Hindenburg Crash Site – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ
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.
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.
The tour is far from over…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
ALSO IN THE AREA:
Since we drove so far…
The Lakehurst Diner:
Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area: