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In 1936, the future looked bright for rigid airships, the hydrogen-filled, lighter-than-air behemoths also known as dirigibles or zeppelins. The Hindenburg, Nazi Germany’s pride and joy, spent one glorious season ferrying passengers across the Atlantic in its luxurious belly. The following year, the airship era screeched to a spectacular halt when the Hindenburg burst into flames while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The disaster claimed the lives of 36 people and received an unprecedented amount of media coverage.
The Hindenburg was a 245-metre- (804-foot-) long airship of conventional zeppelin design that was launched at Friedrichshafen, Germany, in March 1936. It had a maximum speed of 135 km (84 miles) per hour and a cruising speed of 126 km (78 miles) per hour. Though it was designed to be filled with helium gas, the airship was filled with highly flammable hydrogen owing to export restrictions by the United States against Nazi Germany. In 1936 the Hindenburg inaugurated commercial air service across the North Atlantic by carrying 1,002 passengers on 10 scheduled round trips between Germany and the United States.
On May 6, 1937, while landing at Lakehurst, N.J., on the first of its scheduled 1937 trans-Atlantic crossings, the Hindenburg burst into flames and was completely destroyed. Thirty-six of the 97 persons aboard were killed. The fire was officially attributed to a discharge of atmospheric electricity in the vicinity of a hydrogen gas leak from the airship, though it was speculated that the dirigible was the victim of an anti-Nazi act of sabotage. The Hindenburg disaster marked the end of the use of rigid airships in commercial air transportation.
Be Aware Of The Hindenburg
The famous German airship known as the Hindenburg became one of history's most prevalent images of disaster when it burst into flames while making a landing in 1937. This airship now shares its name with a technical tool that was invented to help traders predict and avoid a potential stock market crash.
Thanks to a crafty mathematician named Jim Miekka, and his friend Kennedy Gammage, this technical indicator, known as the Hindenburg omen, can be used to predict sharp corrections, and can help traders profit from the decline or avoid realizing major losses before others ever see it coming.
In this article, you'll learn more about how this indicator is calculated and how its various signals can help you dodge the next market crash.
The BasicsThe underlying concepts of the Hindenburg omen revolve around market breadth theories, mainly those developed by market greats such as Norman Fosback and Gerald Appel. This indicator is created by closely monitoring the number of issues on a given exchange, generally the NYSE, that have experienced fresh 52-week highs and new 52-week lows. By comparing these results to a standard set of criteria, traders attempt to gain insight into a potential decline in the broad market indexes. The Absolute Breadth Index (ABI) is a market indicator used to determine volatility levels in the market without factoring in price direction
Market breadth theories suggest that when markets are trending upward, or creating new highs, the number of companies forming 52-week highs should exceed the number that are experiencing 52-week lows. Conversely, when the market is trending downward, or creating new lows, the number of companies trading at the lowest end of their 52-week ranges should drastically outnumber the companies creating new highs.
IndicatorThe Hindenburg omen uses the basic premises of market breadth by studying the number of advancing/declining issues, but gives the traditional interpretation a slight twist to suggest that the market is setting up for a large correction.
This indicator gives a warning signal when more than 2.2% of traded issues are creating new highs while a separate 2.2%, or more, are creating new lows. The disparity between new highs and lows suggests that the conviction of market participants is weakening, and that they are unsure of a security's future direction.
For example, assume that 156 of the approximately 3,394 traded issues (this number changes over time) on the NYSE reaches a new 52-week high today, while 86 experience new annual lows. Dividing the 156 new highs by 3,394 (total issues) will yield a result of 4.6%. Dividing 86 (new lows) by 3,394 (total issues) gives us a result of 2.53%. Because both of the results are greater than 2.2%, the criteria for the Hindenburg omen has been met and technical traders should be wary of a potential market crash. (For related reading, check out The Greatest Market Crashes and Panic Selling - Capitulation Or Crash?)
Note: The conditions that indicate a Hindenburg are only valid if both the number of new highs and lows are greater than 2.2%. If the number of new lows had been 70, rather than 86, then the criteria would not have been met because 70 divided by 3,394 is only 2.06%, which is below the required 2.2% that would indicate a Hindenburg omen.
ConfirmationLike most technical indicators, a signal should never be solely relied upon to generate transactions unless it is confirmed by other sources or indicators. The developers of the Hindenburg omen established several other criteria that must be met to confirm and reaffirm the traditional warning sign.
The first method of confirmation is to ensure that the 10-week moving average of the NYSE Composite Index is rising. This can easily be achieved by creating a weekly chart of the index, and overlaying a standard 10-period moving average. If the slope of the line is upward, then the second criterion for a potential correction is met. (To read about how to do this, see the Moving Averages tutorial.)
The third type of confirmation presents itself when the popular breadth indicator known as the McClellan oscillator has a negative value. This oscillator is created by taking a 19-day exponential moving average (EMA) and a 39-day exponential moving average of the difference between the number of advancing and declining issues. Once the two EMAs are calculated, they are subtracted from each other, and a negative reading is interpreted to mean that the number of new lows has been growing faster, recently, than it has in the past - a signal to traders that the bears are taking control and that a potential correction could be on the way.
