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NavSource Online: Rigid Airships Photo Archive

(unnamed)   (ZR-2)
(British R-38)



(British) "A" Class Long-range Reconnaissance and Bombardment Rigid Airship
Authorized First frame Completed Commissioned Decommissioned Stricken
11 July 1919   Feb. 1919 7 June 1921      
Builder: Short Bros. (later Royal Airship Works), Cardington, England.

Fate:R-38's fourth flight began on 23 Aug. 1921, amid growing questions about her performance and structural strength. After an overnight flight out to sea, the next day R-38 undertook full power and maneuvering trials. These proved too much for her. She broke up in the air, some of her hydrogen lifting gas exploded, and the wreckage fell into the Humber River near Hull, England. Of the forty-nine men on board, there were only five survivors, including one American.

Sixteen U.S. Navy officers and men were killed (including the airship's PCO, CDR Louis Henry Maxfield), essentially wiping out the Service's small cadre of experienced rigid airship personnel.


Specifications
(As built)
Air displacement: 2,960,000 ft³ (83,817.9 m³)
Dimensions: length (oa), 699'; hull diameter, 85' 6"; total height, 92'  /  213.1 x 26.1 x 28 meters
Gas volume: 2,724,000 ft³ (77,135.1 m³) of hydrogen; 14 gas cells
Armament: (Proposed) One 1-pounder gun; 12 twin .30-cal machine guns; up to 3,920 lbs. of bombs carried internally
Power plant: Six Sunbeam Cossack III 12-cyl water-cooled engines mounted in external cars (350 hp each), driving two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propellers
Speed: ~60–70 mph (max) at sea level; 45 mph (cruising)
Ceiling: 21,900 feet (~6,675 meters)
Cruising range: 9,470 miles
Useful lift: 100,000 lbs. (45,359 kg)
Crew: 30 (flight crew)

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Size Image description Contributed
by and/or Copyright
ZR-2
NS02990203
74k

Six U.S. Navy Petty Officers "sail to speed up work on the R-38. ... The R-38 is nearing completion in England and is to be flown to her hangar at Lakehurst, N.J." (quoted from the original caption). They are on board the passenger liner Princess Matoika (formerly USS Princess Matoika) for the trip to England, April 1920.

These men are identified in the original caption as:

Left to right, front: J.W. Cullinan, M. Lay and I.L. Thomas.

Left to right, standing: N. Julnis [sic ?], A.B. Galation and H. Christensen.

Chief Boatswain's Mate M. Lay and Chief Machinist's Mate W.A. Julius were among those who lost their lives when the R-38 crashed on 24 August 1921.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 41997).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990204
86k

"To fly the R-38 here. Leaving on the Princess Matoika to bring home via the air the R-38 now being built over there for the United States." (Quoted from the original caption). They are on board the passenger liner Princess Matoika (formerly USS Princess Matoika) for the trip to England, where the airship was under construction, April 1920.

These men are identified in the original caption as:

Left to right, kneeling: S.H. Knight, F.M. Gorey and A.C. Carlson.

Left to right, standing: W.G. Steele, F.L. Stevens, W.A. Russell and R.N. Coons.

Chief Machinist's Mates W.J. Steele and R.M. Coons were among those who lost their lives when the R-38 crashed on 24 August 1921.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 41998).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990214
97k

Airship R38, at left, in the Cardington shed completing as the US Navy ZR-2, and the uncompleted R37 awaiting disposal on the right.

Courtesy of the Airship Heritage Trust of Cardington, Bedforshire taken from Military, Naval and Civil Airships Since 1783, by Daniel George Ridley-Kitts MBE.

Robert Hurst
ZR-2
NS02990215
72k

Airship R38 (U.S. ZR-2) leaving the Cardington shed for trials, June 1921.

Courtesy of the Airship Heritage Trust of Cardington, Bedforshire taken from Military, Naval and Civil Airships Since 1783, by Daniel George Ridley-Kitts MBE.

Robert Hurst
ZR-2
NS02990201
77k

British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2) leaves its hangar during trials in England, circa June–August 1921. Note the faint marking "ZR-2" on the hull, near the control car. This is a fine-screen halftone reproduction.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 42050).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990202
60k

British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2) makes its first trial flight, at Cardington, England, 23 June 1921. Note that the airship already wears U.S. markings.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 1216).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990210
85k

British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), possibly on its first trial flight, 23 June 1921.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection. Call Number: LC-B2-5533-12.

Library of Congress, via Mike Green
ZR-2
NS02990211
103k

Nose of ZR-2. Location and date unknown.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection. Call Number: LC-B2-5533-13.

Library of Congress, via Mike Green
ZR-2
NS02990212
154k

Control car of ZR-2. Location and date unknown.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection. Call Number: LC-B2-5533-14.

