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Created in 1933, the main mission of “The Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters” was to investigate the cause of the USS Akron disaster

The U.S.S. Akron, designed for the Navy by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation of Akron, was the world’s first purpose-built flying aircraft carrier, carrying F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes which could be launched and recovered while it was in flight. It made its maiden flight on September 23, 1931. The design of the Akron supposedly had resolved previous safety problems involving rigid airships, but, on April 4, 1933, the Akron crashed just off the coast of New Jersey under stormy conditions. Of the ship’s company of 77 officers and men, 74 servicemen, including Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, lost their lives. Photos: The U.S. National Archives/Flickr

Photograph of the USS Akron in the Goodyear-Zeppelin Dock
Photograph of the USS Akron in the Goodyear-Zeppelin Dock.


The Nose of the USS Akron being Attached
The nose of the USS Akron being attached.


Two Photograph of the Catwalk on the USS Akron
Photograph of the catwalk on the USS Akron.

The loss of the USS Akron prompted Congress to create the Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters. It was created by H. Con. Res. 15, 73d Cong. to investigate the cause of the Akron disaster and the wrecks of other Army and Navy dirigibles and to determine responsibility. The committee was also directed to inquire generally into the question of the utility of dirigibles in military and naval establishments and make recommendations to the Senate and House of Representatives regarding their future use.

Photograph of a Oil Tank on the USS Akron
Photograph of a oil tank on the USS Akron.


Engine Room in a Dirigible
Engine room in a dirigible.


Photograph of the Interior Hull of a Dirigible before Gas Cells were Installed
Photograph of the interior hull of a dirigible before gas cells were Installed


Photograph of Navigation Room in a Dirigible
Photograph of navigation room in a dirigible

Its final report was submitted on June 14, 1933 (S. Doc. 75, 73d Cong., 1st sess., Serial 9748). Col. Henry Breckenridge, former Assistant Secretary of War, served as counsel for the joint committee. Senator William H. King of Utah served as chairman, though Representative John J. Delaney of New York was chairman of the subcommittee that gathered the data and facts and arranged a program as to the method of investigation.

Photograph of Head-Chief Inspector of Structures Walking Through a Dirigible
Photograph of Head-Chief Inspector of Structures walking through a dirigible


Photograph of Crews Quarters in a Dirigible
Photograph of crews quarters in a dirigible


A Sailor at the Bow Mooring Post - Emergency Control Station
A Sailor at the bow mooring post emergency control station


Photograph of Crew Bunks of a Dirigible
Photograph of crew bunks of a dirigible


Photograph of Control Wires and Pulleys on a Dirigible
Photograph of control wires and pulleys on a dirigible

The records include minutes of committee meetings, correspondence, memorandums, notes, working papers, staff reports, statements and narratives, digests of testimony, and questions for witnesses. There are also many documents used by the committee in its investigation, such as maps, photographs, pamphlets, newspaper clippings and articles, and a bound volume of the near-print “Key to the Development of the Super-Airship Luftfahrzeugbau Schuette-Lanz” collated and edited by Frederick S. Hardesty in 1930. Copies of various congressional publications regarding the committee’s work and copies of the findings of facts and opinions of the Navy’s U.S.S. Akron Court of Inquiry are included.

Side Corridor on a Dirigible
Side corridor on a dirigible


Rising the First Main Frame of a Dirigible
Rising the first main frame of a dirigible


Photograph of the Rear Control Car
Photograph of the rear control car


Photograph of a Propeller
Photograph of a propeller


Photograph of the Starboard Side of a Dirigible
Photograph of the starboard side of a dirigible

Among the subjects covered by the records are the wreck of the Akron, the history and development of lighter-than-air craft in Germany and elsewhere, airship patents, the merits of various types of rigid airships, the committee’s methods of investigation, and administrative matters.

These photographs were submitted to the Joint Committee during its investigation.

David Goran

David Goran is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News