Does it Work?Every trader longs to be able to predict a stock market crash in order to profit from the decline or to protect some of their hard-earned profits. The Hindenburg omen is nearly as good as it gets when it comes to being able to identify these crashes before they happen.
According to Robert McHugh, CEO of Main Line Investors, "The omen has appeared before all of the stock market crashes, or panic events, of the past 21 years," speaking about 1985 to 2006. Having a signal that can generate sharp market declines is appealing to all active traders, but this signal is not as common as most traders would hope. According to McHugh, the omen only created a signal on 160 separate days, or 3.2% of the approximate 5,000 days that he studied.
Although this indicator does not provide frequent signals, it should be considered worthy to incorporate it into a trading strategy, because it could allow traders to dodge a major crash.
Further AccuracyTechnicians are always looking to hone the accuracy of a given signal, and the Hindenburg omen is no exception. Traders have added other confirming conditions, besides the ones listed above, in an attempt to reduce the number of false signals that are generated.
Most traders will require that the number of new highs not exceed twice the number of new lows when the signal is generated. By monitoring the advancing and declining issues, traders can ensure that the demand for a broad range of securities is not slanted in the bulls' favor. A lack of securities trading near the upper end of their 52-ranges is a representation of the deficient demand in the market, and can be used to reconfirm the prediction of a move downward.
The final piece of confirmation that traders will watch for is other transaction signals occurring in close proximity to the first. A cluster of Hindenburg omen signals, generally deemed to mean two or more signals generated within a 36-day period, is often interpreted to be much more significant than if only one signal appears by itself. All of the confirmation criteria that are mentioned in this article are suggestions of how to create a more accurate prediction of a market crash, but keep in mind that these can be forgotten if the trader would rather use the traditional methods.
ConclusionThere are several indicators based on the theories of market breadth, but few have been regarded in the same light as the Hindenburg omen because of its ability to predict a potential stock market crash. Many indicators and strategies have been invented for the purpose of trying to spot a major correction before it happens, but no indicator can predict these crashes with complete certainty - not even the Hindenburg omen. By using this tool, traders increase the probability of spotting a potential market crash before it occurs, and, as a result, may be able to profit from the decline or protect their hard earned profits from going up in smoke.
The “Hindenburg” Recording
In 1937, radio announcer Herb Morrison gave what must be the most famous radio news story in history, his voice breaking with emotion as the passenger airship Hindenburg burst into flames and fell to the ground in front of him. But despite what many believe, Morrison was not actually there to do a news story, and his live reporting was not being broadcast.
When the giant airship Hindenburg left Germany for the United States on May 3, 1937, it was not considered by most of the American press to be a newsworthy event. The zeppelin had already crossed the Atlantic ten times during 1936. On this trip, the first for 1937, the passenger cabins were only half filled: there were almost twice as many crew aboard as there were passengers. But the Hindenburg was a propaganda bonanza for the Hitler regime in Germany, and the Nazis made sure that a wire service photographer and a newsreel cameraman would be in Lakehurst NJ to record the zeppelin’s arrival.
The Germans had long been the leaders in airship technology. During the First World War, zeppelin bombers had launched a spectacular series of air raids on London. In the 1920’s, zeppelins were fitted with passenger cabins and were reborn as luxury transatlantic transports, competing with British and American ocean liners (the long-distance passenger airplane was still years away). In 1929, the German passenger airship Graf Zeppelin became the first vehicle to fly around the world. After Adolf Hitler’s Nazis took power in 1933, they immediately laid plans to build a bigger and better airship, intended to show off German technical know-how and racial superiority. The 804-foot Hindenburg was originally designed to use helium as its lifting gas, but the Americans, who had a virtual monopoly on the industrial production of helium, refused to sell it to the Nazis, and the new airship was built to use hydrogen instead. With the huge black and red swastika markings on the tail fins, the Hindenburg was a flying advertisement for the Third Reich.
At radio station WLS in Chicago, on-air commentator Herb Morrison was having a discussion with his editors. His regular assignment was as an announcer at live music performances, but he recently had done a live piece of reporting while flying in an airplane over some flooded areas of Illinois, and now he wanted to do more “feature” stories like that. Although the editors did not consider the Hindenburg’s flight newsworthy either, they agreed to allow Morrison and a sound engineer, Charlie Nehlson, to travel to New Jersey and run a field test on a new piece of equipment, a Presto D6 Recorder. The Presto used a microphone and stylus to cut grooved sound recordings onto a lacquer-covered aluminum disc, something like a vinyl record album. At the time, the NBC radio network’s policy prohibited the broadcast of any pre-recorded material (mostly because the sound quality was so bad–magnetic audio tape hadn’t been invented yet), but it was hoped that this new recording equipment could eventually be used to record on-location radio stories for later broadcast. To test out the equipment, Morrison and Nehlson would do an audio commentary on the Hindenburg’s arrival, followed up by interviews with the crew and passengers.
