National Geographic : 1943 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine A Blimp Tester Holds a Lamp for a Sailor on the Inside Looking Out If a thin spot has developed in the rubberized envelope, the "inside" man will detect it by observing light; otherwise, he remains in the dark. In this inspection the ship is blown up with air. loting. There was the blackboard of child hood, but teacher was in uniform, ruler point ing to a chalk blimp. Passing another room, we paused at the sight of the familiar sewing machine. This was the Parachute Materiel School, where sail ors learn to sew chutes for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Besides silk, there were bolts of other materials for experimental parachutes. A Chute Packer's Exam, Final or Finis In another room, sailors were packing para chutes on 60-foot tables. At the end of a 16-week course, they are taken up for a brief, but drastic, final examination. The candi date, strapped in a chute of his own packing, is told to jump. If the silk opens, he will pack chutes for others. Many make their first jump in this test. In a corner of the field stood the balloon shed, but as the wind was blowing to sea that day no bags were up. Dominating the field was the mammoth hangar to which the hydrogen-filled Hinden burg was heading when she burned. The former home of the 6,500,000-cubic-foot Akron can house a number of K-type non rigids (page 89). So great an expansion-details confidential - w as going on that Lakehurst's commanding officer, Capt. W. E. Zimmerman, was a very busy man. I talked with him on the run between offices at his headquarters. Like Lakehurst's famous Capt. Charles E. Rosendahl (now Rear Admiral), then on one of 1.-t.-a. men's periodic tours of duty with the surface fleet, Captain Zimmerman is an air ship veteran. I asked him how a stepchild of the air service, buffeted by Congress and ridi culed by h.-t.-a. flyers, felt now that his talents were in such overwhelming demand. "I wouldn't go so far as to say lighter-than air was a stepchild," he replied, laughing. "We had tough days, but we felt confident. We knew the nonrigid's value all along. Now there is a cry for blimps and more blimps. We have suddenly become popular." Relieving his chief of as many details as possible was the station's executive officer, Comdr. John D. Reppy. To him was put the question whether cadets were taught to recog nize silhouettes of our own and the enemy's submarines. "That's right, they are," he answered. "Does a blimp commander, then, pause to determine the identity of any suspicious sub marine?"