USS Los Angeles ZR-3


USS Los Angeles

The USS Los Angeles — by far the most successful of the United States Navy’s rigid airships — was built in Germany by the Zeppelin Company.  Designated ZR-3 (Zeppelin Rigid number 3) by the United States Navy, the ship was constructed as the LZ-126 (Luftschiff Zeppelin number 126; the 126th design produced by the Zeppelin Company.)

The Origins of the USS Los Angeles

The LZ-126 at it's birthplace in Friedrichshafen

The LZ-126 at its birthplace in Friedrichshafen

While the Los Angeles achieved its fame as an American naval vessel, the story of its construction is also the story of the rebirth of the German airship industry in the aftermath of World War I.

Appalled by Germany’s use of airships to bomb civilians during the war, the Allies were determined to destroy the German airship industry.  Under the leadership of Hugo Eckener, the Zeppelin Company convinced the Allies to allow them to build a large, intercontinental airship — the LZ-126 — to satisfy Germany’s requirement to make reparations for the loss of several German zeppelins which had been destroyed by their own crews to prevent them from being handed over to the Allies.

While the American’s were anxious to receive a new ship built by the experts at the Zeppelin Company (especially after the loss of the British R-38, which would have joined the United States Navy as the ZR-2), the British, who had been bombed by German  zeppelins during the war, were opposed to the construction of a new zeppelin.   Ultimately, a compromise was reached, under which the Zeppelin Company was allowed to build a new ship for the Ameicans on the condition that it be designed and used solely for civil, and not military, purposes.

German Zeppelin Company crew of LZ-126 / ZR-3. October, 1924.

German Zeppelin Company crew of LZ-126 / ZR-3. October, 1924.


German Zeppelin Company crew of LZ-126 / ZR-3. October, 1924.

The construction of LZ-126 kept the German airship industry alive, maintaining not only the Zeppelin Company’s plant and equipment, but also its workforce of its highly skilled employees. The construction and operation of the world’s first truly intercontinental airship also provided Eckener and his colleagues with the knowledge that would enable them to build and fly future passenger zeppelins.

Flight Across the Atlantic


Lift Off of LZ-126 / ZR-3

On October 12, 1924, under the command of Dr. Eckener, LZ-126 (already known by its American naval designation ZR-3) lifted off from Friedrichshafen, Germany to begin its flight across the Atlantic for delivery to the United States Navy.

After a successful crossing of the Atlantic ocean, LZ-126 landed at the United States naval base at Lakehurst, New Jersey at 9:56 AM on the morning of October 15, 1924. The Atlantic would not be crossed nonstop by air again until Charles Lindbergh’s flight in the Spirit of St. Louis in May, 1927.

The transatlantic was considered an aviation triumph, and Captain Eckener and his crew were given a parade up Broadway in New York City, and were greeted at the White House by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.


LZ-126 crossing the Atlantic on its delivery flight to the United States Navy

The USS Los Angeles


USS Los Angeles in the hangar at NAS Lakehurst

The first flight of the ZR-3 under American command had to await the return of USS Shenandoah, which was still on its cross country flight.

The United States did not have a sufficient supply of helium to inflate two large airships, and so the ZR-3 — which had arrived from Germany inflated with hydrogen — could not be flown until the helium in Shenandoah’s gas cells could be transfered to the new ship.

Passenger Cabin of LZ-126

Passenger Cabin of LZ-126

The still un-named ZR-3 made its first American flight on November 25, 1924.  The ship was flown to Naval Air Station Anacostia, near Washington, DC, where it was Los Angeles by the wife of President Calvin Coolidge and placed in commission as a vessel of the United States Navy.

Since Los Angeles had been designed under an agreement limiting the ship to civilian use, it had been built with accommodations appropriate to a long-distance commercial airliner, including a large passenger cabin featuring sleeping compartments and a first-class galley for the preparation of hot meals.


Passenger Cabin of USS Los Angeles


Gondola of USS Los Angeles

Consistent with its agreement to use the ship for civilian purposes, the Navy operated Los Angeles primarily as a training ship. Los Angeles frequently moored to a surface support ship, U.S.S. Patoka (a Navy oil tanker converted to act as an airship tender) for underway replenishment, and even landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Saratoga.



