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A German Medal Commemorating a US Navy Airship


Saor Alba
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An often overlooked part of the Zeppelin history is that to restart the Zeppelin programme in Germany - Zeppelins were prohibited under the Treaty of Versailles, Dr Hugo Eckener ingratiated himself with powerful figures in the US Navy with a proposal to build an airship for the US Navy. This proposal was agreed upon, and the US then permitted the civilian usage of Zeppelins in Germany once more. The ship built for the US Navy was the LZ-126, when it arrived in the USA to the Lakehurst Naval Station it was re-christened as the USS Los Angeles. Curiously through the whole US Navy airship program that began with the arrival of the USS Los Angeles in 1924 and continuing until this particular airships dismantling in 1939, the USS Los Angeles had a commendable safety and operation record. The other airships, all built in the USA, met inglorious ends with crashes.

 

eckenerzr126silber1924.jpg

 

This medal commemorates Dr. Eckener and the flight to America of the LZ-126/USS Los Angeles. This was the first transatlantic crossing by an airship, and also the first non-stop east west flight by an aircraft of any kind.

 

The Zeppelin history is so much more than the tragic end with the Hindenburg disaster. For a quarter of a century Zeppelins were operated for civilian usage and had a respectable safety record in an era when fixed wing aircraft did not. Airships were operated with regularity from the time of the round the world flight in 1929 on up to 1937 - mostly flights to Brazil. Personalities such as Dr. Eckener no doubt contributed to that enviable safety record. By late 1936 and early 1937 he was falling out of favour with the Nazi government in Germany and was being pushed aside in Zeppelin Reederei. One could thus conjecture that by taking him out of the day to day management of the programme, and politicising the Zeppelins with the swastika flags and doing tours of Germany that the Nazis could well have contributed to the subsequent disaster and ending of the programme.

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What was wrong with using Helium again?

 

During that time helium was much more expensive, and does have a reduced lifting capacity by volume vs. hydrogen. The USS Los Angeles was built for helium, as were all the US airships. The Germans could not use the helium, due to export restrictions by the US government. In 1929 Dr. Eckener attempted to get approval for the export of helium to Zeppelin Reederei, but the US government denied the request. With the exception of military airships, the Germans didn't have bad experiences with civilian airships that were not getting shot at by Sopwith Camels etc.

 

In modern semi-rigid airships, built by the new Zeppelin company in Germany, they use a lot more composite materials that are lighter weight and offset the loss of lift from using helium - the export of which is not a problem these days. One of these airships is currently flying for a private company out of Moffett Field in California for several years now.

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Great topic--Anyone else have other Zeppelin or Air Ship coins or medals? <br> Here in the States we use the term "Blimp" to describe lighter than air aircraft. For example: The Goodyear Blimp<br>

Post'em if you got'em!

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Great topic--Anyone else have other Zeppelin or Air Ship coins or medals? <br> Here in the States we use the term "Blimp" to describe lighter than air aircraft. For example: The Goodyear Blimp<br>

Post'em if you got'em!

 

 

Yes I have more coins and am looking for the Karl Goetz medals and the 1929 gold medal from Germany for the Zeppelin. There is a difference betwixt a Zeppelin which is a rigid airship with duraluminium framing and the blimps in the USA - the latter are just inflated with no metal framing. The Zeppelins flying today are more of a blended airship with more modern materiel in the framing and some support from pressurised helium. Aviation history is a serious side interest of mine, especially lighter than air ships.

 

dreimark1930.jpg

 

funfmark1930.jpg

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