May 6, 1937 was one of the most horrific days in United States aviation history. The airship Hindenburg exploded in mid-air shortly before landing at Lakehurst Naval Station in New Jersey.
The airship had been named for Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934), President of Germany (1925–1934). He appointed Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany, which enabled Hitler to seize power when Hindenburg died in 1934.
Fourteen months after the first flight of the Hindenburg in March of 1936, the airship would make its final disastrous flight in May of 1937.
It was amazing that smoking was allowed, in the smoking room of the airship. Passengers weren’t permitted to leave the smoking room with a lighted cigarette.
Aboard the plane the fateful day of the explosion were 36 passengers and 61 crew members. 36 people died from the fire including 13 passengers, 22 crew members and one ground crew member.
Looking at photos of the fire, once it hit the ground, it is remarkable that 23 passengers and 39 crew members survived, of the 97 that originally boarded the Hindenburg.
Herbert Morrison, a reporter for radio station WLS in Chicago was given instructions to cover the Hindenburg landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Morrison went from describing a routine flight, before it exploded, to a hysterical report of it exploding in mid-air.
You could sense the disbelief of Morrison in his voice that he was witnessing one of the most tragic events in aviation history. He is still famous today for his “Oh, the humanity” line he uttered during the broadcast.
Morrison was 31 when he covered the event in 1937 and would live to the age of 83, dying in January of 1989.