What began as a routine run between Germany and New Jersey 75 years ago this Sunday ended as the most dramatic air disaster of its time in Lakehurst. The mighty airship Hindenburg disintegrated in a ball of flames, taking 35 lives with her.

On the 75th anniversary of the fabled disaster, the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst offers a rare opportunity for everyday people to enter the base and join the memorial observance on the spot where death rained down on May 6, 1937.

One day before, May 5, the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society invites everyone who’s interested in knowing more about what actually happened that day to their commemorative dinner at the Clarion Inn – formerly the Quality Inn – on Route 37 in Toms River.

 

 

Society President Carl Jablonski keeps meticulous records of the conflagration to help his group perpetuate the memory. He has enlisted Dr. Horst Schermer, one of the last living passengers who ever rode the dirigible, to attend the dinner and the ceremony.

“The Hindenburg was the Concorde of its day,” he says. “It was 804 feet in length, 15 stories high, and it weighed 42 tons.”

It was also, he notes, a propaganda tool for Adolph Hitler’s ambitions. His Third Reich subsidized the building of the mammoth airship and helped the foundering Zeppelin Company begin similar projects in exchange for displaying the Swastika emblem on its tail.

For radio reporter Herb Morrison, it was a routine day to describe to his listeners a routine procedure. Radio was in its prime and lighter-than-air travel was on its way to becoming the future of aviation.

Then, without warning, chamber after chamber of hydrogen ignited and within seconds, the horror raged and receded. It was all recorded on film and audio, and riveted moviegoers who saw it in newsreels – exponentially bigger than any flatscreen in any living room today.

“Every theater was showing the Hindenburg crash for at least two to three weeks,” says Jablonski. “It was the headline in every newspaper throughout the world.”

In subsequent postings, we’ll explore the event in detail through Carl Jablonski’s tireless research.