THE HINDENBURG DISASTER
(May 6, 1937 – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey)
Hindenburg Crash Site
The Official Story
LAKEHURST MAXFIELD FIELD
(Manchester Township, New Jersey)
Lakehurst Maxfield Field, formerly known as Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (NAES Lakehurst), is the naval component of Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst (JB MDL), a United States Air Force-managed joint base headquartered approximately 25 miles (40 km) east-southeast of Trenton in Manchester Township and Jackson Township in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. It is primarily the home to Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, although the airfield supports several other flying and non-flying units as well. Its name is an amalgamation of its location and the last name of Commander Louis H. Maxfield, who lost his life when the R-38/USN ZR-2 airship crashed during flight on 24 August 1921 near Hull, England.
When it was consolidated with McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix in October 2009, it became the naval component of JB MDL – a United States Air Force–controlled installation – and was placed under the 87th Air Base Wing. However, as with all joint bases, the installation receives support services from the previous installation authorities. Thus, Lakehurst Field is also provided certain services from Naval Support Activity Lakehurst (NSA Lakehurst), whose commander also serves as one of two Base Deputy Commanders.
The field was the site of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.
Lakehurst Maxfield Field’s history began as a test range for ammunition being manufactured for the Imperial Russian Army in 1916. It was then acquired by the United States Army as Camp Kendrick during World War I. The United States Navy purchased the property in 1921 for use as an airship station and renamed it Naval Air Station Lakehurst (NAS Lakehurst).
The United States Navy’s lighter-than-air program was conducted at Lakehurst from its inception through the 1930s. NAS Lakehurst was the center of airship development in the United States and housed three of the U.S. Navy’s four rigid airships, (ZR-1) Shenandoah, (ZR-3) Los Angeles, and (ZRS-4) Akron. A number of the airship hangars built to berth these ships still survive. Hangar One, in which the Shenandoah was built, held the record for the largest “single room” in the world. According to an article in the January, 1925 issue of National Geographic, the airship hangar “could house three Woolworth Buildings lying side by side.” The base also housed many Navy non-rigid airships, otherwise knowns as “blimps,” in several squadrons before, during, and after World War II. This included the U.S. Navy’s ZPG-3W (EZ-1C), which was deactivated in September 1962. In 2006, after a 44-year hiatus, the U.S. Navy resumed airship operations at Lakehurst with the MZ-3.
The installation was the site of the LZ 129 Hindenburg disaster on 6 May 1937. Despite the notoriety and well-documented nature of this incident, today there is a simple memorial that denotes the location of the crash at then–NAS Lakehurst in the field behind the large airship hangars on base. A ground marker, painted black, and rimmed by a bright yellow painted chain, marks the spot where the gondola of the German zeppelin Hindenburg hit the ground.