USS Shenandoah was the first of four United States Navy rigid airships. It was constructed during 1922–23 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It developed the U.S. Navy's experience with rigid airships, and made the first crossing of North America by airship. On the 57th flight, Shenandoah was destroyed in a squall line over Ohio in September 1925.
|USS Shenandoah (ZR-1)|
USS Shenandoah moored at NAS San Diego
|Ordered:||11 July 1919|
|Laid down:||24 June 1922|
|Launched:||20 August 1923|
|Christened:||10 October 1923|
|Commissioned:||10 October 1923|
|Maiden voyage:||4 September 1923|
|Struck:||5 September 1925|
|First transcontinental U.S. flight|
|Fate:||Crashed during a thunderstorm near Caldwell, Ohio, 3 September 1925|
|Class and type:||Shenandoah-class rigid airship|
|Tonnage:||77,500 lb (35,200 kg)|
|Length:||680 ft (207.26 m)|
|Beam:||78 ft 9 in (24.00 m) (maximum diameter)|
|Height:||93 ft 2 in (28.4 m)|
|Propulsion:||Six (later five) 300 hp (220 kW) eight-cylinder Packard gasoline engines|
|Speed:||60 kn (69 mph; 110 km/h)|
|Range:||5,000 mi (4,300 nmi; 8,000 km)|
|Official name||Shenandoah Crash Sites|
|Designated||25 July 1989|
|Coordinates||Site #1: Coordinates: |
Shenandoah was originally designated FA-1, for "Fleet Airship Number One" but this was changed to ZR-1. The airship was 680 ft (207.26 m) long and weighed 36 tons (32658 kg). It had a range of 5,000 mi (4,300 nmi; 8,000 km), and could reach speeds of 70 mph (61 kn; 110 km/h). Shenandoah was assembled at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1922–1923, in Hangar No. 1, the only hangar large enough to accommodate the ship; its parts were fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia. NAS Lakehurst had served as a base for Navy blimps for some time, but Shenandoah was the first rigid airship to join the fleet.
The design was based on Zeppelin bomber L-49 (LZ-96), built in 1917. L-49 was a lightened Type U "height climber", designed for altitude at the expense of other qualities. The design was found insufficient and a number of the features of newer Zeppelins were used, as well as some structural improvements. The structure was built from a new alloy of aluminum and copper known as duralumin. Girders were fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory. Whether the changes introduced into the original design of L-49 played a part in Shenandoah's later breakup is a matter of debate. An outer cover of high-quality cotton cloth was sewn, laced or taped to the duralumin frame and painted with aluminum dope.
The gas cells were made of goldbeater's skins, one of the most gas-impervious materials known at the time. Named for their use in beating and separating gold leaf, goldbeater's skins were made from the outer membrane of the large intestines of cattle. The membranes were washed and scraped to remove fat and dirt, and then placed in a solution of water and glycerine in preparation for application to the rubberized cotton fabric providing the strength of the gas cells. The membranes were wrung out by hand to remove the water-glycerine storage solution and then rubber-cemented to the cotton fabric and finally given a light coat of varnish. The 20 gas cells within the airframe were filled to about 85% of capacity at normal barometric pressure. Each gas cell had a spring-loaded relief valve and manual valves operated from the control car.
As the first rigid airship to use helium rather than hydrogen, Shenandoah had a significant edge in safety over previous airships. Helium was relatively scarce at the time, and the Shenandoah used much of the world's reserves just to fill its 2,100,000 cubic feet (59,000 m3) volume. Los Angeles—the next rigid airship to enter Navy service, originally built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in Germany as LZ 126—was at first filled with the helium from Shenandoah until more could be procured.
Shenandoah was powered by 300 hp (220 kW), eight-cylinder Packard gasoline engines. Six engines were originally installed, but in 1924 one engine (aft of the control car) was removed. The first frame of Shenandoah was erected by 24 June 1922; on 20 August 1923, the completed airship was floated free of the ground. Helium cost $55 per thousand cubic feet at the time, and was considered too expensive to simply vent to the atmosphere to compensate for the weight of fuel consumed by the gasoline engines. Neutral buoyancy was preserved by installing condensers to capture the water vapor in the engine exhaust.
Shenandoah first flew on 4 September 1923. It was christened on 10 October 1923 by Mrs. Edwin Denby, wife of the Secretary of the Navy, and commissioned on the same day with Commander Frank R. McCrary in command. Mrs. Denby named the airship after her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the word shenandoah was then believed to be a Native American word meaning "daughter of stars".
