Saturday, June 11, 2011

Board of Inquiry formed to investigate the L-8 crash

The Board of Investigation is formed two days later day under

Commander Francis Connell, along with Commander Karl L. Lange, Lt.

Cmdr Volney C. Finch, and Lt J.G. Cuthbert B Currie as recorder.

George Finley Phillips Jr., Yeoman second class was the court


Day One, Tuesday August 18, 1942

The Proceeding began at 10am. The recorder swore in the board members

and the senior member of the board swore I the reporter. The board

worked out how the proceedings work and decided on a closed hearing.

No one connected with the investigation was present. The board then

adjoined and assembled at the hangar, inspecting the salvaged parts

and equipment until they took recess at 11:25.

Reconvening at 1:30 in the Moffett Field board room, the board called

Lt. Cmdr George F. Watson, commanding officer of Airship Patrol

squadron ZP-32.

He gave a brief history of the history of the L-8.

“The L-8 was originally erected at Moffett Field on February 23,

1942, and was test flown by representatives of the Goodyear Aircraft

Company and was accepted by me for the Navy on March 5, 1942. The L-

8 had 1092.5 hours in flight up until the time of the accident. The

L-8 has been used principally on expeditionary bases at Treasure

Island, Watsonville, and Los Angeles. The greater part of her time

she had been at Treasure Island operating from an expeditionary mast

and being returned to Moffett Field only for inspection, maintenance

and overhaul work. The L-8 returned from Los Angeles to Moffett

Field August

A. & R. Department of the Naval Air Station, Moffett Field,

California, on August 12,1942, and was sent to Treasure Island to

operate from that point on August 13,1942, With Lieutenant Ernest

Cody as senior aviator in the squadron unit. We have experienced no

trouble with the L-8 beyond the minor upkeep requirements of an

airship operating from an expeditionary base. The ship has always

flown well and has a good reputation for flying well. On March 13,

1942, the L-8 underwent

successfully weathered te storm with only minor damage. The airship

was returned to Moffett Field under it’s own power, inspected and

such repairs as required were made. The principal damage to the ship

at that time was to the two propellers which struck the ground

during the storm, repair of which propellers was attempted but they

have yet not been since used. They are not the propellers used on

the ship now. Other than that, there was no damage of any

consequence to the ship. The L-8 was a new ship and unused at the

time of its original erection at Moffett Field, California. It was a

standard non-rigid type designated in the Navy as ZNN, commonly used

11, 1942 and was given it’s monthly inspection by the

a very severe storm while at the mast and

for training purposes but assigned to the squadron for observation

and short patrol purposes due to the lack of the larger patrol types

for assignment. The L-8 has a cubic gas content of 123,000 cubic

feet. It is powered by two Warner Super Scarab type 50 engines of

145 h.p. each. It carried two Mark 17 Aircraft depth bombs, it had

fuel capacity of 150 gallons, the fuel load depending upon the

mission and the current lift of the ship. The crew consisted of a

minimum of two people, one the command pilot. The ship frequently

carried an additional person during the middle-of-the-day flights

when it had super-heat. The ship was approximately 150 feet long and

approximately 47 at maximum diameter and was of a streamline shape.

It carried a 30-calibre aircraft machine gun which could be mounted

at the pilot’s discretion. Under normal conditions of loading, the

ship was required to make a statically heavy take-off. This was the

case on the take-off for the flight on the morning of August 16. The

normal consumption of fuel at cruising speeds was twelve (12)

gallons per hour and air speed of forty-three (43) knots.”

Lt. Currie then asked Lt Commander Watson to give a statement about

any information concerning the take-off and subsequent deflation and


“The airship L-8 departed from Treasure Island at 0603, Pacific War

Time, with Lieutenant Ernest D. Cody, U.S.N, command pilot and Ensign

(T) Charles E. Adams, U.S.N, attached to the Naval Air Station,

Moffett Field, California, as passenger for the normal patrol flight

101. The ship proceeded over the Golden Gate and headed Southwesterly

in the normal course for the assigned patrol. At 0738 (all times are

Pacific War Time ), the L-8, by radio, sent to the Wing Control, a

message “Position four (4) miles East of the Farallones—stand by”.