USS Los Angeles moored to USS Patoka

The ship also conducted experiments with the launch and retrieval of fixed-wing aircraft from trapeze fitted to the bottom of its hull, a technology that would later be used on U.S.S Akron and U.S.S. Macon. Los Angeles made several impressive long distance flights, including trips around the United States and to the Panama Canal Zone and Cuba, and made frequent goodwill and publicity flights in addition to its training operations.

U.S.S. Los Angeles Officers

U.S.S. Los Angeles Officers (c. 1928)
Standing (l to r): Chief Boatswain William A. Buckley; Lt. Jack C. Richardson, Navigator; Lt. James B. Carter, Watch Officer; Lt. J. Murray Thornton, Aerology and Watch Officer; Lt. J. Bruce Anderson, Aerology Officer; Ens. Emmett C. Thurman, Asst. Engineering Officer.
Seated (l to r): Lt. T. G. W. Settle, Engineering Officer; LCDR. Herbert V. Wiley, Executive Officer; LCDR Charles E. Rosendahl, Commanding Officer; Lt. Roland G. Mayer, First Lieutenant; Lt. Charles E. Bauch.

In 1932, with U.S.S. Akron already in service and U.S.S. Macon under construction, the Navy decommissioned Los Angeles. The ship never flew again, and in October, 1939, the ship was stricken from the Navy List and dismantled.

USS Los Angeles statistics:

  • Length: 656.2 feet
  • Diameter: 90.68 feet
  • Gas capacity: 2,599,110 cubic feet
  • Useful lift: 66,970 lbs
  • Maximum speed: 79 MPH
  • Cruising speed: 50 knotw
  • Original Powerplant: 5 Maybach VL-1 12-cylinder engines (400 HP at 1,4000 RPM)
  • Flight Crew: 10 officers and 33 men
  • First flight: August 27, 1924
  • Final flight: June 24-25, 1932
  • Total flight hours: 4,181:28
  • Total flights: 331

For a list of crew members who served aboard U.S.S. Los Angeles during 1931-1932, see: U.S.S. Los Angeles: Officers and Crew


87 Comments on "USS Los Angeles ZR-3"

  1. My sister gave me a old photograph with 1924 scratched in the metal frame. The photo looked like some sort of event or celebration had taken place. Several men were pictured in front of a airship. My grandfather was a sheet metal worker at Lakehurst and he was pictured in the group. If 1924 was correct he’d was 24 years at the time. My sister was told that the blimp was the Hindenburg or it’s sister ship but the dates did make sense. Using the internet and the photograph I can say that the airship behind them was most likely the USS Los Angles. And, I think has a pretty interesting history. Just as good as the Hindenburg.

  2. My father, Philip Raymond Leahy (AMM 3/c), served on the U.S.S. Los Angeles from 30 June 1931 to 15 April 1932. His service record has an entry that he was, “A member of the crew which so efficiently extinguished fire on LOS ANGELES 6-24-31. Commanding Officer, LOS ANGELES, letter of commendation is hereby made a part of his official service record.” I haven’t been able to find out anything about the fire. Does anyone know about it?

  3. Nancy Sheppard | July 7, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Reply

    As always, Dan, awesome overview of this great ship!!! I have a picture somewhere of Los Angeles flying over Yorktown, VA (where I live).

  4. You can try the Navy Lakehurst historical society . It’s where the zr3 was delivered and also where the Hindenburg crash location.

  5. My family has a set of photos of the ZR 3 Los Angeles. The photos are from the day that it was delivered to the navy in 1924. The set includes a panoramic shot of the ship and hanger and 5 interior shots. These photos are restored and framed to museum quality. My family would be interested in donating the set to a museum. We feel that they should be shared with the public. Does anyone have knowledge of a museum that would be interested in them?

  6. Jeff McLellan | June 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Reply

    Thanks for your work on this great website; it’s all very interesting.

    Similarly to a previously-posted question, my mother recalls seeing an airship flying near Sault Ste Marie Michigan in the 30’s. Any idea of which ship(s) might have operated in that area?



