Hindenburg: Titanic of the Sky is on Discovery History today (Friday July 27th) at 20:00 and examines one of the greatest disasters of all time.
The Hindenburg burst into flames when landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. Also adding to the magnitude of the disaster was that it was caught on newsreel so for the first time people could watch the disaster happen as well as read about it.
We’ve all seen the iconic footage but here are some lesser known FACTS about the Hindenburg…
FACT 1: Despite the graphic footage of the Hindenburg going up in flames in around 30 seconds amazingly the disaster only claimed 36 lives. Of 97 people on board, 62 survived. Those who were killed were 22 crew members, 13 passengers and one person working on the ground.
FACT 2: The main method of escape used by the passengers and crew was to jump and run as fast as they could to safety.
FACT 3: US law prevented the Hindenburg from using helium - a less flammable lifting gas than hydrogen. Hindenburg designer Hugo Eckener wanted to use helium for safety concerns but the US had a monopoly on the gas and feared exporting it, thinking other countries may use it for military purposes.
FACT 4: Although much more publicised due to the iconic footage the Hindenburg disaster wasn’t the deadliest airship disaster in history. The deadliest was the USS Akron US Navy ship that crashed in a storm in 1933 killing 73 and leaving only three survivors.
FACT 5: The Hindenburg had a smokers’ lounge that passengers could access via a double airlock in the ship. The room was pressurized so not to let any of the 7 million cubic feet of highly flammable hydrogen gas in.
FACT 6: The world famous radio account of the Hindenburg crash by Herbert Morrison in which he proclaimed ‘the humanity, oh the humanity’ didn’t go out live but was recorded whilst he witnessed the crash and put on air later that evening. It was later edited on top of the newsreel.
FACT 7: The Hindenburg had a specially made lightweight piano on board.
FACT 8: 176 airmail letters carried on board the Hindenburg survived the disaster as they were stored in a protective container that survived the crash. They were posted four days after the crash and arrived a little singed but still readable. They are now extremely valuable artefacts.
FACT 9: The Hindenburg was first used by the Nazis to fly on propaganda missions, the airship would fly around German cities dropping propaganda leaflets and swastika flags whilst playing pro-Hitler announcements to support a referendum for the re-occupation of the Rhineland. The leading Nazis wanted its size to be used as a symbol of Nazi power.
FACT 10: Goebbels had wanted the Hindenburg to be named after Hitler rather than the German president Paul von Hindenburg but Eckener refused. In the end Hitler was pleased the airship didn’t bear his name after the image of it burning to the ground became so widespread.