Wreckage Site Number 3 of the U.S. Navy Airship Shenandoah
Ernest Nichols Farm
— September 3, 1925 - Noble County, Ohio —
In addition to being the first rigid airship constructed in the United States, the Shenandoah was also the first to be inflated with non-inflammable helium and the first to be moored to a mast mounted on the surface ship, USS Patoka. Built for the U.S. Navy as a scouting vessel and a flying laboratory, Shenandoah participated in maneuvers, but because of its elegant form, was often used as a showpiece for the Navy. Flights to Virginia, Buffalo, N.Y., New York City, and St. Louis were included in the airship's itinerary.
Components of the Shenandoah were built in Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio. It was assembled at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst,
The ship had 41 longitudinal girders and 19 circular frames made of lightweight duralumin alloy, of which there were 400,000 pieces in the ship's framework. The airship's hull was enveloped by a cotton outer cover coated with aluminum paint. Under the cover were 20 cells, made of cotton lined with gas-impermeable “goldbeaters skin,” the stomach lining of oxen, which were attached to the framework by 20 miles of cordage. Five Packard engines, each rated at 325 horsepower, gave the ship a cruising speed of 50 knots. Fuel for the engines was supplied by 40 fuel tanks, with a total capacity of 4,424 gallons. Shenandoah's hull volume was 2,300,000 cubic feet, its empty weight 80,400 pounds, its useful load 44,100 pounds.
The most spectacular of the Shenandoah's 59 voyages was a 1924 transcontinental flight Departing from her base at Lakehurst, the "Daughter of the Stars” crossed the continental divide, flew to San Diego, then continued up the west coast to Seattle before returning home. A subsequent article about the flight in National Geographic magazine further enhanced the reputation of the Shenandoah in the public's eye.
Shenandoah's captain was Ohio native Lieutenant Commander Zachary
On the evening of September 2, 1925, the Shenandoah began what would be its final flight. A six-day itinerary, including 40 cities and five state fairs, had been arranged by ambitious Navy publicists eager to "show” the ship to the populace.
Early on the morning of September 3, the Shenandoah was met by a violent thunderstorm over the hills of southeastern Ohio. Winds tore the ship in two and sent the control car plummeting to earth, crashing on a farm just east of present-day Interstate 77. The stern section of the ship floated to the ground, landing in the valley less than one mile west. The bow remained aloft, floating about 13 miles to a farm east of Sharon, where Ernest Nichols tied it down, ending a horrifying ride for the seven menaboard that section. Fourteen crew members, including Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Lansdowne, perished in the crash. Ironically, this Midwest flight of the Shenandoah was to have been Lansdowne's last flight: he was scheduled to report for sea duty in the fall of 1925 to meet a requirement for promotion to the rank of full commander.
Remarkably, 29 men survived, proving the wisdom of the decision to inflate the Shenandoah with helium. Also lost, to a large extent, was the Navy's lighter-than-air program, as the military's emphasis shifted to airplanes in the wake of the crash. Surviving were memories - memories of a magnificent airship, its gallant crew, and the history they together made.
Site 3 is owned by the Ernest Nichols family and maintained by the Noble County Historical Society. Text for this display developed by the Noble County Tourism Association. For more information call (740) 732-5681.
Sign provided and sponsored by the Naval
Airship Association and The Lighter-Than-
Air Society of Akron, Ohio.
Erected by Naval Airship Association and The Lighter-Than- Air Society of Akron, Ohio.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Air & Space • Disasters. A significant historical date for this entry is February 16, 1924.
Location. 39° 44.484′ N, 81° 35.605′
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Wreckage Site Number 3 of the Navy Airship U.S.S. Shenandoah (a few steps from this marker); U.S.S. Shenandoah (a few steps from this marker); John Gray (approx. 3.3 miles away); VFW Post #4721 Veterans Memorial (approx. 3.8 miles away); Claude L. Wilson (approx. 4 miles away); Duck Creek Bridge (approx. 4 miles away); Robert T. Secrest (approx. 4.1 miles away); Noble County Veterans Memorial (approx. 4.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sharon.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 7, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 5, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 37 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 5, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.