USS Macon over New York City in 1933
|Builder:||Goodyear-Zeppelin Company, Springfield Township, Ohio|
|Laid down:||May 1931|
|Launched:||11 March 1933|
|Sponsored by:||Jeanette Whitton Moffett|
|Commissioned:||23 June 1933|
|Struck:||26 February 1935|
|Identification:||Hull number: ZRS-5|
|Fate:||Crashed off the coast of California, 12 February 1935|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Class and type:||Akron-class airship|
|Displacement:||7,401,260 cu ft (209,580.3 m3)|
|Length:||785 ft (239.3 m)|
|Beam:||133 ft (40.5 m) (hull diameter)|
|Draft:||146 ft 5 in (44.6 m) (height)|
|Installed power:||560hp per engine|
|Range:||5,940 nmi (11,000 km; 6,840 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Armament:||8× .30-cal machine guns|
|Aircraft carried:||5 Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk|
|Aviation facilities:||1 aircraft launch trapeze|
The USS Macon (ZRS-5) was a rigid airship built and operated by the United States Navy for scouting and served as a "flying aircraft carrier", designed to carry biplane parasite aircraft, five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk for scouting or two-seat Fleet N2Y-1 for training. In service for less than two years, in 1935 the Macon was damaged in a storm and lost off California's Big Sur coast, though most of the crew were saved. The wreckage is listed as the USS Macon Airship Remains on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
An airship or dirigible balloon is a type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft that can navigate through the air under its own power. Aerostats gain their lift from large gasbags filled with a lifting gas that is less dense than the surrounding air.
The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.
In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.
Less than 20 ft (6.1 m) shorter than Hindenburg, both the Macon and "sister ship" the USS Akron (ZRS-4) were among the largest flying objects in the world in terms of length and volume. Although both of the hydrogen-filled, Zeppelin-built Hindenburg and the LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II were longer, the two American-built sister naval airships still hold the world record for helium-filled rigid airships.[ citation needed ]
LZ 129 Hindenburg was a large German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship, the lead ship of the Hindenburg class, the longest class of flying machine and the largest airship by envelope volume. It was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company on the shores of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen and was operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company. The airship flew from March 1936 until it was destroyed by fire 14 months later on May 6, 1937 while attempting to land at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, at the end of the first North American transatlantic journey of its second season of service with the loss of 36 lives. This was the last of the great airship disasters; it was preceded by the crashes of the British R38 in 1921, the US airship Roma in 1922, the French Dixmude in 1923, the British R101 in 1930, and the US Akron in 1933.
A sister ship is a ship of the same class or of virtually identical design to another ship. Such vessels share a nearly identical hull and superstructure layout, similar size, and roughly comparable features and equipment. They often share a common naming theme, either being named after the same type of thing or with some kind of alliteration. Often, sisters become more differentiated during their service as their equipment are separately altered.
USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the U.S. Navy which operated between September 1931 and April 1933. She was the world's first purpose-built flying aircraft carrier, carrying F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes which could be launched and recovered while she was in flight. With an overall length of 785 ft (239 m), the Akron and her sister ship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever built. Although the LZ129 Hindenburg and the LZ130 Graf Zeppelin II were some 18 ft (5.5 m) longer and slightly more voluminous, the two German airships were filled with hydrogen, so the US Navy craft still hold the world record for helium-filled airships.
The USS Macon was built at the Goodyear Airdock in Springfield Township, Ohio by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation.Because this was by far the biggest airship ever to be built in America, a team of experienced German airship engineers—led by Chief Designer Karl Arnstein—instructed and supported design and construction of both the U.S. Navy airships Akron and Macon.
The Goodyear Airdock is a construction and storage airship hangar in Akron, Ohio.
Springfield Township is one of the nine townships of Summit County, Ohio, United States. The 2000 census found 15,168 people in the township.
Goodyear Aerospace Corporation was the aerospace and defense subsidiary of Goodyear. The company was originally operated as a division within Goodyear as part of a joint project with Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, leading to the famous Goodyear Blimps. As part of the failing relationship between the US and Germany in the pre-war era, the division was spun off as Goodyear Aircraft Company in 1939. In 1941 they opened a new factory in Arizona where they produced subassemblies, including subcontracted airframe construction and the design of the Goodyear F2G Corsair and Goodyear Duck.
