ZR-1 U.S.S. Shenandoah

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U.S.S. Shenandoah. (click all photos to enlarge)

The Design and Construction of ZR-1 Shenandoah

The airship U.S.S. Shenandoah was the first American built rigid airship.  Although built in the United States, Shenandoah was based on the design of the German L-49, a World War I high altitude bomber which had been forced down intact in France in October, 1917 and carefully studied.

ZR-1 under construction

ZR-1 under construction

The L-49 was one of the “height climbers” designed by the Germans late in World War I, when improvements in Allied fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery made it necessary for zeppelins to climb to great altitudes to avoid being shot down.  For the zepeplins to rise to greater heights on a fixed volume of lifting gas, however, the weight and strength of their structures were dramatically reduced.  This decrease in strength was accepted as a wartime necessity, since a structurally weaker zeppelin flying above the reach of enemy aircraft and artillery was safer than a stronger zeppelin that could be easily attacked.  The copying of this design for an American airship, however, may later have had tragic consequences.

Construction of ZR-1 took place during 1922 and 1923; parts were fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, and the ship was assembled at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey.  ZR-1 was 680.25 feet long, with a diameter of 79.7 feet, and could carry up to 2,115,174 cubic feet of lifting gas in 20 gas cells.  As originally built the ship carried six Packard 6-cylinder engines — five mounted in individual power cars attached to the hull, and one mounted at the rear of the control gondola — but the sixth engine was removed in 1924.

Airship USS Shenandoah under construction

ZR-1 under construction

Like all previous zeppelins, ZR-1 had been designed on the assumption that the ship would be operated with hydrogen, but the fiery crash into the Humber River of the hydrogen inflated British R-38 (which was scheduled to become the American Navy’s ZR-2), convinced the Navy to operate the ship with helium, despite the high cost and very limited supply of the gas.

The First Flights of USS Shenandoah

ZR-1 made its first flight on September 4, 1923.  It was the first ascent of a helium inflated rigid airship in history.

ZR-1 made a series of test and demonstration flights in September and early October, 1923 — including an appearance at the National Air Races in St. Louis and flights over New York and Washington — and on October 10, 1923, the ship was christened USS Shenandoah (an American Indian term meaning “daughter of the stars”) and officially accepted as a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy.

Shenandoah’s first flights were on-the-job training for the American Navy, which had no previous experience operating a rigid airship of its own.

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Officers of the USS Shenandoah on her first flight (left to right): Lieut. A.R. Houghton, Lieut. L.E. Mueller, Cdr. J.H. Klein, Lieut. C.E. Rosendahl, Lieut. Cdr. M.R. Pierce, Lieut. J.C. Arnold, Lieut. E.H. Kincaid, Lieut. H.V. Wiley, Lieut. R.J. Miller, Lieut. R.F. Tyler, Lieut. J.B. Andserson

The Navy also had to learn how to use helium to operate a large rigid airship, which had never previously been attempted.  The need to conserve the expensive and scarce lifting gas required flight operations which differed considerably from the techniques which had been developed for operating airships inflated with easily-replaced hydrogen.  For example, while the Germans typically began a zeppelin flight with gas cells inflated to 100% capacity, and then valved hydrogen (either manually or automatically) as the ship rose, the Americans — unable to afford the loss of precious helium — had to operate with lower inflation levels, and therefore less lift, and had to be more careful about valving gas to descend or to maintain aerostatic equilibrium.

USS Shenandoah

USS Shenandoah move (click all photos to enlarge)

The need to preserve helium had many operational implications, including the timing of flights to coordinate with changes in ambient temperature, and the development of water recovery equipment to capture water from engine exhaust to compensate for the weight of fuel burned in flight.  And perhaps most significantly, the desire to conserve helium also led to a highly controversial decision to reduce the number of Shenandoah’s automatic gas valves, which became the subject of much debate in light of later events.

Airship USS Shenandoah under construction

Airship USS Shenandoah during repairs, March-April, 1924.

On the evening of January 16, 1924, Shenandoah was seriously damaged during a gale, when a gust of wind tore the ship from its mooring mast.  The ship was grounded for repairs until May 22, 1924, when it was returned to service with reinforcements to its mooring assembly, nose, and fins.  The sixth engine in its control car was also removed and replaced with radio equipment, including a long distance direction finding set.

Zachary Lansdowne and Shenandoah Operations

On February 12, 1924, while it was undergoing repairs, Shenandoah received a new commanding officer, Lt. Cdr. Zachary Lansdowne.

Zachary Lansdowne in front of control car of USS Shenandoah

Zachary Lansdowne in front of R-34

Lansdown, a 1909 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was one of the Navy’s first officers trained in lighter-than-air aviation.  He trained with the crew of the British airship R-34, and became the first American to cross the Atlantic nonstop by air as the American naval observer aboard R-34’s 1919 transatlantic flight.  After service as a White House aide, Lansdowne was the Assistant Naval Attache in Germany in 1922-1923, where was involved with the negotiations for the construction of the LZ-126, which became the ZR-3 USS Los Angeles.

Lansdowne’s energetic personality and fierce devotion to lighter-than-air aviation would drive the operations of USS Shenandoah and determine its future.  Although Shenandoah was too small to conduct extended operations at sea (since the ship’s relatively small gas capacity limited its ability to carry fuel, and therefore its range),  Lansdowne was determined to demonstrate the potential of the rigid airship as a naval scouting vessel, and to show that large airships could operate alongside the surface fleet.

Lansdowne conducted pioneering operations in which he moored Shenandoah to a mast installed on the support ship Patoka, to show the possibility of underway replenishment and supply to extend the ship’s range and allow an airship to work closely with the fleet, and Lansdowne conducted operations with surface ships such as the battleship USS Texas whenever possible.

