May 11

Rare German Helmet from Hindenburg Ground Crew

Friday, May 11, 2018 2:15 AM


May 6 marked the 81st anniversary of the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg at NAS Lakehurst. The cause of the disaster is still debated but the prevailing theory is that the airship’s highly volatile hydrogen gas was ignited by static electricity as the Hindenburg descended.

Flames engulf the Hindenburg at NAS Lakehurst, May 6, 1937

Flames engulf the Hindenburg at NAS Lakehurst, 6 May 1937.

The widely circulated film of the burning zeppelin shocked the public. The incident caused Deutsche Zepplelin Reederei (German Zeppelin Transport Company, DZR) to ground its airships and suspend its burgeoning transatlantic operations. The outbreak of World War II a few years later prevented DZR from reestablishing its commercial passenger service and all its airships were ordered to be scrapped for materials for use in the war effort.

The U.S. Naval Institute recently had the opportunity to see several extremely rare items associated with the Hindenburg from the collection of Tom Norris. Norris is an avid collector of everything related to airships of all nations and has amassed a stunning inventory of items. He often can be found in the Naval Institute archive where he is busy digitizing photos and scarce ephemeral material from the golden age of airships such as menus, luggage tags, and promotional brochures.

Among the items he brought was a helmet that is a variation of the distinctive German stahlhelm with the DZR insignia on the side. There is not much information available about the helmet but it may have been worn by the fire patrol at the massive hangar where the Hindenburg and other zeppelins were kept. Very few examples of this helmet are known to exist. We are fortunate that Norris was gracious enough to share it with us.

A rare German stahlhelm with the DZR logo

A rare German stahlhelm with the DZR logo.


The helmet with a DZR crew hat

The helmet with a DZR crew hat.