War Time was instituted by President Franklin in February 1942, and

equivalent to Daylight Savings Time, was meant to make better use of

daylight hours.

This message was received by the Wing Control. At 0742,the L-8 sent

a second message, “Am investigating suspicious oil slick—stand by”.

This message was received by the Wing Control. At approximately 0817,

Wing Control attempted to contact the L-8 by radio unsuccessfully.

From that time until 1120, when the ship was reported down, repeated

attempts by te Wing Control radio, by other aircraft on the same

circuit, and by the Treasure Island airship radio unit, were

unsuccessfully made to raise the L-8 by radio. These attempts were

intercepted by the squadron radio watch and I was informed of the

fact that the L-8 was out of radio communication at about 0820. This

caused me no particular concern or apprehension as to the safety

of the ship since weather conditions were satisfactory and I had

complete confidence in Lieutenant Cody’s being able to take care of

the situation. However, from this time on until about 1120, I was

in frequent telephone conversation with the Wing Control Officer,

Lieutenant Commander Dyson and the Wing Control Officer, Lieutenant

Commander Dartsch. None of us was apprehensive regarding the safety

of the crew or ship at this time since it was not far removed from

shore and was in a well-populated sea area. However, as a matter

of precaution, the Wing Control Officer directed any aircraft in

the same area who sighted the L-8, to report its position. This

message was sent out, I believe, some time between 0930 and 1000. At

approximately 1105, the Wing Control Officer called me and told me

that an Army P-38 had sighted the L-8 near Mile Rock.”

Mile Rock is a lighthouse/fog horn located one mile south of the main

shipping channel, and only about a half a mile from the closest land,

in the South Bay leading to the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay,

and most importantly, home to Treasure Island.

Lieutenant Commander Watson’s testimony continued,” To digress for

a moment, the L-8, under normal conditions, would have landed at

Treasure Island at 1030, but since he was known to be inspecting

suspicious conditions and with plenty of fuel, we felt no concern

about his being slightly overdue. When I received the information he

was near Mile Rock I assumed he was proceeding to return to Treasure

Island. At this time we were preparing the TC-14 for a take-off to

search the area for the L-8. I ‘phoned the officer of the Deck of our

Treasure Island unit, Ensign Ulrich, and informed him that we had

received word

lookout and inform me when the ship crossed the Gate and that I would

hold the TC-14 for a few minutes, pending that word. At this time,

Ensign Ulrich informed me he had received word telephone from some

enlisted man that the L-8 was seen over land south of the City of San

Francisco in a misshapen condition.”

that the L-8 was near Mile Rock, and to keep a sharp

Lieutenant Currie, court reporter asked the time the enlisted mans

call came.

“It was about 1115, sir. This was the first report I had had that the

ship had actually been sighted over land and I immediately terminated

my conversation with Ensign Ulrich and received a call from the

Wing Control, informing me that they had a report that the ship had

landed at Fort Funston and that the two persons in the ship had


Fort Funston is roughly five miles south of Mile Rock along the

coast, stationed with troops and gun placements during the World


“I directed my Executive Officer to organize a salvage party under

the charge of Lieutenant R.J. Blair, U.S.N.R., to proceed to Fort

Funston to salvage the ship. Before the salvage party or I, myself,

could leave the station, we received a further report from Wing

Control that the ship had landed and deflated at 444 Belleview

Avenue, Daly City, California. I proceeded immediately for that

location as did Lieutenant Blair and the salvage party, leaving with

the impression that the men in the ship were at Fort Funston. I was

therefore somewhat surprised and disconcerted upon arrival at the

scene of the deflation not to find Lieutenant Cody and Ensign Adams

there. However, I was still under the impression they had disembarked

at Fort Funston and would arrive shortly. Lieutenant Blair and the

salvage party arrived at 1215. Upon arrival at the scene of the

deflation I found that Ensign Ulrich and Ensign Sprague had arrived

a few minutes earlier from Treasure Island.

gone into the car of the ship and as far as we know he was the first

person in the car after the final landing. Sprague tells me he found

both ignition switches on, the fuel valves to two of the fuel tanks

open to the engines, and the radio motor-generator still running.

