Hindenburg Ground Crew Still Telling His Story
Robert Buchanan, 87, from Tuckerton, NJ, was the speaker at the May 2007 meeting of the Tuckerton Historical Society. Buchanan lived in Toms River as a young man, and was hired to work on the ground crew assisting in landing and tethering the huge ligher than air airships. Acting like human anchors, crewman on the ground grabbed ropes and held the ship in place while a larger rope was winched at the mooring mast.
Buchanan recalled on the fateful day that the Hindenburg came in at an altitude higher than it normally did, and it was the extra height that gave all but one of the ground crew time to scramble from beneath the falling and burning behemouth. Buchanan recalled with sadness the one crew member who tripped on the mooring mast tracks and was burned by the falling wreckage.
Buchanan said that he first knew something was wrong when the number one engine revved up and sparks and flame spewed from the exhaust. Almost instantly, the ship was afire, and the heat was tremendous. Buchanan lamented that no one investigating the cause of the crash accepted his account of the flaming engine and included it among the cause of the crash.
Buchanan credits the heavy sweater he wore that day, soaking wet from rain, which kept the heat from burning him as the hydrogen fed fire burned.
While his is not certain, Buchanan believes that he is the last surviving member of the ground crew on that fateful day.
Those who attended the meeting of the Tuckerton Historical Society relished the opportunity to hear an eyewitness account of that tragic day. Many of the members had personal memories of seeing the Hindenburg pass overhead just shortly before the ship met its fateful end. The Historical Society's web site is http://tuckertonlehhs.org/