Shenandoah was designed for fleet reconnaissance work of the type carried out by German naval airships in World War I. Her precommissioning trials included long-range flights during September and early October 1923, to test her airworthiness in rain, fog and poor visibility. On 27 October, Shenandoah celebrated Navy Day with a flight down the Shenandoah Valley and returned to Lakehurst that night by way of Washington and Baltimore, where crowds gathered to see the new airship in the beams of searchlights.
At this time, Rear Admiral William A. Moffett—Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and staunch advocate of the airship—was discussing the possibility of using Shenandoah to explore the Arctic. He felt such a program would produce valuable weather data, as well as experience in cold-weather operations. With its endurance and ability to fly at low speeds, the airship was thought to be well-suited to such work. President Calvin Coolidge approved Moffett's proposal, but Shenandoah's upper tail fin covering ripped during a gale on 16 January 1924, and the sudden roll tore her away from the Lakehurst mast, ripping out her mooring winches, deflating the first helium cell and puncturing the second. Zeppelin test pilot Anton Heinen rode out the storm for several hours and landed safely while the airship was being blown backwards. Extensive repairs were needed, and the Arctic expedition was scrapped.
Shenandoah's repairs were completed in May, and the summer of 1924 was devoted to work with its engines and radio equipment to prepare for fleet duty. In August 1924 it reported for duty with the Scouting Fleet and took part in tactical exercises. Shenandoah succeeded in discovering the "enemy" force as planned but lost contact with it in foul weather. Technical difficulties and lack of support facilities in the fleet forced it to depart the operating area ahead of time to return to Lakehurst. Although this marred the exercises as far as airship reconnaissance went, it emphasized the need for advanced bases and maintenance ships if lighter-than-air craft were to take any part in operations of this kind.
In July 1924, the oiler Patoka put in at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for extensive modifications to become the Navy's first airship tender. An experimental mooring mast 125 ft (38 m) above the water was constructed; additional accommodations both for the crew of Shenandoah and for the men who would handle and supply the airship were added; facilities for the helium, gasoline, and other supplies necessary for Shenandoah were built, as well as handling and stowage facilities for three seaplanes. Shenandoah engaged in a short series of mooring experiments with Patoka to determine the practicality of mobile fleet support of scouting airships. The first successful mooring was made on 8 August. During October 1924, Shenandoah flew from Lakehurst to California and on to Washington State to test newly erected mooring masts. This was the first flight of a rigid airship across North America.
1925 began with nearly six months of maintenance and ground test work. Shenandoah did not take to the air until 26 June, when it began preparations for summer operations with the fleet. In July and August, it again operated with the Scouting Fleet, successfully performing scouting tasks and being towed by Patoka while moored to that ship's mast.
On 2 September 1925, Shenandoah departed Lakehurst on a promotional flight to the Midwest that would include flyovers of 40 cities and visits to state fairs. Testing of a new mooring mast at Dearborn, Michigan, was included in the schedule. While passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio early in the morning of 3 September, during its 57th flight, the airship was caught in a violent updraft that carried it beyond the pressure limits of its gas bags. It was torn apart in the turbulence and crashed in several pieces near Caldwell, Ohio. Fourteen crew members, including Commander Zachary Lansdowne, were killed. This included every member of the crew of the control car (except for Lieutenant Anderson, who escaped before it detached and fell from the ship); two men who fell through holes in the hull; and several mechanics who fell with the engines. There were twenty-nine survivors, who succeeded in riding three sections of the airship to earth. The largest group was eighteen men who made it out of the stern after it rolled into a valley. Four others survived a crash landing of the central section. The remaining seven were in the bow section which Commander (later Vice Admiral) Charles E. Rosendahl managed to navigate as a free balloon. In this group was Anderson who—until he was roped in by the others—straddled the catwalk over a hole.
The Shenandoah Crash Sites are located in the hillsides of Noble County. Site No. 1, in Buffalo Township, surrounded the Gamary farmhouse, which lay beneath the initial break-up. An early fieldstone and a second, recent granite marker identify where Commander Lansdowne's body was found. Site No. 2 (where the stern came to rest) is a half-mile southwest of Site No. 1 across Interstate 77 in Noble Township. The rough outline of the stern is marked with a series of concrete blocks, and a sign marking the site is visible from the freeway. Site No. 3 is approximately six miles southwest in Sharon Township at the northern edge of State Route 78 on the part of the old Nichols farm where the nose of the Shenandoah's bow was secured to trees. Although the trees have been cut down, a semi-circular gravel drive surrounds their stumps and a small granite marker commemorates the crash. The Nichols house was later destroyed by fire.
Two schools of thought developed about the cause of the crash. One theory is that the gas cells over-expanded as the ship rose, due to Lansdowne's decision to remove the 10 automatic release valves, and that the expanding cells damaged the framework of the airship and led to its structural failure.
