Found in the archives: Hindenburg Survivors!

Denis J. Mulligan Papers

Well, not exactly. However, after the recent processing of the Denis J. Mulligan papers, the AHC was thrilled to find documents that survived the crash of the Hindenburg. Mulligan had these documents in his possession after chairing the investigation of the airship’s crash near the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey on May 6, 1937. Hindenburg (Deutsches Luftschiff Zeppelin #129) was a large German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship, the lead ship of the Hindenburg class.  The dirigible flew from March 1936 until destroyed by fire 14 months later on May 6, 1937, at the end of the first North American transatlantic journey of its second season of service. Thirty-six people died in the accident.

Mulligan Papers

Mulligan was a major figure in the spheres of military and civilian aviation of the time. He held several positions in the Bureau of Air Commerce of the U.S. Department of Commerce, serving as Chief of the Enforcement Section, Investigator and Legal Advisor and its final Director in 1939. After, he served as a consultant in international matters for the Civil Aeronautics Board while practicing law until he was called in as a reservist for active duty in the Air Force during World War II and the Korean War. He was appointed legal advisor to the President’s Air Policy Commission in 1947. Post-Korean War Mulligan served as an industrial consultant until his retirement in 1973.

The Hindenburg disaster was ultimately classified as an accident in the Bureau of Air Commerce’s report, citing the ignition of a mixture of free hydrogen and air from a leak that produced a combustible mixture at the upper stern. However, theories about the calamity continue to be debated in documentaries, books, television shows, and online fora. Some insist a conspiracy was afoot; while others speculate that a static spark, lightning, engine failure, a fuel leak, or incendiary paint caused the explosion. Whatever the cause, after the crash of the Hindenburg, travel by Zeppelins and airships diminished until airplanes and similar aircraft became the standard for air travel.

–Kathryn Brooks, Project Archivist

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1 Response to Found in the archives: Hindenburg Survivors!

  1. Terry Brooks says:

    Of course,the ultimate reason it went down was the US refused to sell Helium to the Nazis and they were forced to use the slightly lighter and highly flammable Hydrogen to fill the Zeppelin.

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