ZR-1 Shenandoah moored to USS Patoka at sea

ZR-1 Shenandoah moored to USS Patoka at sea

Shenandoah made one of its most impressive demonstrations in October, 1924, when the ship made a difficult 19-day journey across the United States from Lakehurst to San Diego, via Forth Worth, and then traveled up the west coast to Seattle and back to San Diego, before returning to Lakehurst via Fort Worth.  Shenandoah logged 235 flight hours on its headline-making journey across the country, and captured the enthusiasm of both the American public and also leaders in the field of aviation around the world.

Upon Shenandoah’s return to Lakehurst the ship was was deflated so that its helium could be transferred to the newly arrived ZR-3 (soon to be commissioned USS Los Angeles) which had just been delivered to Lakehurst by Hugo Eckener and his German crew;  the supply of helium was so scare in 1924 that the United States did not have enough of the gas to inflate two large airships at the same time.

Keel of the U.S. Navy Airship Shenandoah

Keel of the U.S. Navy Airship Shenandoah

During Shenandoah’s lay-up, Zachary Lansdowne made a decision which would later be highly controversial.  In order to limit the loss of helium by leakage through the automatic valves, and to eliminate several hundred pounds of weight, Lansdowne ordered the removal of 10 of the ship’s 18 automatic gas valves.  These valves automatically released helium when as the ship climbed, to avoid over-expansion of the cells at higher altitude, which could damage both the cells themselves and the surrounding framework.  Lansdowne’s modification limited the amount of gas that could be valved in a given time, and meant that Shenandoah’s valves could not keep up with an increase of altitude greater than 400 feet per minute; at any higher rate of climb, the ship could not release enough helium to keep up with the expansion of the gas cells.

The Crash of the USS Shenandoah

On September 3, 1925, on its 57th flight, Shenandoah was caught in a storm over Ohio.  Updrafts caused the ship to rise rapidly, at a rate eventually exceeding 1,000 feet per minute, until the ship reached an altitude over 6,000 feet.  Shenandoah rose, fell, and was twisted by the storm, and the ship finally suffered catastrophic structural failure, breaking in two at frame 125, approximately 220 feet from the bow.  The aft section sank rapidly, breaking up further, with two of the engine cars breaking away and falling to the ground, killing their mechanics.

Control car of USS Shenandoah

Control car of USS Shenandoah

The control car, attached to the bow section, also separated from the ship and crashed to the ground, killing the six men still aboard, including the ship’s captain, Lt. Cdr. Lansdowne. Without the weight of the control car, the remaining bow section, with seven men aboard, including Navigator Charles Rosendahl, ascended rapidly.  Under Rosendahl’s leadership, the men in the bow valved helium from the cells and free-ballooned the bow to a relatively gentle landing.  In all, fourteen members of the crew were killed in the crash.  [See: U.S.S. Shenandoah Crash: List of Officers and Crew]

Two schools of thought developed about the cause of the crash.  One theory is that the gas cells over-expanded as the shop rose, due to Lansdowne’s decision to remove the 10 automatic release valves, and that the expanding cells damaged the framework of the airship and led to its structural failure.

Rear section of USS Shenandoah

Rear section of USS Shenandoah

But Karl Arnstein, the stress engineer who designed the L-49, the zeppelin on which Shenandoah was based, blamed the basic design of the ship, and the decision to operate a ship of that design in adverse weather conditions.  Arnstein argued that the wartime L-49 had been designed as a “height-climber;” a zeppelin built with deliberately reduced structural strength in order to lighten the ship and enable it to climb to extremely high altitudes, above the reach of attacking British airplanes and ground fire.

Aerial view of Shenandoah's wreckage

Aerial view of Shenandoah’s wreckage

The German height-climbers were never intended to operate in difficult weather conditions, Arnstein explained, or over large land masses with their potentially violent updrafts and downdrafts; World War I zeppelins were operated infrequently, when the weather was good, and in the relatively calmer atmosphere over the flat, open ocean.  And the very shape of Shenandoah, known as its fineness ration (the ship’s long, thin, pencil-like hull) reduced its ability to withstand bending forces; the next zeppelins designed by Arnstein, the USS Akron and USS Macon, would have a very different profile.

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Wreckage of USS Shenandoah

The loss of the Shenandoah — and the loss of its officers and crew — was naturally a setback to the Navy’s rigid airship program, but attention soon shifted to the zeppelin which would be the most successful airship in American history, the USS Los Angeles.

Additional Photographs of USS Shenandoah

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ZR-1 USS Shenandoah statistics:

  • Length: 680 feet
  • Diameter: 79 feet
  • Gas capacity: 2,115,000 cubic feet
  • Useful lift: 48,774 lbs
  • Maximum speed: 58 knots
  • Crew: 40 officers and men
  • First flight: September 4, 1923
  • Crashed: September 2-3, 1925
  • Total flight hours: 740:09
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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Noelani September 8, 2014 at 2:17 am

Shortly after posting my last comment, I realized that I had forgotten about the fact that then LCDR Wiley had also survived the crash of the Shenandoah! Are you aware of anyone else who survived THREE of them?

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Noelani September 8, 2014 at 1:41 am

I found your site while doing some searching for information about Herbert Victor Wiley, US Naval Academy class of 1915. I found that he had not only had a long and successful career, but also an exceptionally varied and colorful career. I wasn’t surprised that his WWII record was exceptional, or that he was still on active duty, 30 years after graduating from the USNA.

What DID surprise me was his extensive experience with the dirigibles! I’m especially impressed that, having been one of only three survivors of the USS Akron, he assumed command of the USS Macon. Do you think it was his skill that accounted for the fact that the survival rate in the crash of the Macon was about the same as the fatality rate of the Akron?

