Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Airship President - Part 5

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With the New Versailles Treaty in place, and relations with France, Great Britain, and the United States beginning to improve. Germany began to slowly rearm, to be able to hopefully keep the Soviet Union at bay. In late 1935, Eckener visited Poland in the Graf Zeppelin to discuss the issue of Danzig and East Prussia. Though no agreement was made on that trip, relations were improved between the neighbors.
Internally, Germany was on the mend. The Autobahn project was well under way, and Deutschebahn already had high-speed rail service offered between Berlin and Hamburg, and Berlin and Frankfurt. Airship development was also increasing, now that the Zeppelin Company was receiving funds from the German government and officially involved in a joint venture with the American company Goodyear. There were discussions of even bringing the two companies together formally, to better share assets and further the cause of airship development.
The one remaining issue for Eckener and the Germans in 1935 were the western territories of the Saar and Rhineland that Germany had lost after World War I. Again, Eckener’s brilliant diplomacy would come into play. 
- Liebermann, Dr. William. The Zeppelin President."Chapter 4: The New Versailles and the New Germany (1934-1936)” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003

The 1920s and the 1930s, especially after Hugo Eckener became president of Germany in 1932, where what allowed the airship’s full potential to be discovered. In Germany, Luftschiffbau Zeppelin rose in prominence, especially after the great success of the Graf Zeppelin. Germany would launch the LZ-128, the Bismarck in 1932, and in 1934 the launch of the world’s largest airship, the LZ-129 Hindenburg, captured the imagination of the world. In the United States, the government officially set up a national airship plan after the passage of the National Airship Act in 1926. Within two years, the American’s had established the United States Naval Airship Corps and a Naval Airship Training Center, which had on staff several German airshipmen to train the American air sailors. The launch of the USS Akron and USS Lakehurst in 1929 and the USS New Orleans in 1930 marked the beginnings of what would eventually be the largest air-navy in history.
After Hugo Eckener became President of Germany in 1932, lighter-than-air development began to speed up around the world. Germany began to make deals with the Soviet Union dealing with airship technology, and in 1935 the Russians established the Soviet Airship Command, and began construction on the PR-1 Revolution, based on the German designs for the Graf Zeppelin. That first Soviet airship would launch the following year in 1936.
The British Airship Programme nearly floundered after the crash of the R101 in 1930, but since the loss of life was minimal, Lord Thompson, who himself survived the crash, demanded that the program continue. In 1932 a new craft was launched in Britain, the R102, based on a hybrid of the R100 and R101 that proved to be very successful. Britain would then establish a military airship program for scouting in 1934, and began regular flights to Canada the same year. France did not start a development program of its own until the end of the 1930s, but built airharbors in Paris and Marseilles in 1935 and 1936 respectively, allowing American, German, and British airships to use the facilities. The first French airship, the DF-001 Liberté, a goodwill gift from Germany, would launch in 1938.
By the dawn of the 1940s, the airship was the only way to fly long distance. In America, airplane development focused domestic uses to link American cities, along with some military applications that were being looked into. Most experts at the beginning of the 40s agreed that the place for the airplane was for short distances, island hoping, and for military use as fighters and possibly as bombers.
- Anderson, Dr. Alexander. The Airship: A Century of Sailing the Skies. New York: Colombia University Press: 1989.

Mainz, Rhineland, March 3- Rioting has erupted between the local German citizens of the town of Mainz and the occupying French and international troops stationed here. The fighting started after a local citizen raised the new German flag above his home and was ordered by the French troops to take it down. When he refused, the man was arrested, and the flag seized. What happened after that remains conjecture. Locals say that the man’s son attempted to grab the flag back from the officers, was pushed back, and then brutally shot by one of the other soldiers. French officials say that the young man ran at the soldiers with a knife and one of the soldiers fired instinctively. 
            Regardless of which side is actually correct, the whole Rhineland is now in an uproar, and there have been riots in several cities. There are some calls from the German government to invade the Rhineland to restore order and take the territory back. At the moment, the French have not sent in any more troops, and most occupation forces have retreated to their garrisons.
            So far, the Foreign Office has yet to way in, but there are some in His Majesty’s government that are saying that they fear this could turn into some sort of conflict depending on how the Germans and the French react.
-“Riots in Rhineland,” The Times (London), March 4, 1935

March 7, 1935- The cabinet and I have been discussing the issue of the Rhineland for several days now, ever since the occupation soldiers killed that poor boy. What can we do? If I order soldiers in to the region to pacify things and secure the safety our countrymen, I could spark off a war with France and her allies, which is the last thing any of us want.
            Adenauer suggested that maybe myself and Vogel should go to the area on the Graf and meet with the French Prime Minister to discuss the matters, and meet with the locals there and convince them to stop rioting. Of all the ideas on the table, that seemed the best, so I called over to the French Embassy this afternoon and conveyed my message to the ambassador, asking him to send the request to Paris. I hope this works.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.