  7. The U.S.S. Los Angeles (ZR-3) was refurbished after the crash of the Akron and Macon and returned to service between 1935 and 1940. She was scrapped in 1940.
    Bilstein, E. Roger (2001). Flight in America. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press. Page 129

  8. The U.s.s. Los Angeles was Launched as a navy vessel one day before I was born. At about age 6 she passed right over our back yard at a low altitude. One of the crew returned my wave while he was in a door or window.
    I will never forget that and watching her drone slowlowly alonhg.
    The U.S.S. Los Angeles will always remain a dear aircraft to me.

  9. Anyone know the maximum ceiling of the USS Los Angeles? I’ve checked here, Wikipedia, and Althoff’s book and can’t find any information. I’m assuming it was no where near the WW I “height climbers” and probably more along the lines of the Graf Zeppelin.

  10. Russ, our friend has asked me to research her photo of the Los Angeles and it sounds like the one you have. It is dated 1926 and is rather panoramic, about three feet long. I did send an email to the Naval museum but I am guessing I may not see a reply. I could not find the exact picture in their collections, just one that is close. That is the one where the dirigble is being delivered in 1924 and is void of insignia. The one my friend (and I think you) has is positioned almost identically with the nose near the door of the hangar.

    • Sorry for the several months delay. I just went back to this site given a post about Lakehurst Hanger #1. My pic shows the port (left) side of the Los Angeles with its nose at the hanger door. It is about three feet long. Never did hear back from the Navy but I will take it to the Museum at the Navy Yard in DC at some point for them to review in detail. The photo has a brown/tan tint as was typical of the time.

    • Russ,

      Did you have a chance to take your picture to the Navy Yard for their review?

      I have additional photos that our friend would like to see preserved.

  11. Has anyone ever seen a small ceramic model of the USS Los Angeles? I found one at an estate sale a few years ago. White ceramic about 2.5 – 3 inches long. Made in Germany. Written across front: USS Los Angeles ZR-3. Any information greatly appreciated.

  12. I have a wonderful 1926 Clements photo of the Los Angeles on the ground with its nose at the door of Hanger 1 at Lakehurst. My Dad found it at a garage sale in Monmouth County about 50 years ago and I had it framed a few years back. I contacted the Navy Museum in DC about it but never received a reply. Its a different shot than I’ve ever seen published.

  13. In the summer of 1938 when I was 9, we vacationed at Lavallette, NJ. One of the adults in our party had arranged for several of us to visit the Lakehurst NAS not far away. As we entered the base and drove to the large airship hangar, we passed the site where the Hindenburg had burned the previous summer. Arriving at the east hangar door, we entered and were immediately confronted by the huge aft end of the Los Angeles which was facing to the west. There were a number of blimps occupying the hangar as well. We walked along the length of the airship to the gondola where we were permitted to climb aboard and inspect the accommodations and control deck. At the very rear of the gondola was an opening up into the hull where I could dimly see one of the gas cells. Exciting stuff for a kid fascinated by all things aviation.

    Two summers earlier, in 1936, I watched the Hindenburg pass almost directly over our house in Wilmington, DE, at quite a low altitude. The passengers were clearly seen waving from the windows.

  14. Sheldon Wolpin | January 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Reply

    The Lakewood, NJ, Historical Society has a photograph of the crew (including Dr. Eckner) of the Los Angeles, together with members of the Lakewood, NJ, Rotary Club, standing on the steps of the Hotel Embassy in Lakewood, NJ. The crew were guests of the Lakewood Rotary Club. I am seeking any information, or references which I can research, regarding this event…….particularly the date.

    Thank you for any information and/or suggestions.

  15. While I was checking some old not-mailed nor written on postcards, I found that I have the exact same postcard of the L. A. as displayed second up from the USS Los Angeles statistics…signed by the photographer (Rell Clements, Jr. copyright 1928–Photo #4). It appears that the photo in the above picture is #3. Also, I have four postcards (not written on or mailed) of the Graf Zeppelin…a. taking off from the mat, b. on the deck by hanger, c. shot of the tail section taken from inside the hanger while the L. A. is several feet out of the hanger, and d. a picture of the kitchen. The kitchen picture has a copyrighted signature by H. Metz. Anybody know what these postcards might be worth?
    Stan McNabb
    former PAC, ZPG-2 at ZP-3, NAS Lakehurst 1958-61

  16. My dad worked at Lakehurst until 1934 and I remember being in the hanger on payday when the men lined up to be payed. My brother and I often got a penny from the paymaster at the time. I still have a photo of the los Angeles just outside the hanger with a mechanic looking out a port on an engine pod. It was odd to havehim working on one of the great technical marvels of the age and living in a house with no electricity or indoor plumbing in Lakehurst. Unfortunately, I left just after starting 1st grade.

  17. I have a childhood memory, perhaps a fantasy, in which I saw a dirigible moored to the mast of the Empire State Building. In that I was born in 1934 the time of this event could not have been before 1939. Is it possible that my memory is correct? What airship could it have been?

    • Hendrick Stoops | December 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Reply

      The blimp J-4 did briefly dock with the ESB and exchanged mail with the tower, however, updrafts made the maneuver difficult at best and if my memory serves me right, it ended up with the mayor of New York City hanging over the edge of the tallest building in the world to grab the package.

  18. Thank you for a superior website. This IS the go-to destination for airship details and a grand array of pictures.

    There’s a photo at Navy Lakehurst Historical Society website showing USS Los Angeles inside Hangar No. 1 at NAS Lakehurst. The hangar dwarfs the airship. It’s like an Astrodome inside. In fact, it looks like two similar sized airships could dock side by side in there. Am I right in guessing that that hangar is something like 12 stories high?

    Can we find out more about the Lakehurst hangar? And maybe more about the Zeppelin works in Friedrichshafen.

    I’d really like more details about how airships docked. Were they wrestled to the ground by a hundred men holding drop ropes, like Snoopy at the Macy’s parade? Isn’t there some more efficient way?

    Again, thank you.

    • Alan David | May 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Reply

      In the January, 1925 National Geographic article on Shenendoah, there is a picture of Los Angeles and Shenendoah side by side in the Lakehurst Hanger, and Los Angeles is literally “hanging” from the ceiling by cables. It had been emptied of hydrogen and would by refilled with helium from Shenendoah. ADavid

  19. Great site, iv’e been searching recently for more pictures of the interior of LZ-126.
    Do you know of any drawings that show the interior layout of LZ-126. Seems she was much larger than LZ-120 but carried fewer passengers.

    • Thanks for the comment. I have tons of photos of the interior of LZ-126 as well as schematics; I am looking forward to having some free time to finish this page. Thank you again for visiting.

      • I am in the final stages of completing a textbook on Airship Design that will be published by the AIAA in spring 2012. I have been looking for a picture of the internal arrangement of a typical rigid airship. If you have something I could see that would be great. If the picture is good enough I would consider putting it in the book if you gave me permission.



  20. I am struck by how similar Los Angeles looks to the Graf Zeppelin, engine arrangement, cabin position, etc.

    • The Los Angeles was built near the time of the Graf (shortly before I think) and was a “go-between” the Bodensee and the Graf. Interestingly enough, the Graf employed a dual fuel system where the Los Angeles, as well as the Hindenburg both employed a single fuel system.

  21. Re: high mast mooring

    IIRC the R101spent a good deal of time moored at Cardington’s high mast. They seemed to trim the ship tail-light and then hung several tons of sand ballast bags from long cables to keep the ship level. Presumably the ballast bags plowed a semi-circular scar in the field as the ship vaned back & forth.



    • Wow! Small world. Is this the same Pat McKenrick i know from fairfax ohio, the american legion, the eagles, the arena, and the bramble patch. I’m sure you remember me i’m randys son in law married to betty. If so I look forward to seeing some more photos and hearing some stories. See you soon Pat.

    • Linda Vaccariello | April 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply

      Are you the Pat McKenrick who was a high school portrait photographer in Cincinnati?

  23. This is Great!
    My grandfather was a Portuguese emigrant in LA. He returned to Portugal in the 20´s. I just found his large suitcase. He used newspapers to cover the bottom. Amazing, the date of the newspaper is 16th Oct. 1924 and the hedline was: “the ZR-3 arrives to USA!

  24. The artist Howard Cook (1901-1980) created a soft ground/aquatint of the Los Angeles docking at sea in 1931 (Duffy #158) and I keep hoping I’ll be able to buy one of the prints when it comes up for sale. No luck so far, though he did an edition of fifty.

