Newly uncovered footage emerges of Hindenburg airship, emblazoned with Nazi swastikas, flying over New York just hours before giant fireball killed 35 people

The huge German airship exploded above a New Jersey airfield on May 6 1937 – with newsreel footage of its burning wreckage forming one of the 20th Century’s most iconic images

Chilling footage has emerged of the Hindenburg airship, emblazoned with swastikas and other Nazi insignia, flying over New York just hours before it was destroyed in a fireball, killing 35 people.

The huge German airship exploded above a New Jersey airfield on May 6 1937 – with newsreel footage of its burning wreckage forming one of the 20th Century’s most iconic images.

At about three times longer and twice as tall as a modern-day Boeing 747, the Hindenburg was a wonder of its age, with the pre-World War II Nazis declaring it “the pride of Germany”.

The ship was widely photographed arriving in Europe, South America and North America during more than 30 transatlantic crossings, but many of the best known images of the doomed craft are from its first few months of service in 1936.

Despite this, very little footage was captured during the Hindenburg’s final hours, as it raced over Manhattan en route to landing in the Lakehurst airfield in New Jersey in an attempt to make up time lost to delays caused by thunderstorms over Boston.

The sight of the colossal airship making its unscheduled detour over what was then New York City’s most populous borough drew hundreds onto the streets; all unaware that, just hours later, the flight would end in disaster.

Now, however, footage has entered the public domain showing the airship making its now legendary detour.

The sight of the swastika-decorated airship flying over the world’s most famous skyline, including the recently built Empire State Building, is chilling – and not just because disaster was hours away.

Within two years of the Hindenburg explosion, Nazi Germany was at war with Britain, with the USA itself drawn into the conflict by 1941. World War II went on to become the deadliest conflict in human history.

But despite later events, the Hindenburg was actually seen as an example of Germany’s gradual reintegration into the western world following World War I, which had left the country impoverished and politically isolated.

In fact, many of those on board the Hindenburg at the time of the disaster were set to journey to London for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – the parents of Elizabeth II.  

After the ship passed over Manhattan, it approached the Lakefield airfield in New Jersey at around 7pm and attempted to land.

Adverse weather conditions and an unprepared ground crew meant the attempted landing was disorganized however, and the ship was forced to make several sharp turns, emergency breaking manoeuvres and ballast dumps in order to give it the best chance of landing safely.

By 7.25pm the first signs of disaster were apparent, with witnesses on the ground reporting seeing blue charges, most likely static electricity, in the back of the ship, and the ship’s upper fin fluttering as if gas were leaking.

Soon, mushroom-shaped yellow and red flames were spotted around the fin and, within seconds, the entire balloon was ablaze.

Only partially tied to a mooring mast as a result of the haphazard nature of its landing, the ship lurched forward, causing water and fuel tanks to explode and forcing the flames towards the passenger carriage. As the ship lost buoyancy and crashed to the ground, further gas cells exploded.

In total 35 people lost their lives in the disaster; 13 passengers and 22 crewmen - including one member of the ground crew. Despite lasting only an estimated 37 seconds, the blaze was captured on newsreel footage and led to unprecedented levels of international news coverage.

Countless hypotheses, including a number of sabotage theories voiced by experts, have been voiced to explain why the disaster occurred but the official cause of the explosion remains unexplained.

The Hindenburg explosion shattered public confidence in airships as a mode of international travel, and within just a few years this “transport of the future” and the so-called airship era was over.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:SECONDARY teachers need...

Behaviour Support Work

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support WorkerThe JobTo...

English Teacher, Aylesford School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker