The highly inflammable hydrogen gas billowed into fierce flame as the explosion plummeted the ship to the air field.

Ground spectators said crew members in the stern of the ship “never had a chance” to escape.
The disaster struck without the least warning. The ship had angled its blunt nose toward the mooring mast, the spider-like landing lines had been snaked down and the ground crew had grasped the ropes from the nose, when the explosion roared out, scattering ground crew and spectators like frightened sheep.

The passengers, who were waving gayly a minute before from the observation windows, were so stunned they could not describe late what happened. Some jumped to the sandy landing field along with members of the crew. Others seemed to have been pitched from the careening skyliner as it made its death plunge.

The heat drove back would-be rescuers, so it could not be determined for how many the Hindenburg made a burning tomb. Fire departments from nearby communities converged on the field and soon had streams of water playing on the broken air liner. The flames still enveloped the outline of the ship, apparently feeding on the fuel oil supply with the Hindenburg carried for its Diesel engines.

Somewhere in the glowing furnace were the two dogs, 340 pounds of mail, and the ton of baggage which it had aboard.

Read the rest of the story from the Associated Press >>

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Hindenburg under construction

A view of the Hindenburg dirigible while under construction in Germany in 1934 (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Hindenburg near completion

Germany’s new giant airship LZ-129 Hindenburg is shown in its final stages of construction in Friedrichshafen, Germany, on March 6, 1936. Piloted by Dr. Hugo Eckener, the new zeppelin was given two successful test flights on March 4 and 5. The Hindenburg, named after the president who appointed Hitler as Chancellor, is twice the size of the Graf Zeppelin to reflect the surpassing ability of the Third Reich. (AP Photo)

Hindenburg test flight

German zeppelin the “Hindenburg” making a test flight in 1936. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Studying the flight plan

Left to right: Sir George Hubert Wilkins, explorer and writer; Joseph Robinson, secretary of the Explorers’ Club; Walter Granger, president of club; Lady Grace Drummond Hay, writer; and Dr. H. J. Spinden, director of the Brooklyn Museum, study the route of the Zeppelin Hindenburg’s flight to America on a globe at the Explorers’ Club in New York on May 10, 1936. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)

Departing Germany

The Hindenburg, Zeppelin LZ-129, being taken out of its hangar at Friedrichshafen before leaving for New Jersey on August 9, 1936. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A successful landing in New Jersey

One of the Hindenberg’s 10 successful landings in Lakehurst, New Jersey guided by American sailors. This 245M long German airship was the largest dirigible ever built. Put into service on March 4, 1936 and equipped with luxury furnishings, it carried passengers across the Atlantic, from Europe to the American continent. It burst into flames while landing in New Jersey on May 6, 1937. ( Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Aboard Airship

Passengers aboard airship ‘Hindenburg’ (LZ-129) during an Atlantic flight on August 11, 1936. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Adjusting the base

Men adjusting the base under Hindenburg control room of the Zeppelin Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey. (George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pulling into hangar

The German zeppelin Hindenburg, displaying the German Nazi swastika symbol, is pulled to a nearby hangar in Lakehurst, N.J. on May 9, 1936. The Hindenburg landed at the U.S. Navy field after its record breaking flight for a lighter-than-air craft across the North Atlantic. (AP Photo)

Mooring the Hindenburg

Navy men and others moor the Hindenburg at the Lakehurst Naval Station. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)

Hindenburg in the hangar

The German zeppelin Hindenburg, its nose hooked to a mooring mast, is guided into a U.S. Navy dirigible hangar in Lakehurst, NJ, May 9, 1936, after the first leg of 10 scheduled round trips between Germany and the U.S. (AP Photo/Joe Caneva)

Interior view of the Hindenburg

Passengers gather around the piano in the lounge of the Hindenburg. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Rear view in New Jersey

The German-built zeppelin Hindenburg is shown from behind, with the Swastika symbol on its tail wing, as the dirigible is partially enclosed by its hangar at the U.S. Navy Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J., May 9, 1936. (AP Photo)

Hindenburg’s radio room

Portrait of two mechanical technicians in the radio room of the Hindenburg. (Wolff & Tritschler/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Hindenburg over Manhattan

The German-built zeppelin Hindenburg, right, floats over the Manhattan skyline on Aug. 8, 1936. The Empire State Building, measuring 1,250 feet in height, can be seen at left. (AP Photo)

Dining on the Hindenburg

Passengers dine comfortably in the luxurious dining area of the Hindenburg dirigible during the 1930s. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Hindenberg over the English channel

The Hindenburg, Germany’s latest and the biggest Zeppelin photographed from an aeroplane, over the English channel near Beachy Head on March 31, 1936. (AP Photo)

Cockpit of the Hindenburg

A crewman inside the cockpit of the Hindenburg airship seen while in the hangar. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Passenger cabin

A passenger is seen in his cabin aboard the Hindenburg in 1936. (Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Hindenburg at the Olympic Games

The German airship Hindenburg flies over the Olympic Stadium, outside Berlin, on August 1, 1936, during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. (AP Photo)