  25. How did they alter buoyancy on American Zeppelins? Did they vent the helium like German Zeppelins did with hydrogen, or was that too expensive?

    • To avoid valving helium American airships used water recovery systems which recovered water ballast from engine exhaust to compensate for the weight lost when fuel was burned.

      • I think the only US airships to use that system were the Akron and Macon…pretty sure ‘Los Angeles’, ‘Shenandoah’ etc. had traditional water ballast aboard.

        • G W Elderkin | July 29, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Reply

          The exhaust recovery system was first tried aboard Shenandoah under LtCdr Zach Lansdowne command and worked well to help save the venting of helium . Also he and others developed usage of the “Super Heating & Cooling” method to also save on helium loss while saving ballast as well.

          My Grandfather was Shenandoah’s watch officer.



  26. An Austrian journalist described the arrival of the Los Angeles in New York City after its maiden voyage. You can read the original article in German (titled “ZR3”) at the following website:

  27. Thomas C Hecht | January 11, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Reply

    Fantastic site just found it.I have a pop bottle shaped like a zeppelin,it is from the Graf beverage company and the name on the bottle is Graf’s Zep.I think it was made to commemorate the visit of the Graf Zeppelin to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 but i don’t have any more info on it.Love those dirigibles.

    • david helms | May 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Reply

      hi thomas. can you tell me where i can get one of those bottles for a keepsake.thanks for a reply.


      • Thomas C Hecht | May 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Reply

        I found mine in an antique store about 10 years ago.I live in the midwest so it seems that you would have more luck there,also try E-Bay.Thats all i can tell you ,hope it helped.Also from what i have learned they are not that rare.

  28. The Ford Airport in Dearborn, Mich. had a dirigible mast and IIRC, the Los Angeles docked there once. And (again, IIRC) the Shendoah was headed there on its last voyage in order to do a fly-by of the Michigan State Fair.

    The Ford Airport today. (It is at the bottom of the webpage – the big building in the lower right is the Henry Ford Museum. At the upper right, left and up of the intersection is Stout Middle School. The Dearborn Inn would be at extreme right, about a third of the way up the picture, and it is still open – and a darned fine place it is.)

  29. I have told my kids about the spire of the Empire State Building as a mooring for the great dirigibles. I have read that they actually did attempt to bring a dirigible to connect with the mooring on the spire but that the wind currents were too great. I wonder whether there are any photos of this attempt.

    • I once saw a short film of a small blimp seemingly attempting a mooring to what the announcer said was the mast atop the Empire State building. It didn’t work. I’ve flown hot air balloons for several years and know what wind can do to a large aircraft. I can’t imagine trying to moor a lighter than air craft in the conditions you’d find at the top of a New York skyscraper, but those were different times and I think they were willing to try anything.

  30. I am a school teacher in Louisiana. We are discussing the great airships of the twenties and thirties, especially the Hindenburg. Great site, great photos.

  31. I saw the artist renderings of the passenger accomodations on the Los Angeles, but I thought she was a military vessel. Did she ever carry paying passengers?

    • Los Angeles never carried paying commercial passengers, but she did carry civilian VIPs, including congressmen, government officials, and the King and Queen of Siam.

      • Dan;

        I wondered why the Navy left the passenger “Pulman” type of accommodations in the main gondola as is. Was it for the comfort of the crew, or to impress VIP’s as a early version of getting PAC funds from politicians for the LTA program. After all, this was during the Great Depression and I imagine defense spending was seriously curtailed in those times.

  32. Does anyone know why this ship was named “Los Angeles”?

    • The story is told that Navy Secretary Curtis Dwight Wilbur announced: “I’m going to name our new airship the Los Angeles because it has come to us from overseas like an angel of peace.” (See, Gordon Vaeth, Graf Zeppelin: The Adventures of an Aerial Globetrotter (1958) p. 42.)

      Of course, before becoming Secretary of the Navy, Curtis Wilbur was Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and had served as Los Angeles Deputy Assistant District Attorney, so that may have influenced the name as well. 🙂

      • concerning the naming of the “U.S.S. LOS ANGELES”,
        was it not the policy of the Navy (@the time) to name “battlle crusiers” ~ of which Airships were classified ~ after American cities”?! Am I wrong about this? please advise.

        up ship,
        Neal Sausen

  33. Phillip Swanson | July 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Reply

    I have seen some pictures of the Los Angeles doing “handstands” in a heavy wind. Those pics would be an interesting addition to this site.

