The Hindenburg disaster

The Hindenburg crashes in Lakehurst on May 6, 1937. Thirty-six people died. Photo: National Archives.

As office workers flooded the streets on May 6, 1937, the L7 129 Hindenburg floated across lower Manhattan for a trip to New Jersey where the plan was to dock the hydrogen-filled dirigible at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Ninety-seven people were aboard.

But at 7:25 p.m. the Hindenburg caught fire as it attempted to land. Witnesses saw sparks and flames shooting from the dirigible.





Fire rips through the Hindenburg as helpless witnesses look on. Photo: National Archives.

“Instantly, the whole place was on fire,” survivor Werner Doehner told the Associated Press. Doehner was just 8 years old when the accident happened over South Jersey. “My mother threw me out the window. She threw my brother out. Then she threw me, but I hit something and bounced back. She caught me and threw me the second time out.”

Thirteen passengers and 22 crew members died. One person on the ground was also killed.

At the time, the Hindenburg was the largest airship every built: measuring more than 800 feet from nose to fin.

A cause for the fire was never determined, although numerous theories, such as lightning strike and a hydrogen leak, have been bandied about over the years. The accident all but brought to an end the idea of cross-Atlantic travel on hydrogen-filled blimps.

Below, see nearly unedited color footage of the Hindenburg disaster.

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