BERLIN, MAR 20- President Eckener and Foreign Minister Vogel left today in route to the Rhineland to meet with the French Prime Minister Pierre √Čtienne Flandin in the town of Mainz, site of riots earlier this month after the murder of a young man by a French soldier. The violence began to die down after it was first announced last week that Eckener would meet with Flandin aboard the Graf Zeppelin to discuss all the issues of the region.
            Although there has been no official word from the President or his staff, it is rumored that Eckener may attempt to convince France to return Rhineland to Germany, along with the Saar Region.
-“President Eckener goes to Rhineland,” Frankfurter Zeitung, March 21, 1935

March 23, 1935- Prime Minister Flandin has been very receptive to our ideas, and I think we may be close to an agreement. He’s also enjoyed flying aboard the Graf, this being his first time ever to fly in an airship. We’ve proposed a staged turn over of both Rhineland and the Saar over to Germany over the next 2 years. The British Foreign Minister, who is also at the meeting, has agreed. The western half of Rhineland will be turned over to Germany on December 31, 1935. Northern Rhineland, controlled by both the British and the Belgians, will be turned over on June 1, 1936. The rest of the Rhineland will be turned over to Germany on December 31, 1936. And then the Saar will be turned over to us in June of 1937.
            The only thing they ask of us in return is that we drop all claims to Alsace-Lorraine, and that we send engineers to both France and England to help them with airship development.  The British program is doing quite nice now, with their redeveloped R102 class airship. The French are apparently wanting to start up their own program, now that British and American ships have been sailing to Paris for the past several years.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.

MAINZ, RHINELAND, MARCH 25- The German, French, and British governments have reached a decision this week over the contentious Rhineland and Saar territories. Singed yesterday, on March 24, the Treaty of Mainz sets up a two-year timetable for the gradual transfer of the land to the Germans.
            When President Eckener announced the signing of the agreement on the radio, there was jubilant celebration here in Mainz, along with in Cologne and in numerous other towns and cities in the Rhineland and Saar territories. Those Germans living in Alsace-Lorraine are not so excited, however. The Treaty of Mainz states that Germany hereby drops all claims to those contested provinces currently in the hands of France.
            In Berlin, many people cheered as the announcement went out on the radio, and there are discussions for a hero’s welcome for the President and Foreign Minister when they arrive back in the city later this week aboard the Graf Zeppelin.
-“Germans to get Rhineland and Saar Returned,” The New York Times, March 26, 1935

            When Eckener and Vogel returned aboard the Graf Zeppelin after their success in Mainz, it was the beginning of the high point of Eckener’s Presidency. As the Rhineland was gradually reintegrated into the country, Germans began to look to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. President Eckener and the Berlin Olympic Committee wanted to use the games to show the world that the German democracy was stable and vibrant, and here to stay. They looked to Greece for a theme, building a modern Olympic stadium with a style that made the viewer think of the ancient times of Greece and Rome.
            This was the birth of the modern Olympic torch relay. In July, German athletes began a relay in Olympia, Greece, lighting the Olympic torch and bringing it to Berlin. The final leg of the trip, once the torch was carried through the city, dramatically coming under the Brandenburg gate and past the Reichstag the day before the games, the runners took the flame to Templhof Airport, where it was loaded aboard the LZ-131 Brandenburg, Germany’s newest airship.
            The day of the games, the LZ-129 and LZ-130 hovered over the Olympic Stadium as the crowds arrived and as the ceremony began. The opening ceremonies in Berlin were what started the tradition that we are now so familiar with, an amazing show of pageantry and national pride. The highlight of the show was when the LZ-131 flew over the stadium, Olympic flag flying proudly below the ship and Olympic Rings emblazoned on both sides, circling the stadium several times before landing, at which point Olympic Runner Karl Ritter emerged from the ship, carrying the torch into the stadium and up to the cauldron, which he lit as the crowd cheered on.
            To the whole world, the 1936 Olympic Games showed that Germany had recovered from the hard times that it had suffered through, and that they had fully embraced democracy and was ready to once again be a leader among nations. To this day, the Berlin Olympics remains the basis for all Olympic games, from the pageantry to the guest and athlete comfort, to the state of the art facilities that house the games themselves.
            Germany excelled in the games, even though the star was American runner Jesse Owens, an African American who set many world records and was a crowd favorite. When he won his final gold medal in Berlin, President Eckener insisted on presenting the medal to him personally. That night, Eckener hosted a dinner in Owens’s honor onboard the Brandenburg.
- Liebermann, Dr. William. The Zeppelin President."Chapter 5: The Berlin Olympics” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003

NEW YORK, OCT 19- Today, the chairmans of the Goodyear Airship Company and Luftschiffbau Zeppelin announced a formal merger into Zeppelin-Goodyear International. The now unified airship building company will be headquartered in New York, with offices also set in Frankfurt.
            There will be a greater exchange of engineers from both German and the Untied States, helping further airship development. The company has two main production facilities, one in Akron, Ohio, and one at Friedrichshafen, along with a new facility that opened earlier this year in Dallas, Texas.
            When asked about Goodyear’s contracts with the US Navy, the company said that those contracts would be handled exclusively by the facility in Dallas, and that the German facilities would not be building any military airships for the United States.
            ZGI’s airships will be built for three buyers: the U.S. Navy, Pan American Airways, and the German airine DELAG.
-“Goodyear and Zeppelin Announce Merger,” The New York Times, October 20, 1936

