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best permit of putting to the test the experience that we have accumulated and the knowledge that we have acquired since the last previous construction.
That is the body of my recommendation, although it is several years since I have had any connection with the Navy Department, I do want to say that I personally feel that if we take this point of view it carries with it one almost necessary corollary insofar as the treatment of airship personnel is concerned. If we consider if we are carrying on with a course of development which must go on continuously from year to year and over a number of years, and in which we expect to continue progress, then it follows it is extremely desirable we should permit those who desire to do so to specialize in lighter-than-air craft for a very substantial period; in fact, I might say for an indefinite period, if they themselves are willing to take the risk that that specialization necessarily involves some narrowing of their naval career.
Representative McSwain. That they should take the risk of being denied promotion in rank or advancement in pay in order to promote a great department of science and of defense.
Mr. WARNER. No; I said some narrowing of their naval career. That is, obviously, a man who has spent his entire life in airships, is not going to be qualified to command a fleet at sea. I am not referring to his promotion; only to his type of activity.
Representative McSwain. What is your view about that, about promotion ?
Mr. WARNER. I do not think my view there is of any particular importance, but I should say it would appear obvious, as a matter of fundamental justice, if we are going to invite or permit men to specialize, we must not deny them the opportunity of promotion, improvement of rank, at a rate of pay commensurate with that of their fellows in other branches of the service. What I meant when I used the word “narrowed” was that there would be a limited number of things they could do in the service because their experience would have been narrow.
That is all I care to present.
resentative McSwain. The committee will adjourn until o'clock Monday.
(Thereupon at 5:20 p.m., an adjournment was taken until Monday, June 5, 1933, at 10 a.m.)
INVESTIGATION OF DIRIGIBLE DISASTERS
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 1933
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, D.C. The joint committee met, pursuant to the call of the chairman, at 10 a.m., in the committee room of the Committee on the District of Columbia, Capitol Building, Hon. John J. Delaney (vice chairman) presiding
Present: Representatives Delaney, Hope, and Harter.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Mr. Brisbane, will you kindly sit opposite the reporter, so he can hear you with greater facility.
Mr. Chairman, will you kindly swear the witness.
TESTIMONY OF ARTHUR BRISBANE
Representative DELANEY. You do solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give on the matter in hearing will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
Mr. BRISBANE. I do.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Mr. Brisbane, this committee has been charged with three functions by the joint resolution of Congress; one to fix the cause of the crash of the Akron; another, the responsibility; and, third, which is relevant to your appearance here, to make recommendations for future air policy with respect to airships, and the committee would appreciate any observations you may have to give them on that subject.
Mr. BRISBANE. Colonel Breckinridge and Mr. Chairman, I have written out a few things, which is my daily habit.
Representative DELANEY. The committee would be glad to hear them. If you will permit, I would like to insert, before Mr. Brisbane continues with this statement, the editorial which was carried in the Washington Herald, I think of April 6 and 7, to insert that in the record; then Mr. Brisbane can proceed and follow with his statement after that.
(The article is as follows:)
As much of the world as hears the news talks of the Akron disaster, followed so swiftly and tragically by that of the nonrigid airship J-3. This country has owned 3 great dirigibles, and 2 have been wrecked with heavy loss of life.
Representative Fish of New York demands investigation of a report supposed to have been made by two Secret Service agents, accusing of sabotage, intended to make the Akron unsafe, a certain Austrian officer, whose name is given, employed on construction of the Akron.
Why any Austrian or other foreigner should be interested in destroying that ship is not easily imagined.
One of the three Akron survivors is R. E. Deal, who was also a survivor of the Shenandoah disaster. He was called "Lucky” Deal at the Lakehurst air base.
Those who believe in “luck” which does not exist, and the superstitious generally, will find it hard to find a name for him now that he has emerged safely from two such disasters.
Lieutenant Wiley, second in command of the Akron, who survived, says “the ship took a sharp lurch and the control wires of the upper rudder were carried away.” The crash follows. Apparent weakness of the rudder wires, on which control and safety of the ship depended, might arouse suspicion of sabotage.