Viewing the Hindenburg

A view of some of the crowds of visitors who viewed the Zeppelin Hindenburg in the hanger at Lakehurst, New Jersey, May 10, 1936. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Hindenburg’s kitchen

A modern, electrically equipped kitchen aboard the zeppelin Hindenburg provides for the passengers and crew, seen in this undated photograph. The huge aircraft is scheduled to land the night of May 8, 1936, in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on the first of ten rounds between its home base in Germany and the United States. (AP Photo)

Final hours ahead of disaster

The German zeppelin Hindenburg flies over Manhattan on May 6, 1937. A few hours later, the ship burst into flames in an attempt to land at Lakehurst, N.J. (AP Photo)

Hindenburg explodes

This May 6, 1937 file photo, taken at almost the split second that the Hindenburg exploded, shows the 804-foot German zeppelin just before the second and third explosions send the ship crashing to the earth over the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J. The roaring flames silhouette two men, at right atop the mooring mast, dangerously close to the explosions. (AP Photo)

Last flight of the Hindenburg

The German-designed and built passenger airship the Hindenburg (LZ-129) catches fire as it attempts to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey, following it’s first cross-ocean flight of the year, May 6, 1937. The lighter-than-air craft had made more than 30 successful cross-ocean trips previously, but the disaster, in which 35 of the 90-odd passengers and crew members died, effectively ended this type of commerical air travel. (Arthur Cofod/Pictures Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Watching death

Crouching low on the ground, these spectators who had gathered at Lakehurst, N.J., to watch the German dirigible Hindenburg land on its first flight of the year, saw the craft burst into flames, burning over 30 of its passengers and crew to death on May 6, 1937. (Bettman via Getty Images)

Helpless on the ground

The German zeppelin Hindenburg bursts into flames as it noses toward the mooring post at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J. on May 6, 1937. Thirty-five people on board and one ground crew member were killed. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)

Hindenburg crashes to earth

In this May 6, 1937 file photo, the German dirigible Hindenburg crashes to earth in flames after exploding at the U.S. Naval Station in Lakehurst, N.J. Only one person is left of the 62 passengers and crew who survived when the Hindenburg burst into flames 80 years ago Saturday, May 6, 2017. Werner Doehner was 8 years old when he boarded the zeppelin with his parents and older siblings after their vacation to Germany in 1937. The 88-year-old now living in Parachute, Colo., tells The Associated Press that the airship pitched as it tried to land in New Jersey and that “suddenly the air was on fire.” (AP Photo/Murray Becker, File)

A ball of fire

The German airship ‘Hindenburg’ (LZ-129) in flames after the disaster on its arrival at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. (Central Press/Getty Images)

Escaping the blaze

The blazing inferno that was the German airship Hindenburg is reduced to ruins as a survivor, lower right hand corner, runs to safety, May 6, 1937, after it exploded on mooring at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Rescuers, left and center, rush forward to pull other passenger and crew away from the fiery wreckage. (AP Photo)

Burning wreckage

Spectators run from buring wreckage of the Hindenburg (LZ-129) after it burst into flames while attempting to land, Lakehurst, New Jersey, May 6, 1937. The lighter-than-air craft had made a number of successful cross-ocean trips, but the disaster, in which 35 of the 90-odd passengers and crew members died, effectively ended this type of commerical air travel. (Arthur Cofod/Pictures Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Twisted metal remains

Clouds of smoke rise from the twisted metal frame of the German airship Hindenburg as rescue workers arrive to look for possible survivors, May 6, 1937, in Lakehurst, N.J. The Hindenburg exploded as it was mooring at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station. (AP Photo)

The Hindenburg: A look back – from first flight to blazing inferno

Victim carried away

A victim of the Hindenburg disaster is taken away in a stretcher in the aftermath of the airship crash in Lakehurst, N.J., May 6, 1937. The German-built zeppelin burst into flame in mid-air as it was landing after its transatlantic voyage, carrying 97 passengers and crew. Thirty-five people on board and one ground crew member were killed. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)

Rescue workers on scene

Firefighters on scene of the Hindenburg explosion in New Jersey on May 6, 1937. (ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Tending to the victims

Rescuers on the scene of the Hindenberg explosion in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. (Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Black smoke billows

Black smoke rises from the skeleton of the burning Hindenburg airship at Lakehurst, N.J., May 6, 1937. The German-built zeppelin caught fire and exploded mid-air as it was landing after its transatlantic voyage, carrying 97 passengers and crew. Thirty-five people on board and one ground crew member were killed. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)

Taken to the ambulance

Adolf Fisher, a mechanic of the German airship Hindenburg, is transferred from Paul Kimball Hospital in Lakewood, N.J., to an ambulance going to another area hospital, May 7, 1937. The Hindenburg exploded yesterday after mooring in Lakehurst Naval Air Station, killing 36 people. (AP Photo)

Escorting a survivor

An unidentified woman survivor is being led from the scene of the Hindenburg disaster at the U.S. Naval Station in Lakehurst, N.J., May 6, 1937. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)

Hindenburg Captain

Horribly burned when his ship went up in flames, Capt. Max Pruss of the ill-fated dirigible airship Hindenburg, is shown in an ambulance en route to a New York hospital, May 7, 1937. (AP Photo)