    • Pretty sure that was the Shenandoah. I think some of the pictures here of the Los Angeles might actually be of the Shenandoah? Is there some confusion?

  34. Frederick S Larsen | June 14, 2009 at 5:45 am | Reply

    Great website! I was looking for more information about the Navy LTA fleet and the “Los Angeles” for a book I’m writing. I collect WWII memorabilia and at one time had a pillow cover from NAS Lakehurst with the likeness of the Los Angeles
    on it. You have some great pictures as well of the LTA in Gemany. Very interesting.
    Thank you for your commitment. Fred

  35. Tall mooring masts were the fad in the twenties with Lakehurst and Cardington leading the way. There was even some attempts at the Empire State Building in NYC with a blimp, but I am not sure about the details. The problem with the high masts is that the ship had to be “flown” at the mast, meaning that the trim and pitch of the ship had to be tended to by a man at the elevator wheel. Winds, rain, changes in temperature and people moving on and off the ship changed her static trim constantly, so someone had to always be in the control car to make adjustments to keep the ship’s tail end from touching the ground, or in the case of the Los Angeles, flying way up in the air! The powers to be did not relish the thought of flying a zeppelin from the needle of the Empire State Building with all that turbulence and high rooftops in close proximity. Someone later hatched an idea to land helicopters on the Pan American Building regularly, but that too ended for the same reasons that ended the idea of airships mooring to the Empire State Building.

    The US Navy led the way with the ground mooring short mast system with the Akron which allowed the ship to remain under control without need of internal control using a short mast, yaw lines and a tail beam tether. The system was very successful save for one spectacular moment when the Akron broke loose in front of some political dignitaries. Such was the luck of ZRS-4.

    • The tail-cart was a great improvement, along with the short mast. It made it easy to move a dirigible into line for the hangar, and keep it in line through the doors.

  36. wow, i’m surprised it didn’t crash completely.

    if you had a moving balast system, that could move back and forth along the inner cat walk couldn’t you potentially be able to balance the ship and prevent it from doing something like this?

    I heard that the empire state building was built to be used as a tall mooring station for LTA’s, same thing with the eiffel tower, like in the book “Airborn” the Eiffel tower is used as a docking station for the high class luxury airships.

    • Of course, if you just avoid using a high mast, you can prevent this, too. 🙂

      (And a high mast had other disadvantages; the ship had to be “flown” the entire time it was at the mast.)

      I will defer to my more qualified engineering friends about the “moving ballast system” you describe, but I imagine one problem would be its weight. And of course, since the system itself could not be jettisoned, it would not really be “ballast.” I suppose there would have been an advantage in being able to shift actual ballast fore and aft (for example, by pumping water ballast through pipes, the way an Airbus can shift its CG by repositioning fuel); this would also have preserved ballast, so it would not have been necessary to drop ballast completely to lighten the bow or tail, for example, but it could simply have been shifted. I imagine the weight of the pumps and pipes would have been one consideration, as well as the complexity and likelihood of failure; weight shifting did not work so well in LZ-1. 🙂

  37. Wow, August 25th, my B-day. 😀

    Thanks for the reply!

  38. On August 25, 1927, Los Angeles was moored to the west, into the prevailing wind, at Lakehurst’s 167′ high mast, when it was hit with an sea breeze from the opposite direction. The air coming from the water to the east was also colder and denser than the ambient air, creating additional lift in the tail, and the combination of the gust itself and the increased lift raised the ship’s tail high into the air.

  39. What cause the Los Angeles to go vertical like that?

    • Alex;
      According to historical books on the event that day, an ocean breeze came inland. Lakehurst Naval Air Station where the “flip” occurred is located near the New Jersey coastline. Those sea breezes came with a wind shift that caught the L.A. from behind, and instead of the ship swinging in the wind, the wind pressure lifted the elevator surfaces aft and up she went. No amount of down elevator from the ship’s bridge could stop the lift as there was airflow happening in a reverse direction. As she inclined upwards, she peaked practically vertical, then rotated on her longitudinal axis, and came back downward nicely, in the new windstream. Her rotation at the back end of the “flip” was her dead weights simply responding to gravity as she was momentarily upside down in the flip. The L.A. suffered minor damage from falling objects in the ship punching through the outer cover near the bow. The other “minor” damage was a few shattered nerves I’m sure. That event started the Navy seriously considering the shorter, stub masts.

