Ernst Lehmann was born on May 12, 1886 at Ludwigshafen am Rhein, a town on the Rhine river directly across from Mannheim, and close to Worms and Heidelberg.
By age 19 he had joined the Navy, serving on a cadet training ship, and he was commissioned a Reserve Lieutenant. Lehmann also continued his studies, and received an engineering degree from the Berlin-Charlottenburg Technical University in 1912.
In the Spring of 1913, Lehmann began training as an airshipman under Hugo Eckener, and by the Fall of 1913 he was placed in command of the DELAG passenger ship LZ-17 Sachsen.
During the remainder of 1913 and most of 1914, Lehmann commanded Sachsen on its numerous passenger flights, mostly local sightseeing flights from Oos (Baden-Baden), Leipzig, and Hamburg.
Lehmann was in the control car of Sachsen on July 31, 1914 when he was given a telegram from the War Ministry ordering him to remain within 50 kilometers; the outbreak of war was imminent.
In August, with the beginning of World War I, Sachsen was taken over by the Army, and although Lehmann was a Naval officer, he was left in command of the ship. Lehmann and Eckener used Sachsen as a training ship; their most important student was Peter Strasser, who would lead the German Navy’s airship program through the war, until his death in a zeppelin raid on England in August, 1918.
Although primarily used as a training ship, Sachsen was fitted with bomb racks and machine guns, and Lehmann took the ship on bombing attacks against targets in Belgium, England and France.
Lehmann spent the war commanding several Army airships, including Z-XII (builder # LZ-26), which Lehmann fitted with an observation basket (sometimes called a “cloud car”) which could be lowered from the ship; LZ-90 (builder # LZ-60); LZ-98 (builder # LZ-68); and LZ-120 (LZ-120).
After the war Lehmann worked at the Zeppelin Company in Friedrichshafen, with temporary assignments in Sweden and America developing plans for passenger transportation lines, and in 1923 he moved to Akron, Ohio as Vice President of Engineering for the newly-formed Goodyear-Zeppelin joint venture.
Lehmann served under Eckener as an officer on the transatlantic delivery flight of LZ-126, which became the U.S. Navy airship Los Angeles; Lehmann joined Eckener and the other crew members for the ticker-tape parade in New York celebrating the crossing, and at a White House reception where Lehmann met United States President Calvin Coolidge.
Lehmann later served under Eckener on most of the important flights of LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin, and was often in command of Graf Zeppelin himself.
Lehmann was known as an enthusiastic musician and often entertained airship passengers with his accordion or played the lightweight duralumin piano installed in the Hindenburg’s lounge during the 1936 season.
While Hugo Eckener was deeply troubled by the rise of National Socialism and became known as an opponent of the regime, Ernst Lehmann did not share Eckener’s hostility to the Nazis, and in return for his cooperation with the Nazi Party, Lehmann was given the leadership of the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei and airship operations.
Less than three weeks after Hindenburg’s first flight, and just days before the ship’s first ocean crossing, Lehmann cancelled important flight tests to accommodate a request by the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda for Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin to make a joint three day propaganda flight in support of Adolf Hitler. Lehmann even insisted on making the flight despite unfavorable weather conditions on the day of the takeoff, and Hindenburg’s lower fin was damaged in the predictable accident that followed. Hugo Eckener harshly and openly criticised Lehmann for endangering the brand new ship, and the entire zeppelin program, to curry favor with the Nazis.
Despite his support of the Hitler regime, however, Lehmann never actually joined the Nazi Party. (Only two of the seven active zeppelin commanders were Party members, Max Pruss and Anton Wittemann; Captain Walter Ziegler was also a member of the NSDAP, but never actually commanded a zeppelin.)
Lehmann often served as commander of Hindenburg, but he was onboard as an observer during its final flight, which was commanded by Max Pruss. There is some reason to believe that Lehmann may have exercised de facto operational control during Hindenburg’s final landing maneuver (since there was an apparent re-ordering of roles as compared to typical DZR procedure), and that he may have therefore been somewhat responsible for the disaster, but the truth may never be known.
Lehmann sustained serious injuries in the during the Hindenburg’s crash; his back was badly burned from his neck to his spine, and he was taken to Paul Kimball Hospital where he died the next day. Before dying, Lehmann told American airship officer and Lakehurst commander Charles Rosendahl that he believed Hindenburg must have been destroyed by an “infernal machine” (Hollenmaschine), presumably referring to a bomb or other sabotage device, or possibly a shot fired from the ground.
