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NavSource Online: Rigid Airships Photo Archive

USS AKRON   (ZRS-4)



Akron-Class Long-range, Scouting and Aircraft-Carrying Rigid Airship
Authorized Commenced Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Stricken
24 June 1926 31 Oct. 1929 8 Aug. 1931 27 Oct. 1931   30 Apr. 1933
Builder: Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, Akron, Ohio.

Fate: While beginning a trip to the New England area, Akron encountered a violent storm over the New Jersey coast and, shortly after midnight on 4 Apr. 1933, crashed tail-first into the sea. Only three of the 76 men on board survived this tragic accident. The airship's CO, CDR Frank C. McCord, and the Chief of BuAer, RADM Moffett, were among those who lost their lives.

During the search for other possible survivors, the Navy non-rigid airship J-3 also crashed, killing two more men.

In June 2002, the research submarine NR-1 revisited the airship's crash site, where much of her collapsed framework remained visible on the Continental Shelf, nearly 70 years after the great dirigible went down.


Specifications
(As built)
Air displacement: 7,401,260 ft³ (209,580.3 m³)
Dimensions: length (oa), 785'; hull diameter, 132.9'; total height, 146.5'  /  239.3 x 40.5 x 44.7 meters
Gas volume (nominal): 6,500,000 ft³ (184,059.5 m³) of helium, 95% inflated; 12 gas cells
Armament: Eight .30-cal machine guns in nose, dorsal, ventral, and tail positions. Three Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk fighter aircraft stowed in an internal hangar.
Power plant: Eight Maybach VL-2 12-cyl water-cooled inline engines (560 hp each), driving two-bladed fixed-pitch, rotable wooden propellers.
Speed: 69 knots (max); 55 knots (cruising)
Ceiling: 26,000 feet (~7,925 meters)
Cruising range: 5,940 nautical miles @ cruising speed
Useful lift: 152,644 lbs. (69,238.2 kg)
Crew: 60 (flight crew)

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Size Image description Contributed
by and/or Copyright
Construction (1929–1931)
ZRS-4 Akron
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Erecting the first main frame ring of the future USS Akron (ZRS-4), during her construction in the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation hangar at Akron, Ohio, 24 March 1930.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 43121).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Christening of the future USS Akron (ZRS-4), 8 August 1931. Notables on the speakers' stand during Akron's christening ceremonies, held in the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation "air dock" hangar at Akron, Ohio. Paul W. Litchfield, President of the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation is seated just to left of the microphones. Seated to the right of the microphones are (left to right): Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics; First Lady of the United States Mrs. Herbert Hoover, Akron's Sponsor; and David S. Ingalls, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aviation.

Photograph received from the Navy Recruiting Bureau, 1932.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 42167).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Christening of the future USS Akron (ZRS-4), 8 August 1931. David S. Ingalls, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aviation, speaking during Akron's christening ceremonies, held in the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation "air dock" hangar at Akron, Ohio.

Photograph received from the Navy Recruiting Bureau, 1932.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 42166).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Interior view of the future USS Akron (ZRS-4), at christening.

Ron Reeves
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Akron (ZRS-4) leaving the Goodyear Zeppelin "airdock" at Akron, Ohio, circa September–October 1931.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 89488).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4), cutaway and interior structural drawings, circa 1931.

Courtesy of Richard K. Smith, author of the book The Airships Akron & Macon, 1974.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 80769).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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German airship Hindenburg, left, and future USS Akron (ZRS-4), right.

Gerd Matthes, Germany
Service Life (1931–1933)
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) approaches a mooring mast while landing, circa 1931–1933.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 97977).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) making a morning takeoff or landing, at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, circa 1931–1933. Note mist just above the ground in front of the hangar, and the Sun in the distance.

Collection of Captain Hays R. Browning, USNR, from the Naval Reserve Aviation Base New York, N.Y. album.

Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the Collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 98082).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) in flight, date and location unknown.

Tommy Trampp
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) in flight in 1931. Note the small civilian airplane above the airship's forward end.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 63070).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Airship USS Akron (ZRS-4) flying over Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., 1931.

Photo by ©Leslie Jones, photographer (1886–1967).

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) in flight over the Maryland Eastern Shore, 2 November 1931.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (# 80-G-462238).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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View of the airship's tail section, while USS Akron (ZRS-4) was in flight on 2 November 1931.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (# 80-G-462245).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) in flight on 2 November 1931. A Rear Admiral's flag is flying just aft of her control gondola.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (# 80-G-462246).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) moored at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 2 November 1931.

Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 42158).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Scene aboard USS Akron (ZRS-4), circa 1931–1932, showing a crew member getting a cup of water from a wash basin. Note the aluminum structural members.

This photograph was received from the U.S. Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York, in 1932.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 42162).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) flying over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) in the distance, circa late 1931 or early 1932. The Schuykill River waterworks and the Philadelphia Art Museum are visible in the lower center of the photograph.

This photograph was received from the U.S. Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York, in 1932.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 42169).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Closeup view of one of the airship's propellers, swiveled to its horizonal position to provide lift for takeoff, circa 1931–1932.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 97978).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Damage to the airship's lower fin, 22 February 1932. USS Akron (ZRS-4) was being removed from her hangar at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, when the wind caused her tail to break loose from the rail car used for maneuvering the airship on the ground. A party of Congressmen was waiting to board Akron at the time, and Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, was also present. This photograph was taken immediately after the accident, and shows RADM Moffett in the left center, facing the camera.

Though her fin was seriously damaged, Akron was repaired in about two months.

Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 42160).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Curtiss XF9C-1 Sparrowhawk fighter (Bureau # A8731) approaches the trapeze landing gear of USS Akron (ZRS-4), while landing on the airship, 3 May 1932. Photographed from inside Akron's hangar. Pilot is Lieutenant Howard L. Young.

Photograph from Department of the Navy collections in the U.S. National Archives (# 80-CF-4184-10).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Curtiss XF9C-1 Sparrowhawk fighter (Bureau # A8731) is lifted into the hangar of USS Akron (ZRS-4), after hooking onto the airship's trapeze landing gear, circa May 1932.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (# 80-G-416532).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk fighter (Bureau # 9059) inside the airplane hangar of USS Akron (ZRS-4), 1932. Part of the airplane handling system is visible above the plane. Another Sparrowhawk, in flight, is partially visible through the airship's hangar opening, at the bottom of the view.

Courtesy of Richard K. Smith, author of the book The Airships Akron & Macon, 1974.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 80773).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # 8604) photographed while serving as "hook-on" familiarization trainer for USS Akron (ZRS-4), 1932. An O3U-1 (Bureau # 8871) is in the background.

Courtesy of Richard K. Smith, author of the book The Airships Akron & Macon, 1974.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 80775).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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Montage of four photographs of the incident in which three line handlers were pulled into the air when USS Akron (ZRS-4) accidently climbed while attempting to land at Camp Kearney, near San Diego, California, on 11 May 1932.

The two views at left show Seaman Apprentice Charles M. Cowart clinging to the trail line as the airship crew slowly winched him on board. The photo at right is of Cowart on board the Akron after his rescue. The view second from right shows Sailors Nigel Merton Henton and Harold Edsal holding onto the lines just after Akron lifted off. Both men fell to their deaths immediately after the photograph was taken.

Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 84169).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) ready to moor to USS Patoka (AO-9) in 1932, location unknown.

Darryl Baker
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USS Akron (ZRS-4) flying off the Panama Canal Zone, 15 March 1933. Her N2Y-1 training plane is nearby.

Official U.S. Army Air Corps Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 98038).

Naval History & Heritage Command
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"Akron Municipal Airport, Akron, Ohio." Postcard. Photo by Stivas Studio.

Tommy Trampp
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"Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Plants 1 and 2, in East Akron, U.S. Navy airship over them." Postcard mailed from Akron, Ohio, to Huntington, West Virginia, 24 October 1941.

Tommy Trampp
Crash of USS Akron (ZRS-4), 4 Apr. 1933
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Survivors of USS Akron (ZRS-4) receive commendations from the Secretary of the Navy, in his Navy Department office, shortly after the airship's loss on 4 April 1933. Those present are (from left to right): Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry A. Roosevelt; Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson; Admiral William V. Pratt, Chief of Naval Operations; Lieutenant Commander Herbert V. Wiley, senior survivor; Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Richard E. Deal, survivor; and Aviation Metalsmith 2nd Class Moody Erwin, survivor. Erwin, whose left hand is bandaged, is apparently wearing a borrowed uniform, as its insignia is that of a Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command photograph (# NH 55468).

Naval History & Heritage Command

For more photos and information about this ship, see:

View the USS Akron (ZRS-4)
DANFS History entry located on the Naval History & Heritage Command Web Site.
Crew Contact and Reunion Information
Not applicable

Related Links of Interest
  AirshipHistory.com

  Naval Airship Association, Inc.

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Last update: 9 December 2013