I will try to give you a typical day at work for the Crew of the Airships. It is early, still dark, the weather could be cloudy, windy, rainy or all three at the same time. Remember, they are cruising below the clouds to view the open ocean below. The crew was 8 to 10 young men. Breakfast of course in the Mess Hall. The Aircrews would usually get their mission briefings and board well before dawn. The Airship was pulled from its mooring mast in preparation for flight. The mast allowed the airship to swing freely with the wind and was used to pull the Airships in and out of the hangar. The next part of this story is copied from the Book “The History of NAS Tillamook and its role in World War ll”
“They would preflight the engines, add fuel and prepare whatever provisions would be necessary. Helium would be added to the envelope to give the desired lift. The ship’s armaments, usually comprised of depth charges, machine gun and ammunition, was put on board as well as signal pistols, star shells, smoke floats, and dye slicks.
The two big air cooled Pratt and Whitney Wasp radial engines, suspended outboard from the blimps, roared to life bringing warmth to the cabins. Soon the blimp was trimmed for undocking and the bow secured to the mobile mast. By this time, the crew (usually consisting of a pilot, copilot, navigator, and ten enlisted men would arrive, and after the preflight check, take their places in the control cabin (also called a control car or gondola was about the size of a bus and contained crew quarters, bomb bay and a control station. It had pull-down bunks where the men could rest when not on watch.
The ground crew would take hold of the lines and control rails of the blimp and, as the tractor slowly began to pull the mast out of the hangar, would begin walking the blimp into the darkness of the early morning.
Once free of the hangar doors, the crew men handling the lines on the aft portion of the blimp would let go and allow the blimp to swing freely into the wind as the mast moved to the takeoff area. When cleared for takeoff by the control tower, the pilot ordered the blimp disconnected from the mooring mast and the ground crew moved the blimp backward to clear it. At the that time they would unhook bags of sand ballast from the railing that ran around the cabin. The ground crew would let go once the engines accelerated. The blimp rolled down the runway balancing daintily on the single huge soft rubber tire under the cabin.
As the huge aircraft raced down the runway, the pilot kept the nose down slightly to build up airspeed and keep the bow from raising too abruptly so the tail would not hit the ground. At the appropriate moment, the pilot eased back on the elevator and the majectic gray balloon nosed gently into the morning sky with a pleasant constant drone of the engines. When about 100 feet off the ground, the pilot would usually circle the field to ensure everything worked property and then set course to begin the mission.” I would have had a problem putting all the detailed Information in my own words. I will tell you about the mission next month.
Pat Patterson and I ate our lunch while he shared with me his stories of Hangar ‘B’ and the Railroad. I have known him for years and I know many of you have too. He is a railroad man and has many stories. Pat remembers seeing railcars loaded with Helium tubes. These tubes are very large, you will see one at the museum. When they arrived, the tubes were buried for safe keeping. As I reported earlier the rafters were brought in by train also. The railroad played an important role in getting the two hangars built quickly. I will share with you more of Pat’s story next month, it will fit right in. In August I will tell you how the Navy and Airships protected the West Coast from enemy warships and protected and guided our ships. I had hoped to do that this month, but this information was first.
Last week I took my Great Granddaughter, Jolie Burdick, to see Hangar ‘B’ and the Museum. I wanted her to see and feel how huge the hangar is. I want to encourage you to go experience the hangar and take a leisurely walk through the museum. All of the things I have talked about is there, plus pictures and/or real objects on display. The cabin (gondola) shows how it is put together and how it works.
I would love to hear your stories about Hangar ‘B’ or ‘A’, the fire. Carolyn Decker 503-842-8271
JOIN OUR TEAM OF “FRIENDS”, HELP US TO SAVE HANGAR ‘B’ There are four ways to join us.
1. Donation; 2. Monthly Donations; 3. Help us with our Fund Raisers; 4. Volunteer for our Board, “Friends of Tillamook Air Museum”