When the Hindenburg arrived in New Jersey at 4pm on May 6, the weather was bad, with high winds reported at the landing site in Lakehurst. The airship was already ten hours late: she had been flying against headwinds for most of the previous day. Now, the huge airship flew a series of long circles along the Jersey coast, waiting for the winds to die down. Instead, the weather got worse as thunderstorms moved in. Meanwhile, Morrison and Nehlson were setting up their Presto D6 inside a building a short distance from the landing mast, both to keep the equipment out of the rain and to prevent the wind from interfering with the microphone.
Shortly after 6pm the lightning stopped, the rain slackened, and a radio message was sent to the Hindenburg, “Conditions now suitable for landing.” But it took almost an hour for the Hindenburg to reach Lakehurst. At 7:10pm, as the airship slid into sight, another radio message was sent: “Conditions definitely improved recommend earliest possible landing.” The Hindenburg made a sharp left turn and approached the landing mast. At 7:20pm the captain ordered water ballast to be dropped, followed by another release a few minutes later.
At about this time, Nehlson started up the recorder and placed the stylus onto the lacquer disk. Morrison began his commentary and described the airship’s approach to the landing mast: “It’s practically standing still now. They’ve dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and they’ve been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It’s starting to rain again it’s—the rain has slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from–”
During this time, witnesses at the scene were already seeing a small flame appear at the back of the airship, just in front of the top fin. Within seconds, it apparently burned its way into one of the hydrogen cells, igniting them with a loud blast.
The shock wave from the explosion traveled across the ground, hitting the Presto recorder and bouncing the stylus head, causing it to scratch a deep gouge into the lacquer disk. Immediately Nehlson picked up the stylus and placed it back into position, just in time to record Morrison’s shocked reaction to the explosion: “It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it’s falling, it’s crashing! Watch it, watch it! Get out of the way!” Turning to Nehlson, he exclaimed, “Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie!”, and then turned back to see the flaming wreckage of the Hindenburg falling 300 feet from the sky. “It’s fire, and it’s crashing! It’s crashing, terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way please! It’s burning and bursting into flames and the, and it’s falling on the mooring mast, and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. It’s, it’s, it’s the flames, four or five hundred feet into the sky and it, it’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s flames now, and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast.” Then, in what must surely be the most famous phrase in radio history, Morrison continued, “Ohhh, the humanity, and all the passengers screaming around here.”
And then he breaks down, “I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it’s just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage. Oh! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk, and the screaming.” Now he bumps into someone running by and says, “Lady, I’m sorry,” before continuing, “Honest, I can hardly breathe. I’m going to step inside where I cannot see it.” At this point, Morrison went inside the building where Nehlson was sitting at the Presto, and remarked to him, “Charlie, that’s terrible.” He then ends with, “I can’t. I, listen, folks, I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.” A few minutes later, after Morrison regained his composure, they filled several more recording discs with descriptions of the rescue operation and interviews with witnesses. At one point, Morrison learns that there were survivors, and says, “I hope that it isn’t as bad as I made it sound at the very beginning.”
Of the 32 passengers and 61 crewmen aboard, 13 passengers and 21 crew died in the fire, and one member of the New Jersey ground crew was killed by falling debris.
Morrison and Nehlson knew that they had a dramatic radio story on their disks, but they almost lost it. The Nazi government had immediately dispatched embassy staff from New York to the crash site: their fear was that the airship had been sabotaged as an anti-Nazi political act, and they wanted to control the situation and carry out their own crash investigation. When the Germans heard that somebody had been recording the whole thing, they immediately went looking for the radio reporter and tried to confiscate the recorded disks. Morrison distracted them while Nehlson hurriedly packed up the Presto machine and the disks and slipped away. Later that night, the pair got on board an American Airlines plane and flew back to Chicago. Breaking its policy against airing pre-recorded stories, WLS broadcast the entire contents of all Morrison’s disks, then hastily edited together a shorter version, recorded that onto another disk, and flew it to New York, where it was aired on the NBC evening news the next day as the first simultaneous coast-to-coast radio broadcast.
Today, Morrison’s audio is most often heard as an overlay with the newsreel footage that was also shot at the time, but in reality the newsreel was taken by a different company, and when it appeared in theaters it had its own audio commentary that was recorded in a studio. Most renditions of Morrison’s audio, in addition, are inaccurate: the Presto 6D was recording about 3% too slow, so when the audio is played at normal speed, it makes Morrison’s voice sound higher-pitched than it actually was.
WLS later donated the original recorded disks to the National Archives in Washington DC, where they remain today.
Hindenburg and Hitler
By the 1930s, the Weimar government was increasingly challenged from forces on th e R ight. Hindenburg abandoned some of his mor e moderate positions in order t o appease right-wing critics. In the 1932 Reichstag election, Hitler’s Nazi Party received 37.4% of the vote, the most obtained by any single party. Hitler demanded the Chancellorship as a result. Hindenburg refused. His contempt for the “Bohemian corporal” was not a secret. This rejection humiliated Hitler. When Hitler proceeded to reject the less powerful position of Vice Chancellor, h e received a lecture on his lack of dedication to duty from Hindenburg, who al lowed their exchange to be leaked to the press. Hitler withdrew his party’s support, forcing yet another round of elections.
