Remember when you were very young, there became an age when expressing fear out loud was no longer "hip", "sharp", "cool", whatever the "in" word was? My parents and I were outdoors waiting because the radio and the newspapers had reported that on today's U.S. arrival of Germany's airship,the Hindenburg, it would pass over New York City and then over the suburbs in New Jersey. It was the largest man-made object to ever fly. They told the time and we were out there waiting. Suddenly, I was frozen with fear! The sky darkened and was filled with this monster, roaring "Thing". Pop and Mom seemed fascinated so I resisted the desire to run in the house and hide under the bed. Gradually is crept across the sky and slid south. Folks were jumping up and down in some sort of excitment I didn't understand.
Follow the link above for the first step in linking your way through the romantic and tragic story of the passenger-carrying light-than-air aircrafts of the prewar era in aviation. I am still convinced I had a reason to be scared that day. I have since done the math: there were 13 houses on each side of our street. Each had a 50 foot front footage. That meant that our street measured about 650 feet. The Hindenburg was 808 ft long and 135 ft in diameter. Flying very low, it smothered our street, my world. I was rightfully frightened.
If you read further about dirigibles, you will learn that the U. S. Navy was a pioneer in their use. You may also be surprised to know that America's refusal to provide Germany with nonflamable helium may not have been the cause of the Hindenburg's demise in a ball of fire at Lakehurst the year after I saw it fly over. Another surprise to many is the fact that the construction of the Hindenburg's sister ship (the Graf Zeppelin II) was completed and it flew after the crash. The onset of World War II kept it from ever achieving fame.
A bitter postscript for me was that I was doing homework with the radio playing on May 6,. 1937. I heard the broadcast of the fire and crash