PART VIII: THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
The launch of the LZ-135 and the GZ-18 sparked a major competition between ZGI-America and ZGI-Germany. These two ships would be the first of many built by both countries in a friendly building competiton that would peak in 1951 with the loss of the GZ-40 due to structural failure after the crew at the ZGI Dallas facility attempted to complete their new ship ahead of Friedrichshafen.
The LZ-135, the Kronprinz Wilehlem, and her sister ship the LZ-136 Frederick der Große were magnificent ships, the first of 6 LZ-135 class ships to be made. The new class of airships is the first to incorporate Goodyear’s technological advances present in American civil and naval airships. The ships used a mixture of both hydrogen and helium gas and are designed to be convertible to pure helium use in the future. The LZ-135 was built especially for the use of the German Imperial Family and was far and away the most luxurious airship built up to that point in time, even besting the USS Eagle, which served as both a presidential ship and a floating office for the US President and staff. The Kronprinz had three main passenger decks, with beautiful and spacious staterooms, along with a ballroom, a small theater, and a three-story atrium/lounge that had a domed ceiling and a glass dome in the floor to look down at the countryside. In a first for an airship she featured two chapels. The larger chapel was Lutheran while the smaller was Russian Orthodox (Empress Kira never traveled anywhere without a Russian Orthodox priest or two in her entourage). In could carry just 50 VIP passengers, plus crew and Imperial staff. When Hugo Eckener saw her when he went on vacation after the Danzig Crisis, he was reported to have said, “Now this is the best airship ever made. A pure dream that has become reality.” The LZ-136 was the same size as the Kronprinz, but was built for the DELAG trans-Atlantic service and so was not as elaborate. But it did feature the same atrium/lounge as the Emperor’s ship, and was known as the “Imperial Lounge”. The craft could carry 165 passengers when fully booked, and was 1,622 feet in length, and the height of a 16-story building.
The GZ-18, Americana was launched on July 4, 1942, one week after the launch of the LZ-135 and a month before the LZ-136. She was the largest airship built at that time, being 1,655 feet long. Her size would not be beaten until the launch of the GZ-28, which was launched in 1950 and was 1,711 feet long. The ship had a large gondola for deluxe cabins, and many more births inside the hull, along with spacious public rooms including an entire fourth deck that was reserved for the dinning room and dance hall. There was also a library and yes, a small, glass bottomed swimming pool (a feature that was discontinued after the GZ-20’s pool cracked just before take-off from Berlin in 1946. After that incident, future pools were not glass-bottomed). The ship carried 155 passengers when fully booked, and flew the New York-LA-Honolulu route until she was retired in 1959.
- Anderson, Dr. Alexander. The Airship: A Century of Sailing the Skies. New York: Colombia University Press: 1989.
BERLIN, July 3, 1942- World-renowned engineer and statesman Hugo Eckener, Germany’s foreign minister, has been hospitalized in the Reich’s Capital after collapsing during a dinner at the Imperial Palace. There has been no official word yet on his condition, but many in Berlin are worried that the years of stress this man has been through may have taken their toll.
-“Eckener Hospitalized,” The Times (London), July 4, 1942.
ECKENER SUFFERED STROKE
BERLIN, JUL 4- Officials in Berlin have stated that Foreign Minister Hugo Eckener suffered from a stroke on July 3. Chancellor Adenauer has stated that Eckener will not be returning to the cabinet, that he must put his health first. “My good friend Dr. Eckener has given over 10 years of his life in the service of his country, and without him, Germany would be a mess. It is time now, however, for this country to take care of him. I’ve spoken with his wife and it has been decided that he will retire permanently to his home in Friedrichshafen once he is well enough to leave the hospital.”
Doctors state that Eckener’s verbal skills seem to be okay, but that he does not have the use of his right leg at this point in time.
-“Eckener Suffered Stroke,” Frankfurter Zeitung, July 5, 1942
ITALIAN MONARCHIST COUP
ROME, FEB 1- A coup led by supporters of the Italian king and those loyal first and foremost to the King and the military have seized power in Rome, and arrested Benito Mussolini and have overthrown his government. This is, they say, a reaction to failed attempts to take over Ethiopia and other failed ventures in Africa that have damaged the national economy and image.
-“Italian Monarchist Coup,” The Times (London), February 2, 1943
JAPS BOMB HONG KONG, PHILIPENES
MANILA, JUNE 4- The Imperial Japanese Navy and Army have launched attacks against the US controlled Philippine Islands and against British controlled Hong Kong. The attack on Manila occurred at 6:45 A.M. local time, with a Japanese carrier fleet attacking the few American warships in the area and bombing the town, using both heavier-than-air bombers and airships, though most of the later were used as scouts. The Japanese Army has landed troops north of Manila, and it looks as though the Islands might be overrun.
In Hong Kong, it was a similar story, and the official report from the British is that their government leaders in the territory were killed in the attack, and that the island will be in Japanese hands before the end of the week.
-“War! Japs Bomb Hong Kong, Philippines,” The New York Times, June 5, 1944.
“Yesterday, June 4, 1944, a date which shall live forever in the annals of History, the Naval and Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack against an unsuspecting outpost of the United States, bombing innocent civilians in the Philippine Islands. In addition to this dastardly attack on American territory, Japan also bombed our allies Great Britain, invading the island of Hong Kong.
Now, early this morning, I received a telegram from our ambassador in London, informing me that the United Kingdom is now in a state of war with the Japanese. And now, I come before the American Congress to ask that this body declare a state of War to exist between our country and Japan.”