“Oh the Humanity!”: The Hindenburg Disaster

On May 6, 1937, the zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg caught on fire and crashed down at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. Of the 97 passengers, there were 35 fatalities. One member of the ground crew also died, making it a total of 36 fatalities.

As the zeppelin was burning and crashing, a reporter named Herbert Morrison commented on the disaster:

[It’s practically standing still now. They’ve dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and they’ve been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men.] It’s starting to rain again; it’s—the rain has slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from — It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it’s falling, it’s crashing! Watch it, watch it! Get out of the way! Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie! It’s fire—and it’s crashing! It’s crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It’s burning and bursting into flames, and the—and it’s falling on the mooring-mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. [Indecipherable word(s)] It’s–it’s–it’s the flames, [indecipherable, possibly the word “climbing”] oh, four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it … it’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s flames now … and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring-mast. Oh, the humanity and all the passengers screaming around here. I told you, I can’t even talk to people whose friends are on there. Ah! It’s–it’s–it’s–it’s … o–ohhh! I–I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it’s just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk, and the screaming. Lady, I–I’m sorry. Honest: I–I can hardly breathe. I–I’m going to step inside where I cannot see it. Charlie, that’s terrible. Ah, ah—I can’t. I, listen, folks, I–I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Later in the broadcast, he learned that there were survivors and “hope[d] that it [wasn’t] as bad as [he] made it sound at the very beginning”.

The broadcast was aired the day after the disaster.

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Herbert Morrison

Here is a recording of Morrison’s commentary. (Skip to 0:36 to follow the script from above.)

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