Despite modern innovations in video technology, which is able to capture startlingly lifelike moving images down to the last pixel, sometimes the old-fangled black-and-white footage speaks with an unparalleled eloquence. Such is the case with the release by the Public Domain Review of rarely seen newsreel footage of the airship Hindenburg’s tragic final voyage on May 6, 1937.
The footage of the explosion, which doesn’t occur until the 3:26 mark, is made that much more chilling by the absence of a soundtrack: The newsreel is a “silent” picture that includes captions.
The early part of the video is worth watching, including as it does coverage of the airship making safely executed flights. Slate notes that the Hindenburg completed more than 30 successful transatlantic trips. In this newsreel, there are clips of the zeppelin floating over Manhattan with a swastika on its tail.
Interestingly, only about a third of the people onboard the Hindenburg were killed in the explosion over Lakehurst, N.J. Some of the passengers and crew managed to jump out in time — a feat that sounds unlikely until you notice an observation deck designed near the bottom of the huge but low-flying airship, which gave passengers easy egress.
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