Ernst Lehmann’s casket lay in state with those of other German victims of the disaster at Pier 86 in New York City before being returned to Germany for burial.
hi dan. do you know how i can get in touch with addison bain? would love to speak to him. i was at the 80th anniversary but never made it to speak to addison bain. thanks for anyway you can help. i am enjoying the book by you , patrick,… Read more »
Does anyone know of the connection that Ernst Augustus Lehman had with Chicago. He visited there when he was in the US! Also my grandmother’s name was Augusta Lehman Pearce and she was from Germany and when her son was born in Chicago she left him there with someone named… Read more »
Ernst is my great great great grandfather I can try and find out more info
Wait a minute, did I just find a family member while searching up my great great great grandfather?
Did your G G G Grandfather have a sister Mabel??? That was my grandmother and supposedly Earnst’s sister.
Gabe did Earnst have a sister named Mabel? That was my grandmother on my father’s side. I’m told Earnst was my Great, Great uncle?????
My wife’s grandmother was Mathilde Lehmann (sister of Ernst). She married Felix Jacobi (also a zeppelin pilot), her grandfather. Now she is living in NSW, Australia. I was an airship lover in my teenage years; imagine my surprise when she casually told me about this connection to Captain Lehmann on… Read more »
Fascinating. I am a historian doing original research using unpublished source material on Lehmann’s first combat experience in August 1914 in Alsace – Loraine in re LZ 17 and Z VII and Z VIII (LZ 23) and later on the LZ 90. All family members are invited to contact me.… Read more »
J’ai appris que l’oncle de mon grand-pÃ¨re (Rolf Lehmann) Ã©tait Ernst Lehmann…
Quelqu’un a des infos?
Hello everybody, if you have interest, it’s official information about Ernst August Lehmann from site: http://www.deutsche-biographie.de/sfz49779.html Lehmann, Ernst August Luftschiff-KapitÃ¤n, * 12.3.1886 Ludwigshafen/Rhein, â€ 7.5.1937 Lakehurst bei New York. (evangelisch) Genealogie: Vater(father) – Ludwig (1858â€“1939), Dr. phil., Chemiker, Betriebsleiter b. d. BASF in L., S d. Gymnasialprof. Joh. Adam in… Read more »
I have been told all of my life that Ernst Lehmann is a relative on my mother’s fathers side of the family. They dropped the second N from the name. Does anyone have any information on Edward Adam Lehman and Augusta Bollenburg Lehman? They may be from Alsace-Lorraine, Thank You
Ernst Lehmann was the brother of my Great Grandfather. Ernst Lehmann’s nephew is my grandfather Hans Lehmann who fled Germany at the end of WWII and settled in the North of England. I live in Australia.
Hi Matt my name is jason i live in Australia Also and am fascinated By Zeppelin Airships!! and all those involved with them!!! i was wondering if we could have a chat on FB sometime or even Possibly meet up someplace i live in N.S.W thanks ever so much for… Read more »
Hi Matt, I have been trying to put pieces of our family tree together and have been told that Ernst Lehmann was my Great Grandfather, Francis Lehmann’s cousin. Francis immigrated from Germany and I believe lived in New York, United States of America. I have been trying to track back… Read more »
My brother searched our family tree and discovered that Ernst was our great great uncle. Meaning my fathers mothers brother. Her Name was Mable Lehman. Regards.
Hi David: my grandfather, Frank Lehmann was Ernst’s cousin. They played together as children until my grandfather’s family immigrated to the U S. Settled in Buffalo, NY, where he later married my grandmother, Genevieve Lang. Carol
My grandfather was Paul Lehmann, born in Berlin about 1870, was in the Prussian calvary. He had a brother Christian Lehmann, Paul moved to the USA in 1912.
We have no records of the his brother Christian left behind in Germany.Anybody held of this family?
Yes, I’m a descendant of Christian Lehmann (at least as far as I can tell). I’ve been trying to track down his lineage for a long time and just found this post today. From what I know they came over to NY and settled in Brooklyn in about 1858 (his… Read more »
Anybody know of any progeny in U.S?
which book of his was the best and where do you buy it?