Many lives were lost in what has come to be known as the most spectacular air disaster of the twentieth century. But a 14-year-old boy managed to escape the wreck. Hear the whole story in Giles Milton's Unknown History podcast.
Werner Franz was stocking a cupboard aboard the airship Hindenburg when he heard an ominous thud. The airship shuddered violently, pitching all the crockery on the floor. As he knelt down to pick up the broken plates there was a sickening roar.
Franz looked up and was appalled by what he saw. A massive ball of fire was rushing towards him at high speed. He knew that he would be engulfed by flames.
It was Thursday May 6, 1937, and the giant Zeppelin airship was in the process of docking at its mooring mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. The flight from Frankfurt had taken longer than usual due to the strong headwinds in the mid-Atlantic.
Fourteen-year-old Franz, employed as a cabin boy, knew that the Hindenburg had originally been scheduled to land in mid-morning. He was hoping he would have time to make a quick tour of New York before re-boarding for the return flight to Germany. But poor weather and thunderstorms had delayed the landing by many hours and it was early evening by the time Captain Max Pruss was able to steer the craft towards its docking station.
It was to be a ‘flying moor landing,' so called because the airship would drop its landing ropes while still in the air and then be winched down to its mooring. Franz was busily tidying the kitchens as they came in to land. At 7.10 p.m., he heard the signal for landing stations being sounded throughout the airship.
To hear the rest of the story. listen to the full episode of our podcast, Unknown History, in the top right hand player of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Plus, connect with Giles on Twitter and Facebook.
This post is roughly excerpted from When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank. You can preorder a copy of the book, due out on November 1, 2016, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Books-a-Million, and Apple. Check here for more on other books by Giles Milton.