But the ship was surrounded by lightning flashes on all sides when destruction came, so that there is no need of any sabotage hypothesis.
Now, the Akron, lighter than air, normally, but much heavier than water with the gas bag deflated, lies at the bottom of the ocean. It is not probable that the truth will ever be known.
Americans take pride in the admirable discipline maintained on the airship by men facing death, orders “given in a low tone”, instantly and efficiently obeyed, including this, at 300 feet altitude, “All hands stand by for a crash.”.
A great majority of Americans hope that this second great air disaster will not diminish Government interest in airships of all types, lighter-than-air, or heavier-than-air. It is a man's business to conquer the air and it is the business of our Government to make this Nation the most powerful in the air.
Representative Vinson, of the House Naval Committee, says: “There won't be any more big airships built. The Akron cost $5,000,000.”
Perhaps Mr. Vinson will change his mind.
The Akron cost $5,000,000, but big battleships, of which we possess many, cost $50,000,000 or more each and carry enormous crews.
And in real war,
if the Navy were foolish enough to send one of those monster battleships to sea, it would soon be resting at the bottom of the ocean, sent there by airplane bombs.
We may not like air disasters; nevertheless, the Nation, its Army and Navy must learn to fly and overcome difficulties, storm, wind, lightning.
You learn with gratification that President Roosevelt's public works bill includes $230,000,000 for 30 new warships. Representative Vinson says completion of the program would “still leave the United States far below Japan, Great Britain, France, and Italy in actual fighting ships, except battleships.
A wise Europe and Japan, knowing what happened to battleships in the last war, hidden away in port the greater part of the time, worthless when they were sent to sea, leaves battleships building to the United States.
The $230,000,000 program will provide 2 airplane carriers of 13,500 tons each, four 10,000-ton 6-inch gun cruisers, 20 destroyers and 4 submarines, and work on them will begin promptly.
Commander Jacob H. Klein, retired, formerly chief officer of the dirigible Los Angeles, says concerning the Akron disaster: “You can discount any lightning theory. There has been no proof in the history of lighter-than-air ships that one has been destroyed by lightning. Absence of proof is not always conclusive.
This country has lost two big dirigibles both destroyed in heavy lightning storms. That fact is more important than “absence of proof.”
Commander Klein concludes from Lieutenant Wiley's description of the disaster that “the ship cruised in various directions for possibly 4 hours at an altitude of about 1,600 feet trying to find a way out of the circle of storms, which finally completely surrounded it at midnight."
Possibly if the big ship instead of going in “various directions” had headed straight out to sea at top speed, the dangerous air currents, if not the danger of lightning, might have been left behind.
It is well known that violent up-and-down air currents common above the land often disappear entirely over the water where temperature is even.
Last week, cruising above the Everglades in Southern Florida, the up-and-clown air currents were severe, causing the small dirigible to roll, rear, and plunge. Rolling from side to side, pointing up toward the sky, then down toward the earth, while not dangerous, was physically fatiguing and this writer suggested to Captain Sheppard of the Reliance that flying over the water would be more comfortable.
The small airship turned out over the ocean, the perpendicular air currents disappeared almost at once, and the ship sailed as evenly as a ferry boat on calm water.
On two occasions a little while before when the writer planned airship trips across Florida to the Gulf coast, Captain Sheppard had declined to take his ship out on account of threatening wind or thunderstorms.
Safety, due to freedom from violent, perpendicular air currents over the ocean, was often emphasized by the late commander of the unfortunate Shenandoah in private conversation and that safety interests those that expect to cross the Atlantic by dirigible in the future.
It may help to explain the success of the German Zeppelin that has been making regular trips over the Atlantic between Germany and Brazil.
Representative DELANEY. Proceed, Mr. Brisbane.
Mr. BRISBANE. German engineers and experts in aeronautics have proved that they know how to run lighter-than-air ships, safely, efficiently, and usefully.
