Lakehurst, NJ HINDENBERG Disaster, May 1937
SABOTAGE HINTED IN HINDENBURG BLAST.
SEVEN BODIES REMAIN IN DEBRIS.
RUINS UNDER GUARD.
NO ONE PERMITTED TO SPEAK TO SURVIVORS OF DISASTER, WHO SEARCH EMBERS.
Lakehurst, N. J. -- All but seven bodies of those who perished in the blazing wreckage of the zeppelin HINDENBURG were believed to have been recovered today.
Bare-headed survivors of the German crew climbed among the smoking debris searching for missing comrades.
Lieut. GEORGE WATSON, naval communications officer here, said it was possible that the seven missing bodies were entirely consumed in the blazing hydrogen and motor fuel that destroyed the airship last night.
Sentries with ready rifles encircled the heap of metal, keeping everyone thirty feet away.
None was allowed to speak to survivors of the disaster who searched the ruins nor did they appear to even notice those who stood outside the guard.
Now and then one of the Germans -- dressed in white steward's jackets -- paused to pick up some bit from the wreckage, perhaps a reminder of some one cremated there.
The sun shone grudgingly on the twisted frame work, hazing the green blue, black and silver of the zepplin's skeleton, colors painted by fire and chemicals on the once silver duralumin.
Along the east side of the wreck toward the Lakehurst naval station's big zeppelin hangers that stands 800 yards away, lay two of the HINDENBURG'S motors. As large as one-car garage, they were buried in the soft ground. Their propeller blades were red splinters.
Overhead like the webbing of some giant spider, wires and shredded silver fabric were entangled.
Cotton padding, designed to keep a motor from tearing through the paper-thin sides of the zeppelin in event of its tearing loose, hung grotesquely alongside the fallen motor gondolas. In some unexplained manner it had not burned in the white-heat that seared the faces of rescue workers when they ventured within 70 feet of the blazing ship last night.
The windows of the salons and passengers' promenades, made of a celulose substance, had melted and hung from the HINDENBURG thin like silver tinsel.
DEATH TOLL 32.
Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N. J. -- The HINDENBURG death toll reached thirty-two today while lighter-than-air experts gathered around the wreckage of the former queen of the skies to ascertain what caused her to crash in flames as she was completing her first voyage of the season across the North Atlantic.
Lakehurst, N. J. -- Scores of witnesses who watched the flaming hulk of the dirigible HINDENBURG fall described the scene today as like a "horrible nightmare," impossible to believe but made real by the screams of trapped victims.
WILLIAM VON MEISTER, vice-president of the Zeppelin company, and HARRY A. BRUNO, press agent, were standing directly under the nose of the big ship as it settled close to the ground.
"Suddenly there was a terrific explosion under the tail flippers," BRUNO said. "Flames shot through the ship in a fraction of a second."
"I saw two passengers hurled out of the window."
"We turned and ran as fast as we could to get out from under the big hulk that was enveloped in flame and was descending upon us."
From a hospital bed, twenty-two year old THEODORE RITTER mechanic aboard the dirigible, called out in broken English:
"Gertrude, Gertrude, Gertrude."
Authorities sent for an interpreter. RITTER, slightly injured, explained that he wanted his sweetheart back home in Halle-Schwaeblach, Germany, to know that he had survived.
"I was in one of the engine gondolas," he said. "There was no indication that anything was wrong."
"We stopped the engine. Suddenly there was a flash of flame."
"Our gondola was ripped from the ship. When it het the ground I picked myself up and ran as fast as I could."
Another survivor, HERBERT O'LAUGHLIN, of Lake Forest, Ill., was in a Newark, N. J., hospital. He had been in his cabin, preparing to disembark, when he felt the HINDENBURG away dizzily.
"It's all like a nightmare," he said. "A light lit up the whole ship. Fire seemed to break out all about the ground."
FLAME PRECEDES BLAST.
Lakehurst, N. J. -- "We had just been given the order to 'slack off' the port lead rope as the big dirigible HINDENBURG settled gently down to earth," EDWARD GILES, member of the HINDENBURG ground crew, said today. "I saw flame on the top of the big ship and an instant later there was an explosion."
"Before I had time to run, the HINDENBURG lay smashed and flaming on the ground."
"The shrieks from within the wreckage rose above the roar of burning fabric -- it burned like a paper balloon."
"It seemed that there was nothing we could do. We were helpless against the flames that seared our faces. Some of the passengers jumped from the cabin windows after the first explosion."
"Others were blown through the sides of the ship. I saw a man emerge from the wreckage, every bit of clothing torn from his body. Shreds of flesh hung from his face."
"He walked 10 or 20 feet, so numbed and dazed he seemed not to feel the red hot debris through which he staggered."
"He staggered into the arms of a man only a few feet ahead of me."
Olean Times Herald New York 1937-05-07
PRY INTO DISASTER MYSTERIES.
TRAGEDY TOLL HAS REACHED THIRTY-FIVE.
FEDERAL INQUIRY BOARD SPEEDS INVESTIGATION WITH AID OF AIR COMMERCE BUREAU, ARMY AND NAVY EXPERTS, GERMAN REPRESENTATIVES AND TECHNICIANS.