The new chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher, could not create a coalition or a successful government. Hindenburg’s advisors convinced him that Hitler must be given the chancellorship to ensure the support of the Nazi Party and a functional government. Despite his distaste for Hitler, Hindenburg made him C hancellor on 30 January, 1933, and gave his Nazi Party two seats in the cabinet. These seats were filled by Hermann Göring and Wilhelm Frick. Hindenburg’s advisors believed that this scenario would allow them to govern behind the scenes. “We have [Hitler] hemmed in,” one said. Yet as one German historian later wrote, “ [This] remark should be included in any anthology of famous last words.” 1
Shortly after the Reichstag fire in March 1933, the German parliament passed the Enabling Act. This measure effectively granted Hitler the same dictatorial powers held by the eighty-five-year-old P resident Hindenburg. Hindenburg did little to restrain Hitler’s increasing power or to curb his attacks on his rivals and on political and racial targets. With Hindenburg’s death on August 2, 1934, the last legal obstacle to Hitler’s complete power was gone. Hitler’s propaganda machine i mmediately suggested that the dead Hindenburg had been the Fuehrer’s strong supporter. Against Hindenburg’s express wishes, Hitler saw that Germany’s great military hero was buried at the Tannenberg Memorial with Nazi pomp and circumstance.
5. The Hindenburg made an appearance at the 1936 Olympics.
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was behind the initial Nazi contribution to the Hindenburg's construction. According to Airships.net, Goebbels was "aware of the potential symbolic value of LZ-129 as a showcase for German strength and technology." After its completion, the ship was used to help promote Adolf Hitler’s interests. On August 1, 1936, the Hindenburg flew over the Reichssportfeld complex in Berlin to kick off that year’s Summer Olympic games. By then, swastika flags had been painted on the tail fins.
“In the years between the World Wars when National Socialism under Adolf Hitler was transforming Germany, a dedicated group of German-American citizens and expatriated German nationals were busy trying to foment at least some of the same changes occurring overseas into the United States. The most vocal of these groups was the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, also called the German American Volksbund, the German American Bund, or just the Bund for short” (Petrie, 1). These establishments were set up throughout all of the United States in an attempt to assimilate German culture into the United States after World War I.
The Beginning of the German-American Movement
This movement began as an organization known as “The Friends of New Germany.” Organizations were created to bring the German community together however, the U.S government did not see it that way. “The Friends of New Germany… have been the most active center of Nazi activities in the United States. The Congressional Committee found ‘that it was for all practical purposes, if not in fact, the American section of the Nazi movement of Germany, designed to influence, if necessary and possible, our governmental policies’” (Foreign Affairs). Bunds were created after the dissolution of The Friends of New Germany, in order to help raise German children in a German environment as if they were back h0me and promote culture. In a way, these Bunds were like the Boy Scouts of today but for German children at the time and facilitated meetings with parents like the parent teacher meetings of today in order to begin the immersion of Nazi culture into the whole family.
The Nazi party never “officially” identified itself with the German American Bund. However, George Froboese (Bund Regional Leader) wrote, “He [Hitler] shook hands with each of us, looked straight in our eyes and placed his hand on the shoulder of our Bund leader…He asked us about our comrades of German blood across the sea, thanked us for our strong opposition to immoral press and its infamous lies, and inquired in detail about the future plans of our Bund and our excursion through Germany… The Fuhrer thanked us for the presentation of the book of testimonials and for the accompanying donation” (Petrie, 1).
The Bund was very committed to its German and American culture. At their meetings the stages would be decorated with large pictures of George Washington and the American Flag right next to the Nazi Swastika. “While the Bund announces its adherence to the American system of government and displays the American flag, there can be no doubt that it is a linear successor to the Friends. It has all the customary Nazi trimmings. Thus at one of its first meetings in the Schwabenhalle in Brooklyn on April 1, 1936, the hall was decorated with both swastikas and the American Flag, and patrolled by uniformed men of the Ordnungsdienst (“Service of the Order”), a body not unlike the Storm Troopers” (Foreign Affairs). The leader of the Bund at the time, Bundesführer Kuhn stated, “The aim of the German-American Bund is to unite all Germans and Americans in our country to a united front against Communism. We do show the Nazi emblem alongside of the American flag, with the biggest respect for Hitler and his movement in Germany, fighting the world’s madness, Communism” (Foreign Affairs).
