Lakehurst, NJ HINDENBERG Disaster, May 1937
"If there is plausible evidence of sabotage in connection with the explosion which destroyed the HINDENBURG, we will thoroughly investigate that angle of the disaster," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce MONROE JOHNSON after announcing that public hearings would open here on Monday.
First mention of sabotage had come from DR. ECKENER, but after a study of more complete reports on the disaster, he said that the likelihood of deliberate destruction of the giant airship "seems very small." Nevertheless, he said that "obviously the possibility of sabotage also must be examined."
Col. JOHNSON said many of the survivors and eye-witnesses of the crash already had been questioned by DR. FRED FLAGG, JR., chief of the Air Commerce Bureau. "The evidence will be further checked today," he said, "and witnesses -- survivors, eye-witnesses, naval air experts -- will be called on Monday.
"None of the many puzzling angels of this mystery will be neglected in the inquiry."
The board of three -- SOUTH TRIMBLE, JR., Solicitor for the Department of Commerce, chairman; MAJ. R. W. SCHROEDER, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Air Commerce; and DENNIS MULLIGAN, Chief of the Regulations and Enforcement Division of the Bureau -- will start formal hearings without the testimony which Capt. LEHMANN might have been able to add to the record to be compiled as a safeguard against future disasters such as overtook the pride of the Reich.
LEHMANN died in a Lakewood, N. J., hospital a few hours after the board had been formed to inquire into the crash -- a disaster which Germany had believed impossible. Although he had stumbled from the flaming wreckage of the "perfect" airship crying that, "I can't understand it. I can't understand it," investigators had counted on his vast technical knowledge for invaluable aid in seeking the cause of the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Capt. MAX PRUESS, in command of the HINDENBURG on its first Atlantic crossing of 1937, continued in serious condition in the New York City Medical Center. It is doubtful whether he would be able to aid the inquiry board, at least for the present. Like LEHMANN, he suffered severe burns and nervous shock which made the outcome of his battle for life uncertain.
The wreckage of the HINDENBURG, spread across a thousand feet on the naval air station landing field, was placed in direct charge of the air commerce bureau of the commerce department, which cooperated with naval, army, state and Germany representatives in the investigations.
Olean Times Herald New York 1937-05-08