I’m sure you’ve seen various depictions of the future, which have come from the first 20-30 years of the 20th Century, which suggest that dirigibles would become a very common form of transportation. It’s obvious that there were many people who had faith that the problems with them would have been figured out in the near future. I wonder, had it not been for politicians who knew nothing about the way the airships performed, dictating to those who knew more about them than anyone else, if maybe the problems could have been figured out before there had been such devastating losses.

I think it’s very sad that it all came to such a tragic ending, but nothing has ever come without effort and sacrifice. This website of yours is amazing and a tribute to those who had the courage to try to see if it could be done!

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Joshua Sheppard July 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Good afternoon all,

I am currently working on a documentary for the U.S. Navy about the Navy’s lighter than air program through USS Macon. I would love to get in touch with family members/descendants of crew members of USS Shenandoah, ZR-2, USS Los Angeles, USS Akron and USS Macon.

Best,

Joshua D. Sheppard

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Kevin Moody July 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I am currently researching the crash of the USS Macon with an eye to a screenplay based on one of the survivors of both crashes. I am trying to locate some personal background info on Charles Solar possibly writing a love story involving him as the backdrop to the Macon. Do you have any info on him? Thanks

Kevin Moody

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Hendrick Stoops September 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

Joshua,

You might try to get in touch with the Shenandoah Trailer/Museum in Ava, Ohio. They have a wealth of information and artifacts from the Shenandoah.

Best Regards,

Hendrick Stoops

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tim flynn January 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Father was machinestmate

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tim flynn January 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm

My father was a crew mate

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Joshua Sheppard July 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Tim,

I am working on a documentary for the Navy covering the Navy’s lighter than air program through USS Macon. I would love to talk to you regarding your father and his experiences. My email address is joshua.sheppard@dma.mil, or joshua.d.sheppard@gmail.com.

Best,
Joshua D. Sheppard

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Bill Jones October 27, 2013 at 6:32 am

I have about ten or so photos of the crash that I found in a box at a garage sale here in Akron. I found them about eight years ago and have just recently scanned them into my computer. I’m not sure how to post them here so if you are interested in seeing them, contact me through this site. I’m not sure how that works though.

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Dave Drwon November 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Hello Bill, I would enjoy seeing your photos. I worked for Goodyear and I have a 3 foot section of the ridgit framework used to build the Shenandoah, Akron and Macon. Regards, Dave

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Ralph Biddy April 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Hello Bill. I have been researching my family tree and apparently, my grandfather who died in 1936, claims he was the first photographer on the scene of the USS Shenandoah in 1925. Is there anything on the photo giving credit to the photographer? My grandfather died in a plane crash in 1936 filming the Burlington Zephyr when it crashed in Naperville, IL.

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Ruth McRoberts September 13, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Back in 1986, my parents subscribed to The Ohio magazine. My father was reading it and came across one of the pictures. He showed me a picture of a little boy with his father looking at the crash site. He said that it was he and his father.
My father died shortly after that, but I have his copy of the article.

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Lee Brown January 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm

My grandfather, Master Sergeant Harry Price, was stationed at
Ft Hays in Columbus Ohio. He went to the crash site and came
away with some pieces of the airship skin and one with the menu
on it. My mom stills has these relics from the disaster and we
still consider them as family treasures. Lee Brown, 1SG USA, Ret.

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Sean Masters December 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hello, My name is Sean Masters and my Grandfather was Franklyn E. Masters, Sr. who served on the U.S.S. Shenandoah and survived when it broke up and crashed near Ava, Ohio. Many thanks to all who created and maintain this excellent site. My family has always been very proud of our Grandfather’s service in the U.S. Navy and as a crew member of the U.S.S. Shenandoah. This site keeps the history of the U.S.S. Shenandoah alive for Americans and others around the world interested in the great Air Ships. Keep up the great work and thanks again, Sean Masters

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Joshua Sheppard July 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Sean,

I am working on a documentary for the Navy covering the Navy’s lighter than air program through USS Macon. I would love to talk to you regarding your grandfather and his experiences. My email address is joshua.sheppard@dma.mil, or joshua.d.sheppard@gmail.com.

Best,
Joshua D. Sheppard

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Hank Bott December 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Great info on the Shenandoah. Capt Landsdowne was born in Greenville Ohio, I have a very good book about the Shenandoah and have read it 4 times in the last 6 years. Being at the Landsdowne airport and looking at the pictures I was very young,probably about 10, I read about the Shenandoah at the age of 16.
While in sales and “on the road” I stopped at the rest stop and saw more pictures, 5 years later my wife and I drove to Ava OH on a Sep 3. enjoyed the parade and pictures, and drove to the other crash site on the East side of I 77.
I recall reading about the farmer who saw and felt the storm approaching and saw the Shenandoah, and then the story re: the crew in the portion that broke off and drifted very high and finally crashed back down had to be one scary ride! Send any e- mails, I appreciate and enjoy the story of the Shenandoah, and feel so sad for the crew that lost their lives. What kind of trucks were available there to haul parts of the crash away in 1925 ????

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Thomas Vincente Cortellesi March 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

what book was it?

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david helms November 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

hi hank. can you share the title of that book on the shenandoah with me? i want to try and purchase it. thanks.

david

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Anne Chlovechok May 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Hi. Just reading some of these comments. There are two museums here in Noble County which showcase Shenandoah history. One is the Noble County Historical and Jail Museum. Call 740-732-5288 for more information, or to donate pieces of the Shenandoah. OR call Theresa Rayner, 732-2740, who, along with her late husband, Bryan, created the Mobile Shenandoah Museum, in a trailer, which they took (and she still does with family help) to schools, fairs, etc. to show the history of the ship. It is very well done; really lovely. Part of the ship landed on her late husband’s family farm. One of our local schools is Shenandoah High School, in the Noble Local district. The airship’s crash here has had a profound and lasting impact on our area.

