USS Akron Crash – Officers and Crew

A list of the officers, crew, and guests aboard USS Akron when the ship crashed at sea April 3-4, 1933.  Of the 76 men aboard Akron, only three survived the crash; their names appear in blue.

Six of the men killed in the wreck of the Akron had survived the crash of USS Shenandoah in 1925.

Akron Executive Officer Herbert V. Wiley was in command of USS Macon when the Macon crashed at sea north of San Francisco on February 12, 1935.

OFFICERS:

Rear Admiral William A. Moffett

Rear Admiral William A. Moffett

Cdr. Frank C. McCord, Commanding
Lt. Cdr. Herbert V. Wiley, Executive Officer
Lt. Cdr. Harold E. McClellan
Lt. George Calnan
Lt. Herbert M. Wescoat
Lt. Richard F. Cross, Jr.
Lt. (jg) Hammond J. Dugan
Lt. (jg) Charles F. Miller
Lt. (jg) Morgan Redfield
Lt. (jg) Wilfred Bushnell
Lt. (jg) Cyrus Clendening
Chief Machinist George C. Walsh

PASSENGERS/GUESTS

RAdm. William A. Moffett, Chief of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics
Cdr. Fred T. Berry, CO NAS Lakehurst/CO Rigid Airship Training & Experimental Squadron
Cdr. Harry B. Cecil (Aide to Rear Admiral Moffett)
Lt. Joseph H. Severyns
Lt. (jg) Robert E. Sayre
Lt. (jg) Charles H. Calloway
Col. Alfred F. Masury, U.S. Army Reserve (V.P., Mack Truck Co.)

Uss Akron Survivors Moody Erwin (left), Herbert V. Wiley (center), Richard Deal (right)

USS Akron Survivors Moody Erwin (left), Herbert V. Wiley (center), Richard Deal (right)

ENLISTED

Anderson, Victor C. (AMM3C | AVN. MACH. MATE 3D)
Angeles, Maximo (Matt1c | Mess Attend. 1st)
Arthur, Wellington K. (ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate)
Austin, Wilton G. (BM2c | Boatswain’s Mate 2d)
Ballard, Henry A. (BM2c | Boatswain’s Mate 2d) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Barnhart, Bennie, (Cox | Coxswain)
Baughman, Harold R. (F3c | Fireman 3d)
Boelsen, Peter (AMM2c | Avn. Mach. Mate 2d)
Boswell, Henry L. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Carlson, Arthur E. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Carr, Stewart S. (CEM | Chief Electricians Mate)
Cooper, Fred (AMM2c | Avn. Mach. Mate 2d)
Copeland, Robert W. (CRM | Chief Radioman)
Cridlin, Stanley L. (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
Deal, Richard E. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate)
Dean, Carl C. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate)
Duncan, Lester G. (F3c | Fireman 3d)
Engler, Ralph (Cox | Coxswain)
Erwin, Moody E. (AM2c | Aviation Metalsmith 2d)
Eschette, Horace P. (SC1c | Ships Cook 1st)
Fahey, Lawrence E. (AMM2c | Avn. Mach. Mate 2d)
Fennessy, Edward (ACOM | Aviation Chief Ordnanceman)
Fink, Elmer E. CTM
Graves, Hilbert N. (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
Hackett, Earl P. (CAerog | Chief Aerographer)
Hill, William T. (PhM1c | Pharmacist’s Mate 1st)
Hoover, Paul S. (SC3c | Ships Cook3d)
Hulting, Lewis O. (Cox | Coxswain)
Jandick, Paul A. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate)
Johnson, Rufus B. (BM2c | Boatswain’s Mate 2d)
Latham, W.R. (CBM | Chief Boatswain’s Mate)
Lamkin, H.R. (Sea1c | Seaman First Class)
Liles, Leon D. (CAerog | Chief Aerographer)
Lipke, Donald H. (AMM1c | Avn. Mach. Mate 1st);
Magnuson, Fridolf R. (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
McLellan, Benjamin C. (AMM2c | Avn. Mach. Mate 2d)
Molen, Herschel L RM1c; Oronez, Mario (Matt1c | Mess Attend. 1st)
Quernheim, August C. (ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Rader, Leonard G. (Cox | Coxswain)
Russell, William A. (ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Rutan, Lucius W. (ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate)
Rytell, John (AMM1c | Avn. Mach. Mate 1st)
Shauger, Paul R. (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d);
Shevlowitz, Joseph (ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate) [USS Shenandoah Survivor] Slayton, Douglas C. (RM3c | Radioman 3d)
Starr, Fred W. (Sea1c | Seaman First Class)
Stine, Ralph C. (QM1c | Quartermaster 1st)
Swidersky, Tony F. (Cox | Coxswain)
Thigpen, Benjamin J.,Jr. (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
Tomes, Gerald L. (F3c | Fireman 3d)
Ulrich, Oliver (BM2c | Boatswain’s Mate 2d)
Walck, Lewis T.(AMM2c | Avn. Mach. Mate 2d)
Weeks, John L (Sea2c | Seaman Second Class)
Wind, Nobart (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
Zanetti, Joseph (AMM3c | Avn. Mach. Mate 3d)
Zimkus, Joseph J. (BM1c | Boatswain’s Mate 1st).