The crash site attracted thousands of visitors in its first few days. Within five hours of the crash more than a thousand people had arrived to strip the hulk of anything they could carry. On Saturday, 5 September 1925, the St. Petersburg Times of Florida reported that the site of the crash had quickly been looted by locals, describing the frame as being "[laid] carrion to the whims of souvenir seekers". Among the items believed to have been taken were the vessel's logbook and its barograph, both of which were considered critical to understanding how the crash had happened. Also looted were many of the ship's 20 deflated silken gas cells, each worth several thousand dollars, most of them unbroken but ripped from the framework before the arrival of armed military personnel. Looting was so extensive that it was initially believed even the bodies of the dead had been stripped of their personal effects, and that operatives from the Department of Justice were being sent to investigate. That this was happening was soon denied by those publicly involved in the incident, however. Still, a local farmer on whose property part of the vessel's wreckage lay began charging the throngs of visitors to enter the crash site at a rate of $1 (equivalent to about $13.60 in 2015) for each automobile and 25¢ per pedestrian as well as 10¢ for a drink of water.:2
On 17 September the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that 20 Department of Justice operatives had indeed been summoned to the site and that they along with an unspecified number of federal and state prohibition agents had visited private homes to collect four truck loads of wreckage along with personal grips of several crew members and a cap believed to have belonged to Commander Lansdowne. Lansdowne's Annapolis class ring had also been thought to have been taken from his hand by looters as it was not then recovered-it was found by chance in June 1937 near the crash site # 1. No one was charged with any crime.
Official inquiry brought to light the fact that the fatal flight had been made under protest by Commander Lansdowne (a native of Greenville, Ohio), who had warned the Navy Department of the violent weather conditions that were common to that area of Ohio in late summer. His pleas for a cancellation of the flight only caused a temporary postponement: his superiors were keen to publicize airship technology and justify the huge cost of the airship to the taxpayers. So, as Lansdowne's widow consistently maintained at the inquiry, publicity rather than prudence won the day. This event was the trigger for Army Colonel Billy Mitchell to heavily criticize the leadership of both the Army and the Navy, leading directly to his court-martial for insubordination and the end of his military career. Heinen, according to the Daily Telegraph, placed the mechanical fault for the disaster on the removal of eight of the craft's 18 safety valves, saying that without them he would not have flown on her "for a million dollars". These valves had been removed in order to better preserve the vessel's helium, which at that time was considered a limited global resource of great rarity and strategic military importance; without these valves, the helium contained in the rising gas bags had expanded too quickly for the bags' valves' design capacity, causing the bags to tear apart the hull as they ruptured (of course, the helium which had been contained in these bags became lost into the upper atmosphere).
After the disaster, airship hulls were strengthened, control cabins were built into the keels rather than suspended from cables, and engine power was increased. More attention was also paid to weather forecasting.
The Noble Local School District—which serves the area where Shenandoah crashed—has named its elementary, junior high, and high school after Shenandoah. Their sports teams are named "The Zeps," an abbreviation of "Zeppelin." A truck stop located about 15 mi (24 km) away in Old Washington, Ohio was named Shenandoah Plaza after the airship. The truck stop has since closed and has been torn down.
The crash of the Shenandoah was popularized by the song The Wreck of the Shenandoah which was written by Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robison It was issued as a record with Vernon Dalhart performing it.
This is a list of aviation-related events from 1925.Buoyancy compensator (aviation)
The static buoyancy of airships in flight is not constant. It is therefore necessary to control the altitude of an airship by controlling its buoyancy: buoyancy compensation.Frederick Karl Gampper Jr.
Frederick Karl Gampper Jr. (28 August 1893 - 3 March 1961) was a dirigible pilot with license #53 issued by the Aero Club of America, and a licensed free balloon pilot. His mentors included Ralph H. Upson and Herman Kraft.Joy Bright Hancock
Joy Bright Hancock (4 May 1898 – 20 August 1986), a veteran of both the First and Second World Wars, was one of the first women officers of the United States Navy.Lakehurst Hangar No. 1
Hangar No. 1 is an airship hangar located at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the intended destination of the rigid airship LZ 129 Hindenburg prior to the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937, when it crashed and burned while landing.Lansdowne Airport
Lansdowne Airport (FAA LID: 04G) is a small, local airport on the East Side of Youngstown, Ohio, US near the Pennsylvania border. Lansdowne Airport is a privately owned airport, located in an area known as the "Sharon Line" to locals, due to its proximity to a defunct train line that once ran from Youngstown to Sharon, right across the state line through the Steel Valleys.
The airport was dedicated as Lansdowne Field in late October 1926. It was named for Lieutenant Commander Zachary Lansdowne, an Ohio native and commander of the US Navy airship USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), which crashed in Ava, Ohio in 1925. Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, then the head of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics and champion of airships, was in attendance.Lansdowne Airport was the first airport in Youngstown and was the first in the region to see airmail service. Because of the increasing size in airplanes and the lack of a suitable amount of land in the vicinity of Lansdowne, a decision was made to build Youngstown Municipal Airport eleven miles away in Vienna, Ohio.List of military aircraft of the United States (naval)
This list of military aircraft of the United States (naval) includes prototype, pre-production and operational types designations under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, which was used by the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard.
Prototypes are normally prefixed with "X" and often unnamed (note that these are not the same as the experimental X-planes, which are not generally expected to go into production), while pre-production models are usually prefixed "Y".
For aircraft designations prior to the adoption of this system, see List of military aircraft of the United States (1909–19).
For aircraft designations under the U.S. Army Air Force/U.S. Air Force USAF system or the post-1962 Tri-Service system and aircraft currently in service, see List of military aircraft of the United States.Noble County, Ohio
Noble County is a county located in the U.S. state of Ohio. As of the 2010 census, the population was 14,645, making it the third-least populous county in Ohio. Its county seat is Caldwell. The county is named for Rep. Warren P. Noble of the Ohio House of Representatives, who was an early settler there.Panthers Over Korea
Panthers Over Korea (2007) is a non-fiction account of George Schnitzer's (1929–2010) experiences as a United States Navy pilot during the Korean War flying the Grumman F9F Panther Jet aircraft.
What we did as part of the war was soon forgotten by the nation in general and the war earned the title: The Forgotten War. To those of us who went through the hail of enemy AAA fire, it was never forgotten. Eight of us started out on this adventure; six of us came home alive after flying an average of 150 missions.Rigid airship
A rigid airship is a type of airship (or dirigible) in which the envelope is supported by an internal framework rather than by being kept in shape by the pressure of the lifting gas within the envelope, as in blimps (also called pressure airships) and semi-rigid airships. Rigid airships are often commonly called Zeppelins, though this technically refers only to airships built by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company.
Rigid airships were produced and relatively successfully employed from the beginning of the 1900s to the end of the 1930s; their heyday ended when the Hindenburg caught fire on May 6, 1937.Shenandoah High School (Ohio)
Shenandoah High School is a public high school near Sarahsville, Ohio. It is the only high school in the Noble Local School District. Their nickname is the Zeps.Thomas G. W. Settle
Thomas Greenhow Williams "Tex" Settle (born November 4, 1895 in Washington, D.C. – died April 28, 1980, Bethesda, Maryland) was an officer of the United States Navy who on November 20, 1933, together with Army major Chester L. Fordney, set a world altitude record in the Century of Progress stratospheric balloon. An experienced balloonist, long-time flight instructor, and officer on the airships USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) and USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), Settle won the Litchfield Trophy in 1929 and 1931, the International Gordon Bennett Race in 1932, the Harmon Aeronaut Trophy for 1933, and the Harmon National Trophy for 1932 and 1933. He also set numerous distance and endurance records.In 1934 Settle transferred to sailing duties, initially as captain of the China-based USS Palos (PG-16). In 1944–1945 he commanded the heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33), earning the Navy Cross for his action in the Battle of Surigao Strait. After World War II Vice Admiral Settle held Navy appointments in the continental United States and overseas, and was charged with tasks ranging from distributing international aid to Greece and Turkey to conducting nuclear tests in the Aleutian islands.Timeline of US Navy airship units (pre-WWII)
Unlike later blimp squadrons, which contained several airships, the large rigid airship units consisted of a single airship and, in the case of the USS Akron and USS Macon, a small contingent of fixed-wing aircraft.USS Shenandoah
Four United States Navy ships, including one rigid airship, and one ship of the Confederate States of America, have been named Shenandoah, after the Shenandoah River of western Virginia and West Virginia.
USS Shenandoah (1862), a screw sloop commissioned in 1863, active in the American Civil War and in use until 1886
USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), the first rigid airship built by the Navy, christened 1923; destroyed in a storm in 1925
USS Shenandoah (AD-26), a destroyer tender in service from 1945 to 1980
USS Shenandoah (AD-44), a destroyer tender, commissioned 1983 and decommissioned 1996
USNS Shenandoah (T-AO-181), an oiler laid down in 1964, renamed USNS Potomac (T-AO-181) prior to completionZachary Lansdowne
Lieutenant Commander Zachary Lansdowne, USN (December 1, 1888 – September 3, 1925) was a United States Navy officer and early Naval aviator who contributed to the development of the Navy's first lighter-than-air craft. He earned the Navy Cross for his participation in the first transoceanic airship flight while assigned to the British R34 in 1919. He later commanded the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), which was the first rigid airship to complete a flight across North America. He was killed in the crash of the Shenandoah.