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Dr. WM.(Bill) Freedman PhD. October 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

Great site! I’ve been interested in airships since receiving a coffee table book on the subject at age 12. The book was published by either the Smithsonian Institute or the National Geographic Society. It’s long gone but my interest has remained.

One element of the Shenandoah crash has stuck in my mind. I can still quote the passage(almost sure this is verbatim) “…in the frenzy Commander Lansdowne’s Annapolis Academy Graduation Ring was ripped from his finger…).

I’ve wondered for over fifty years if Lansdowne’s ring ever resurfaced or was returned to his family?

Thanks again for the great site!

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Gary Marks December 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

According to a book I have, his ring was found 11 years later on a mustard seed plant in the garden of the Gamary farm. Don’t know if it’s true or not but that’s what it says. There is speculation that his ring may have been taken from the crash site and the person felt guilty over the years and come up with this story. Who knows.

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Dina Call January 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I am going through some of my mother’s belonging’s and there is an envelope that states that it contains a piece of the Shenendoah (U.S. Navy Air Ship). It’s just an old piece of something…appr. 4″x5″. My mom is 78 yrs. old so I assume it came from perhaps her father. Just an interesting piece of history.

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Barbara Strong September 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I just this past weekend spent 2 nights at a hotel in Cambridge, Ohio. I was traveling back home to Indiana from the Shenandoah Valley Va., where I lived for the past 25 years before going back to my home state of Indiana to live near my 95 yr. old dad. When I went to his house to let him know I was home from my trip, he was reviewing an old newspaper dated Sept. 1925 with the news and photos of the crash of the Shenandoah Airship! I had often wondered how the name of Shenandoah was used in the state of Ohio, and now I know! My dad’s old newspaper is a treasure—is there a museum of the event with other artifacts, etc.?

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Paul Flaherty May 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

Barbara: I just read your blog concerning the Shenandoah. You made the comment: “I had often wondered how the name Shenandoah was used in the state of Ohio, and now I know!”

I am not sure what you mean by this statement, can you explain? If you mean that there was an airship with that name that operated (and eventually crashed) in Ohio, then that makes sense to me. If you meant you didn’t know why they came up with a name more associated with the eastern Great Application Valley for an airship operating in the state of Ohio, then that question was not answered in your blog.

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TD309706 September 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm

To those of you who are looking for pieces of this historic event… I happen to live in Ava, Ohio where the monumental memorial stands. If you visit on the anniversary date of the crash (Sept 3) it is kind of like memorial day here. Rayner’s Towing Garage (just down the street and across the road) contains a ton of memorabilia in a camper. They have made it somewhat like a museum. Just FYI…

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Susan August 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

My grandfather, A. R. Houghton, died in the crash. Thanks so much for this blog and the photos–I had never seen the one of all the officers together.

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Joshua Sheppard July 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Susan,

I am working on a documentary for the Navy covering the Navy’s lighter than air program through USS Macon. I would love to talk to you regarding your grandfather and any information you may have regarding USS Shenandoah. My email address is joshua.sheppard@dma.mil, or joshua.d.sheppard@gmail.com.

Best,
Joshua D. Sheppard

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Noelani September 7, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Susan, I’m sorry to hear that your grandfather was killed in the crash. Many times, people forget how long reaching each loss of one of those who dies in the service our country can be.

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Marissa May 20, 2012 at 12:12 am

My grandparents have 2 original photos of the Shenandoah crash site. I’m not sure where they got them but they very well preserved. I have just recently seen these photos myself and it is amazing to have such an amazing piece of history in my family. My family is from Monroe county Ohio I grew up close to the crash site and to the Shenenandoah high school. I enjoyed all the information this site has to offer. I love to learn about our American history!

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Ed O'Sullivan October 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

As a grandson of PO Bart B. O’Sullivan of the Shenandoah crew, I have always been interested in this particular airship. It wasn’t till this summer that I got a chance to visit the memorial in Ava, OH. Needless to say, I was awed struck by its size and design. May these pioneers always be remembered. If anyone has photos of the crew, I would be interested in obtaining them. Having never had a chance to meet my grandfather, I would appreciate photos of him.

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Pat Masters September 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

thanks to all who have contributed anything to this site. My grandfather was Franklyn Everett Masters, Sr., and was on the Shenandoah when it crashed. He survived. If anyone has any copies of any pictures or information they can send to me, I would surely appreciate it. My brother is trying to put together a little more history on this airship. Thank you all so much for your interest in this.

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NANCY NICHOLS SECREST March 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I AM THE GRANDAUGHTER OF ERNEST NICHOLS, WHERE PART OF THE SHENANDOAH FELL. MY FATHER CLARENCE NICHOLS HELPED TIE DOWN THE END THAT FELL ON THEIR FARM. CONTACT ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION

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david helms November 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

hi nancy. i would love to have anything you could share about the shenandoah. thanks.

david

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Joshua Sheppard July 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Nancy,

I am working on a documentary for the Navy covering the Navy’s lighter than air program through USS Macon. I would love to talk to you regarding your family’s experience with USS Shenandoah. My email address is joshua.sheppard@dma.mil, or joshua.d.sheppard@gmail.com.

Best,
Joshua D. Sheppard

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Rebekah A. Boswell September 10, 2011 at 9:24 am

My great grandfather was one of the survivors on the USS Shenandoah. His name is Henry L. Boswell. He tragically died in the USS Akron. If you have any information, pictures, letters, anything that I could have I would greatly appreciate it. There is a family mystery of what happened to my great grandfather’s side of the family. My great grandmother who was married to Henry, fled with my grandfather (Franklin Wallace Boswell) because Henry’s family was trying to take my grand father from her. I know its a stretch, but I am trying to fix the puzzle. Many of my family members have given up. I will not until I find them. Thank you!

