Crash of the USS Shenandoah
September 3, 1925On a stormy autumn morning in 1925, the giant Navy airship, christened Shenandoah, crashed near this site. Initially, the Shenandoah was commissioned to perform scouting missions for the Navy; however, she would soon be flying promotional missions. The Shenandoah had recently begun a six-day publicity tour across the Midwest when she crashed. The turbulent weather of late summer created strong winds, which ripped the 680-feet long Shenandoah in two and tore the control car from the keel. A majority of the 14 crewmen who died in the crash, including the captain, Lt. Commander Zachary Lansdowne of Greenville, Ohio, were killed when the control car plummeted to the ground. The stern section fell in a valley near Ava and the bow was carried southwest nearly twelve miles before landing near Sharon, Ohio. The Ohio National Guard was called in to control the crowds of spectators who traveled to the crash sites.
Lighter-Than-Air FlightThe USS Shenandoah was America's first rigid dirigible and was launched in 1923 at the height of the worldwide enthusiasm for lighter-than-air flight. By the early 1920s, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and France all had airships, some suffered tragic crashes. In efforts to improve on the safety of European made airships, the Shenandoah was designed to be filled with nonflammable helium instead of hydrogen and became the first rigid dirigible in the world to use helium. One year after her initial flight, the Shenandoah successfully crossed the United States logging 235 hours of flight time. With the crash of the Shenandoah and two other American airships, the Akron and the Macon, the future of rigid dirigibles was uncertain. In 1937, the fiery crash of the German airship Hindenburg brought an abrupt end to the era of the great airships.