The Airship Hindenburg


Aug 15, 2005
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I was watching a docu-drama on the topic late last night and thought I'd start a discussion, because it is quite interesting in it's parallells (though slight) with the Titanic disaster.
Unfortunately, I don't know an incredible amount about the Hindenburg to get the ball rolling, but I'm sure many of you folks do...
 

Jim Kalafus

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Have often wondered, along with friends, about the validity of that recording. Wax discs, or wire recording devices, offered a limited amount of recording time for 'field recording' and so space was GENERALLY saved for The Big Stuff. More effective to later record something along the lines of "We are standing here on Pier 88 as we watch the Normandie tie-in, and the excitement in the air is thick" in the studio, and save the field recording surfaces for The Big Stuff, like interviews with disembarking celebrities or the captain. Since landing a Zeppelin was largely SILENT, why would Morrison have been wasting precious wax on describing something silent, when a few sentences recorded, from notes, in the studio later would be just as effective? Just something we've pondered.

http://www.garemaritime.com/features/hindenburg/

Here's a review of the Hindenburg's final 1936 crossing to America, which was held for release to coincide with the first voyage of the 1937 season. Yes, all the boasting about the fire Prevention System was on the newsstands at the time of the explosion. Most of the photos in this section are from a set of Hindenburg 3-D stereocards in my collection.

Home movie footage shot aboard the final voyage by one of the passengers, Mr. Doehner of Mexico City, survived. It shows scenes aboard the airship; stewardess Emalie Imhoef, who died in the explosion; Mathilde Doehner (An Argentine, living in Mexico) and children Walther and Werner (all three survived), and Mr. Doehner and their daughter Irene, who were lost. The footage was used in a European TV special a while back, but I do not know if it was ever used in the US.

Currently, one of the Doehner boys is the only Hindenburg survivor living in the US.
 
May 27, 2007
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I wonder as well. Maybe Morrison was doing an early commercial for the Airship? Maybe he was doing a puff piece and the wonders of travel by dirigible?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Have often wondered, along with friends, about the validity of that recording.<<

I can't really speak to that, but I recall that the wax disc in question was shown in one of the better productions on the History Channel. It has some interesting patterns which are all but gouged into the disc at the time of the explosion.
 

Jim Kalafus

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My question, our question actually, is "Why WOULD he be recording at that precise moment?" Zeppelin landings are largely silent, save for distant shouted orders, and there was no reason to waste minutes worth of wax recording impressions that could easly be 'patched in' in the studio later. The meat and potatoes of his story, so to speak, would not be the silent landing which- BTW- would have taken longer than the entire time slot afforded his show, but the interviews with the captain, officers and passengers. It made SENSE that the newsreel cameras should be running at that precise moment, because of course one can SEE a landing. But, one cannot hear very much of it, so it seems more likely that everything on the disc BEFORE he returns from his 'composure break' was created afterward. I think the latter half of the recording is 100% legit, and the more famous first portion a reenactment. Just a gut feeling....
 

Jim Kalafus

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Another thought. The Hindenburg exploded with enough force to rattle windows miles away, but the concussion registered so lightly a few hundred yards away it that there is no 'jump' in the narrative at all? Yes, I've seen the disc, but I've also HEARD it, too, and it flows a bit too smoothly. The stylus 'jumped' in such a way that it VISUALLY registered on the disc, but left no 'footprint' between
*whhhooosh* and "It's BURSTING! It's bursting into flames!" to mark its passing? If you have access to a 1930s acetate, try this. Play it, and during the course of the recording, jump. Note the results.

More believable would be *whooosh* followed by a pop and a midsentence fade-in, as the recording engineer replaced the stylus on the disc and began recording again. Which, at best, would probably have eaten up at least ten of the 37 seconds the disaster took.

*Whooosh* ..pop "... all the passengers screaming, this is one of the worst..." seems more realistic.
 
May 27, 2007
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Seems me and Robert went to the same site. Guess were thinking on the same wave length.

"the airship is going to make an attempt at landing in the rain..."

Sounds news worthy to me.

I sorta think it's legit. Maybe Morrison's boss wanted a good description of the airship landing in the rain. In other words in less then perfect conditions. News is News. If nothing had happened Morrison boss might of just had the descriptive part of the landing cut out or kept it as a lead up to any interviews Morrison would of got. It sure sounds legit to me. Maybe?
 

Jim Kalafus

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Maybe...but....uhhh.... it just flows together too well. A concussion that did not register as distortion from his mike OR make the stylus jump; a 'break' where he commits the ultimate newsman's faux pas and TURN OFF THE MIKE in the middle of one of major news stories of 1937, and then returns. Note, too, that all of the ambient noise you'd expect after a major disaster can be heard in the background after he returns from the break, but except for the *whooshhh* and a brief scream, nothing before it. The 'break' is really what kills it for me. Chicago journalist were a notoriously tough breed, and one didn't just walk into a radio job. Turning off the mike in midstory was a 'you're fired' offense, and it defies belief that he would have done so. Unless, of course, the mike was never ON and they needed a convincing way to bridge between the re-created material and the actual live stuff.
 
Apr 27, 2005
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Airship landings, particularly the largest in the world, on the season's first voyage, were the stuff that news was made of in the thirties. Not at all unusual to cover the comings and goings of trans-Atlantic voyages, particularly those in the air. One has to take these events in the context of the times, otherwise you wind up chasing your tail in a flawed conspiracy theory.
My father was in Manhattan on that day, and looked up to see the "Hindenburg" in its last hours of life as it passed overhead. He wasn't at Lakehurst, but it was major stuff in 1937.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Airship landings, particularly the largest in the world, on the season's first voyage, were the stuff that news was made of in the thirties.

