Hindenburg Crash Site – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ
Official Website – Lakehurst Historical Society
Tour information direct link – Tour information
Directions – Cathedral of the Air, 264 Hope Chapel Road, Lakehurst, NJ 08733 (where all tours start, this is outside of the base)
Back in mid-June, I went with family and friends over to Lakehurst to check out the Hindenburg Crash Site. Needless to say, I was the only one with a two month old on the tour.
A note – this is an active military base, so you can’t just show up and take this tour. You have to sign up at least two weeks in advance and send them some information about yourself and your tourmates (driver’s license info, etc) when they respond to your tour request. This is so they can do the background checks ahead of time. Again, active military base.
That being said, we met up at the Cathedral of the Air at the crack of 9:30, which is just outside the base proper. It was built by the American Legion in the 1930s. The tour starts by going through this chapel. What makes it unique are the beautiful stained glass windows. While many churches have beautiful stained glass windows, very few are aeronautically themed. The memorials navy airships, the USS Shenandoah and the USS Akron, that crashed during active duty are located in the front of church close to the main entrance.
Cathedral of the Air
Beautiful stained glass windows.
That are flight themed, like the Wright Brothers flyer shown here.
Memorial to the USS Shenandoah.
After touring the church, the tour heads onto the base itself for the main attraction – the Hindenburg Crash Site. Here, the tour guide gave a lengthy (25 – 30 minute), detailed, and fascinating talk about the history of the Hindenburg, as well as breakdown of her final flight. The weather was so nice, that no one minded, and this was the most riveting part of the tour.
Crash site (note: the area outlined is roughly where the command capsule crashed. The whole airship was much bigger, it took up almost this entire field).
Tree Rider (aka, that little baby) is super impressed. You can tell because he is asleep. Two month olds are had to impress.
Halfway between the cell phone tower on the right and where the taller trees start on the left, you can see the nub of the mooring mast (which dominates most pictures of the crash). This is the same mast that the USS Los Angeles did a headstand on as well. Sadly, it was cut down back in the late ’30s.
The tour is far from over…
Our last stop is Lakehurst Hanger #1 (the one to the left, the other two weren’t there when the Hindenburg went down).
The last stop for the day was the longest part of the tour, taking roughly an hour and a half. We started in the small gift shop/museum. They have a great selection of zeppelin and airship themed books, posters, and such (we got a patch and a magnet for cheap). You can even buy a piece of the USS Los Angeles, which I would totally own right now if I had $80 to spare. The rest of the room is dedicated to memorabilia and pictures of the Hindenburg and of the US airships. I am assuming this is the greatest collection of airship artifacts anywhere, because were else in the world would anyone go to see them than where the Hindenburg went down? Our guide spent a good amount of time (at least 30-40 minutes) going through to explain about the different airships. While I found this interesting, The Pres found running in circles and accidentally crashing into people interesting (this is why we have a hiking deep in the woods blog, and not an exploring populated places blog). I had to take him outside, where he was very sad.
This building is HUGE. Paul poses to help give you an idea.
Into the Heritage Center.
A piece of the Hindenburg.
Signal lights that used to help guide the airships in.
One of the tour guides noticed that I had taken The Pres out (it was very noticeable) and came to find us. He took us (and my brother-in-law, who The Pres adores above all others) into the main hanger so that The Pres could run around some. I was absolutely blown away by the size of this building. I actually got dizzy when I tried to lean back and look straight up at the roof. What made this even better is that the only remaining navy blimp was in the hangar that day.
The size of the blimp, which is substantial, was still dwarfed by the size of the hangar. Our group soon joined back up with us, which gave us bonus time to check the place out (or run really fast, depending if you are me or The Pres).
Fun fact of the hangar tour: the Hindenburg had only 18 inches of clearance at the front and back end of this hangar. That’s it!
The tour then worked its way past a restored blimp capsule, up onto a fake (but large) aircraft carrier runway, then out the back door.
This is so cool.
This place is big. You’ll see how big in about two more pictures. You can see the tracks here that were used to steer the airships into the hangar.
Fake aircraft carrier.
Remember that huge blimp? Look how tiny it looks from the other side of the hangar.
Outside, we looked at the massive doors that had to be opened to allow the airships to stay in this building. This massive door took SEVEN HOURS to open. It was last opened in the 1980s (which used to seem not that long ago, but really was). These doors are so big, only a panorama shot will fit them in.
Gears to open the doors.
After seeing the doors, it was back inside to a small museum. The museum mostly held old war uniforms and detailed models of various military vehicles: planes, ships, tanks, etc. This was, by far, The Pres’s favorite part of the tour.
He loved it.
Overall, a completely awesome way to spend 2 1/2 hours. The tour is entirely FREE, but please make a donation to the Historical Society so that they can continue to offer these great tours!
The fine looking group that braved the tour. Next time, we need a number other than 13 though.
ALSO IN THE AREA:
Since we drove so far…
The Lakehurst Diner:
We had lunch at the Lakehurst Diner. The food wasn’t great, but they do offer a burger called “The Blimp”. I hear you can only get it well done.
Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area:
Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area is only about ten minutes away. Since we were so close, we took a half hour to explore by car while the kids slept in the backseat.
I strongly suggest reading Whispers in the Pines: The Secrets of Colliers Mills by Karen Riley. I just had, which is why we made sure to stop here. We’ll be back when we have more time and awake babies.
The boys and wife were good sports about today, so we got ice cream.
My mom used to get my brother and I ice cream here on the way back from Long Beach Island when we were kids. The ice cream is still cold and delicious.
Overall, a great day.