- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Airship History - Hindenburg
Who Destroyed the Hindenburg by A. A. Hoehling:
No curated library of airship books would be complete without reference to the Hindenburg disaster. While neither the last, nor even the largest, airship disaster of all time, it nevertheless stands as the iconic end of the first Golden Era of airship aviation. Captured on film and heard worldwide by radio reporter Herb Morrison, "This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world!" The flaming wreckage of the largest aircraft ever constructed by man falling from the sky over the base at Lakehurst, New Jersey, heralded the beginning of the end of this romantic means of navigating the skies.
There have been many books written about the Hindenburg disaster. Many claim to have solved the mystery based on scientific explanations of the role of static electricity, St. Elmo's fire, or sabotage. The static electricity claim has been around since the beginning of the mystery in 1937, but in March 2013, major news outlets reported that the mystery had finally been solved after British documentary host Jem Stansfield reached the static electricity conclusion after blowing up three model airships.
Over the years, there have been numerous examples from popular press outlets claiming that disasters with major political consequences were nothing more than natural accidents, including; the destruction of the USS Maine (that triggered the Spanish American War) being attributed to a coal fire malfunction, as well as a simple electrical short-circuit said to have initiated the destruction of TWA Flight 800 over the Atlantic in 1996. Yet regardless of what version of events surrounding the Hindenburg disaster you favor, A.A. Hoehling's Who Destroyed the Hindenburg stands out as one of my favorite treatments of the subject. He recreates the scene for the reader as the doomed airship boards its final passengers in Nazi Germany and traverses the stormy Atlantic in relative comfort. There are interviews with dozens of survivors, and his conclusion is far more nefarious than the static electricity theory. As a fiction author, I am captivated by the real-life intrigue and global stakes surrounding this 800-foot long monarch of the skies.