Hindenburg - WHAT HAPPENED?

In addition to eyewitness testimony, archives have movies and still photographs of the Hindenburg disaster. Decades later people still marvel at the magnitude of the tragedy.

Watching the movie we see a horrific tragedy. But what really happened? Following the link to a description of 4 key events, we learn that:

  • A tiny burst of flames was seen at about 7:25 p.m.
  • The flames spread rapidly as the ship remained fairly level
  • A huge geyser of flames erupted from midship
  • The downed ship was an inferno within 34 seconds

As Navy and ground crew personnel raced to help the victims, one man (Navy linesman Allen Hagaman) was killed. So were 35 people on board the Hindenburg (plus 2 dogs).

Virtually nothing but questions remained, although some of the mail (like this charred post card) survived. What had caused this terrible disaster? For years, people believed the most likely cause was the use of hydrogen. Some folks still believe that theory. But a retired NASA scientist recently found a different cause.

Watching the film, examining still photos, reviewing eyewitness testimony and, surprisingly, testing 60-year-old airship covering, Dr. Addison Bain did not believe the fire’s source was hydrogen-related. His conclusions coincide with the findings of Otto Beyersdorff, a German electrical engineer who was part of the team assigned to investigate the fire on behalf of the Third Reich.

There is one fundamental difference in their findings: timing. Beyersdorff reached his conclusion within five weeks of the disaster.


Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 3706

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