Throughout the nation bunds were created and classified into different regions in order to keep track of them in accordance with other bunds. “The Bund was organized into three main regions, East, West, and Midwest, each with their own regional headquarters and a number of local branches scattered throughout the region. The Midwestern region was centered in Chicago, but had three local branches in Wisconsin, Kenosha, Sheboygan, and Milwaukee” (Canedy, America’s Nazis, 83).“The regional leader of the Bund in the Midwest was George Froboese, an active voice in Milwaukee since at least 1924 when he published an overview of Nationalist Socialist goals in Germany.” (Berninger, Dieter)
Camp Hinderburg was established in Grafton, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee. A large percentage of the Wisconsin population at the time was of German descent so this camp was popular to many families. This camp like many was a part of the American German Bund and supported the German ideology at the time. “In its first year, it served a total of 103 boys from Milwaukee and Chicago with the intention of functioning similar to a youth camp in Germany with German being spoken on the premises. Despite some similarities, the Bund was careful to highlight certain distinctions in an attempt to avoid conflicts. First of all, the camp denied that it was some sort of military camp and stressed that the inspections, flag raisings, and limited marching taking place at the camp could not be considered as such and there simply was an emphasis on athletics as a cornerstone of their routine.” (Petrie, 9)
“At these camps, children dressed in Nazi uniforms and drilled military-style, with marching, inspections, and flag-raising ceremonies. Although the Bund denied it, children were taught Nazi ideology” (The Bund). “Hitler is the friend of Germans everywhere,” one girl in a Nazi youth camp remembered being told, “and just as Christ wanted little children to come to him, Hitler wants German children to revere him.” This goes to show how the children were immersed and convinced in the German Nazi ideology. The adults who sent their children here also had frequent meetings while their children were at these camps training. They would hold picnics and rallies and talk about more of the political ideology and purpose of the camps.
The Bund Conflict and Investigation
Right from the start of the establishment, Camp Hindenburg faced many challenges from the community. The challenges ranged from peaceful protests, to violent actions, law cases, and FBI investigations.
The media played a big role in the way society around the bund reacted to its placement in Grafton. The bund thought it would be good to use the media as a way to reach out to the community in order to gain a better reputation and potentially more followers. However, the use of media comes with the fall back and backlash from listeners. As stated before the bund never officially stated that it was a part of Hitler’s Plan but rather just a means to bring Germans together in a community based on their heritage. That however did not stop the media from saying that the bund was militaristic, anti-American, or even Nazi sympathizers which created tension with the people who heard these stories.
The Bund was not only facing problems from the media and community but also from other German organizations who did not side with the bund. The main opposition was called the Federation of German-American Societies, which was founded in 1932, “it was a local organization without any affiliation outside of the regional area unlike the nationally connected Bund. Furthermore, it was composed out of a conglomeration of around seventy to ninety separate societies all working together for a few more generalized objectives including the promotion of the German language both in and out of schools and a youth program” (Petrie, 12). Since both of these organization basically served the same purpose they opposed each other. It was even said that the Federation of German-American Societies, was the group that bought out the land that Camp Hindenburg was located on and forced Camp Hindenburg to move to a new location. The Federation of German-American Societies then started a camp on the land they bought and called it Camp Carl Schurz forcing Camp Hindenburg to relocate about a mile down the road. This began a rivalry between the two camps competing for the best parades or most followers.
As World War II tensions grew higher, resentment grew towards these Bunds and soon protests began at the rallies were held in an effort to shut down these camps that were created. The Government began to take a closer look at these Bunds that had been established across the nation and monitored them closely. Once war was officially declared, it was made illegal to be a Nazi in the United States. Although the Bund continued to say it was adhering to the American way, the press took hold of these new findings and doing what it could to promote resentment towards these organizations. The Chicago Tribune did an article saying that witnesses say that Hitler ruled the Bund. Gissibl (witness and former bund unit leader) stated “All bund meetings would start with the German national song, like the ‘Horst Wessel.’ Then there would be a marching, followed by a Sig Heil for our movement, for the Fuehrer, and for the United States of America” (Chicago Tribune). Gissbl testified in a court case against nine bundists in a denaturalization trial. The government contended that membership in the bund is sufficient cause to cancel naturalization citizenship. Articles all over the United States called for action against these German-American installments because of the culture and values they were promoting.
Camp Hindenburg was also looked into by the United States government. In total the FBI released over 16,000 total pages of reports that were related to the activities of the bunds across the nation and the people involved. “Included in the papers of former FBI agent Kenneth Walker, who was tasked with investigating the Bund and later prosecuting certain members, is a number of documents that attest to the fact the FBI was spying, or at the very least taking stock of, the Milwaukee Bund. The photographs in this collection include a picture of a Bund meeting on May 27, 1939 as well as a march by the Bund the following day at Camp Hindenburg” (Petrie, 17). The Milwaukee Police Department even became tasked with looking into the meetings that the bund was holding. They had their own set of reports made out about the extent of the meetings that took place and the content that was discussed.
Across the nation, German-American bund members began to be arrested and questioned in order to find out what was truly happening in the camps. Although never deemed an extreme threat to the American Government, it was reported that, “the Nazis in the United States engage frequently in semi-military activities… for the most generous estimates give the American Nazis 4,700 Storm Troopers” (Foreign Affairs). The FBI raided camps and seized incriminating material shutting down each camp that was set up throughout the states.
The downfall of the bunds across the nation were due to the many scandals that broke out related to the operation of the bunds and the people involved. In Milwaukee, twenty-five of the bund members were put on trial for denaturalization, and some of these cases even made it as far as the Federal District Court. The bunds around the nation were slowly brought down and torn apart by the American people due to the war and the fact that the bunds were promoting the Nazi’s.
