Dogs on the Hindenburg

Two dogs were aboard the Hindenburg during its infamous flight from Germany to New Jersey in 1937. One dog was named Ulla. The other is unknown.

On May 3, 1937 the Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany. On May 6, after an uneventful journey across the Atlantic, the zeppelin burst into flames while attempting to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. According to eyewitness accounts, it took only 30-40 seconds from the first flame to the smoldering wreckage on ground. Unbelievably, only 35 of the 97 people on board and one crewman working on the ground died. According to Dan Grossman, American airship historian, two dogs were kenneled on the Hindenburg. Both died in the fire.

Ulla, a German shepherd, belonged to Joseph Spah. Spah was a German acrobatic performer and was headed home after touring Europe. Ulla, who is said to have performed in Spah's acts, was to be given to his children as a pet upon his return home. Ulla and the other dog were kept in a restricted freight area of the airship which Spah visited often to walk and feed his dog. Spah was to be accompanied by a crew member during the visits, but there were times he went alone and was apparently caught doing so.

Spah survived the crash. He was able to jump from the airship while it was about 20 feet from the ground, breaking his ankle.

Because of Spah's unauthorized visits to Ulla he was considered a possible saboteur, using his dog as a cover to plant a bomb on the airship. The FBI investigated Spah and cleared him of any wrongdoing. Some experts believe the Hindenburg disaster was caused by pilot error (making a couple of sharp turns causing a tension strap to break and rip a hole in a gas bag) and static electricity (igniting the flame).

I can not find a picture of Ulla, nor can I find any more information about the other dog aboard the Hindenburg on that fateful day.