Sprague turned the ignition switches off and turned off the radio

generator. We made no immediate attempt to ascertain the damage to

the ship although it was obvious that there was only minor damage

to the structural part of the ship and it was expected that the

Sprague had immediately bag would be severely torn as is the normal situation in a forced

landing of that nature. I then proceeded to call both my Executive

Officer at Moffett Field and Wing Control, to ascertain if there was

further information regarding the crew of the ship. Neither had any

information regarding the crew of the ship other than the rumor that

they were at Fort Funston and that no verification or denial had been

obtained up to that time. There were also present at the scene of

the accident an officer from Public Relations, Lieutenant Commander

Redlick, an officer from the District Intelligence Office whose name

I failed to obtain, and an Ensign from the Coast Guard from South San

Francisco Coast Guard Station.”

The TC-14 was assembled at Lakehurst in 1938 after the Army Air Corp

discontinued lighter than air support and the only two serviceable

airships, the TC-13 and TC-14, were transferred to the Navy. The TC-

13 went into service in 1940 at Moffett Field when a new balloon bag

became available. They were large, containing 350,000 cubic feet of

helium and at one time the largest blimps flying.

“I asked the Public Relation and Intelligence officers to please

keep me informed on any information they might obtain regarding the

location of the crew or the movements of the ship. Shortly thereafter

word was received from several sources that the ship had touched

in the vicinity of the Lakeside Country Club near the beach. The

starboard depth charge was missing from the ship, obviously having

been dislodged by a blow so that a search instituted to locae the

depth charge. This search was made under the direction of lieutenant

St. Claire, U.S.N., an Assistant Patrol Officer from San Francisco.

Lieutenant St. Claire had at his disposal approximately 40 men,

which force was supplemented by 40 men from the Naval Air Station,

Moffett Field, and about 50 men from the U.S. Army Post nearby. The

bomb was located at about 1500, near the spot where the ship had

first hit the ground. The bomb was taken into custody by an Army

Bomb Demolition Group and is still in their custody. I can get that

back anytime we want it. At this time several reports had come in

through various sources to indicate that the ship had definitely

hit on a beach near the Lakehurst Country Club, dislodging the bomb

and again taken to the air, making its only other contact with the

ground at the point of final descent. The most reliable information

(and since substantiated by several witnesses) was convincing that

no one was in the ship at the time it first touched the shore. I

immediately contacted Wing Control to find what steps were being

taken to institute a search at sea. I was informed that the airships

TC-13 and TC-14 were both in the area searching, and four OS2U planes

had been dispatched for special search in addition to all other

aircraft in that area directed to be alert and that the Commander

Patrol Force and Coast Guard were dispatching a number of surface

craft to join the search. Up until this time I had been convinced

tha the crew stayed with the ship until its first contact with shore

as this would be the expected procedure even though the engines had

failed previously. The salvage of the ship being about completed

about 1600, I proceeded to the Wing Control center at the Naval Air

Station, Alameda, as a central location to keep myself informed of

the progress of the searc and to be available to the Wing Commodore

if he desired me. I found that all steps possible were being taken to

make a thorough search both ashore and afloat and form the air with

all available craft and personnel. This search continued by aircraft

until darkness set in and the visibility and ceiling lowered to the

point where the aircraft could no longer assist. The surface search

was continued and augmented and is still continuing. The aircraft

search has been resumed during all periods when light, ceiling and

visibility permitted. A complete and thorough search was made over

all territory where there was any faint possibility that personnel

might be ashore. It was agreed that this search had been adequate

and complete and could be discontinued as an organized search at

sunset on August 17, 1942. Up until the present time we have had no

indication of when, where or why the personnel abandoned the ship.”