The creation of the German-American Bunds across the nation began as a movement to help naturalize Germans to America while keeping some of the same traditions and values as would be seen in Germany. With the beginning of the National Socialism movement and soon the impact of World War Two on the country the German-American Bund began to experience issues and backlash from the American citizens. The Bund made a prominent effort to survive through all of these challenges but ultimately succumbed to the issue that supporting a varying opinion of culture in America in a time of war, especially when that culture is the one taught by the enemy of the United States, would not survive the ideals for the American citizen force against the Germans.
On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg burst into flames while attempting to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey. In little more than 30 seconds, the largest object ever to soar through the air was incinerated and the era of commercial airship travel was dead. Explore nine surprising facts about the massive zeppelin and its fiery demise.
1. Survivors Of The Hindenburg Disaster Far Outnumbered The Victims.
Anyone who has seen the graphic newsreel video of the Hindenburg plunging to earth in flames may be amazed to know that of the 97 passengers and crew on board, 62 survived. The disaster’s 36 deaths included 13 passengers, 22 crewmembers and one worker on the ground. Many survivors jumped out of the zeppelin’s windows and ran away as fast as they could.
2. The Hindenburg Disaster Wasn’t History’s Deadliest Airship Accident.
Thanks to the iconic film footage and the emotional eyewitness account of radio reporter Herbert Morrison (who uttered the famous words “Oh, the humanity!”), the Hindenburg disaster is the most famous airship accident in history. However, the deadliest incident occurred when the helium-filled USS Akron, a U.S. Navy airship, crashed off the coast of New Jersey in a severe storm on April 4, 1933. Seventy-three men were killed, and only three survived. The 1930 crash of the British military airship R101, which claimed 48 lives, was also deadlier.
3. The Hindenburg Disaster Wasn’t Broadcast Live On Radio.
Morrison was on the scene to record the arrival of the Hindenburg for WLS in Chicago, but he wasn’t broadcasting live. His wrenching account would be heard in Chicago later that night, and it was broadcast nationwide the following day. His audio report was synched up with separate newsreel videos in subsequent coverage of the Hindenburg disaster.
4. U.S. Law Prevented The Hindenburg From Using Helium Instead Of Hydrogen, Which Is More Flammable.
After the crash of the hydrogen-filled R101, in which most of the crew died in the subsequent fire rather than the impact itself, Hindenburg designer Hugo Eckener sought to use helium, a less flammable lifting gas. However, the United States, which had a monopoly on the world supply of helium and feared that other countries might use the gas for military purposes, banned its export, and the Hindenburg was reengineered. After the Hindenburg disaster, American public opinion favored the export of helium to Germany for its next great zeppelin, the LZ 130, and the law was amended to allow helium export for nonmilitary use. After the German annexation of Austria in 1938, however, Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes refused to ink the final contract.
5. Despite Containing Highly Combustible Gas, Passengers Were Allowed To Smoke.
Despite being filled with 7 million cubic feet of highly combustible hydrogen gas, the Hindenburg featured a smoking room. Passengers were unable to bring matches and personal lighters aboard the zeppelin, but they could buy cigarettes and Cuban cigars on board and light up in a room pressurized to prevent any hydrogen from entering. A steward admitted passengers and crew through a double-door airlock into the smokers’ lounge, which had a single electric lighter, and made sure no one left with a lit cigarette or pipe.
6. A Specially Designed Lightweight Piano Was Made For The Hindenburg.
The Hindenburg’s owners, seeking to outfit their airborne luxury liner, tasked the renowned piano making firm of Julius Blüthner with building a special lightweight baby grand piano to meet the airship’s strict weight standards. The piano, which was made mostly of aluminum alloy and covered in yellow pigskin, weighed less than 400 pounds. It was only used during the Hindenburg’s first flying season, so it wasn’t aboard the ill-fated voyage.
7. The Hindenburg First Took Flight On A Nazi Propaganda Mission.
Although the Hindenburg was in development before the Third Reich came to power, members of the Nazi regime viewed it as a symbol of German might. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels ordered the Hindenburg to make its first public flight in March 1936 as part of a joint 4,100-mile aerial tour of Germany with the Graf Zeppelin to rally support for a referendum ratifying the reoccupation of the Rhineland. For four days, the airships blared patriotic tunes and pro-Hitler announcements from specially mounted loudspeakers, and small parachutes with propaganda leaflets and swastika flags were dropped on German cities. (The referendum, approved by 98.8 percent of Germans, was hardly a squeaker.) Later in 1936 the Hindenburg, sporting Olympic rings on its side and pulling a large Olympic flag behind it, played a starring role at the opening of the Summer Games in Berlin. The airship, which had swastikas emblazoned on its tail fins, was such a symbol of Nazi power that it was subjected to constant bomb threats—including some before its final flight, which led to suspicions of sabotage in the disaster.
8. Dozens Of Letters Carried Aboard The Hindenburg Were Ultimately Delivered.
Zeppelins pioneered airmail service across the Atlantic, and the Hindenburg carried approximately 17,000 pieces of correspondence on its final voyage. Amazingly, 176 pieces stored in a protective container survived the crash and were postmarked four days after the disaster. The pieces, charred but still readable, are among the world’s most valuable philatelic artifacts.