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Tim Morris August 19, 2011 at 5:27 am

I have an early set of dog tags from Arthur E Carlson, and copies of his service record papers. He survived the Shenandoah crash, and was killed on the Akron.
I also believe he served on the Los Angeles and the Ship lost in England being built for the Navy.

The dog tags also have a lucky bean, and a little black pig on the chain..I understand that back then the lucky bean was a common good luck charm in England..where he would have been during the loss of the earlier ship..he was not aboard that one that day..

After obtaining these I realized how difficult

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Dorian Hill August 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I enjoyed your page on the Shenandoah… I was hunting down further information about my Grandfather Roland E. Hill and came across many different postings about how he designed the Shenandoah early in his career. Do you have any additional information?

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Emil P December 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hi Dorian,

When I read your posting I became curious about your grandfather (I’d never seen mention of specific persons involved in the design of the Shenandoah before, other than that it was based on the L-49 and built at the Naval Aircraft Factory). At any rate, some digging revealed this. You may find it of interest (mention of the “Shenandoah” is on page 10).

http://cityplanning.lacity.org/staffrpt/CHC/1-24-08/CHC-2007-5437.pdf

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Paul July 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

great blog! I am interested in the USS Shenandoah after reading a book I have called the Shenandoah Saga or something like that. I live in Noble County Ohio and have a few scraps of the airship as many do around here. I have visited the 3 crash sites often. There is a family by the name of Rayer in Ava that has a nice display of artifacts in a trailer. Our local county historical museum was wanting to know the other day if anyone knows the whereaouts of amy of the propellers?

thanks

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james smith April 21, 2013 at 8:31 am

In 1939 there was an engine car sitting by the road 100% intact with the motor and prop. In side was all the incliometers and steering etc, the rudder was on it no damage I was in it as a kid, My father said they Gov was going to pick it up.
But this was 1939…It looked like a ship inside…
There were 8 303 machine guns on it when it went down…..

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Paul Flaherty May 8, 2013 at 10:34 am

Your story is incredible James. So I take it that you have no knowledge about what might have happened to this engine car. I would bet that if the government picked it up back then it probably ended up being scrapped. But on the other hand, I would imagine if they just found it today, it would end up in the Smithsonian.

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Don Whiteley July 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I have a copy of a photo my father took of the Shenandoah as she flew over our village in Sept 1923. We lived about 30 miles from Lakehurst so often saw LTA craft. I do remember visiting the huge hangers at Lakehurst as a child. My dad’s photo has a note at the bottom “U.S. Navy ZR-1 The Shenandoah -9-’23”. Later he added on the photo “680′ long-Diam 78.7 – Completed 1923 – Crashed 9-3-25″.
I enjoyed your interesting site.

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Alan David May 6, 2011 at 7:33 pm

There was a truck stop on I70 called Shenendoah. It was torn down last year but the sign still stands of this writing. It is just a few miles from the crash site of the Navy airship and I wonder if any artifacts had been displayed there. Unfortunately I never made the connection untill after it closed and thus never stopped in to seeee ADavid

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Bob September 6, 2012 at 12:19 am

There was just a picture of the crash at the rest stop on Route I-77 just North of the crash site.

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Melody Stalnaker October 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I actually am a recent graduate of Shenandoah High School, and there isn’t a rest stop anymore, but off of I70 (south-bound i believe), there are blocks that show the outline of the piece that crashed there. it is the same for all 3 crash sites. the memorial parade in Ava is every 5 years (the next in 2016) and is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the USS Shenandoah and what it means to our community. they do have a museum at the local rayner’s garage, but honestly, there is a picture and information and possibly some artifacts at the Caldwell McDonalds if you’re just curious. the museum is portable, and quite nice, but kind of out of the way.

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Paul Flaherty May 8, 2013 at 11:02 am

Bob: I was a NW Indiana resident at the time back in the mid 80’s and stopped by chance at this rest stop on a business trip. Although we are talking approx. 27-years ago, I was intrigued by the Shenandoah story. The very fact that I am visiting this webpage concerning the Shenandoah, is a result of this rest stop experience. Unfortunately, I see that Melody has commented to your blog that the rest stop is now gone. Two things remain with me after all these years from reading the story at the rest stop: First, the rest stop was very close to the crash site. Second, the crash with loss of life was instrumental in the Navy dropping its lighter than air craft program. However, it sounds like the Akron and Los Angeles did follow.

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Bill April 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

Do you have any information on the propellers? I have a propeller that I think may be from the Shenandoah but I’ve never found any information about diameter, material, number of bolt holes etc.

Thanks

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Joy M. Flood August 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Bill,

I have information indicating that some of the propeller blades were 17 ft. 6 in. across and some were 11 ft. 6 in. across. I manage the Historic Jail Museum in Noble County (Caldwell, OH.) and would love to have a propeller to place in the museum. Please get in touch with me.

Thanks, Joy

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Matt March 24, 2011 at 2:44 am

I am glad I got to read the story my grandfather gave me a peice of the Shenandoah that his great uncle had collected at the crash site I am in the process of creating a frame and story for it and just happen to run accross this site thanks for the information.

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Samuel Fitch January 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I am 74 years 0ld. as a little child I saw a rigid airship flying over Stuttgart, AK. My family moved away from there in 1940. It could not have been the Graf Zeppelin, because I was only 9 months old when that one last flew. I remember that I was old enough to run in my front yard to get a look at it. It had 4 engines with no covering around them. I remember of being awe stricken by the size of it and the roar of the engines. I think that the engines were radial air cooled engines. The year was probably 1938 or 1939. If anybody out there can help me identify this ariship, it will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Sam

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Dan (Airships.net) January 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

There were no rigid airships flying over Arkansas in 1938 or 1939, but it might have been a blimp.