Library of Congress, via Mike Green
ZR-2
NS02990213
174k

ZR-2 in a hangar, location and date unknown. Note that she is already wearing U.S. markings.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection. Call Number: LC-B2-5534-1.

Library of Congress, via Mike Green
ZR-2
NS02990206
69k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Rescue party cutting into the fabric hull covering, near the tail, in an effort to save airmen trapped in the wreckage, "scarcely one-half hour" after the airship broke up, exploded and crashed into the Humber River at Hull, England.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 69230).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990205
52k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. The airship's wreckage in the Humber River at Hull, Yorkshire, England, after it had broken up in the air, exploded and crashed. The tail is at the left.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72408).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990205a
108k

"No. 2. The wreckage of the ill-fated ZR-2 in the Humber, 24/8/21."

W. Benton, Merchantile Chambers, Hull.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990205b
31k

Crash of British airship R38, US Navy ZR-2. Original 1921 photo postcard.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990207
98k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Closeup view of some of the airship's wreckage, including a leg and foot of one of the 44 victims of the tragedy, soon after it broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Victoria Pier, Hull, England.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72409).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990216
355k

"Great Airship ZR-2 and Its Crew Meet Disaster in Test Flight Over England"

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990217
88k

"First Photograph Of ZR-2 Disaster And Sole American Survivor"

"Taking Everything Movable from the ZR-2 Wreck Before It Went to Pieces"

"Hardly had the ZR-2 hit the water it began to break up. Rescuers are shown making frantic efforts to take everything movable, whether living or dead, from the wreck just before it finally lost all shape. The inset shows Captain Wann as he lay on his cot in the hospital after the explosion. Captain Wann was in charge of the airship when the wreck occurred."

Capital Journal, Salem, Oregon, Saturday, September 10, 1921.

Chronicling America, via Michael Mohl
ZR-2
NS02990219
115k

"World's Biggest Dirigible Explodes While On Trial Flight, Causing the Loss of 44 Lives"

Springfield Daily Republican?, Thursday, August 25, 1921.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990219a
121k

"Second In Command ZR-2 Crew Assumes Control of Affairs"

"Lieut Ralph G. Pennoyer"

Old newspaper.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990219b
45k

"R38 Airship: Disaster Over the Humber"

Courtesy of the Hull City Council.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990208
93k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Memorial at Hull, Yorkshire, England, erected in honor of those lost when the airship broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Hull. Of the 49 men aboard, including 17 Americans, 44 lost their lives.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72410).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990208a
220k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Memorial at Hull, Yorkshire, England, erected in honor of those lost when the airship broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Hull. Of the 49 men aboard, including 17 Americans, 44 lost their lives.

Photo by Keith D.

Tommy Trampp
ZR-2
NS02990209
166k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Descriptive plaque, part of a memorial erected at Hull, Yorkshire, England, in honor of those lost when the airship broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Hull. Of the 49 men on board, including 17 Americans, 44 lost their lives.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72411).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990209a
128k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Plaque listing U.S. Navy personnel killed when the airship broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Hull, Yorkshire, England. The plaque is part of a memorial erected at Hull in honor of the dead. Of the 49 men on board, including 17 Americans, 44 lost their lives. This plaque contains the names of 16 officers and men of the U.S. Navy.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72412).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990209b
144k

Crash of British airship R-38 (U.S. Navy ZR-2), 24 August 1921. Plaque listing British personnel killed when the airship broke up in the air, exploded and crashed into the Humber River off Hull, Yorkshire, England. The plaque is part of a memorial erected at Hull in honor of the dead. Of the 49 men on board, including 17 Americans, 44 lost their lives. This plaque contains the names of 28 officers and men of the Royal Air Force, staff members of the National Physical Laboratory and of the Royal Airship Works.

Courtesy of Carl S. Walters, 1970.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 72413).

Naval History & Heritage Command
ZR-2
NS02990218
135k

Commander Louis H. Maxfield, killed in the R-38 (ZR-2) lighter-than-air craft accident on Wednesday, 24 August 1921.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo # 80-G-185933.

NARA
ZR-2
NS02990218a
179k

Lieutenant Commander W.N. Bieg, USN, killed in the R-38 (ZR-2) lighter-than-air craft accident on Wednesday, 24 August 1921.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo # 80-G-185934.

NARA
ZR-2
NS02990218b
105k

Lieutenant Harry W. Hoyt, USN, killed in the R-38 (ZR-2) lighter-than-air craft accident on Wednesday, 24 August 1921.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), photo # 80-G-185935.

NARA

There is no DANFS history currently available for ZR-2
Crew Contact and Reunion Information
Not applicable

Related Links of Interest
  AirshipHistory.com

  Naval Airship Association, Inc.

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Last update: 13 August 2017