9. Goebbels Wanted To Name The Hindenburg For Adolf Hitler.
Eckener, no fan of the Third Reich, named the airship for the late German president Paul von Hindenburg and refused Goebbels’ request to name it after Hitler. The Führer, never enthralled by the great airships in the first place, was ultimately glad that the zeppelin that crashed in a fireball didn’t bear his name.
10. A One-Way Ticket Cost $400.
Not accounting for inflation, a passenger had to pay $400 for a one-way ticket between Europe and America in 1936. The price was increased to $450 in 1937. A steep cost compared to fares for a German ocean liner, for which a first-class passenger could cross the North Atlantic for between $157 and $240 and a third-class passenger paid $82.
Airship Disaster Worse than the Hindenburg
On October 5, 1929, British Airship R101 crashed in France, killing 48 of the 54 people on board the giant airship. At the time, the R101 was the largest airship ever, and was not matched or exceeded until the ill-fated Hindenburg was launched 7 years later. Like the RMS Titanic before her, the R101 was not only the biggest of its kind, it also went down on its maiden flight! Filled with highly flammable Hydrogen gas, both the R101 and the Hindenburg were basically disasters waiting to happen. (See some of our other articles about aircraft and other disasters.)
How big is big? The R101 was an incredible 731 feet long, just about 3 times longer than the longest version of the mighty Boeing 747! (The Hindenburg was just over 800 feet long.) While the death toll on the crash of the R101 was worse than that of the much more famous Hindenburg disaster in which 36 people lost their lives, there were other airship incidents that also cost more lives than the Hindenburg, including 52 people killed back in 1923 when the French airship Dixmude went down with 52 fatalities. Another airship tragedy that was worse than the Hindenburg was the USS Akron, a US Navy airship that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near New Jersey in 1933, taking 73 men to their deaths.
Why did European powers use Hydrogen to fill their blimps and rigid airships instead of the much more safe and inert Helium gas used by American lighter than air aircraft? Because the United States had a virtual monopoly on Helium, a gas that cannot be created commercially like Hydrogen. Helium is found underground and mined, with limited quantities available for humans to harvest and use. When that underground supply is used up, it will be gone and there will be no more mylar birthday and Valentine’s Day balloons floating around living rooms across America! While rare on Earth, Helium is believed to be the second most prevalent element in the universe, second only to Hydrogen and making up about 24% of the calculated mass of all matter in the universe. On Earth, Helium is created by the decay of radioactive elements such as Uranium and is usually found mixed with natural gas. In space, Helium is created by the nuclear fusion of Hydrogen in stars such as our Sun. Recognizing the strategic value of Helium, the US established a National Helium Reserve in Texas in 1925. American legislation forbade the importation of Helium to other countries, which is why foreign airships had to use highly combustible Hydrogen instead. The United States is still a world leader in Helium production, though no longer the monopoly it once was, with dwindling supplies. Other countries such as Middle East oil producing nations are picking up the pace of gathering Helium, though world supplies are waning.
The era of giant rigid airships, often called Zeppelins after those airships built in Germany by the premier manufacturer of the rigid airship, the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company, ended with the spectacular and infamous Hindenburg disaster. The Hindenburg was not the worst airship disaster, but the fact that its demise was filmed in great clarity and with haunting audio included made it the most widely seen and graphic airship disaster the widespread public had seen. Even today, most of us have seen numerous showings of the famous video of the giant airship going down in flames. Many of us wonder at how in the heck so many people actually survived the conflagration and “only” 36 people died. Today’s airships are of the “blimp” variety, a gas bag which is basically a cigar shaped balloon filled with Helium, much smaller than the rigid airships of old that were constructed of rigid metal frames with several “gas bags” located inside all covered by a coated cloth covering. While rigid airships at first seemed to have great military promise as bombing and reconnaissance platforms, their slow speed and highly flammable Hydrogen made them easy targets for enemy fighter/interceptor airplanes. Arming the airships with machine guns and even equipping the giants with their own little fighter planes like a gigantic aerial aircraft carrier proved impractical, though not impossible. Today, the military still use blimps for long duration sea surveillance and private companies often use blimps as advertising and video platforms.
In all, there have been only 4 airship disasters with a greater death toll than the Hindenburg, with the USS Akron at 73 dead, the (French) Dixmude with 50 or 52 dead (depending on source), the (British) R101 with 48 dead and the (British) R38 crash that left 44 people dead. Since the Hindenburg disaster, the worst airship incident has been the crash of a US Navy blimp, the ZPG-3W, which went down in 1960, and killed 18 of its 21 crewmen.
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The featured image in this article, a photograph of the wreckage of the R101 airship which was probably taken not long after the crash on 4 October 1930 in Allonne, Picardie (France), is in the public domain,because it is one of the following:
- It is a photograph taken prior to 1 June 1957 or
- It was published prior to 1970 or
- It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created prior to 1970.
HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide (ref: HMSO Email Reply)
New Hindenburg documentary sheds light on the decades-old disaster
Eighty-four years after the airship Hindenburg crashed in Lakehurst, New Jersey, a new PBS documentary has new evidence about why the disaster may have happened.