57 Comments on "USS Akron Crash – Officers and Crew"

  1. Does anyone have information about crew member Ralph C Stein? He was my grandfather and we have no information on him

  2. My Grand Uncle was Peter Boelson, Avn. Mech. Mate 2c. I have 1 photo of him in his Navy uniform. Such a tragic loss of so many young lives.

  3. Jill Rudnitski | December 8, 2017 at 9:53 am | Reply

    My great-granduncle was AMM3 Hilbert Graves. My mom and I are very interested in genealogy, and we have followed stories about the USS Akron. We have no photos of Hilbert (unless he is in one of the group photos online.) i would love to see any of the scrapbooks or scans referred to in this thread. Is there a website or facebook page where they are posted? Please feel free to reply to me directly at [email protected].

  4. Michael Rutan Heningham | February 12, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Reply

    My great uncle, brother of my paternal grandfather was Avn.Chf.Mach.Mate Lucius Washburn Rutan. During WW1, he served on the U.S.S. Potapsco as Chief Electrician. According to accounts, he survived the crash of the Akron, and was with one of the survivors holding on to one of the large fuel containers that was floating. Between the injuries he sustained and the rough seas, he was not able yo hold on until rescue vessels arrived. Having spoken to his daughters, Dorothy, while she was still alive, this tragedy and loss remained part of her families lives. They were so very proud of their father’s service.

  5. Isabella bryant | November 22, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Reply

    hi it is Isabella he was my 4 times grand father and every one who emailed you are relited to me.

  6. Hi, I’m writing about the John Lust story. My mother, née Anna Tarnawski, was married to Victor Carl Anderson, who died on the Akron. My mother had told us that he was not supposed to be on the ship that night and took the place of another shipmate. Does anyone have knowledge of this or any knowledge of Mr. Anderson who my mother called ‘Andy’. Any info would be greatfully appreciated.

    • Anderson needed one more flight to be fully qualified for duty as an Engineer and so he took the place of Aviation Machinist’s Mate Sidney Hooper. Hooper later survived the crash of the AKRON’s sister ship USS MACON (ZRS5) and ended finishing his career in Navy Lighter Than Air flying patrol blimps out of Lakehurst in World War II.

  7. Red Dugan – or Hammond Dugan as listed was my grandfather. It is my understanding he was the navigator.

    From what Red’s brother (my great uncle) explained to me – Red was not averse to risk. The story I heard was that when he was first given command of the ZMC-2 – he proceeded to fly over his mothers house in Baltimore on St. Paul or Calvert Street I think and drop a letter/package out – which a passerby found and delivered to her house. Apparently – the letter/packet said something to the effect of “Hey mom – what do you think of my new ride.”

  8. Stephanie Santos | June 7, 2016 at 3:17 am | Reply

    My great uncle was Lucius Washburn Rutan. He was a ACMM | Avn. Chf. Mach. Mate on the USS Akron. I wish I could have met him.

  9. Fred Spector | May 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Reply

    I was Moody Erwins’ mailman at 201 e. 7th street in Lakewood,NJ back in the 60’s.
    He was probably in his mid sixties at the time and told me about the disaster.
    He had a southern accent, probably Georgia or Alabama.. I’ve never forgotten him.

    I grew up in the Jackson/Lakewood area and saw many blimps go over our farm in the forties. Our neighbor in Lakewood, Mr. Iannocone had been one of the Sailors holding the lines when the Hindenberg exploded.

    I worked in Toms River for many years and Admiral Rosendahl was head of
    Admiral Farragut Academy on the Toms River. He never gave up hope that some day Dirigibles would return.

  10. Karen Neubauer | April 15, 2016 at 10:48 am | Reply

    My Great-Uncle was Leonard G. Rader. He had written a letter to my grandma the evening of the crash. He expressed his concern about the weather, and how he had a bad feeling about going through with the mission.

  11. Kevin O'Neill | April 5, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Reply

    My Great-Uncle was Chief Machinist George Walsh.
    I’ve got some old pics of him & the Akron & crew.

    • Kevin Brughelli | April 17, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Reply

      Kevin – George C. Walsh was my grandfather, and my mother was 2 years old at the time of the crash. I have several pics of him and the crew as well.

  12. It is nice to see people connecting through this site. Lots of common interest.
    I heard the the legendary “Golden Rivet” was replaced shortly after the ceremony because
    it was not as dependable as a common rivet. That makes sense.

    • Though it probably *was* replaced there were over 6.5 million rivets holding together some 14 miles of duralumin girders that made up the AKRON’s structure.

  13. William Bell | May 2, 2015 at 3:16 am | Reply

    During the tours of the Panama Canal Zone, did the Akron make any stops? I ask this because Henry Boswell was my great uncle (as mentioned above) and I have many antique postcards from Panama and this may be a possible reason for my family having them.

    • Rick Zitarosa | March 6, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Reply

      In addition to a 1928 flight to the Canal Zone, Henry Boswell was also on the epic 27-day February 1931 trip that the LOS ANGELES made to the Annual Fleet Maneuvers which were held in Panama that year. Having begun Rigid Airship service as a member of the “Howden Detachment” with the ill-fated British-built “ZR-2” airship in 1921, Henry went on to serve aboard the ZR1 USS SHENANDOAH at Lakehurst from Septermber 1923 until she was destroyed in a storm over Ohio in September 1925. He transferred to the crew of the LOS ANGELES by early 1926 and eventually flew some 3000 hours on the “LA” before transferring to the new AKRON, becoming one of the most experienced members of the crew of the new ship. At the time he was killed Henry probably had over 5000 hours of Rigid Airship Flight Time, easily making him one of the “top” men in the group.

  14. Jill McGrath | April 8, 2015 at 10:22 pm | Reply

    My maternal Grandfather was Alger H. Dresel, a graduate of the Naval Academy and was Commander of all three Navy dirigibles at one time or another, he also worked with the design process both In Lakehurst, NJ and Akron, Ohio. Does anyone have any memorabilia concerning Alger Dresel? I certainly would appreciate any info or photos.
    Thank you,
    Jill McGrath

