Chatham, MA. – June 8, 1918

Chatham, Massachusetts – June 8, 1918 

     On the night of June 8, 1918, a U. S. Navy dirigible at the Chatham Naval Air Station was maneuvering towards its hangar when its rudder was rendered inoperable after it came into contact with a pole.  A strong wind was blowing at the time, and the rudderless ship was carried out to sea with three men aboard.  They were rescued the following day by a patrol boat.  The dirigible was towed to Hyannis, Mass. and brought back to Chatham by truck and trailer.  The dirigible was valued at $40,000.     


     The Falmouth Enterprise, “Dirigible Blown Out To Sea”, June 15, 1918, page 8. 

First U.S. Navy Airship – 1915

     The following newspaper article appeared in the New York Tribune on April 21, 1915, page 5.



     Lowest is $29,876 and Highest $200,000 for Construction of Dirigibles.

     Washington, April 20. – Four firms to-day competed in the bidding for the construction of the first dirigible airships for the United States navy.  The bids disclosed a wide divergence.  The lowest was $29,876, or $58,552 for two dirigibles, while the highest was $200,000 for a single aircraft.

     The dirigible will be neither impressive or large.  Their principal function will be to furnish training for pilots and to serve as a basis for investigation of the workability of dirigibles in maneuvers.  The Secretary of the Navy’s memorandum issued today said:

     “The Office of Aeronautics considers that the dirigible is to be the kingfisher of the submarine.  The aeroplane, rapidly scouting the seas off our harbors and around our fleet, discovers the enemy’s submarines lying in wait for innocent merchant ships, or attempting to creep up on our fighting ships.”    

     “The dirigible from the shore station or from the dirigible ships of the fleet, thus warned by the aeroplane scouts, proceed to the attack of the submarines, dropping on them heavy bombs fitted with fuses to explode on hitting or after sinking to a certain depth”

     The general specifications required that the dirigibles should be of the non-rigid type, 175 feet long, 50 feet high, and 36 feet wide, with a useful load of about 2,000 pounds.  It is specified that they have a speed of twenty-five miles an hour, and be capable of rising 3,000 feet without disposing of ballast.

     The following bids were received: Stanley Yale Beach, New York – One machine, $29, 876; two machines, $58,552.  American Dirigible Balloon Syndicate, Inc., New York – One machine, $41,000; one machine (larger), $45,000.  The Connecticut Aircraft Company, New Haven – One machine, $45,636.25; two machines, $82,215.12.  The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, – One machine, $200,000.

     The last bid is subject to a reduction which will make the total cost to the government equal to the cost of the machine to the Goodyear Tore and Rubber Company plus 50 per cent.        


    History has shown that the contact was awarded to the Connecticut Aircraft Company.  The first dirigible ordered was designed to carry eight men, four of whom would serve as crew, and the other four as student observers.  The ship would be 175 feet long, 55 feet high, and would have a gas capacity of 110,00 cubic feet.  It could achieve a speed of 25 mph and operate for two hours in the air – longer if fewer men were aboard. 

     Source: New York Tribune, “Airship For Navy Ordered As Trail- Dirigible to Cost $46,000 And Will Be Used To Train Men”, May 15, 1915

South Weymouth NAS – February 13, 1960

South Weymouth Naval Air Station – February 13, 1960


     On the morning of February 13, 1960, the U.S. Navy blimp, ZPG-3W, reportedly the largest blimp in the world, was being towed by a tractor to its hangar at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station when a strong gust of wind lifted the rear of the blimp which caused the tow-tractor to flip on its side.  (The three man crew on the tractor were not injured.)  When the tractor flipped over the tow line broke and the blimp was driven by the wind into the door of the hangar which caused a large rip in the fabric, allowing 1.5 million cubic feet of helium gas to escape.  As the blimp began to settle, the lone crewman aboard had to scramble out of the gondola before it was buried under the weight of the deflating fabric. 

     The $12 million dollar blimp was reported to be a total loss.   

     The ZPG-3-W was 403 feet long, and 118 feet tall.   


     Boston Advertiser, “Biggest Blimp Ripped Open”, February 14, 1960

     Sunday News, (N.Y.), Biggest Blimp, $12 Million Job, Gone With The Wind”, February 14, 1960

     New York Daily News, “Huge Blimp Rips Skin, Deflates”, February 27, 1960


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