80 years later, Hindenburg disaster leaves lasting mark

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Hindenburg disaster marks 80 years on Saturday. Nora Muchanic reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on May 5, 2017. (WPVI)

This weekend marks the 80th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster.

It was May 6th, 1937, when the German airship Hindenburg, filled with 7 million cubic feet of highly flammable hydrogen gas, caught fire and came crashing to the ground at Lakehurst.

"It took only 34 seconds for the airship to burn and crash. 36 people perished: 35 on board and one civilian ground crew handler," said Carl Jablonski, president of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society. "It was just unbelievable what happened."

The newsreel footage and the vivid, gripping description from an on-scene reporter were seen and heard around the world.

The late John Iannacone of Lakewood was on the ground crew.

"We could see the whole starboard. It started to catch fire inside. Then it just went," said Iannacone in 2005.

"We had other airships with much greater loss of life. This was caught live on camera," said Christopher Bergen, Deputy Cmdr. Joint Base.

Inside the massive Hangar 1, the Historical Society has an airship memorabilia room. It's filled with artifacts from the Hindenburg, like a section of the airship's frame.

There are also scorched glasses and silverware from the luxurious airship, and fabric that came from the Hindenburg's outer skin.

Today, there's a permanent marker at the spot where the Hindenburg crashed, a simple reminder of the terror and horror that rained down on this airfield eight decades ago.

Don Adams of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society said, "I've seen the films of it and I wonder how anybody walked out of it."

A number of people jumped from the burning ship, others were rescued by Navy ground crews that ran toward the flames.

Eighty years later, the Lakehurst military base is still synonymous with the Hindenburg disaster, considered the most famous airship accident in aviation history.

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