  40. just wanted to add a last comment, Like they wanted to do with the Hindenburg use high buildings as the mooring stations. So going on your week Cruz, you drive your car to the parking garage of the building, take the elevator to the boarding gate and inter the craft via a covered and temp controlled cat walk. I would love to see this beautiful behemoths flying again

    • @ Tim:

      I agree; the cruises you describe sound wonderful. 🙂

      But in reality, of course, tall buildings were never used to moor large airships, and even tall masts presented problems, as this photo of the USS Los Angeles demonstrates:

      USS Los Angeles

      • Imagine being crew on the Los Angeles at that time. Everything that is not secured is going forward and so are you.

        • Were tail-fin anchors included on these ships? That might’ve helped a lot to prevent incidents like the one in the above photo from happening.

  41. I have often wondered why dirigibles weren’t made commercially and sold as “Cruise Ships of the Sky” I.E. 1.Continental class, for world cruising 2.Atlantic Class, for dedicated ocean cruises. 3. Inner-continual class, for cruises with in a country, like a trip to the grand canyon and Yellowstone . With the modern equipment we have now, it would be a safe venture, you could line the upper outside of the frame with solar panels. Imagine an African Cruz that would take you to nearly tree top level and see the Amazon in a nearly human free environment. You would be high enough to out of the mesquite’s and such, and if the observation deck becomes to hot and stuff, you could simply step inside to the bar, and watch in an air-conditioned environment. Heck all the radar technology we now have and communications, it would be one very pleasant Cruz. From NY to Mt Rushmore to The grand canyon in a week, going no faster than 30 MPH. I would love to spend a vacation on that 🙂

  42. My father and one of my uncles were crew members of the Los Angeles. Would like to hear from any other crew members or decendants of crew members. My uncle Monty Rowe was also a survivor of the Macon crash.

    Lee Stone 561-964-3201
    Greenacres, Florida

    • HI
      I was 5 or 6 when I saw what I remembered to be the USS Los Angeles fly over Los Angeles, this was either 1928 or 1929. The Graf Zeppilin was in Los Angeles on its way home from a round the world flight in the same year. I may have actually seen the Graf Zeppilin but I don’t remember it that way. Do you know if the USS Los Angeles ever visited its namesake city?

      • I think your memory is probably correct. I have a pink hand-blown glass Christmas ornament that is shaped like a Zepplin and has Los Angeles printed in relief on one side and ZR3 on the other. It belonged to my aunt and was given to me as a memento when she passed away. My father had a blue or green one (it was always my favorite ornament on the tree) but it disappeared when I was in my teens. I have a vauge memory of my aunt saying that they got them as children as souveniers and even that they actually saw the Zepplin. My father was born in 1918 and his sister in 1920 and they grew up in Los Angeles so that would fit in with the timing that you remember. I’ve been wanting to research the names on the side of the ornament for about ten years now and finally got around to it. I didn’t realize that Los Angeles was the name of the Zepplin, I just thought that it was there to commemorate that it flew over or landed here. I can only imagine what a wonderous sight that must have been for them at eight and ten years old and you at five or six.

        • Thank you for your response. I have a book that covers the history of the Los Angeles including its log for its operating years. There is no mention of such a trip west but the navy is funny about unofficial uses of equipment and may simply have omitted reference to the trip since it was not an official naval exercise.
          It was exciting to see, it was low heading for what is now LAX, and seemed to fill the entire sky.

          • to George Brown et all,
            Can anyone help me find evidence of rigid airships flying over St. Louis MO. I believe I saw a zepplin type airship there in the late 1920s.
            Thanks for any help. John Glascock

        • I have the same ornament! My mom bought it on her first ever Christmas shopping, age 5, in 1927. But this is the cool thing – not in the states , but in a tiny village in western Norway, with only one shop and less than 1000 inhabitants! And not only did the pink blimp survive in a home with 12 siblings, it also survived the next generation on the farm, and was returned to mom when she was 80 plus. She passed away dec 2013, and I inherited the Christmas ornament. I would greatly appreciate feedback from anyone who knows more bout this memorabilia, like where it was made, in which Colors a s o. I am over the moon with reading all the information about the actual ship, felling like the ornament really ties us right into world history. Tea, Norway.

