It was Count Zeppelin in Germany that built the first rigid structure lighter-than-air craft. Here was primarily concerned with military applications. His Zeppelins were used unsucessfully in World War I, they had some advantages and were used to bombLondon and other British cities, but proved to be too vulnerable to both ground fire and fixed-wing fifhers. They found some commercial success. The round-the-world flight was an enormous sebation (1929). As a result of their failure in World War I, Zeppelins might be thought to have had little impact on World War II. Just the opposite is true. The British were so horrified over Zeppelin and other aircraft bombing raids that after the War, a major effort was launched to build an early warning system. Other military needs were neglected, but the resulting Chain Home Network would play central role in Britain's survival fter the Fall of France (1940). Until the cartratrophic Hindenburg disaster. The related non-rigid blimps proved to have greater military value. They were used by the British as barage balloons during the Battle of Britain (1940). There real importance was the use by the American Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic (1942-45).
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917) was born in Konstanz, Baden (1838). His name became virtually synonamous in Europe with rigid, lighter than air craft or dirigibles. (The non-rigid craft are known as blimps. He was an officer in the Prussian Army who fought in the Austro Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). He also was a military observer with the Union Army during the American Civil War (1863). It was during the Civil war that he first worked with baloons. He developed working derigibles in the early 20th century. The first Zeppelin prototype flew in 1900. Count Zeppelin actively promoted his Zeppelina and convinced the German military that they had potential military applications.
The Germans called the Zeppelins "silberne Zigarren" (silver cigars).
Zeppelins were the lighter-than-air dirigibles invented by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The LZ1 made its initial flight at the turn of the 20th century from a floating hangar on Lake Constance, near Friedrichshafen in Southern Germany, on July 2, 1900 before the first flight of an airplane by the Wright Brother in 1903. The Zeppelins were used for both commercial and military purposes.
Zeppelin's LZ-3 was commissioned by the Germany Army as the Zeppelin Luftschiff 1 (1909). The Germans deployed quite a considerable force during World War I--115 Zeppelins. They were used for both reconnaissance and bombing. Some were even used to raided Britain. They proved to be vulnerabile to attack and unsafe in rough weather. They proved easy targets for the improved fighters that appeared during the War as well as artillery fire. The Germans essentially discontinued the use of Zeppelins for active combat during the Verdun campaign (1916). By that time the Allies were deploying high performance aircraft that were easily shooting the Zepplins down. The Germans introduced models that could reach higher altitudes, but this reduced their ability to hit targets. The mounting losses of Zepplins and the superior performance of fixed-wing aircraft caused the Germans to withdraw the Zepplins from active service (1917). Count von Zepplin also died (1917).
The reputation of the Zeppelins were tarnished during World War I when they were used to bomb English cities. After the War, in demonstration flights, the Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127) traveled to the Arctic and to Palestine, and also circumnavigated the globe. The Zeppelins were first used for aerial excursions in Germany. Graf Zeppelin's round-the-world flight was an enormous sensation (1929). Tis was to demonstrate both the reliability of the Zepplin and the luxurous nature of Zepplin travel. Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, people did not have to be jammed in a cramped fuselage. And as the Zepplins traveled slower and had lift independence of engine operation, they seemed safer than fixed-wing aircrft. Zeppelin then undertook several trips around Europe. Then there was a flight from Germany to Recife, Brazil (May 1930). The new company operated Zepplins between Frankfurt and Recife. The flight took 68 hours. Subsequently the flights were conducted between Frankfurt and Rio de Janeiro, a more popular tourist destimnation with a stop in Recife. Perhaps the mpst spectascular demonstration of all was a research trip to the Arctic (July 1931). This had already been a dream of Zeppelin when he first began building the airships. He could not pursue thar dream at the time because of World War I. The U.S.Navy acquired a Zeppelin as part of its own dirigible program. Zeppelin based on the success of these demonsrtration flights decided to found a transatlantic airship line.
Graf Zeppelin launched his new company not only at the time of the Great Depression, but also in the fasce of competition from fixed-wing aircraft. The Zeppelins proved enormously popular, if expensuve. The Zeppelins were the height of luxury for 1930s tavelers. LZ-127 would transport an increasing number of passengers and volume of mail across the Atlantic every year until 1936 when the Hindeberg disaster occurred in New Jersey. They proved so successul that regularly scheduled passenger flights began across the Atlantic to Brazil and the United States. Zeppelins logged in over a million miles of passenger travel without loss of life. The passengers traveled in luxury accomodations. We do have an account about the American Zeppelin children who rode aboard the Graf Zeppelin. The Zeppelins were the height of luxury for 1930s tavelers. Large rigid airships, however, had some inherent weaknesses. The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst was essentially the end of the use of these craft for commercial transport. The Hindenburg conflagration resulted from using hydrogen rathar than helium. But there wee other weakenesses. Large rigid airships were dangerous in bad weather. This was shown in the loss of two U.S. Navy rigid airships. Thus they were not suitable commercial tansport.
Zeppelins have featured in a number of books and films. A popular children'ds book is Five Children and It. A Hollywood film was made about the Hidenberg disaster (1975).
The huge, graceful Zeppelins captured the public imagination. Many boys at the time were captivated by them. Thus some boys wore caps based on those of the crew, although we have not noted very many of them.
As a result of their failure in World War I, Zeppelins might be thought to have had little impact on World War II. Just the opposite is true. The British were so horrified over Zeppelin and other aircraft bombing raids that after the War, a major effort was launched to build an early warning system. Actually all the elements of an early warning system were in place by the end of the War. The British had both naval and ground observers reporting to a central command which then dispatched fighters to deal with the Zepplins and bombers. The problem was that the observers only found German attackers after they approached the coast or more commonly after thet were over Britain. This made it difficult to intercept the Germns before they had delivered their bomb loads. This changed dramtically when a British scientist using radio waves researching weather events was frustrated by passing air craft that interupted his work. This was the beginning of radar which would revolutionize air warfare. It was the missing piece in the British early warning system. Radar not only provided warning of German raiders while they will still forming up over France as wll as the coordinates and height where they could be intercepted. The Bistish did not have to wist their scarce resources flyingbaerial patrols. In the early months of World War II, the Luftwaffe scored major victories by destroying much of oposing air forces on the ground. Maintaining air patrols as was dine in World war I proved wasteful and ineffective. It was a fctor in the fall of France. Finding airfield was relatively ey for the Germans while finding fast moving Luftwaffe formations in the irptoved diffiult for the British and French when the Germans attacked in the Arennes. The British neglected other military needs during the inter-War era, but the resulting Chain Home Network would play a central role in Britain's survival after the Fall of France (1940). The Germans thought their early knock-out blow would work afin, but rather than finfing the RAF fighters on the Ground, they found them in attack positions in the air.
The related non-rigid blimps proved to have greater military value. They were used by the British as barage balloons during the Battle of Britain (1940). There real importance was the use by the American Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic (1942-45).
A German reader tells us that some new smaller Zeppelins were built in the 1990s. We do not yet know anything about them.
The Germans used the Zeppelins in World War I, but the results were disappointing. After the War they were used as a early form of commercial aviation. They achieved some commercial success, until the Hindenburg disaster. We note Ernest Fischesback, the 15-year old cabin boy on the Graf Zeppelin, in 1929.
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