Sunday, March 20, 2011
The story ends and the mystery begins...
The police and fire department follow the floating derelict until it finally comes to rest on Belleview Ave in Daly City. The bag entangled in the lines running down the street poles. The gondola comes to rest on it's back end, one 300 pound still attached. Rescuers find no sign of either pilot. One of the two doors is latched fully open.
Navy personnel arrive on the scene shortly thereafter and find that the engine switch is on with plenty of gas in the tanks. The secret code books on-board are intact, the parachutes, raft, guns undisturbed, and the radio and Bogen Hailer all function.
Navy trucks arrive with sailors and the blimp is trucked off hours later after photos are taken, armed guards surrounding the blimp.
The Board of Investigation is formed two days later day under Commander Francis Connell.
The board calls witnesses and Navy personal involved in the maintenance of the blimp. The board of inquiry probes for a reasonable explanation, none is available. The engines start and operate normally when tested. The radio is working normally.
In the case of an emergency, the first thing the crew would do was use the radio. The Bogen Hailer would allow the pilots to send word to any surface ships should the radio not work. Should the engines stop, free ballooning back to land is an option, dropping weight to adjust height. Should the gas envelope develop a leak, parachutes are provided. A raft is on board should the raft land in water. None of these options were taken.
Is it possible a stowaway was aboard, overpowering the crew and disposing of the bodies? Given the incident of the spies breaking into the aerodrome, the extra weight forcing the mechanic off the flight, this is a possible solution to this 'who done it'.
There is a closet size back room in the gondola and rack space over head. Did a stray bullet put a hole in the blimp gas bag, causing the deflation?
Weather was shown to not be a factor.
Witnesses from the fishing ship, Daisy Gray, and the Liberty ship, the Albert Galatin, are interviewed and give evidence that the crew was aboard, engines running, until the blimp headed back towards San Francisco. Did the blimp engage a sub crew that captured the crew?
Did the blimp dip into the water, washing the crew out to sea? Evidence shows that didn't occur.
One by one, the responses to questions bring no resolution to the mystery.
Both pilots have sterling records. Both are married. They come from the Lakehurst Naval Air Station program. Both have very recently been promoted. The co-pilot, Charles Adams had been on the USS Los Angles and was awarded a commendation for helping put out a fire on board. He received an award from Herman Goering for his rescue efforts at the the crash of the Hindenburg. He also served on the Akron,later lost. Most notable, he served on the USS Macon at the time of her crash. Adams also served on the USS Henley and was present at the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
The testimony considers that the crew may have fallen accidentally through the open door. This not thought possible given the locking mechanism on the doors.
Did they have a fight, one killing the other, dumping the body and then leaving? Was one a spy rendezvousing with the sub they detected? Could they have flown to investigate and been captured?
The condition of the batteries is discussed. They are drained. They are recharged and test perfectly fine. The reason for the drain is unknown but a note-worthy clue.
At the end of the inquest, the conclusion of the board is that the fate of the pilots is unknown, and that while it is speculation that they fell, there is no evidence to draw that conclusion. They are put on the missing in action rolls and in one year's time, they will be declared dead.