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Samuel Fitch January 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Thanks for your comment; but I am positive that I saw a rigid airship. It had longitudnidal stringers in the frame with flat areas between them. I turned one year old in September of 1937. I wonder if it could have been in late 1937. Otherwise 1940. I remember that the engines were not covered like those on the Hindenburg. They were out in the open. Thanks, Sam

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William Krumpelman January 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I have been researching information about the civilian photographer on board the airship Walter T. Richardson. I just interviewed his daughter that does not know much other than the story of him getting caught in the rope ladder while being the last to escape this tragedy. He was the father of Naval aerial photography. Mr. Richardson has a great story in himself with many of the airships and photography. Any information on him and his time working on the Los Angeles filming an Eclipse would be great. Thanks for recording this history. I would love to share the stories with his daughter and family.

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jim russell August 3, 2013 at 9:17 am

Walter L Richardson (L not T)… the headquarters of NAS Pensacola is being named in his honor in January 2014. The headquarters building was home to the school of Navy Photography from the 1950 thru the 1990’s after which a school for all the services was established in MD (DINFOS). Members of Richardson’s family will be attending. The National Association of Naval Photographers has established a display of artifacts commemorating the building’s history as a photography school in a room which still contains a periscope once used to instruct students in periscope photography.

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Cyrus P. Thornton January 9, 2011 at 7:51 am

Did so enjoy your article on the Shenandoah. One of the few still living that visited the crash site and remembers it. How the front half floated on over the hill and was not visible from the other. I am 93 1/2 today. Remember an old touring car five or six fellows in it; drove to close to the edge of the dirt road went thru a fence and rolled backward down a hill. It did not turn over.Think the old road at that time was considered old 21. Still have a picture purchased for me there at the wreck. This was only couple days after the crash. I am from Akron ,Oh. and was in Akron here while both the Akron and Macon were built and flew out of here. Only a person standing directly under them as they flew over can comprehend how huge these dirigibles were. Very ,very nice article Thank you. —Skip knows interesting atricles. My Mothers roots were in Belmont thats why I follow Skips every entry.

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Dan (Airships.net) January 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Thank you for your comment. I feel so honored that you visited and took the time to post a comment. There are not many people who remember what it was like to see a giant dirigible overhead, and your comment reminds us all of how impressive that must have been.

Also, as a 93-1/2 year-old, you were born before the first commercial radio broadcast and here you are commenting on a blog… that is just awesome! I have nothing but respect for you and I hope I can buy you a drink some day.

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paul a. zielinski March 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I recently come upon a photo of the crash Shenandoah, This was a photo my father had in one of his keepsake boxes I found, I am now 65 and very interested in the history of our country. The size of these ships must have been an unbelievable sight. My family was from the Shamokin area.

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Jacquie Hickman December 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

i have recently found a 50th anniversary of the crash of the uss shenandoah commerative plate designed by toni seiler and made exclusively for the drake county historical society it is in mint condition it is also stamped and numbered on the back it is beautiful and i would love to find out more about it i have been told that it is rare and exhibited in a museum i would appreciate any help you might could give me on finding out more about this plate.

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Elizabeth Kay November 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Dear Dan,

Thank you very much for the information you have provided here, as it has helped me a lot on the general understanding of the history and crash revolving around the USS Shenandoah. The information on this site is incredibly useful and relevant to an essay that I am writing currently.

It would give me a lot of pleasure if I was able to list you as a source for the essay that I am writing for a final assessment in one of my university courses. Your information matches what I have read so far in the report presented in the Journal of the American Society for Naval Engineers. The ease of presentation of the information regarding the crash is very helpful.

Thank you very much in advance,

Elizabeth

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Dan (Airships.net) November 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I am glad it was helpful!

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Bill Luckhurst September 19, 2010 at 4:12 am

Hi, James William Cullinan, was one of the men killed on the Shenandoah and I would appreciate any pictures anyone may have of the crew and of the disaster. I’m not exactly sure where I’m related to James, but believe he was related to me on my grandmothers side of the family the Cullinans of Binghamton, NY and my mother was Helen C Cullinan. I know his funeral procession were the first vehicles to cross the old Memorial Street Bridge in Binghamton but would appreciate anyone pics, or info on anything related to this disaster. Thanks Bill Luckhurst phone number 210-884-8364 email Canes1945@hotmail.com

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Dan (Airships.net) September 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

If I get some free time I can scan some crew photos for you (but unfortunately I have been swamped with professional obgliations lately).

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Debbie Diller September 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

This is awesome reading. My friend owns the house that Zachary Lansdowne lived in. I am living there also. it is in Darke County. The house is very big and is on the Historical Society. it is an awesome house.

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Sarah Masters-Dahl August 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

My great grandfather Franklyn E. Masters was an airship pilot on the Shenandoah. If anyone has any information about him or pictures or anything, my dad would greatly appreciate it. He would like to write a documentary on his grandfather. Thanks.

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Dan (Airships.net) August 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

What an honor to have you visit the site! I do have some information about Frank Masters, including several group photos in which he appears and information about what he was doing during the last flight. I am swamped with professional projects at the moment but I will try to send you some information when I get a little free time.

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Sarah Masters-Dahl August 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Thank You SOOOOOOOOOOOO much!