I have here in my hand a time table, showing the sailings of the airship Graf Zeppelin, giving the days and hours it sails from Germany to South America, to Rio, and to the various places to which it goes, going back to Seville in Spain, which indicates that flying in dirigible lighter-than-air ship is not beyond the power of competent engineers.
Representative DELANEY. May we have that schedule, Mr. Brisbane, to insert it in the record at this point?
Mr. BRISBANE. Certainly.
LUFTSCHIFFBAU ZEPPELIN HAMBURG-AMERIKA LINIE No. 1, 1933
1 In South America there are direct aeroplane connections by the Syndicato Condor Ltda., to and from North America by the Pan American Airways, and in Europe by the Deutsche Lufthansa A.G.
* Calls will be made at Barcelona or Seville as an additional Spanish port provided that at least four overseas passengers have been booked for these places. Fares (subject to alteration): Rio de Janeiro-Friedrichshafen..
$475 Rio de Janeiro-Seville
430 Rio de Janeiro-Prenambuco.
Mr. BRISBANE. If United States engineers and fliers don't know how, they ought to learn. It is not the American custom to admit that we cannot do what other nations do. That admission might have kept us from having automobiles or railroads.
Until some great improvement is made in heavier-than-air ships, it is evident that for crossing oceans, the lighter-than-air ship must be safer. When the engine stops in a heavier-than-air ship, the ship immediately plunges to the earth or the water. The engines may be stopped in a lighter-than-air ship, properly inflated, and the ship remain afloat for many hours, perhaps for days, giving full opportunity for distress signals, time to lower passengers in inflated life belts or lifeboats, or otherwise provide for the emergency,
The difference between a lighter-than-air ship that will remain in the air after the machinery breaks down, and a heavier-than-air ship, in which the breakdown of the machinery means a forced landing, with only a mile to go for every 1,000 feet of altitude, might often mean the difference between safety and death.
For thousands of years men have used surface ships, and they are all “lighter-than-water” ships. Men cross the ocean in ships of iron, but the ship weighs less than the water it displaces, and it is safe indefinitely, even though the machinery break down. No passenger, no steamship company, would be interested in heavier-than-water ships, that must sink if the machinery should break down.
The difference between the oceans of water and air is that the air ocean is 600 times lighter than water. Men through the ages have found lighter-than-water ships necessary for the ocean of water. They may eventually decide that lighter-than-air ships are necessary for certain purposes for the ocean of air. It is my opinion that they will do so, and will achieve sufficiently great speeds, with absolute safety, in lighter-than-air ships of metal, just as they now achieve a lesser, but considerable, speed plus safety with lighter-than-water ships of metal.
The new airship, Macon, it is said, could cross the Atlantic safely and return without landing, or taking on fuel, if necessary, or cross the Pacific, carrying in addition to the crew, an adequate load of mail in peace time, or bombs in war time.
The lighter-than-air ship in its infancy frightened the population of London into the cellars. And the Germans are obliged to operate with dangerous hydrogen gas, that can be easily set on fire. The United States has an almost exclusive supply of noninflammable, nonexplosive helium gas, a great advantage, which should not be neglected by this country, but fully developed and utilized.
Representative DELANEY. Will you repeat that statement, Mr. Brisbane, please.
Mr. BRISBANE. The lighter-than-air ship in its infancy frightened the population of London into the cellars, and the Germans are obliged to operate with dangerous hydrogen gas, that can be easily set on fire. The United States has an almost exclusive supply of noninflammable, nonexplosive helium gas, a great advantage, which should not be neglected by this country, but fully developed, and utilized.
The biggest lighter-than-air ship ever constructed can be built for one tenth the cost of a great battleship. And such a lighter-than-air ship, able to carry small, swift heavier-than-air ships in its "inside garage”, might easily destroy half a dozen of the costly surface ships and escape.
Mr. Chairman, two or three weeks ago I went out to look at this Macon and saw them put in arrangements for a garage for five heavierthan-air ships, which could be dropped and sent to a considerable distance, while the main ship could remain away from the scene of battle, and these heavier-than-air ships could fly about and reconnoiter and drop bombs, perhaps, on decks of surface craft.