    • Rick Zitarosa | January 29, 2018 at 6:05 pm | Reply
      Alger Dresel is the only officer to have commanded THREE (3) US Navy Rigid Airships. He volunteered for Airship Duty in the Spring of 1929 and graduated the Officer Lighter Than Air Program in mid- 1930. He served as “Umpire” aboard the LOS ANGELES during her famous deployment to the February 1931 Fleet Maneuvers in Panama and then took command of the ship in April of that year Leaving the LOS ANGELES in February 1931 he was assigned to the AKRON for “Duty Under Instruction” and then took command of the AKRON from June 1932 until January 1933. His next assignment was command of the new USS MACON, putting the new ship into her trial flights just a few weeks after the tragic loss of the AKRON. Dresel held command of the MACON until July 1934, followed by six months in command at the MACON’s home base at Moffett Field, California. The MACON was lost in February of 1935 and there were no more big airships to fly, only small blimps and a lot of dreams on the drawing board. He seems to have had no further interest in Lighter Than Air from this point onward”first love” the sea. Once described as “A modest man who LOATHED publicity” Dresel was known for having a very pleasant demeanor and was probably one of the most popular officers among the crew.

  15. Hi,
    My great uncle was Joseph Shevlowitz. I would very much like to see the
    Scans. Please email to me: [email protected]
    Thank you.

  16. Benjamin Charles McLellan, AVN Mech Mate, 2d, was my uncle. He died 10 years before I was born. His sister, Grace, was my mother and she died 7/8/2014 at the age of 98. Grace kept a scrapbook of all the articles that appeared in the Lansing, MI newspaper during the period of time after they announced the downing of the USS Akron. The papers were starting to fall apart, but I scanned them on my computer and put them into a digital scrapbook. If anyone would like to see it, just ask and I’ll send it to your email address.

  17. Fred T Berry III | June 21, 2014 at 11:43 am | Reply

    Joining Suzanne Robinson, CDR Fred T Berry was also my grandfather and namesake. I really would love to see these giants over US skies again.
    Fred

    • My father worked with a man named Fred Berry in San Diego, at General Dynamics, and I remember seeing his mom’s house on Coronado with a lot of airship memorabilia. Could that have been your father and grandmother’s house?

    • Rick Zitarosa | March 6, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Reply

      You’ll probably never see anything as majestic as the LOS ANGELES or the AKRON again, but the Navy did revive its Lighter-Than-Air program as recently as 2006-2015 with the MZ3A airship which (ironically) spent much time docked in the very same Lakehurst Hangar #1 that was used by the giant Rigid Airships 85-95 years ago.

  18. Suzanne Berry Robinson | December 31, 2013 at 12:25 am | Reply

    My grandfather (paternal) was Commander Fred T. Berry, Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst NJ. His body never found after the crash. Headstone at the US Naval Academy. Destroyer named after him (USS Fred T. Berry; DD-858). R.I.P. to all…..

  19. Do you have any pull to get a copy of the USS Falcons log book to see where the wreck is located, and anymore photos from what was found or left behind??? Is the golden rivit still down there??? It’s not too deep to scuba dive the area, and its my dream to do it! Miss your inputs must be very busy ??????

  20. Nick Eschete | June 3, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply

    They Spelled Eschete wrong He was my great Uncle. I have a Metal air ship Modeled after the Akron. That He sent home Before He Died i also have the Box his belongings were shipped home in as well.

    • Wendy Eschete {born Eschete} | November 16, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Reply

      Hi Nick.. I’ve been told my Dad was named after your great uncle. My grandfathers name was Arthur P. Eschete, his father was Omer Eschete.

  21. My Grandfather’s older brother was Lucius Rutan. He survived the crash but was lost at sea.

  22. Laurie James | May 25, 2013 at 6:58 am | Reply

    My grandfather was Leon Dewitt Liles. He died while my grandmother was pregnant with my mom. I was wondering if anyone had any pictures of the crew that might include him. My mom lost all her photos in a house fire when she was a child. Thank you.

    • Dianne Gibson | April 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Reply

      I don’t know if you will see this Laurie, but I have pictures of the crew and of your grandfather.

  23. Charles A O'Connor | March 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Reply

    Some how someway I acquired photo’s of the USS Akron, in two of the photo’s are a sailor and his two parent. I can’t make out his name. He ,looks similar to Richard Deal in the above photo.

  24. Hi-Just found a one of the 4 1/2″ Duralum bookmarks of my mothers. Does anyone know of any significance of her name (Schnaufer) and date (7-19-31) being engraved on the flat part of the bookmark? I read the Akron was first flown in August of that year so was wonderig why she had one with that earlier date on it. Thanks for any info!

  25. I have 6 post cards from a member of the crew I am assuming, written to his brother telling him about Mrs. Hoover was going to be christening the airship later that afternoon, 8/8/31. They are quite interesting to see & to picture this man being so excited by the Akron & all the happenings that are going on.

  26. I recently found Henry Barton Cecil’s grave while graving an his stone has the inscription: Lost in the US Navy Airship Akron disaster, and I had never heard of it so went googling and found this. Thank you for the site.

    He is buried in Scott County, TN, Reed Cemetery, New River.

  27. The Macon went down south of San Fransico, check your facts rick

  28. Did anyone mention where the airship went down, and what was picked up by the navy, and what was left behind??? I cann’t seem to find any info on that!!! Help shed so light on the subject. rick

  29. Gordon Philbin | July 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Reply

    I know Herbert Victor Wiley passed away in 1954, can someone tell me when Moody Erwin and Richard Deal died?

    • A reader very kindly emailed me a photo of Moody Erwin’s gravestone in response to your question, indicating that he died in 1989.

    • Alger Dresel is the only officer to have commanded THREE (3) US Navy Rigid Airships. He volunteered for Airship Duty in the Spring of 1929 and graduated the Officer Lighter Than Air Program in mid- 1930. He served as “Umpire” aboard the LOS ANGELES during her famous deployment to the February 1931 Fleet Maneuvers in Panama and then took command of the ship in April of that year Leaving the LOS ANGELES in February 1931 he was assigned to the AKRON for “Duty Under Instruction” and then took command of the AKRON from June 1932 until January 1933. His next assignment was command of the new USS MACON, putting the new ship into her trial flights just a few weeks after the tragic loss of the AKRON. Dresel held command of the MACON until July 1934, followed by six months in command at the MACON’s home base at Moffett Field, California. The MACON was lost in February of 1935 and there were no more big airships to fly, only small blimps and a lot of dreams on the drawing board. He seems to have had no further interest in Lighter Than Air from this point onward”first love” the sea. Once described as “A modest man who LOATHED publicity” Dresel was known for having a very pleasant demeanor and was probably one of the most popular officers among the crew.

  30. Seamon 2nd class John Louis Weeks was my father’s brother–my unlce whom I never knew. My Dad, Ray Weeks Sr., was 13 when he lost his brother. My dad served with the USMC from 1940 until 1947, 32 months of that time in the South Pacific with the 7th marine Regiment, 1st Marne Division. Former Ssgt R. Weeks passed away in 1986. John Weeks is survived by his younger sister Helen (Weeks) Scott who resides in Florida.

    I am a retired Marine Officer and both my sister and her husband are former Naval Officers.

    I am putting together a video honoring John’s naval service aboard the Akron using photes and a video clip of an interview with the Lt Cmdr Wiley, one of the survivors of the crash. Any assistance with background and memorabilia, etc. is appreciated. Send to me at my email address [email protected]

  31. Joseph Boswell | October 25, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Reply

    Henry L. ( Leroy ) Boswell was my Grandfather’s ( William Bernie Boswell ) younger brother. They are from Bagdad, Florida, Santa Rosa County There home was on Pond Creek by bridge on Henry St. I have an antique pic and frame of Henry Leroy Boswell in uniform head to toe. A family keepsake given to me by my grandmother Bessie C. Bengtson Boswell. Henry’s sister in law.

