"Oh the humanity!" May 6, 2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster. The German passenger airship, LZ 129 Hindenburg, caught fire and was destroyed during it attempt to dock with is mooring mast at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board, there were 35 fatalities and one worker on the ground was killed, raising the final death toll to 36.
Scottdale resident Herbert Morrison recorded radio eyewitness reports from the landing field, which were broadcast the next day. Morrison and engineer Charlie Nehlsen had been assigned to cover the arrival of the Hindenburg by radio station WLS of Chicago for a delayed broadcast. Morrison's broadcast began routinely, but changed instantly as the airship bust into flames.
"It's practically standing still now they've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship; and (uh) they've been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It's starting to rain again; it's... the rain had (uh) slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it (uh) just enough to keep it from...It's burst into flames! Get this, Charlie; get this, Charlie! It's fire... and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames and the... and it's falling on the mooring mast. And all the folks agree that this is terrible; this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. Oh it's... [unintelligible] its flames... Crashing, oh! Four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it... it's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It's smoke, and it's in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity! And all the passengers screaming around here. I told you; it – I can't even talk to people, their friends are on there! Ah! It's... it... it's a... ah! I... I can't talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest: it's just laying there, mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk and the screaming. I... I... I'm sorry. Honest: I... I can hardly breathe. I... I'm going to step inside, where I cannot see it. Charlie, that's terrible. Ah, ah... I can't. Listen, folks; I... I'm gonna have to stop for a minute because I've lost my voice. This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed."
Morrison's description has been dubbed onto the newsreel film of the crash, giving the impression of a modern television-style broadcast. However, at the time, newsreels were separately narrated in a studio, and Morrison's words were not heard in theaters.
Herb Morrison died in 1989 and is buried in the Scottdale cemetery.
The next meeting of the Scottdale Historical Society will be Tues., August 8, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at the Loucks House.
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