THE HINDENBURG DISASTER
(May 6, 1937 – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey)
Ernst August Lehmann
(Hindenburg Senior Observer)
The Official Story
ERNST A. LEHMANN
(Senior Observer on the Hindenburg)
Captain Ernst August Lehmann (12 May 1886 – 7 May 1937) was a German Zeppelin captain. He was one of the most famous and experienced figures in German airship travel. The Pittsburgh Press called Lehmann the best airship pilot in the world, although he was criticized by Hugo Eckener for often making dangerous maneuvers that compromised the airships. He was a victim of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.
Although Max Pruss was the commanding officer of the last flight of the Hindenburg, Captain Lehmann was the most senior officer on board, but was there only as an observer. He was severely burned when the ship caught fire at Lakehurst on 6 May 1937, and died the following day. It was initially believed that Lehmann would recover from his injuries; he was scheduled to be transferred to the hospital at Rockefeller University for further treatment until he took a sudden turn for the worse in the morning before his death.
At his death, he apparently believed that the Hindenburg was sabotaged. He came out of the burning wreckage saying “I don’t understand it.” During a deathbed conversation with Commander Charles Emery Rosendahl, he said “it must have been an infernal machine.” Lehmann’s two-year-old son had died on Easter Sunday, 28 March 1937, a few weeks prior to the Hindenburg’s last crossing and he did not really want to make the voyage. Lehmann accepted the assignment with the hope that by doing so he might have the opportunity to speak to US authorities about the use of helium gas in the German airships.