Hindenburg Memorial Service at Lakehurst

by Dan Grossman on May 9, 2012

I was at Lakehurst, New Jersey last weekend for the memorial service in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster and to reconnect with old friends from the LTA world.

The Memorial Service

The memorial service was a moving tribute to both the victims of the disaster and the U.S. Navy personnel who heroically saved so many lives.

Sailor with Memorial Wreath

Sailor with Memorial Wreath

Memorial Wreaths at Hindenburg Crash Site

Memorial Wreaths at Hindenburg Crash Site

The service was attended by a relatively large crowd of approximately 200 people including officers, sailors, soldiers, and airmen from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Guests at Hindenburg Memorial Service

Guests at Hindenburg Memorial Service

Special guests included Alexander Pruss, whose grandfather, Captain Max Pruss, was in command of Hindenburg’s last voyage; Dr. Horst Schirmer, whose father, Dr. Max Schirmer, was an engineer and aerodynamicist who designed important features of the ship, and who flew aboard Hindenburg as a child; Robert Buchanan, who was a teenage member of the civilian ground crew when the ship crashed; and Mary Alice Noone, whose grandfather Burtis Dolan died in the crash.

Speakers at the service included Carl Jablonski and airship historian Rick Zitarosa of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society.

Cheryl Ganz, Alexander Pruss and his Wife Astrid, and Dan Grossman of Airships.net

Cheryl Ganz, Alexander Pruss and his wife Astrid, and Dan Grossman of Airships.net

Burtis Dolan's Granddaughter, Mary Alice Noone, with her husband Michael

Burtis Dolan’s granddaughter, Mary Alice Noone, with her husband Michael

Robert Buchanan and Rick Zitarosa with Memorial Wreath

Robert Buchanan and Rick Zitarosa with Hindenburg Memorial Wreath

The ceremony was filmed by Rick Malkames, using the same camera that Hearst newsreel cameraman James J. Seeley used on May 6, 1937 to record the disaster.

Original Hearst Newsreel Camera that Recorded the Hindenburg Crash

Original Hearst Newsreel Camera that Recorded the Crash

The Hindenburg Crash Marker

The Hindenburg Crash Marker

The Memorial Dinner Sponsored by Navy Lakehurst Historical Society

A special memorial dinner was held the night before the service; speakers included Alexander Pruss, Horst Schirmer, Robert Buchanan, Rick Zitarosa, and Carl Jablonski, among others.

Alexander Pruss Speaking at Hindenburg Memorial Dinner

Alexander Pruss Speaking at Hindenburg Memorial Dinner

Horst Schirmer and Alexander Pruss

Horst Schirmer and Alexander Pruss

Personal Fun and Friendship at Lakehurst

The weekend was also an opportunity for me to spend time with some of my old friends in LTA community, including Rick Zitarosa of NLHS, Patrick Russell of “Faces of the Hindenburg,” and Cheryl Ganz of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, who are three of the most knowledgeable Hindenburg scholars in the world.  I also spent many enjoyable hours discussing technical aspects of the Hindenburg’s design with the erudite and gentlemanly Horst Schirmer.

Dan Grossman and Horst Schirmer in Hangar One at Lakehurst

Dan Grossman and Horst Schirmer in Hangar One at Lakehurst

While at Lakehurst, Rick Zitarosa, Patrick Russell and I explored Hangar One, the crash site, and the area where the old high mast was located.  Rick kindly gave us a tour of artifacts from Lakehurst’s past as the center of American LTA aviation.

One of the many snatch blocks that secured U.S.S. Los Angeles and other ships to the high mast at Lakehurst

One of the many snatch blocks that secured U.S.S. Los Angeles and other ships to the high mast at Lakehurst

Gas lines and other connections under the now-dismantled high mast

Gas lines and other connections under the now-dismantled high mast

U.S.S. Shenandoah at the high mast at Lakehurst

U.S.S. Shenandoah at the high mast at Lakehurst

The Navy Lakehurst Historical Society has also done a wonderful job restoring the replica of the control car used in the movie “The Hindenburg” (1975), and since I have written extensively about the ship’s instruments and flight procedures it was a real pleasure to see the recent restoration.  Cheryl, Patrick, and I had fun exploring the car and posing for photos.

Control Car from 1975 Movie "The Hindenburg"

Control Car from 1975 Movie “The Hindenburg”

Control Car of LZ-129

Hindenburg Control Car

Patrick Russell, of Faces of the Hindenburg, in LZ-129 Control Car Replica

Patrick Russell of Faces of the Hindenburg

Elevator Wheel on LZ-129 Hindenburg

Hindenburg Elevator Wheel

Elevator Wheel on LZ-129 Hindenburg Replica

Dan Grossman of Airships.net

Dan Grossman of Airships.net

Observation Room/Lounge at Aft of Replica Control Car

Finally, my colleagues and I discovered new and important information about the cause of the Hindenburg crash.  It was an exciting development that we will discuss publicly in the future.

My weekend in Lakehurst was a wonderful experience, both to honor and commemorate those who died in the tragedy, and to spend time with valued friends and colleagues.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

George Wilson June 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I can’t wait to see the new info about the cause of the crash! Thanks again for such a great site! George Wilson

Reply

Frank May 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm

do you know what happened to Seeley’s footage? Was it actually the one Universal used (since Universal’s cameraman left early)? That’s what I believe.

I have never seen a release of a “Hearst newsreel” before. I know there is a shaky footage which could have been obtained by one of the other cameramen of one company (since some like Movietone had more than one cameraman) or maybe navy personnel present.

Also do you know anything about the photograph seen on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer? That seems like a very rare photograph with the mooring mast and the nose on fire. I’ve seen another photograph of an injured ground crew member looking at that same newspaper but never a scan of that photograph. There is also another of the ship in the air with the mooring mast (similar to Gus Pasquarella’s photo but earlier).

And do you know anything about the footage recorded by a spectator? There’s been some discussion that it was shown at the ceremony and that they are finally going to share the footage.

Reply

J. James May 17, 2012 at 12:57 am

Did you catch a glimpse of the LEMV, or was that in a different hangar?

Reply

Kevin Olson May 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Looks like a great way to spend a weekend. Thanks for sharing the experience!

Reply

M L Hopp May 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful trip with us all. I hope to get to Lakehurst amongst other places someday myself. Your photographs of the ceremony and dinner are invaluable to someone that couldn’t attend in person. I look forward to what new information you and colleagues have gleaned, as the great ship is a continuing point of fascination for me.

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