Lakehurst, N. J. -- The thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth victims of the HINDENBURG disaster died today while a federal board of inquiry pried into its mysteries, promising a thorough investigation of all possible causes including suggestions of sabotage.
WILLIAM SPECK, the HINDENBURG'S chief radio operator died in a New York hospital today. Soon afterward, ERICK KNOECHER of Zeunezerda, Germany, a passenger, died in another hospital. They followed by twelve hours the death of Captain ERNST LEHMANN, heir apparent to the dirigible farm of DR. HUGO ECKENER. The new deaths speeded the federal investigation in which the Bureau of Air Commerce enlisted the aid of naval and army experts, congressional technicians, New Jersey officials, and a representative of the German Ambassador.
A second inquiry will be undertaken, by a German government commission headed by DR. ECKENER, chief of the Zeppelin Works, which sails for the United States today aboard the liner Europa.
"If there is plausible evidence of sabotage in connection with the explosion which destroyed the HINDENBURG, we will thoroughly investigate that angle of the disaster," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce MONROE JOHNSON after announcing that public hearings would open here on Monday.
First mention of sabotage had come from DR. ECKENER, but after a study of more complete reports on the disaster, he said that the likelihood of deliberate destruction of the giant airship "seems very small." Nevertheless, he said that "obviously the possibility of sabotage also must be examined."
Col. JOHNSON said many of the survivors and eye-witnesses of the crash already had been questioned by DR. FRED FLAGG, JR., chief of the Air Commerce Bureau. "The evidence will be further checked today," he said, "and witnesses -- survivors, eye-witnesses, naval air experts -- will be called on Monday.
"None of the many puzzling angels of this mystery will be neglected in the inquiry."
The board of three -- SOUTH TRIMBLE, JR., Solicitor for the Department of Commerce, chairman; MAJ. R. W. SCHROEDER, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Air Commerce; and DENNIS MULLIGAN, Chief of the Regulations and Enforcement Division of the Bureau -- will start formal hearings without the testimony which Capt. LEHMANN might have been able to add to the record to be compiled as a safeguard against future disasters such as overtook the pride of the Reich.
LEHMANN died in a Lakewood, N. J., hospital a few hours after the board had been formed to inquire into the crash -- a disaster which Germany had believed impossible. Although he had stumbled from the flaming wreckage of the "perfect" airship crying that, "I can't understand it. I can't understand it," investigators had counted on his vast technical knowledge for invaluable aid in seeking the cause of the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Capt. MAX PRUESS, in command of the HINDENBURG on its first Atlantic crossing of 1937, continued in serious condition in the New York City Medical Center. It is doubtful whether he would be able to aid the inquiry board, at least for the present. Like LEHMANN, he suffered severe burns and nervous shock which made the outcome of his battle for life uncertain.
The wreckage of the HINDENBURG, spread across a thousand feet on the naval air station landing field, was placed in direct charge of the air commerce bureau of the commerce department, which cooperated with naval, army, state and Germany representatives in the investigations.
Olean Times Herald New York 1937-05-08
LIST OF CASUALTIES ON THE HINDENBURG.
Captain ERNST LEHMANN, Director of Flight Operations.
WILLY SPECK, Chief Radio Officer.
FRANZ EICHELMANN, Radio Officer.
WILHELM DIMMLER, Engineering Officer.
LUDWIG FELBER, Elevatorman.
ERNST HUCHEL, Elevatorman.
ALFRED BERNHARD, Helmsmen.
ERNST SCHLAPP, Electrician.
WALTER BAHNHOLZER, Engine Mechanic.
RUDY BIALAS, Engine Mechanic.
ALBERT HOLDERRIED, Engine Mechanic.
ROBERT MOSER, Engine Mechanic.
ALOIS REISACHER, Engine Mechanic.
WILLY SCHEEF, Engine Mechanic.
JOSEF SCHREIBMULLER, Engine Mechanic.
ALFRED STOCKLE, Engine Mechanic.
LUDWIG KNORR, Chief Rigger.
ERICH SPEHL, Rigger.
EMILIE IMHOFF, Stewardess.
MAX SCHULZE, Steward.
RICHARD MULLER, Cook.
FRITZ FLACKUS, Cook.
ERNST RUDOLF ANDERS, 65, Dresden (tea merchant)
BIRGER BRINK, Stockholm (corresondent).
HERMANN DOEHNER, 50, Mexico City (Pharmaceuticals Importer).
IRENE DOEHNER, 16.
J. BURTIS DOLAN, 47, Chicago (Perfume Importer)
EDWARD DOUGLAS, 39, Newark, N. J. (Advertising Account Executive)
FRITZ EDRMANN (Colonel, German Luftwaffe)
OTTO ERNST, 70, Hamburg (Cotton Broker)
MORITZ FEIBUSCH, 57, San Francisco (Fancy Goods Importer)
ERICH KNOCHER, 38, Zeulenroda (Importer)
JOHN PANNES, 61, Long Island (American Rep., Hamburg-American Line)
EMMA PANNES, 60, (MRS. JOHN)
OTTO REICHHOLD, 40, Vienna (Manufacturing Representative)
Civilian Ground Crew:
ALAN HAGAMAN, Lakehurst, N. J.
(Transcriber's Note: These are just a few small samples of information that can be found on the HINDENBURG disaster. Page after page of information can be found at many places on line.)