True enough, but I never said otherwise. I don't doubt that Morrison was there, but I do have doubts that he happened to be recording at the moment of the explosion. The landing, as I've said, was largely silent. The previous landing attempt had been aborted, which also works against the...uh....veracity of the first part of the recording. Was Morrison planning to narrate the entire landing, moving of the ship, clearing of the ship by customs, disembarking of the passengers and luggage, customs clearance of the passengers, and THEN interview the captain, officers, and passengers? All to be distilled into 12 minutes of radio program? If so, he must've brought quite a supply of wax discs along. Radio shows tended to rely, then, on studio narration given at a rather staccato pace as a lead in to sound clips. His narration, pre-explosion, is rather droning and sounds quite unlike any OTHER vintage newscast I've heard. In fact, it sounds a bit like someone dictating random notes into a tape recorder. By the time the discs were shipped back to Chicago, edited, and re-recorded on to a master, with narration and studio chat, the Hindenburg landing would, in both senses of the term, be old news. Interviews with the principal characters would still be of interest to the home listener: a VERY long segment replaying the previous day’s (silent) landing, lacking the immediacy that sometimes COULD make something dull but live-broadcast (like a silent Zeppelin landing) interesting in the hands of a skilled narrator, less so.

I have trouble accepting that a newsman “seasoned” enough to get a job in the cutthroat world of Chicago media would TURN HIS MIKE OFF in the face of the biggest news story he was likely to witness in 1937. I can accept that a radio man, with equipment on hand waiting to record brief interview segments, would immediately turn on his mobile unit and begin recording ASAP, hence my confidence that part 2 of the recording is legit on-the-spot material. I can also accept that maybe, possibly, the master was ‘sweetened’ with some studio work to make it seem like an A to Z recording of the event.

I also disbelieve that a concussion could VISUALLY impact a wax disc, but not leave a sound footprint on the master. There is neither pop nor jump on the soundtrack after the sound of the explosion. By the account in The Great Dirigibles, Morrison claimed that plaster dust sifted down from the ceiling into the room where the recording device was set up. Would a concussion that was strong enough to shake the room leave visual evidence on the disc, but neither register on the microphone or cause the recording stylus to jump, even slightly? And, by his own later account, he ‘motioned’ to his sound man to get the fallen plaster off the disc and keep recording~ but then three seconds later said “Oh, I can’t look?’ and turned off the mike? Seems a bit illogical.

>otherwise you wind up chasing your tail in a flawed conspiracy theory.

Beg your pardon? This is, of course, just a hunch. But by no means a conspiracy theory…that conjures up a mental image of myself wearing mismatched clothing and smelling of urine, sitting in Washington Square and pontificating at random strangers. Or hosting a public access TV show.
 
May 27, 2007
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Jim>>
“Oh, I can’t look?’ and turned off the mike? Seems a bit illogical.

True enough and a good point but maybe he just couldn't take it any more of what he was seeing. His voice was starting to give out and it sounded like he needed a glass of water. Actually it sounded like he was crying or about to cry.Maybe Morrison needed to get his bearings, it happens.

Maybe also Morrison was going to record the landing and then the interviews and not all the boring stuff about the luggage being disembarked. The landing was News in it self because of the delay and rain. A landing in such adverse conditions was something to report in my book.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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From The Asbury Park Press:

Navy vet recalls Hindenburg disaster
quote:

Just days after the German passenger airship Hindenburg went up in flames at Lakehurst and killed 36 people, Joseph Convery was in front of Hangar One again, this time hundreds of feet in the air and in plain sight of the spot where a blazing mass of hydrogen gas cells, girders and screaming people had crashed to earth. And he jumped.
Two page story begins at http://www.app.com/article/20090505/NEWS/90505133
 
Jun 10, 1999
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Thanks guys, it never seems to question me on how a person, having witnessed or survived a traumatic event, and been spared, can subsequently take their own life.

I was nearly killed, touched the Pearly Gate threshold, and now suffter from PTS, but GOD knows I am still afraid to fly. I have been to and fro Indiana three times in 27 mnths.

And you should have felt the turbulance coming over NV just lastnight...SSSHHHRRRKKK!!!

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Jul 9, 2000
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From The Flagship:

Naval Air Engineering Lakehurst transitions to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
quote:

Naval Air Engineering Station (NAES) Lakehurst transitioned from its storied 88 year history as a military facility operated solely by the U.S. Navy to becoming an integral part of the nation's first tri-service joint base called Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), Sept. 30.

As a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission decision in 2005, the Department of Defense (DoD) and Congress decided to close some military installations and realign others to save money on operations and maintenance.
More at http://www.flagshipnews.com/articles/2009/10/02/news/top_stories/top01.txt

Comment: The Hindenburg does get a mention in this story.​
 
Jul 9, 2000
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From The Irish Times:

How a sinking ship became king of the box office
quote:

A YEAR OR so after James Cameron hoodwinked the universe into thinking his version of the Titanic disaster was something other than briny effluent, Hollywood invited some unattached scriptwriters to fashion a similar disaster movie based on the immolation of the LZ 129 Hindenberg . The project never made it past a few initial drafts.
More at http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2011/0531/1224298134201.html
 

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