Magnificent flying machines

In October, 1924, president Coolidge and Secretary of the Navy Wilbur welcomed at the White House Dr. Hugo Eckener and other ranking members of the crew (all Germans, with three American observers) that had brought the German-built airship ZR-3 (“USS Los Angeles”) from the Zeppelin factory in Friedrichshafen to the US Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, NJ on an 81 hour, 5,000 mile flight. At the time, the ZR-3 was only the 4th aircraft to cross the Atlantic. No insurance company had been willing to issue a policy for delivery of the airship, but Eckener was so confident of the dirigible that he risked the company’s entire business capital. American crowds enthusiastically greeted the airship’s arrival

Dr. Hugo Eckener meeting Calvin Coolidge and Secretary Wilbur Oct. 16, 1924

The president expressed his hope that they had had a pleasant trip and recalled a telegram he had sent upon arrival of the airship in which he had said: “I congratulate you….I hope that your stay in the United States will be enjoyable and that the notable services you have rendered in bringing over this airship will be a matter of satisfaction and pride to you throughout your life.” He also called the Zeppelin an “angel of peace.”

The airship had been given the U.S. by the German government, as it was partially funded by war reparations from WWI. First Lady Grace Coolidge commissioned it the “USS Los Angeles” on Nov. 25, 1924 and it went on to log nearly 4,400 hours of flight and rack up a distance of some 319,000 km flown before being decommissioned in 1932 and dismantled in 1940. Unlike the ill-fated airships Akron, Macon, and Shenandoah, it happily did not meet a disastrous end.

The USS Los Angeles over Washington, DC