The Macon had a structured duraluminum hull with three interior keels. 560 hp (418 kW) gasoline-powered engines that drove outside propellers. The propellers could be rotated down or backwards, providing an early form of thrust vectoring to control the ship during takeoff and landings. The rows of slots in the hull above each engine were part of a system to condense out the water vapor from the engine exhaust gases for use as buoyancy compensation ballast to compensate for the loss of weight as fuel was consumed.The airship was kept aloft by 12 helium-filled gas cells made from gelatin-latex fabric. Inside the hull, the ship had eight German-made Maybach 12-cylinder,
Duralumin is a trade name for one of the earliest types of age-hardenable aluminium alloys. Its use as a trade name is obsolete, and today the term mainly refers to aluminium–copper alloys, designated as the 2000 series by the International Alloy Designation System (IADS), as with 2014 and 2024 alloys used in airframe fabrication.
On boats and ships, the keel is either of two parts: a structural element that sometimes resembles a fin and protrudes below a boat along the central line, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in the construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event. Only the ship's launching is considered more significant in its creation.
Helium is a chemical element with symbol He and atomic number 2. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas, the first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements. After hydrogen, helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe, being present at about 24% of the total elemental mass, which is more than 12 times the mass of all the heavier elements combined. Its abundance is similar to this figure in the Sun and in Jupiter. This is due to the very high nuclear binding energy of helium-4 with respect to the next three elements after helium. This helium-4 binding energy also accounts for why it is a product of both nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. Most helium in the universe is helium-4, the vast majority of which was formed during the Big Bang. Large amounts of new helium are being created by nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars.
The Macon was christened on 11 March 1933, by Jeanette Whitton Moffett, wife of Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, Chief of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics.The airship was named after the city of Macon, Georgia, which was the largest city in the Congressional district of Carl Vinson, then the chairman of the House of Representative's Committee on Naval Affairs.
Ceremonial ship launching is the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a naval tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years. It has been observed as a public celebration and a solemn blessing.
William Adger Moffett was an American admiral and Medal of Honor recipient known as the architect of naval aviation in the United States Navy.
The Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) was the U.S. Navy's material-support organization for naval aviation from 1921 to 1959. The bureau had "cognizance" for the design, procurement, and support of Naval aircraft and related systems. Aerial weapons, however, were under the cognizance of the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd).
The airship first flew on 21 April, aloft over northern Ohio for nearly 13 hours with 105 aboard,just over a fortnight after the loss of the Akron in which Admiral Moffett and 72 others were killed. Macon was commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 23 June 1933, with Commander Alger H. Dresel in command.
On 24 June 1933, the Macon left Goodyear's field for Naval Air Station (NAS) Lakehurst, N.J., where the new airship was based for the summer while undergoing a series of training flights.
The Macon had a far more productive career than the Akron, which crashed on 4 April 1933. The commanders of the Macon developed the doctrine and techniques of using her on-board aircraft for scouting while the airship remained out of sight of the opposing forces during exercises.The Macon participated in several fleet exercises, though the men who framed and conducted the exercises lacked an understanding of the airship's capabilities and weaknesses. It became standard practice to remove the landing gear of the Sparrowhawks while aboard the airship and then replace it with a fuel tank, thus giving the aircraft 30 percent more range.
The Macon first operated aircraft on 6 July 1933 during trial flights out of Lakehurst, New Jersey. The planes were stored in bays inside the hull and were launched and retrieved using a trapeze.
The airship left the East Coast on 12 October 1933, on a transcontinental flight to her new permanent homebase at NAS Sunnyvale (now Moffett Federal Airfield) near San Francisco in Santa Clara County, California.
In 1934, two two-seat Waco UBF XJW-1 biplanes equipped with skyhooks were delivered to the USS Macon.
In June 1934, Lieutenant Commander Herbert V. Wiley took command of the airship, and shortly afterwards he surprised President Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the Navy) when the Macon searched for and located the heavy cruiser Houston, which was then carrying the president back from a trip to Hawaii. Newspapers were dropped to the President on the ship, and the following communications were sent back to the airship: "from Houston: 1519 The President compliments you and your planes on your fine performance and excellent navigation 1210 and 1519 Well Done and thank you for the papers the President 1245." The commander of the Fleet, Admiral Joseph M. Reeves, was upset about the matter: but the Commander of the Bureau of Aviation, Admiral Ernest J. Kingwas not. Wiley, one of only three survivors of the crash of the Akron, was soon promoted to commander, served as the captain of the battleship West Virginia in the final two years of World War II, and then retired from the Navy in 1947 as a rear admiral.
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In April 1934, 6,000 ft (1,800 m) to clear mountains in Arizona. As the ship's pressure height (the height at which the gas cells' pressure would equal or exceed ambient atmospheric pressure) of 3,000 ft (910 m) was exceeded, a large amount of helium was vented to prevent the cells from leaking and eventually rupturing due to the increasing positive pressure differential at increasing altitude. To compensate for the loss of lift from venting, 9,000 lb (4,100 kg) of ballast and 7,000 lb (3,200 kg) of fuel had to be dumped. The Macon was thereafter being flown 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) "heavy" and was operating at full power not only in order to have sufficient dynamic lift, but also to have enough control to fly in the severe turbulence through a mountain pass near Van Horn, Texas. Following a severe drop, a diagonal girder in ring 17.5, which supported the forward fin attachment points, failed. Rapid damage control by Chief Boatswain's Mate Robert Davis repaired the girders before further failures could occur. The Macon completed the journey safely but the buckled ring and all four tailfins were judged to be in need of strengthening. The appropriate girders adjacent to the horizontal and lower fins were repaired, but the repairs to the girders on either side of the top fin were delayed until the next scheduled overhaul, when the adjacent gas cells could be deflated.during a crossing of the continent, the Macon was forced to climb to
On 12 February 1935, the repair process was still incomplete when, returning to Sunnyvale from fleet maneuvers, the Macon ran into a storm off Point Sur, California. During the storm, the ship was caught in a wind shear which caused structural failure of the unstrengthened ring (17.5) to which the upper tailfin was attached. The fin failed to the side and was carried away. Pieces of structure punctured the rear gas cells and caused gas leakage. The commander, acting rapidly and on fragmentary information, ordered an immediate and massive discharge of ballast. Control was lost and, tail heavy and with engines running full speed ahead, the Macon rose past the pressure height of 2,800 ft (850 m), and kept rising until enough helium was vented to cancel the lift, reaching an altitude of 4,850 ft (1,480 m). The last SOS call from Commander Wiley stated "Will abandon ship as soon as we land on the water somewhere 20 miles off of Pt. Sur, probably 10 miles at sea." It took 20 minutes to descend and, settling gently into the sea, the Macon sank off Monterey Bay. Only two crew members were lost thanks to the warm conditions and the introduction of life jackets and inflatable rafts after the Akron tragedy. Radioman 1st Class Ernest Edwin Dailey jumped ship while still too high above the ocean surface to survive the fall and Mess Attendant 1st Class Florentino Edquiba drowned while swimming back into the wreckage to try to retrieve personal belongings. An officer was rescued when Commander Wiley swam to his aid, an action for which he was later decorated. Sixty-four survivors were picked up by the cruiser Richmond, the Concord took 11 aboard and the Cincinnati saved six.
Eyewitness Dorsey A. Pulliam, serving aboard the U.S.S. Colorado, wrote about the crash in a letter dated 13 February 1935:[ citation needed ]
Tuesday it was so rough, and with the rain, we had an awful time getting along. We had gunnery drill Tuesday and more fleet maneuvers. The Macon came out about 1 pm Tues. to maneuver with the fleet and to enter Frisco with us this morning. The Macon came out in the storm not knowing that she would never get back to land. The Macon circled high above the fleet all the afternoon, and about 6 o'clock, radio messages began coming in that the Macon had had casualties and would have to land. The C.C. of the fleet radioed all ships in company with us to go at full speed for the wreckage. The crew abandoned it as soon as it hit the water, and all were saved except two. There were 83 men in the crew. The wreckage sank within a few minutes after it hit the water. We lingered around the spot where it sank looking for any parts which might be floating around. The search lights on all ships were combing the waters all through the night. The crew to the Macon were floating around in rubber floats and almost froze to death. I had to read about the Akron disaster, but this one I witnessed. The commander Clay had just been transferred to the Macon from this ship. This may contradict with the papers, but this is straight. There was an explosion in the tail and they could not control it.