    • Rebekah A. Boswell | September 9, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Reply

      Henry was my grandfather’s father. My grandfather is Franklin Wallace Boswell. His mother was married to Henry when he died. Her name is Doris. Could you please contact me at 252 422 0039.

    • Charles Steinman | September 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Reply

      Is there any way to get a scan of that photo of Henry L. Boswell? Henry was my step-daughter’s great grandfather and she would kill for a picture of him.

      Thanks – feel free to email me at [email protected] anytime

    • Cora Boswell Rogers | September 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply

      Hi Joseph,

      Henry Leroy Boswell was my great grandfather. I would love to see a scanned copy of that picture of him in uniform. If this is possible, please let me know!

      Thanks!

    • Robert C. Boswell | September 14, 2011 at 11:11 am | Reply

      Henry L Boswell was my grandfather, and my father’s (Franklin W. Boswell) dad. Dad was an only child and was born 26 Nov 1932 (5 months old at the time of Henry’s death) Henry was married to Doris, my grandmother. I have 4 brothers, Frank jr (deceased), jeffery, Mark, and Christopher leroy boswell. I have 4 daughters and 8 grandchildren. I also have a picture of Henry in uniform.
      I’m retired Marine Corp and have always wondered about that side of the family. My daughter Rebekah discovered this info while doing a school project

      • William Bell | May 2, 2015 at 2:44 am | Reply

        Henry Boswell was my maternal great uncle. His sister Alma (Boswell) Kinney was my grandmother.
        For years folklore in the family was that we had a relative die in the crash of the Hindenburg, I have now be able to correct this mistake. If anyone wishes to contact me to help with identification of various people in various pictures I have it would be very welcome. I also have one picture of the U.S.S. Akron if anyone wishes to have a copy.

        W. J. “Billy” Bell

    • Henry Boswell had gone into Lighter Than Air around 1920 and thus served in the “Howden Detachment ” crew that was supposed to take the ill-fated British-built R-38 across the Atlantic (the ship ended up crashing in England killing 16 Americans and 28 British crew, Henry Boswell was not aboard.) He later made most flights of the USS SHENANDOAH between 1923 and 1925 and went right over to the crew of the LOS ANGELES, flying aboard her from 1926 thru mid-1931 when he was assigned to the crew of the AKRON. With the rating of Chief Boatswain’s Mate (CBM) Boswell was a trained “Elevatorman” (that is, the man who handled the wheel that actually controlled the horizontal tail surfaces of the airship and its up/down movement) this was probably the most exacting, physically-demanding and highly-skilled job on the ship. Anybody could STEER by the compass, but to actually FLY the ship, feel its movements and anticipate the next movements through nothing but your feet and “hands on the wheel” was a special skill that set you apart from the rest and Boswell had that skill. It is known that he was brought forward from his Quarters to the Control Car of the AKRON as the ship experienced difficulties as she plunged farther into the fatal storm; what became of him is not known, there was only one survivor from the control car and two others from the rest of the ship.

  32. I had the pleasure of knowing and meeting a engineer’s mate who served aboard the Akron. He got into a car accident and was hospitalized when the Akron went down off the Jersey Coast. Talk about lucky breaks!

    • Stu, was that person, by any chance, John Lust. My dad was flying on the Los Angeles and knew John Lust. I published a letter in the Navy Lakehourst Historical Society’s news letter and John called me. It was really great to be able to talk with him. He passed away about a year or so later.
      [email protected]

      • Yes; the very same.
        He was a sharp guy and loved talking about LTA.
        I did a 12 page written report on the US Navy program for my history class in High School. The teacher ignored my subject and gave me a scathing critique on the presentation, and took a ball point pen and crossed off each page. When I met up with John some weeks later, I showed him my report to get his opinion and he loved it and offered to belt my history teacher in the jaw. He gave a me much needed support for my work, and I always appreciated him for that. Thanks for your reply.

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