BERLIN, DEC 9- The Monarchist Party has failed to get their second attempt at restoring the Hohenzollern Monarchy to the throne by legislative means. The Monarchists, which now have 113 seats in the Reichstag after last months election in which the SPD suffered further losses, shrinking to 142 seats and the Centre Party growing to 174 seats, have yet to push through their bill which would have called for the gradual return to a monarchy here in Germany
            The bill would have established a regency council charged with finding a suitable candidate for the Imperial throne, along with establihsing a constitutional committee to draft a constitution for a modern Germany monarchy. Some diehard monarchists want to see the return to the system used before the end of the Great War, but most want to set up a system based on the British model, with more power resting in the legislature.
            Monarchist Party officials said after the defeat in the parliament today that this would not be the last time they attempted to put forth this bill, that they would campaign and meet with Centre Party members to create more support for the bill and try again soon, maybe within a year.
-“Monarchy Bill Fails to Pass,” Frankfurter Zeitung, December 10, 1936

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, FEB 15- Construction began today on the LZ-133 and LZ-134, the newest ships to be built by the German branch of Zeppelin-Goodyear International. These ships are to be the largest in the world, reaching nearly 1,400 feet in length. This, we are told, is in direct response to the highly succesful GZ-9 class airship built by Goodyear last year. The 1100 foot USS Eagle, which awed engineers in Germany when it arrived in Berlin last year carrying the US Olympic team, has created an urgency among German engineers to one-up their American collegues.
            When asked about the competition within the company, ZGI officials in New York said that it was healthy, keeping the company at the edge of innocation in lighter-than-air technology.
-“Friendly Competion,” Popular Mechanics, February 20, 1937.

BERLIN, JUNE 1- Germans young and old, rich and poor, celebrated the return of the Saar region into Germany today, as the last of the territories ceeded by Germany following the Great War has been returned to it’s original owner. In accordance with the 1935 Treaty of Mainz, France returned the Saar region back to German control at the strock of midnight, as fireworks exploded overhead and the German flag was raised over the territory, with a band playing “Deutschland uber Alles” in the background.
            Presidnet Eckener was quoted as saying, “This is a great day for the German people, and for Europe. Today we show that diplomacy can work to resolve the disputes between the many nations of this continent, and that we can always work out our differences with civility and peace, and that we do not have to resort to violence.” President Eckener was in the region this morning at the official change of power ceremony.
-“Germans Celebrate Reunification,” The Times (London), June 1, 1937

June 12, 1937- I went down to Friedrichshafen this week to see the progress on the LZ-133 and 134. I have to say that I am very excited. These new ships will be amazing.  I also talked with some men from the American side of the new ZGI company, and they were telling me that with the recent completion of British routes to Australia, that PanAm was expecting that one could fly around the world via airship no later than mid 1938, when the newest PanAm ship will be ready to fly from Honolulu to Sydney.  It’s all very exciting, my life long dream finally becoming a reality. If only I were more a part of it. But that is the price I must pay, I suppose. And in the end, it is worth it. The world is at peace, the airship will soon truly be King of the skies, and my homeland is no longer threatened by militant barbarism.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.


Non-Stop New York (1937), the first British "airship film". Directed by Robert Stevenson and staring John Loder and Anna Lee. Based on Ken Attiwil's bestselling novel Sky Steward, it is the story of a young Englishwoman, Jennie Carr (Lee), who witnesses a gang murder in New York. Fearing for her life she sails back to England, only to have the gang follow her and frame her for theft. Upon her release from gaol, Jennie learns that an innocent hobo has been convicted of the New York murder, and is desperately seeking the "mystery girl" who could save him from the electric chair. When Scotland Yard refuses to believe her story, she stows away on a flight back to New York; unbeknownst to her, the real murderer is aboard. As is Inspector Jim Grant (Loder), who has been sent to New York to check on Jennie's story.

The New York Times called it a well-staged and moderately entertaining Class B melodrama" featuring "a transatlantic airship as richly imaginative as a front-cover of Popular Science or a Buck Rogers space ship." Great liberties were taken with the British airships of the time. The fictional RMAS Queen Alexandra features passenger fittings far in excess of even those of the famed German line and such absurdly impractical features as private balconies, a winter garden at the top of the ship's frame, a swimming pool, and even a small aeroplane suspended beneath to ferry passengers to smaller ports without having to land.
-"Internet Cinema Database", retrieved 2010-01-15

LONDON, MAY 19- His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth embarked this morning on a grand tour of the Empire.  This is the first time a tour on this scale has ever been attempted by a reigning monarch and the first time any member of the royal family has toured by airship.  The Palace has chartered the Imperial Airship Service’s newest vessel, the RMAS Empress of India, for the occasion.  Their Majesties are to visit Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Ceylon, and South Africa.  Brief visits are also planned for the Crown Colonies of Singapore and Hong Kong.
--“A Royal Air Tour, The Times (London), May 20, 1937

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