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The HINDENBURG (goes boom)

The Hindenburg burns

“Hey, look it’s a bird, or a plane, no it’s… Oh FUUUUUUUUUU….!!!!!”


Epic Fail of the Year: 1937

The (LZ 129) ‘Hindenburg’ was the largest Zeppelin ever created. It was also one of the most Epic of all Fails…. So epic in fact that the Hindenburg is a fail to which all other fails are compared. Not to mention, it frequently serves as a visual metaphor for economic endeavors crashing and burning in spectacular fashion.

Hindenburg zeppelin with Nazi symbols clearly visible

Led-Zeppelin poster crossed out

No, not that Zeppelin…

Zeppelins were massive German blimps that were originally used to drop big ass bombs during World War One. In the 1930’s, these large airships were the primary mode of transportation across the ocean, prior to you know, planes, because they were significantly faster than boats. In 1937, Germany’s NAZI party was in full-swing, but World War II was right around the corner. Still even before the war the Nazis had a bad rep, so they decided to spread a little propaganda, and part of that initiative was to put Swastikas on everything, especially their blimps.

The LZ129 ‘Hindenburg’ was one of Germany’s finest blimps ever constructed, at a whopping 803 feet in length, with a top speed of 85 mph. This imposingly huge dirigible was almost ironically named after the Nazi Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler, but was instead named after former German President Paul Von Hindenburg.

profile pic of Von Hindenburg

This fugly dude.

The Nazi Zeppelins often soared above Berlin playing Hitler’s blame game for the masses, and dropping flyers. Their commercial airships were kind of like flying billboards that flew all over the world. The Hindenburg was one such public transports.

Although the Hindenburg was / is the most popular blimp disaster, it wasn’t the only one. In fact Zeppelins had a rather poor safety rating.

1930: The R101 went down on its maiden voyage from England to France killing 48 people.

1933: The Akron, a U.S. Navy Airship was caught in a storm and famously belly flopped into the ocean off the coast of New Jersey, killing 72 people. The airship that was sent for survivors also crashed.

1935: The Akron’s sister ship, the Macon, decided to take a swim off the coast of California.

1937: History repeats itself yet again….

Nazi schoolgirl / girl scout on propaganda poster

Nazi propaganda: now in Girl Scout form

Personally I would be wary of boarding any vehicle with that kind of track record, but especially one teeming with Swastikas for fear of spontaneous combustion due to God smiting… and well, that’s kinda what went down.

On Thursday, May 6, 1937, the massive Hindenburg arrived in Lakehurst, New Jersey for touchdown from its Trans-Atlantic flight, when suddenly, something (Zeus) caused the blimp to burst into flames!

Hundreds of tons of fuel sparked in less than a minute!

That’s SevenMillionCubicFeet of Hydrogen Gas blazing into a full-on flaming inferno in less than 37 seconds!


Hydrogen on the elemental periodic table

Yep, that Hydrogen.

Huh, weird. I thought I remember hearing somewhere that that stuff’s highly flammable. No way anyone in their right mind would willingly… oh yeah: Nazis.

It’s too bad the world didn’t have Bill-Nye the Science-Guy back then…

The Hindenburg blowing up

“Oh the Humanity!” – Herbert Morrison exclaimed (Chicago eyewitness radio reporter on the scene), in one of the most famous radio telecasts of all time.

Of the 36 passengers, and 61 crew members aboard the Hindenburg, there were surprisingly only 35 fatalities, plus one unlucky schmuck on the ground who found a shiny nickle on the ground right as everyone was running for their lives. The horrific incident was widely publicized and effectively ‘incinerated’ the flying-hydrogen-death-trap-industry faster than “Jaws” scared people out of the water.  Can’t really blame them either, I think a falling ball of fire would put me off of flying too. Unlike the sinking of the Titanic, I can’t really see this working as the basis for a romantic movie, oh wait….


The cause of this particular disaster has never been determined for certain (a conspiracy theorist’s gold mine!)… until NOW!

In 2013, a team of researches conclusively proved what caused this random mishap of mayhem: static.

Yep, turns out the main culprit behind the Hindenburg disaster was the same electromagnetic discharge one gets when touching a doorknob right after rubbing a furry cat’s belly. The static electricity, grounded by the dirigible’s ropes, ignited a Hydrogen leak which instantly set the entire blimp aflame. It also didn’t help that it’s reflective skin was also highly flammable. The Hindenburg’s shiny coat of silver paint was composed of Aluminum and Iron Oxide, both key ingredients in ROCKET FUEL.

DANGER: Hydrogen Flammable gas No smoking or open flames

When you consider the fact that each of these massive blimps was a floating hydrogen bomb just waiting to blow shit to hell, it was really just a matter of time; whether or not it was lightning, static discharge, a fuel leak, or sabotage: that baby was primed to blow. Now whose bright idea was it to fill this thing full of highly flammable gas?! Well, due to a trade embargo with the US, the Nazis didn’t have access to Helium, so naturally: This swastika-laden steam-punk fantasy crashed and burned like an over the top omen of things to come…

                                                                                                                     Erik Slader

————–Click Here to Check Out: CHERNOBYL

Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails!”, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions, let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ‘Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook! (www.Facebook.com/EpikFails), and SHARE IT with your friends!

————————————————–Click for a Complete List of Essays on Historical Failure!!

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—— Sources: 

“The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups” by: Ken and Katie Corcoran Lytle

“Disaster in the Air: A History of the Hindenburg by: James K. Wheaton





Erik Slader
Erik Slader
Erik Slader is the creator of “Epik Fails of History” a blog (and podcast) about the most epic fails… of history. With Ben Thompson, Erik is the co-author of the Epic Fails book series. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media, once managed a comic book shop, has a weakness for fancy coffee and currently lives in Green Cove Springs, Florida with too many cats.


  1. […] –In the meantime check out CHERNOBYL: A Soviet Meltdown! and THE HINDENBURG!! […]

  2. […] —Click Here to Check Out: The Hindenburg […]

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