In another letter, dated 16 February 1935, he wrote:
I guess that you all read all about the wreck of the Macon. Well, the papers out here were full. I guess the Navy sunk about 3 million dollars there in about 20 minutes. The people will have to pay that back in taxes. It sure was a pity that the Macon had to sink. It sure was pretty sailing around when the sun was shining on it. There sure was plenty excitement on board here that night. Everybody was trying to see what had happened. When the thing hit the water, the gas caught on fire and burned almost all night on the surface of the water after the bulk of the wreckage had sank. The Macon was supposed to go to Hawaii in May. They had started fixing up a field for it.
The Macon, after 50 flights since it was commissioned, was stricken from the Navy list on 26 February 1935. Subsequent airships for Navy use were of a nonrigid design.
A depiction of the crash by artist Noel Sickles was the first piece of art sent over the wire by the Associated Press.[ citation needed ]
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) succeeded in locating and surveying the debris field of Macon in February 1991, and was able to recover some artifacts.The exploration included sonar, video, and still camera data, as well as some recovery of parts.
In May 2005, MBARI returned to the site as part of a year-long research project to identify archeological resources in the bay. Side-scan sonar was used to survey the site.
A more complete return, including exploration with remotely operated vehicles and involving researchers from MBARI, Stanford University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, took place in September 2006.Video clips of the expedition were made available to the public through the OceansLive Web Portal, a service of NOAA.
The 2006 expedition was a success, and revealed a number of new surprises and changes since the last visit, ~15 years previously. High-definition video and more than 10,000 new images were captured, which were assembled into a navigation-grade photomosaic of the wreck.
U.S.S. Macon Airship Remains
Sky hook visible on the remains of one of the Macon's F9C-2 biplanes (2006)
|Location||Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Big Sur, California|
|Area||5654.7 square meters|
|NRHP reference #||09001274|
|Added to NRHP||29 January 2010|
The wreckage of the Macon was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on 29 January 2010. 1,500 ft or 460 m).The location of the wreck site remains secret and is within a marine sanctuary, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It is not accessible to divers due to depth (
The U.S. National Park Service states:
When the USS Macon was christened on 11 March 1933, the rigid airship was the most sophisticated of the Navy's lighter-than-air (LTA) fleet. The Macon exhibited the highest expression of naval LTA technology during the ship's short career. At 785 feet in length, the airship's size captured American fascination during flyovers of U.S. communities as chronicled in numerous advertisements, articles, and newsreels. The dramatic loss of the Macon and sister ship Akron within two years of each other contributed to the cancellation of the Navy's rigid airship program. The archeological remains of the USS Macon lie off California's Big Sur coast in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The site also contains the remains of four of the airship's squadron of small Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk scout aircraft which the Macon carried in an internal hangar bay.
The site was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on 29 January 2010.The listing was announced as the featured listing in the National Park Service's weekly list of 12 February 2010.
The Macon is featured as a setting and key plot element in Max McCoy's novel Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone ; Indiana Jones travels aboard the Macon while it makes a transatlantic flight to London.
The Macon is featured toward the end of the 1934 Warner Bros. film Here Comes the Navy starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Gloria Stuart. Cagney's character is assigned to the Macon after serving on the USS Arizona, which is featured heavily in the film.
The crash of the Macon is depicted at the beginning of the 1937 film The Go Getter , featuring George Brent as her helmsman.
USS Shenandoah was the first of four United States Navy rigid airships. It was constructed during 1922–23 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It developed the U.S. Navy's experience with rigid airships, and made the first crossing of North America by airship. On the 57th flight, Shenandoah was destroyed in a squall line over Ohio in September 1925.
The USS Los Angeles was a rigid airship, designated ZR-3, which was built in 1923–1924 by the Zeppelin company in Friedrichshafen, Germany, as war reparation. It was delivered to the United States Navy in October 1924 and after being used mainly for experimental work, particularly in the development of the American parasite fighter program, was decommissioned in 1932.
A parasite aircraft is a component of a composite aircraft which is carried aloft and air launched by a larger carrier aircraft or mother ship to support the primary mission of the carrier. The carrier craft may or may not be able to later recover the parasite during flight.
USS Patoka (AO–9/AV–6/AG–125) was a replenishment oiler made famous as a tender for the airships Shenandoah (ZR-1), Los Angeles (ZR-3) and Akron (ZRS-4). It was also notable in that its height figured prominently in the design of Rainbow Bridge in Texas.
A hangar is a closed building structure to hold aircraft, or spacecraft. Hangars are built of metal, wood and concrete. The word hangar comes from Middle French hanghart, of Germanic origin, from Frankish *haimgard, from *haim and gard ("yard").
Charles Emery Rosendahl was a highly decorated Vice Admiral in the United States Navy, and an advocate of lighter-than-air flight.
The Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk is a light 1930s biplane fighter aircraft that was carried by the United States Navy airships USS Akron and Macon. It is an example of a parasite fighter, a small airplane designed to be deployed from a larger aircraft such as an airship or bomber.
The J-class blimps were non-rigid airships designed by the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in the early 1920s for the US Navy.
An airborne aircraft carrier is a type of mother ship aircraft which can carry, launch, retrieve and support other smaller aircraft.
Hangar No. 1 is an airship hangar located at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the intended destination of the rigid airship LZ 129 Hindenburg prior to the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937, when it crashed and burned while landing.
Airship hangars are specialized buildings that are used for sheltering airships during construction, maintenance and storage. Rigid airships always needed to be based in airship hangars because weathering was a serious risk.
Thomas Greenhow Williams "Tex" Settle was an officer of the United States Navy who on November 20, 1933, together with Army major Chester L. Fordney, set a world altitude record in the Century of Progress stratospheric balloon. An experienced balloonist, long-time flight instructor, and officer on the airships USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) and USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), Settle won the Litchfield Trophy in 1929 and 1931, the International Gordon Bennett Race in 1932, the Harmon Aeronaut Trophy for 1933, and the Harmon National Trophy for 1932 and 1933. He also set numerous distance and endurance records.
The U.S. Naval Air Station, Sunnyvale Historic District, also known as Shenandoah Plaza is a historic district located on 62.48 acres (25.3 ha) at Moffett Field, California.
In the nation's quest to provide security along its lengthy coastlines, air reconnaissance was put forth by the futuristic Rear Admiral William A. Moffett. Through his efforts, two Naval Air Stations were commissioned in the early 1930s to port the Naval Airships (dirigibles) which he believed capable of meeting this challenge.
The United States Navy proposed to the U.S. Congress the development of a lighter-than-air station program for anti-submarine patrolling of the coast and harbors. This program proposed, in addition to the expansion at NAS and Lakehurst, the construction of new stations. The original contract was for steel hangars, 960 ft (290 m) long, 328 ft (100 m) wide and 190 ft (58 m) high, helium storage and service, barracks for 228 men, a power plant, landing mat, and a mobile mooring mast.
There are three historic airship hangars at Moffett Field, in Mountain View in the southern San Francisco Bay Area, California. Hangar One is based on a structure of steel girders, while Hangars Two and Three are of wood. They are among the world's largest freestanding structures.
Unlike later blimp squadrons, which contained several airships, the large rigid airship units consisted of a single airship and, in the case of the USS Akron and USS Macon, a small contingent of fixed-wing aircraft.
The Akron-class airships were a class of two rigid airships constructed for the US Navy in the early 1930s. Designed as scouting and reconnaissance platforms, the intention for their use was to act as "eyes for the fleet", extending the range at which the US Navy's Scouting Force could operate to beyond the horizon. This capability was extended further through the use of the airships as airborne aircraft carriers, with each capable of carrying a small squadron of aeroplanes that could be used both to increase the airship's scouting range, and to provide self-defense for the airship against other airborne threats.
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This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships .