Point Sur, CA (off shore) Dirigible Macon Crash, Feb 1935

Airship Macon over NY.jpg





Washington, Feb. 13. -- (UP) -- A congressional as well as a navy inquiry into the crash of the Macon off the California coast was assured today with announcement by Chairman Carl Vinson, Democrat, Georgia, of the house naval affairs committee that the group would study the accident.

Washington, Feb. 13. -- (UP) -- The Navy today called a naval court of inquiry to convene within
"two or three" days to investigate the Macon crash and probably decide the fate of future lighter than air dirigibles.
The court of inquiry was announced by Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, chief of naval aeronautics, soon after President Roosevelt -- high navy officers
and congressional spokesmen had joined in expressions of opinion that appeared to seal the doom of further dirigibles at least for the present.
Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson said the Navy "had not made up its mind" as to future dirigibles, but pointed out that he had never recommended construction of one since becoming
secretary and still had to be convinced of their practicability.
King said the formal call for the court to sit would be given Admiral Joseph M. Reeves commander in chief of the U.S. fleet, probably as soon as the fleet reaches San Francisco.
The court is expected to sit aboard one of the ships of the fleet and hear testimony from survivors or the crash.
President Roosevelt said he had no thought of asking Congress for funds to replace the Macon and that even if funds were available he would prefer spending the money for 50 long-range scouting planes rather than a dirigible.
Within the Navy itself, there was known to be a large amount of sentiment against new large expenditures for lighter than air craft.
King refused to discuss future naval policy on dirigibles.
"I am not prepared to answer questions of future policy," King said, "until we know what happened. It is entirely too soon to forecast."
But from H. R. Miller, assistant lighthouse keeper at Point Sur, came a clue to what happened.
He said the rudder burst like a sack.
"The Macon gave a lurch and started nosing down.
They started to throw ballast overboard and she rode upwards. I could see she was in trouble."
Miller's testimony may explain the "casualty" which struck the airship at 5:15 or 5:18 p.m. Official reports give both times.

San Francisco, Feb. 13. -- (UP) -- A mysterious
"casualty" caused either by an explosion or a structural defect -- carried away the tail of the giant dirgible Macon in mid air, plunging the pride of the navy and her 83 officers and men into the Pacific, official reports indicated today.
The Macon went to her doom at sunset yesterday off Point Sur, about 100 miles south of here. She was sailing through a gale, all motors throbbing perfectly, serving as "eye" for the battle fleet engaged in maneuvers on the surface. Her accident was not witnessed from below, but her SOS calls sent the fleet ships converging on the spot where she was settling, badly crippled, to the ocean. She sand soon afterward.
She followed sister dirigibles of the American Navy to disaster. The Akron went down off the New Jersey coast, April 4, 1932. The Shenandoah went down Sept. 3, 1934, near Caldwell, O., with the loss of 14 lives. The Roma, purchased for the navy but not yet commissioned, burned over Hampton Roads, Va., in 1923, killing 34. The only naval dirigible surviving is the Los Angeles which is worn out and decommissioned.
The Macon disaster, following so close on the previous tragedies was believed to doom further lighter than air building for the navy and was a severe blow to development of this type of aircraft.
Lieut. Commander HERBERT V. WILEY, commander of the Macon and one of the rescued, gave the first official story of the disaster. He said the stern of his charge "crumbled." A survivor of both the Akron and Shenandoah disasters, WILEY filed an official report with his superiors the moment he reached the safety of the U.S.U. Concord.
WILEY made his report to Rear Admiral C. L. Train, commander of the cruiser, and it was relayed to shore by radio.
It follows:
"While off Point Sur on a northerly course, all engines running at standard speed of 83 knots, at an altitude of 1250 feet, with the air squally at times a casualty occurred about 5:18 p.m. in the stern period."
"I thought the elevator control had been carried away. The ship took an upward inclination and rose rapidly. I ordered all ballast and fuel slips dropped aft and midship."
"We received prompt word the No. 1 gas cell under the fin was gone, the stern was crumbling, and, finally, that the No. 2 cell was gone. We tried to land the ship near cruisers off Point Sur but could not see the surface until shortly before landing. Ship landed stern first with no way on at 5:40 p.m."
"Discipline was excellent. All hands had alarm in and time to don life jackets."
The two of the Macon's crew lost were Chief Radio Engineer E. A. DAILEY, North Bend, Ore., and Cook F. EDQUIBA, a Fillipino. He landed on his back and sunk. EDQUIBA was seen last inside the dirigible just as No. 9 cell burst.
The Macon was commissioned after the Akron disaster and had been carefully nursed. She had suffered only minor mishaps one of a mechanical nature while with the fleet in Caribbean maneuvers a year ago this spring. Yesterday she was leading 34 ships of the fleet.
Some 23,000 bluejackets and 1,500 officers aboard the vessels watched the silver ship, built at a cost of $5,000,000, as she maneuvered along the course from San Pedro harbor, in Southern California, toward San Francisco Bay.
At 5:15 p.m., (8:15 p.m. EST) with fog rolling around Point Sur and a squall blowing up, trouble started. Naval radio operators first and then the nation and the world were horrified.
"We have had a casualty," crackled the Macon's radio.
Then came: "SOS falling --- as."
"As," said Victor L. Bubb, radioman first class, San Francisco, who received the call, means
"wait a minute."
"My heart jumped out of my mouth," said Babb.
Then the Macon's final message. At 5:31 -- "we will abandon ship as soon as it lands on water. We are 20 miles off Point Sur, probably 10 miles at sea."
At 5:32 various ships reported to shore radio stations they were "off Point Sur," standing by to assist. Frantically they called the Macon. There was no answer.
Meanwhile, off Point Sur, the calls which "jumped the hearts" of the navy radiomen ashore in San Francisco had sent the battlefleet into action. Searchlights flashed over the darkening ocean.
Quickly the fleet converged on the ill-fated Macon. Thomas Henderson, Point Sur lighthouse
keeper, the last person to see the Macon aloft, saw the searchlights playing through the fog.
Rubber boats dotted the ocean as the first of the rescue craft drew near. The Concord pickes up WILEY and 10 of his men. The cruiser Cincinnati had 6 men aboard and the cruiser Richmond had 64.
Within a relatively short time, Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, in command of the battle fleet, radioed that commercial craft, which had heard the Macon's call and proceeded to the rescue, should resume their courses.
Rear Admiral Thomas J. Senn, commandant of the 12th naval district, ordered that hospitalization
for possible injured be prepared at Monterey Presidio, at San Francisco and at Mare Island, at Vallejo, on San Francisco Bay.
P. M. JACKSON, boatswain's mate whose home is in Florence, N.J., was reported to have received internal injuries. There were no reports of other injuries.
"The rescue of all but two of the survivors from the Macon will probably go down in the annals and archives of the United States navy as one of its greatest feats," said Admiral Senn. "I sincerely feel that in my 48 years as a member of the navy, I have never seen such a feat performed under conditions which I know were anything but favorable for such a task as confronted the officers and men of the United States battle fleet."
Admiral Joseph M. Reeves, commander in chief of the U.S. fleet informed naval headquarters in Washington that he did not contemplate an attempt to recover the Macon wreckage as she sank in 250 fathoms.
It was said, however, that the U. S. geodetic survey boat was seeking bits of wreckage for possible use in naval investigation.
The Macon met no such storms as struck the Shenandoah and the Akron. Lieut. Commander WILEY mentioned "squally weather" and Henderson, the Point Sur lighthouse keeper, spoke of a "sudden gust of wind, rain and fog."
Official naval inquiries into exact weather conditions and structural behavior of the great ship already were under way here and in Washington.

The Daily Times News Burlington North Carolina 1935-02-13