“Hindenburg: The New Evidence,” a film produced by PBS’ NOVA television program, features U.S. Air Force veteran Jason O. Harris as part of a team completing the first investigation into the crash since its immediate aftermath in 1937. Harris, a lieutenant colonel, teamed up with historian Dan Grossman to discover why the fire, which ultimately killed 36 people, happened in the first place.
Up until now, many considered the cause of the Hindenburg crash to be lost to history. Using newly discovered footage from an amateur videographer at the scene, filmmakers present a never-before-seen view of the crash, including moments before the airship caught fire.
Harris, who is also a commercial airline pilot trained in accident investigation, jumped on the opportunity to research the cause of the disaster, especially given the new evidence and methods of investigating modern accidents.
“Oftentimes we see history, we see stories and we don’t get to see it up close and personal,” Harris told Military Times.
Having this opportunity to interact with the Hindenburg’s history made him consider the accident in light of his military and professional training. Specifically, he looked the people in charge of the airship’s crew and the dynamics of the people on the ship.
Aircraft crew members in the 1930s did not have as in-depth training in decision making as they do today. Given the ongoing rain on the day the Hindenburg was scheduled to land, the ship’s arrival was already delayed. Once the ship neared New Jersey, rain picked up again just as landing cables dropped.
The German crew members on the Hindenburg were likely stressed given that the ship was arriving significantly late to New Jersey, but did not want to add to the delays by not landing immediately. Harris also noted that having high-level officials and leaders overseeing the crew inside of the craft may have added additional stress.
“Every accident is nothing more than a chain of events, a chain of decisions that were made over a period of time that either led to something catastrophic or led to someone breaking that chain of events and making a different decision,” said Harris.
Viewing the accident through the lens of stressful decision making adds new layers to what may have happened in the moments leading up to the crash, he added.
The Hindenburg’s crash was remarkable and unexpected. The press present at the event planned on waiting to film once the ship landed, hoping to get views of passengers disembarking. For this reason, most of the known footage that existed before this new discovery captured what happened after the airship caught fire, Rushmore DeNooyer, writer and producer for the film, said.
The videographer, Harold Schenck, did not capture what specifically caused the German airship’s landing to become disastrous.
“Mr. Schenck was filming all the stuff that the press pool did not film, but even he missed the exact moment that the spark sparked” said DeNooyer. “[The Hindenburg] goes from pristine airship. to just charred wreckage on the ground in just 60 seconds.”
Schenck and his family tried to give the film to accident investigators right after the crash, but they chose not to look at it. The rediscovery and verified authenticity of the footage sparked NOVA to launch new scientific experiments to find out the origin of the blaze.
“Thanks to this stunning new footage, we were able to revive a cold case investigation surrounding one of the most iconic disasters of the 20th century,” said the documentary’s executive producer, Gary Tarpinian, in a press release.
The film follows Harris and Grossman from the site of the crash in New Jersey, to Germany’s Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, to a Caltech laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The documentary airs on Wednesday, May 19th at 9:00 pm EST on PBS. Starting Wednesday morning, the film will be available to stream on online PBS’ website and on the PBS app.
Hindenburg - HISTORY
The H39-Class battleship Hindenburg is my best scratch build model so far. Since I was fascinated by those big Bismarck class successors, I wanted to build one for quite a long time. As the general appearance had much similarities to the Bismarck or Tirpitz , it could easily done by using two Revell Tirpitz and one Monogram Bismarck kits. The forward superstructure (command tower) had to be slightly modified and moved a bit forward, while the afterwards superstructure (second funnel and hangar complex) had to build from scratch. The remaining parts of this kits were later used to build the Schneidheim and the Odin .
The six battleships of the H-class were the projected successors of the battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz .
Those ships, which would have been the core of the fleet build according to the Z-Plan, were mainly enlarged and improved versions of their predecessors. In difference to them, those ships were planned with commerce war in mind, therefore diesel engines were selected instead of the usual high pressure steam engine used by the German navy in those days.
Design of these ships started in 1937, and a total construction time of 50 months was projected to complete a ship of this class. All ships were scheduled to be completed by 1944. Only two of the ships were actually started, Schlachtschiff H at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg on June 15th, 1939 and Schlachtschiff J at AG Weser, Bremen on August 15th, 1939. Construction was stopped on October 10th, 1939 as the focus in German naval construction switched to the construction of more U-boats instead of battleships. Up to this day, 1200 tons of steel was already used for the Schlachtschiff H , 3500 tons were in construction and another 12000 tons were already ordered. (Schlachtschiff J was still in an earlier phase of construction). In 1940, the used material was wrecked on the shipyard and used elsewhere.
Although it was obvious that Germany would not be able to build a complete new battleship during wartime, the plans for the H-class battleships were further developed and improved, to study the design of a competitive battleship and increase sheer ship scale to counteract increasing bomb weights. Lessons learned in naval conflicts including German warships, like Norway, the sinking of the Bismarck and the loss of the Scharnhorst were used to upgrade the plans, so the size of the later H-class designs increased in a very spectacular way. Comparing the basic data of the different H-class designs shows this very effectively, as shown in the table below: