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Harold G. Dick, c. 1935

In 1934 Dick left for Germany to collect information on the design, engineering, construction and operation of the German airships.  Although not asked to do so, he kept copies of the detailed reports he sent back to the U.S., as well as flight records, zeppelin memorabilia, and his own photographs.

After graduating with an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1928, Hal Dick was asked to join Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1929. He soon transferred to Goodyear-Zeppelin, a subsidiary established under the guidance of thirteen German engineers.  There he spent several years in the design and engineering of the big rigid airships Akron and Macon.  This experience along with his free balloon and dirigible (blimp) pilot's licenses made him uniquely qualified to represent Goodyear at the German airship company, Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, with whom Goodyear had been sharing their expertise since 1923.                               

License Dick's dirigible and spherical balloon licenses are signed by Orville Wright.

Goodyear Blimp

Goodyear training group

Letter, page 1Letter, page 2 Letter from Goodyear President, Paul W. Litchfield

Acting as a liaison between Goodyear and Luftschiffbau Zeppelin from 1934 - 1938, Hal Dick became the only American to have flown 22 ocean crossings as a crewman on the German passenger airships, the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg.  Although his status was unofficial, he enjoyed a close working relationship with the company and was provided with information that otherwise could not have been obtained.

Landing of Graf Zeppelin

Postcard Dick mailed numerous postcards to himself from aboard the airships, documenting his many flights.  This one, from the 1,000,000-kilometer flight of the Graf Zeppelin, has the signatures of the commanders and crew.
Boarding pass

Passenger list

Dick's  boarding pass and passenger list from the first North Atlantic flight of the Hindenburg, May 6, 1936.

Newspaper article from Asbury Park Press, 1987Dick was the only man not employed by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin to be aboard the Hindenburg's first test flight in 1935. Remarkably, Dick was called to England to meet with Goodyear president Paul W. Litchfield, and missed the disastrous last flight of the Hindenburg.

Harold G. Dick, c. 1935

In the 1930's, the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg provided the only regular non-stop commercial transatlantic air service.  Hal Dick's personal photo albums include interior shots of the Hindenburg.   

Interior view of HindenburgInterior view of Hindenburg

Interior view of Hindenburg


Certificate commemorating Dick's first crossing of the equator on the Hindenburg, March 4, 1936.


Nazi marchDuring his time in Germany, Dick witnessed the growing influence of Nazism. In 1936, the German air ministry prohibited Dick from collecting further information on an official basis, but because of his friendly relationship with Luftschiffbau Zeppelin personnel, he continued to have free access to the airship plant. Dick was not allowed to take part in the test flights of the newly completed Graf II, and after more restrictions were put in place, he left Germany in November, 1938.

Propaganda flight The Graf Zeppelin stands by as the Hindenburg readies for the propaganda flight in which the two would fly over every town and city in Germany of 10,000 inhabitants or more.

In March of 1936, the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg made a three day flight dropping leaflets and making speeches via a loudspeaker, but the first takeoff attempt led to a damaged fin on the Hindenburg.  Although security guards were confiscating cameras in fear of negative propaganda, Dick concealed his in his jacket.  These photos are the only known pictures of the damaged and repaired fins.

Fin 1

Fin 2

Harold G. Dick, c. 1985

Dick left Goodyear in 1945 for Ponca Canvas Products in Wichita, Kansas where he lived the rest of his life.  As a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he made over 100 presentations on the passenger airships and Nazi Germany.  He recounted these experiences in a book entitled The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: The Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg, published by Smithsonian Institution Press in 1986.

Exhibit created by Angela S. Miller, Special Collections graduate assistant, May 2000.

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