Father Of Naval Aviation Killed In Crash Of The Akron, 04 April 1933Waring Hills Apr 04, 2011
The Father of Naval Aviation, Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, boarded USS Akron on the evening of 03 April 1933 along with his aide, Commander Henry Cecil, the commanding officer of NAS Lakehurst Commander Fred T. Berry, and Lieutenant Colonel Alfred F. Masury, USAR, a guest of Moffett’s, who was also vice-president of the Mack Truck Company, and a strong proponent of rigid airships. Once the visitors and crew were onboard, Commander Frank McCord (Akron‘s skipper) had the airship cast off from her mooring mast at NAS Lakehurst and set course to operate along the coast of New England, assisting in the calibration of radio direction finder (RDF) stations.
Akron soon encountered severe weather, and shortly after midnight crashed into the surface of the ocean due to powerful downdrafts. Akron broke apart upon impact and its crew thrown into the freezing waters of the Atlantic off New Jersey.
The crew of the German ship Phoebus saw the crash and maneuvered to investigate. They recovered an unconscious Lieutenant Commander Wiley and three others: Chief Radioman Robert W. Copeland, Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Richard E. Deal, and Aviation Metalsmith Second Class Moody E. Ervin. Despite attempts to revive him, Copeland never regained consciousness and died aboard the Phoebus.
Admiral Moffett, his guests and the remaining Akron officers and crew totaling 73 people were lost to the freezing waters of the Atlantic by drowning or hypothermia. No life jackets were onboard Akron and no life rafts were deployed due to the sudden ocean impact. This was the deadliest aviation disaster in history at the time. It also was a great loss to the Navy in losing a man of Moffett’s stature, experience, political savvy and his vision of its aviation future.
Read here for a list of the officers and crew lost aboard the USS Akron…
Listen to the XO describe the crash of Akron in the You Tube video below…