Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Today In History: Anti-Airship Piracy Setback.

On this date in 1925, the U.S. Navy's fledgling anti-Airship Piracy forces were dealt a severe blow when a sudden thunderstorm over Ohio tore apart the USS Shenandoah (pictured at left), killing 14 of her officers and crew. Miraculously, there were 29 survivors.


Anonymous said...

Anti-piracy airbase in Ohio? Ohio?!?!

Lots of Canadian pirates with their gizzards and two stomachs ravaging the grain and ore shipments in the Great Lakes?

Call the blimps, the Canadian raiders have set Long Beach, Indiana on fire!!!

River infiltration by booze runners along the Ohio River??? Don't let them reach Madison!

Ohio? Riddle me that, Queen Snark.

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

Anti-Airship Piracy.

As anybody who's ever watched a 1930's serial can tell you, those dastardly Airship Pirates can strike from anywhere to carry out the orders of their evil overlords.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so, you want to put your Blimp Bases in the interior, like in Third Reich? Er, a friend told me that.

Shootin' Buddy

Joanna said...

Something tells me that airship pirates could be thwarted by a couple 10-year-old boys with a bb gun and a bic lighter. Just stand 'em in plain sight and make sure it's obvious they have nothing to do.

Jenny said...

With a crew of drunken pilots
Were the only airship pirates
Were full of hot air and were starting to rise
Were the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves now

So why did we stop using zeppelins? I mean,we wrecked a lot of planes to in those days. Just bad PR? Or not enough payload to pay for themselves?

Jon said...

We stopped using Zepplins primarily because the Hindenburg blew up on US soil, and gave them a lot of bad PR.

It blew up because the US, and other countries - wouldn't sell German helium, which back then was relatively hard to create - and instead they used Hydrogen in most of their Zeps.

Basically ALL their Zeps were giant flying bombs. Kinda a tough sell when the public figures that one out.

Tam said...

Yup, bad PR.

Also, nobody ever really figured out what we were supposed to do with them.

The Great War had already proven that they made excellent targets for fixed-wing, heavier-than-air interceptors.

But they sure looked cool...

DirtCrashr said...

The Macon and Akron were copies of the Zeppelin design (and expanded in size) and were not flying bombs, but both crashed anyhow.
Helium also had a performance disadvantage in lifting/lbs. to Hydrogen, besides the extra cost in production it was heavier - hydrogen was much easier and less expensive to produce.
The Airshipa could move over great distances and stay aloft for a very long time in way that on other aircraft could.

Gregg said...

I'm pretty sure we had, at least, a few of them on anti-piracy patrols during WW2 (aka "The War to End All War- the sequel"). Though perhaps those were not rigids.

Tam said...

"The Airshipa could move over great distances and stay aloft for a very long time in way that on other aircraft could."

Tru, but its military value was pretty seriously hampered by the fact that it was almost laughably vulnerable; fragile and a huge target, yet slow and unmaneuverable, it was like a flying checklist of things you don't want in a weapons system.

Noah D said...


SB, thank you for providing plot points for one of my next gaming sessions...

Anonymous said...

Noah, "gaming sessions"? Whatever do you mean?

You are talking about going to a casino or a riverboat, right?

Shootin' Buddy

Myles said...

Nice reference Jenny, that was the first thing that popped in my head as well!

Noah D said...

You are talking about going to a casino or a riverboat, right?

Well, that depends on if the craps table has enough d6s...


DirtCrashr said...

Yes it was all those things - even with their own Sparrowhawk air-defense, and they kept getting busted by heavy weather and required a bunch of shop-time.

But in '34 when Wiley decided to fly the 785 ft/80 mph Macon out over the Pacific on a long-range intercept of FDR on the 600-ft cruiser Houston, en-route between Panama and Hawaii, it really shook things up when he showed-up in the sky - bigger than the ship he was chasing. And he dropped newspapers on the ship which had not seen port in quite a while.
Wiley was lucky to avoid getting cashiered out of the Navy only because FDR and another Naval aviation Admiral thought it was rather a lark.
At sea the horizon is only a tiny 3-mile circle, you really want to go aloft to see distances. But radar defeated the silent observational strategy, and things got a lot faster.
But even today a radar-loaded Zep that could loiter in place would make an outstanding signal-post for scientific observations and a good command center for rescue operations at sea.

Anonymous said...

I think the overwhelming problem, even today, is that though they make decent platforms "for stuff" , they ( in addition to what Tam mentioned) are horribly vulnerable to weather, unlike aircraft which can basically just move out the way of weather or buzz off and land.

So you have great loiter time, but the time to get where you are going, and leave before the weather sucks, really annoys the sorts of people who can afford to have a platform full of stuff hanging around watching things go by.

And these days with UAV's with 12+ hour loiter times, what's the point?

Tam said...

I think one use would be to have a whamdigeous huge unmanned gasbag loft your JSTARS-type radar aloft in a region where you have total air supremacy.

When you're done with it, you just blow the radome/station-keeping motor package loose and let it parachute down and let the gasbag envelope drift off wherever it will to annoy the Sierra Club.

DirtCrashr said...

The Aerial-Train would suffer less weatherly if the Aerial Train Tracks were more concreteified.

Or fill them with water and drop them on California fires like a giant water balloon.

farmist said...

I'm just sorry to see the myth perpetuated that the Hindenberg burst into flames because of the hydrogen gas. It was actually the aluminized dope that burned first.

Jon said...

Considering the Hindenburg went up in under three minutes, the time between the dope burning, and the Hydrogen going up is hilariously short.

IE: Inconsiquential.

Anonymous said...

Jstars was tested out with aerostat blimps, I spent hours writing up lesson plan and scenarios based on their radar imageryin the Ft Huachuca Battlefield Data Simuator.

back in the late 80's there is (or was) a picket line of Aerostats dotting the southern border and a US Army Intelligence Battalion --The MI BN,(low intensity)-- actually had an aerostat mounted on a decent sized trawler that patrolled the waters from Guatemala to Nicaragua. The Battalion was based at Soto Cano AFB, Honduras, and the boat was ported in Guatemala City.

well with all that said, I guess I better be anonymous this time


Will said...

Odds are pretty good that even if it had been inflated with Helium, it still would have burned to the ground. When you coat the skin with what was effectively SOLID ROCKET FUEL, you have a fire that will toast the aluminum frame and the gas bags. Might have taken longer, that's all. The Zeppelin company figured it out within a short time, but never told anyone. Researchers found the documents in their files.

Steve Skubinna said...

I think one of the greatest historical travesties is that the 1930's did not look like the game Crimson Skies.

Second greatest is that the Victorian age was lamentably short on Steampunk-iness.

Third? Where the hell is my flying car? I cannot look at the Space Needle without the Jetsons' theme running through my head. How could we build something like that back in '62 and still not have flying cars?