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Sarah Masters-Dahl December 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Hi Dan. Sorry to bother you, I know you’re busy. Just wondering if I you could email me any pictures of Franklyn E. Masters. My dad would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

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Betty Lawson June 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I have some of the original photos of the building of the Shannandoah. Also some of the original photoes of pictures taken from the Shannandoah on it’s maiden voyage. One is of Jay Gould’s mansion andof the Lakewood Hotel. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you. Betty

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Harold Ishman April 15, 2010 at 8:36 am

My aunt was given a stack of photos from her husbands sister in 1983. These photos came from a roll of film that was undeveloped since taken in 1925. I knew nothing of the USS Shenandoah until my aunt gave me these photos. They were all taken at the crash site of the USS Shenandoah on 9/03/1925. The clarity of the photos is truly amazing. The crash must have happened close to where my relatives by marriage lived.

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david helms May 16, 2010 at 7:56 pm

hi harold. is there anyway you could share some photos of the uss shenadoah crash? i would be greatly indebted and thankful. what a treasure. hope to hear from you soon.

david
home phone: 704-753-3612

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Bob Gallagher June 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I have a scanned copy of a picture of one of the Shenandoah crash sites that my sister has. My parents were married that year and lived not far from the crash site. I will be glad to send the copy (not superior quality) via e-mail, if you would like to give me your e-mail address.

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Hank Bott December 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I was born and raised in Youngstown Ohio. There was an airport there name Landsdowne airport. There were pictures of the Shenandoah on the wall. I read about the Shenandoah ina readers Digest mag, and remembered the pictures at Landsdowne Airport. Stopping at the rest stop, I looked at pictures of the crash. I stopped on I 77 and took pictires of the flag and the yellow markers. 5 years later I went to Ada OH on Sep 3, and later drove over I 77 and went to the other crash site. A memorial there said, Landsdowne and 4 other crewmen fell there in a clock pattern.
So interesting. There is also a sign, “Beware Rattlesnakes ” I’ll go back there some other Sep 3. I’d like to search around there with my metal detector to try to locate some parts of the ship.

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Mikey NTH April 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm

The local high school where the Shenandoah crashed is Shenandoah High School. The team name is the Zeps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shenandoah_High_School_(Ohio)

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Ansel Buhrman January 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I’ve been living and reliving the life and times of the Shenandoah for 35 years now and it is such a pleasure to read the posts of people like me. I’ve always been the only one I knew that knew anything about the ZR-1. Cmdr. Lansdowne and Lt. Cmdr. Rosendahl have been my heroes and I feel as though I know all the crew personally. I own a small section of the outer covering (silver on one side, black on the other) and a section of one of the gas cells. These have been cherished keepsakes ever since my dad got them for me at Christmas in 1977. It is particularly thrilling to read the posts of some of the relatives of the crew. Your fathers and grandfathers have been my heroes. God Bless You

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Bill Cipri September 30, 2010 at 12:36 am

Hello, Ansel!

Like yourself…I too, have a lifelong interest in the USS Shenandoah, her crew and her story…since viewing artifacts from her Noble County, Ohio crash which were once exhibited in an Ohio grade school I attended!

I would greatly appreciate hearing from you and others who deeply share my sincere and very longterm interest in this airship!

…I was priviliged to attend the 85th commemoration ceremonies remembering her loss and her crew’s sacrifices…held in Ava, Ohio on September 5th, 2010.

Sincerely,

Bill Cipri
Wayne,IL.

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D. Kenney November 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm

One of the best sites I’ve yet visited on airships.

I’m researching the mob psychology behind the looting of the Shenandoah on the morning of September 3, 1925, and would appreciate any websites etc. that you can recommend that might give me insight into this unfortunate incident – especially personal accounts outside of newspaper copy (I’ve already examined these sources). Any names/addresses/phone numbers/email addresses/websites would be greatfully accepted.

Many thanks for any assistance!

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Bill November 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I just bought ten original brownie photos of the Shenandoah crash site from a western WV antique dealer. I suspect these were taken by a relative of a state trooper, as he appears posed in several of the photos. One photo shows an airship officer in uniform. Several long shots from an opposing hill and a close view of the greatly damaged control car is in the bunch.

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david helms May 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm

hi bill. is there anyway you can share duplicates of those treasured photos with me? i would be greatly indebted. thanks.

david

home phone: 704-753-3612

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Marie Wiley Ross November 8, 2009 at 3:45 am

I am delighted to see a photo of my father, H.V.Wiley on the Shenandoah crew. I think he was visiting in Missouri when the Shenandoah crashed. My foster father, Roland Mayer, did float down safely. I would love to have a copy of the photo. Also any information or other sites to investigate. I was at Lakehurst for the 75th anniversary of the Akron crash. I’ve also ridden in the “Eureka” and attended the christening ceremony for it.

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david helms May 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm

hi marie. thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. your dad was so special and had a fabulous military & airship career. anything you can share with me will be added to my personal memorabilia. someday, my son who loves this type of history will receive my memorabilia. hope to hear back from you . take care of yourself.

your friend david
monroe, n.c.

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Hector Gonzalez April 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Marie, was your father the commander of the USS Macon at the time of the crash?

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jack o'leary October 3, 2009 at 6:26 am

i like your pictures . i am 7 years old

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Dan Lehman July 18, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Saturday, 18 July 2009 —
Sir, I’m interested in learning about a knot that’s attributed to C.E. Rosendahl.
It’s named “Rosendahl’s Zeppelin Bend” (variously r.b. or more often z.b.),
and reportedly was insisted upon by then Commander Rosendahl for use within
his charge.
I would think that as a senior officer in command of this area of naval operations,
and with such insistence on an otherwise unknown knot,
there would be some kind of documentation developed by him & staff for the
training of those serving him. So far, I am unaware of any.

Thanks for any help you can provide in researching this knotty matter.
Cf. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/1980-01-01/The-Forgotten-Zeppelin-Knot.aspx [ Rosendahl’s Bend ]

–dl*
====

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Dan (Airships.net) July 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I don’t have any information about that knot, but I appreciate your sharing the information. You best bet might be to contact Rick Zitarosa of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, who is a wealth of information about the U.S. Navy’s LTA program.