          • I work with the NAA to publish a quarterly newsletter on Naval Airships. The would love to here your story and if you could take a photo of the ornament. I have been doing the newsletter for many years and have never seen one. There are 500+ members. By publishing your story and sharing the info, possibly someone might be able to fill in the blanks. Most of the members are those who actually flew in them an the many smaller ones that protected our coastlines during the 2nd WW. I work at Ron Smith Printing in Bloomington, Illinois. My boss is the publisher, David Smith. Richard Van Treuren is the editor. Please contact Richard, we are always looking for interesting pieces of history to put in the newsletter. His email, [email protected] or feel free to email me.

    • what can you tell me about the uss los angeles? are there any survivors left of the los angeles, macon, or akron? thanks for a reply.


    • david helms | May 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Reply

      hi lee/ amazing you had relatives who were crewmen on airships. i would be indebted to you for sharing anything you can about their airship experiences. i am an avid airship researcher. hope to hear from you soon and many thanks.


  43. There’s a movie of the Los Angeles trying a landing on the aircraft carrier Lexington at sea. The scene was awkward as the LA landed aft of the Lexington’s bridge structure on her fantail. As the stern of the Lexington pitched up and down in the sea, the LA would remain in place and bounce up and down on the deck of the Lexington. I recall reading that Rosendahl (who I believe commended the LA then) did not stay very long on the deck and had the LA off the ship after a very brief try.
    Also, on the high mast mentioned previously, I forgot to add that the ship had to be “flown” while at the mast as it was still subject to air gusts, downdrafts, and changes in static conditions.

  44. Kate;
    The passengers for the Hindenburg boarded the airship via retractable stairways that descended from the hull. The boarding occurred in the landing field and there’s a photo in a book showing a lady carefully descending the last step while the airship moved about in the wind. They used a rolling set of steps to bridge the gap between the bottom of the stairs and the ground, and as the ship moved in the wind, so the rolling stairs would follow. The stairs led to a landing inside on the lower “B” deck with a set of stairs leading there to the “A” deck. At the stair landing was a bust of “Hindenburg”.
    The US airships all had bow hatches that allowed crew to enter and depart the ship from the high mast used early in the program. After the unintended breakaway flight of the Shenandoah and the flip of the Los Angeles at the very same mast, the Navy decided to use the innovative short mast and ground tackle. The Patoka had a high mast so the crew had to board via the bow hatch – a pain considering all the gear, food and bulk goods had to be carried by hand down the length of the ship to the holds inside.

  45. As a builder of flying scale model LTA’s, I found this site full of useful information and pictures. Thanks, for taking the time, effort and resources required to make such a fine site.

  46. Thank you for sharing your pictures. I have often wondered where the passenger accomodations were located on the Hindenburg. Can you tell me how one gained access to the passenger decks from outside?
    I am also curious about the USS Los Angeles. How did the crew enter and exit while moored to the USS Patoka?
    Your pictures are fascinating! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and this piece of history.

    • Hi Kate,
      i have an answer of your question about the Hindenburg Airship.
      The passengers accomodations where located in the middle of the
      passengers Gondol, between the dining room and the saloon.
      And therefore without any visual contact to the outer world.
      As i can see, your question is dated february 8, I therefore I
      presume, you have already got many informative answers.
      If you want to get more inormations about the “Hindenburg” there ist a
      wonderfull book called “Luftschiff Hindenburg und die grosse Zeit der Zeppeline”.
      Autors:Rick Archbold and Ken Marschall, bei Bassermann Verlag.
      The original title: Hindenburg: An Illustrated History, 1994 The Madison
      Press Limited.

      Best regards
      Kjell Nylund

      • As a child, in Longview, Texas, I saw a large airship fly west toward Shreveport/ Bossier City; therefore toward Barksdale Airbase. Did anyone else see this ? What was it’s destination ? What ship was it ? The date ?

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