My arrival in New Jersey....75 years too late.

After an Individual Augmentee (IA) finishes at NMPS, many of them go on to additional training.  Depending upon what their job will be, and where they are going, this additional training could last anywhere from a few days to 40 weeks. As I previously mentioned, I’ll be headed to a 30-day training course at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Before we get to the training, we need to get a little perspective on where I’ll be for the next month.

I’ll be training at Fort Dix, in south/central New Jersey. Fort Dix was originally built as an Army base, being constructed in 1917 and named for John Adams Dix, a veteran of both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  He later became famous as the creator of the “neck beard” (see photo below).
John Adams Dix
24 July 1798 – 21 April 1879
Fort Dix was adjacent to McGuire Air Force Base, which in turn was adjacent to an additional military site, the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station. In 2009, all three were combined to form the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, or “JB MDL”, as the locals call it.
As previous readers of this blog will remember, I’m quite fond of history and firmly believe that we all have a connection to things of the past.  So it will come as no surprise to hear that I’ll be spending a month at a place where several significant historical events have occurred. Let me just highlight one:
 On 6 May 1937 (75 years to the day before I showed up at Fort Dix), the Luftschiff Zeppelin #129, commonly called the “Hindenburg”, exploded into flames and crashed to the ground, killing 35 of the 97 people onboard.
The Hindenburg, seconds after it exploded into flames.
6 May 1937
The Hindenburg was a large German commercial passenger-carrying airship, also referred to as a “zepplin”—the forerunner of our modern “blimps”. To be precise, blimps are non-rigid (meaning they have no internal framework or support), while the Hindenburg was a rigid airship (built with an internal rigid structure and frame.)
The Hindenburg was a German airship, built in 1936, and could make a trans-Atlantic trip in less than half the time of the standard four- to five-day ocean liner trip. It catered to high-end passengers, and provided a luxurious travel experience. Hindenburg passengers ate gourmet meals off fine china, drank French and German wines and enjoyed live orchestra music during the flight. It was considered the height of luxury, but after the fire, it would become known as the “Titanic of the sky.”

In 1937, the 804-foot-long Hindenburg represented cutting-edge technology, with its fabric-covered, metal frame held aloft by more than 7 million cubic feet of lighter-than-air hydrogen. Flammable hydrogen had to be used because of a U.S. embargo on
nonflammable helium. Many aviation experts considered airships to be the future of air travel.
To keep things in perspective, consider the following size comparison.
Blue Whale: ~100 feet long
Boeing 747: 200 feet long
The Hindenburg: 804 feet long
The Titanic: 882 feet long
The Empire State Building: 1,742 feet long

The Hindenburg flies over NYC in April 1937.

(Like many other things in German society at the time, it was also used as a propaganda tool.  The large “swastika” is clearly evident on many of the historical photographs.)

Before that fateful day in New Jersey, the Hindenburg had carried more than 1,000 passengers on 10 successful round trips between Germany and the US, in addition to trips to Brazil and South America.
The Hindenburg, early evening on 6 May.  Gusty winds and thunderstorms caused the giant airship to circle the field for hours, trying to negotiate a tricky landing.  Note the stormy clouds in the background.
There has never been a definitive answer as to why the Hindenburg exploded into flames.  There are lots of theories, as usual, but most experts believe that the stormy weather that May afternoon somehow ignited a gas leak.  When it burst into flames, the entire ship was destroyed in less than 1 minutes One thing is certain: the explosion brought what is known as the "Golden Age" of airships to a screeching halt.
The smoking remains of the Hindenburg on 7 May 1937.
There's a small memorial on the Lakehurst site where the Hindenburg came to rest.
Sunrise at the Hindenburg Memorial.

The chains and plaque outline the location that the Hindenburg came to rest.

If you have a moment (actually 1:44), check out the historical video below, which includes some incredible video and a firsthand audio account of a reporter on the scene. 

The Crash of the Hindenburg (will open in a new window)

There’s a couple of other important historical things going on around here so stay tuned—I might one day make it to what I’m actually doing here.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

Matt I believe your great Uncle Clyde White and my uncle, though long dead before any of my generation was born, Was stationed at Fort Dix during WWII. I know he died about 1918 of measles contracted in New Jersey in WWI and never saw combat.
Cathy. Romer McMillan