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Fred September 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Not sure if either of the two Dans is involved in the Wikipedia article on this knot, but on the off chance they are not, there is some nice information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeppelin_bend which references also http://www.motherearthnews.com/modern-homesteading/zeppelin-knot-zmaz80jfzraw.aspx

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Dan December 30, 2012 at 9:56 am

I admit to the guilty pleasure of reading Wikipedia myself, but I am not a participant and in general I do not recommend Wikipedia as a source of information. Not only is Wikipedia filled with inaccuracies, but even an article that is accurate when you read it may be edited with nonsense later. I view Wikipedia as a great source of entertainment, but not as a great source of information. But I confess I was fascinated to read the link on the Zeppelin knot. Thanks for posting it. :-)

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David W. Murray July 14, 2009 at 11:47 pm

I go out to Lakehurst every week, and drive by Hangar #1, still as impressive as ever. The interior is much as shown in the above photos, except that there is a mock carrier deck inside, used for training.
As an aside, I can lay claim to an experience which you have to be my age (60 something), and from Ocean County NJ to have done. I have flown in a helium balloon, indoors! Every Armed Forces Day, in the late 50s, they would tether one of the training balloons to a winch, and give kids rides up to the ceiling. It certainly felt high to a 12 year-old!
DWM

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Dave Kurinsky June 18, 2009 at 10:13 am

I was recently doing a renovation on a home on long beach island in New Jersey and found an original photo of the ZR-1 buried in the wall. Thr photo measures approx 36″ in lenght and 6″ inches in height it appears to be when it was first being taken out of the hanger in lakehurst. I was wondering if this photo is worth anything. It is in suprisingly good shap although it’s very brittle and has some holes and rips. Please respond. Thank you Dave

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Dan (Airships.net) June 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

For various reasons, I don’t like to comment on the value and authenticity of items, but I may know the photograph you are describing (one of the panoramas taken by R.S. Clements, perhaps the one below) and if so, it’s a very nice and historic piece.

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Thom E Dickerson July 26, 2009 at 12:50 am

I have 2 of the originals! My father was Thomas D Dickerson ACMM who helped build, fly on the maiden voyage and was one of the original American crew (Howden Detachment crew photo on website) http://uk.geocities.com/deko476/r38.html that trained in the UK. He is standing in the first row 3rd from the right. They are both prints from the original etched negative. His name is on the crew list in the Jan 1925 National Geographic story of the USS Shenandoah’s maiden voyage.

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david helms May 16, 2010 at 8:08 pm

hi thom. is there any possible way you can share some duplicates of those 2 photos? i would be indebted if you could. thanks.

david

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Thom Dickerson May 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm

These originals are personal photographs from my father’s collection as restored and copyrighted images. I can sell you a copyrighted reproduction poster with watermark. These photos are going to be used in a book I am publishing in the future, based on my Dad’s life in the US Navy, working on aircraft power plants during his historical career.
I notice you are asking everyone for copies. What use or uses do you need all the images in question?

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david helms May 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm

i am simply an airship researcher and avid lover of this type of history which i have studied for 20 years. my son also loves it and i personally collect memorabilia anytime i can. to me this stuff is truly fascinating. thanks for a reply.

david

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jim smith April 14, 2009 at 7:49 am

I was in the engine car in So Ohio as a kid. It was in perfect condition and sitting just of the road. It had a ships wheel and two wheels for up and down and bras inclinometer. It had a Franklin inverted aircraft engine on it and all of it was in perfect condition. The interior was mad of wood panel realy nice.

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Zack March 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I’m going to look at a metal model of the Shenandoah zeppelin to possibly purchase. It is from the 1920’s/30’s and is 4 feet long. Were actual models of this airship available back then or would this be something that was homemade. Thanks

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Sean O'Brennan March 7, 2009 at 9:52 pm

This is a lovely site, well done! I am always keen to see pics of the Shenandoah and the Los Angeles. I look forward to you including stories and pics of some of our wonderful British dirigibles, my favorite is the R100. One of the happier stories in dirigible history. My parents both remember seeing the R100 flying and my Gran passed on a photo of her brother standing well in front of that beautiful ship mooring at Cardigan, (I presume). Please add the Airship Heritage Trust to your ‘links’ page, its a jolly fine site and ought to shared.
regards, Sean

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Dan (Airships.net) March 9, 2009 at 9:51 am

Thank you for your comments! I will be adding information about British airships in the near future. The Airship Heritage is already on my Links page, under “Societies and Organizations;” I agree it is a wonderful resource about British LTA aviation.

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Earl E. Treloggen February 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm

The photo/PC of the hangar at Scott Field, Illinois, brings back many memories of the mid-30s when my family vacationed from Chanute, Kansas. My grand-parents lived on the St. Clair/Clinton County line at the northwest edge of New Baden, Ill., and on a clear day I could see one of the hangars at “Scott.” One of my aunts worked as a cook at Cafeteria #3 at “Scott” and she would take us on a tour of the base and hangars. Those hangars were so high that from to time to time clouds would form on the inside. I was born in 1925, so was under 10 years of age at that time.

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Wick January 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Just got into your website and enjoyed seeing the Shenandoah pictures. I was thrilled to see you have a picture of the officers! This one is a decent close up and I was wondering can good clear copies be made from it? My grandfather is nicely presented and we have no photos of him in uniform or with his shipmates.
Please advise – Thanks

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Dan (admin) January 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I would be very happy to email you a large a scan of this image so you can print the photo of your grandfather. May I ask which officer was your grandfather? If you would like to write a few paragraphs about him, I would be happy to post them here if you like.

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