Naval Air Station Lakehurst – Images of America – Arcadia – By Kevin Pace, Ronald Montgomery, and Rick Zitarosa
ZR-3 – USS Los Angeles – Airship at Lakehurst 1927
ZRS-4 USS Akron – at Hanger 1 at Lakehurst 1931
Lakehurst’s history is that of airships in the U.S. Navy, but many other aspects of the base are largely unknown, including its background as an army chemical warfare proving ground and its later roles of manufacturing, testing, and training in support of naval aviation.
Continuously evolving as a vital component of national defense, Lakehurst has seen its share of triumphs and setbacks over its eight decades of operation, and this is expected to continue as the military redefines itself in a fast-paced high-tech era. Despite several proposals to consolidate or eliminate Lakehurst’s role over the years, the place continues to flourish, like a cat with nine lives….
Camp Kendrick – the army’s experimental site for chemical warfare technology.
The presence of a military installation did much to improve the economy of the region.
Even with live rounds of mustard gas and other hazardous chemicals being tested here, inhabitants of nearby Lakehurst (well known in its day as a “health resort”) did not seem to mind.
Map of 1923
Completed HQ building 1917
Lakehurst Proving Grounds Feb. 1918
Eddystone Ammunition Corporation – a subsidiary of Baldwin Locomotive Works – “Company transportation” – arms manufacture – 1915
Eddystone makes cannon shells for the Russian government – 1915 - 1916 – 1917
Soon after came under US Army control with WWI
Wood observation towers No 1 and 2 – for smoke bombs and fires –used test animals in trenches.
Tested steel helmets and gas masks.
Sheep were used for monitoring of testing the effects of deadly poison gases in various concentrations under controlled conditions –
“The proving grounds contributed immensely to advances in chemical warfare.
Doughboys in contrast to rotting trenches in Europe – enjoyed “thoroughly modern latrine facilities.”
Used narrow gage 12 ton geared steam locomotive to haul supplies
Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Tested gun used to throw barbed wire projectiles. 1915-1917
Col. William S. Bacon, commanding officer –
Visted Maj. H.R. LeSueur of British Military Mission
Camp Kendrick closed – auctioned off items on Tuesday March 27, 1923 –
Samuel T. Freeman and Co. 1519 Chestnut Philad.
Summer of 1919 – Lt. Comdr. Lewis Maxfield, a skilled, enthusiastic navy dirigible pilot, recommended Lakehurst as the new home for the navy’s lighter than air (LTA) program.
Deal finalized in summer of 1919 – by acting secrtary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt –
7,400 acres original – later expanded.
The US Navy Dept. of Yards and Docks drew up specifications.
August 1919 – Lord Construction Company of Phila. Won the hanger bid - $2.9 million.
The largest open interior space in the world –
Fleet Airship No. 1 – Rigid Airship ZR-1 – manufactured at Navy Aircraft Factory, Phila.
ZR-2 built for Navy by British Royal Airship works at Cardington, England.
Original plan to use hydrogen gas in airships
Designed plant to manufacture 75,000 cubic feet of hydrogen per day.
Capt. Frank T. Evans put Naval Air Station Lakehurst into Commission on June 26, 1921
The base originally housed in wooden firehouse built in 1921 –
Modern WPA brick building completed in 1935,
Hindenburg disaster May 6, 1937
The old wood firehouse still stands as workshop as does the brick firehouse
Hanger No. 1 – first permanent address of the navy’s lighter than air operations – 966 feet overall 807 interior – 263 feet door with – 224 overall height – 178 feet interior height –
Declared a national historic landmark in 1968
Officers housing constructed in 1930s.
The Allies received several Zeppelins as spoils of the first war with Germany and built several based on the designs of the captured German models. One copy British R-34 - crossed the Atlantic – July 1919 –
108 hours westbound – 75 eastbound.
1922 – First American rigid airship – based on captured German L49
ZR2 tragedy –
For years special trains brought sightseers to view the airships.
1915 – US began LTA program – blimps – The Howden Detachement in Yorkshire, England provided airship training – R-38 (American ZR2)
On its fourth trail flight August 24, 1921 – the ship broke apart and fell burning into the River Humber at Hull, with 28 British and 16 Americans killed, including Lt. Comder. Lewis Maxfield – the leading proponent of airship development in America.
ZR-1 Shenandoah – firsts flight Sept. 4, 1923
Commissioned Oct. 27 680 feet long – 91 feet high
Nov. 1923 – 160 foot mooring mast. West field. Developed in Britain allowed airships to operate independent of hangers.
6:44 pm on January 16, 1924 the Shenandoah broke free from its mast in a gale.
German instructor Annon Heinen and skeleton crew rode out the storm and brought the runaway airshop back to Lakehurst after a nine hour flight, a public relations triumph.
Lt. Comder. Zachary Lansdowne took command of Shenandoah on Feb. 16 1924
Lakehurst commanding officer Comdr. Jacob Klein – “bitterly unhappy to see an ‘outsider’ brought in. So began a decades long pattern of feuding among various officers and commanders at Lakeurst. – p. 29
Chief of Naval Airship Training and Experimentation Command during WWII, Vice Adm. Charles E. Rosendahl – retired to Toms River in 1946.
“An outstanding proponent of the airship cause, he remained a regular presence at Naval Station Lakehurst until his death in May 1977 at age 85. Bitterly disappointed with the navy’s decision to remove Lakehurst’s designation as an active naval air station, he abandoned plans for establishing a museum at his beloved base, and his accumulated archives instead went to the University of Texas, in his former home state.” – p. 115