The recorder then asked,”Pehaps I overlooked it, but did we have

anything covering the orders for this flight? Are those issued by


A. “The procedure followed in making flights from the outlying

bases, Treasure Island specifically, was that the senior aviator

would consult the local weather authorities at Treasure Island

and would obtain clearance there for the flight directly from

Wing Control. At the same time the squadron officer of the deck

at Moffett Field was directed to consult the local Aerological

Forecast Officer one-half hour prior to such flight and if,

for any reason, the flight was not considered advisable, to

notify me and to hold the airship on the ground. Otherwise, the

question of when to take off and the advisability of taking off

was left to the discretion of the senior aviator at Treasure

Island, as regulated by clearance of the Wing Control. The

weather conditions vary so much locally within the area that

it is frequently impracticable for us to tell at Moffett Field

whether it was advisable for him to fly to Treasure Island. He

had adequate means to obtain all weather information. We would

check him from here if necessary. He called to receive proper

clearance for the flight. The operational orders for the L-8 are

assigned by Wing Control daily, usually by phone, supplemented

by sufficient written information as is required for special


Q. “What is the usual course of patrol of the L-8?”

A. “The L-8 was restricted to an area 50 miles in radius from

the Golden Gate. Its ordinary patrol was to proceed from the

Gate to the Farallones, to Reyes Point, to Montara, to the Gate

and repeat as often as practicable.”

Q. “What is the usual altitude of flight by the L-8?”

A. “The altitude was generally regulated by the ceiling. The

ship at the time had a pressure height altitude of approximately

2100 feet in order that it might climb on top of normal

overcast. The pressure height altitude of an airship is that

altitude to which the airship may rise without necessity of

valving helium. This is generally the regulating altitude for

operations, since it is not ordinarily desirable to valve helium

in flight.”

Q.“What would be the normal procedure if the engines of

comparable to the L-8 fail?”

A.”The accepted practice in any airship whose engines fail and

over which you lose dynamic control is to resort to static

a ship control or free ballooning. If the ship is statically light,

you must valve helium and regain static equilibrium and attain

constant altitude as quickly as possible. If the ship is

statically heavy, this means you must drop weight. Another

consideration is that it is necessary to keep pressure in the

ship in order that it may retain its shape and proper load

distribution. It may, therefore, be necessary to increase your

altitude in order to build up pressure from time to time.”

Q.”Was there any evidence when you saw the ship that the ship

was statically controlled at all?”

A.”No, nothing positive and nothing even convincing. The only

weight on the ship which might have been dropped was fuel from

the dump tank. We cannot be sure whether or not this was dumped

since the fuel from this tank was accidently valved during

the salvage operations. There, however, remained considerable

disposable weight in the ship which was not used. There was

additional fuel that could have been dropped and the depth

charges could have been dropped in an unarmed condition. The

various loose weights on the car could have been disposed of.”

Q.” In your opinion would the L-8 have been manageable as a free

balloon after the stoppage of both engines?”

A. Yes, sir. I consider this is definitely so and proved by

the fact that the L-8, even without a pilot, made a landing

which would not have killed its personnel had they remained with

the ship. Further, the fact there was considerable disposable

weight remaining in the ship would make it possible and even

desirable to continue the operation of the airship as free

ballooning, even though the engines had failed and this would

be the normal procedure. The fact that the ship had lost its

shape is due to the loss of pressure in the ship as in a non-

rigid ship of this type, the pressure is regulated in order

to keep its shape, there being no structure contained inside

the bag for that purpose and while the loss of shape created a

somewhat dangerous situation in that it throws the load of the

car and its equipment into concentrated points rather than the

proper distribution through the top of the bag when the ship

is in its normal shape, it is usually considered possible to

fly the non-rigid airships as free balloons, for considerable

periods of time, even though it be at atmospheric pressure and

the bag considerably misshapen. The indications are that the

airship had not lost a considerable amount of helium during this

flight although it is my opinion that at some times it went over

pressure height and some helium was valved causing its first

known descent at the beach.”

Q.”In your opinion would the release of the two depth bombs have

adequately compensated for the presumed loss of helium and have

permitted continued free ballooning with the two crew members


A.”Yes, sir. It is my opinion that the ship have been near

equilibrium at 0730—its last reported position—due to the

expenditure of fuel and the heating caused by the rising sun

and that any remaining heaviness could have been compensated

for easily by valving fuel from the dump tank. This would have

have been a better and more reasonable method since this fuel

could be dropped in regulated amounts. The dropping of a 325-

pound weight from a ship this size would have likely caused the

ship to rise rapidly and would have complicated the problem of

getting the ship into static equilibrium.”

Q.”Did inspection following salvage indicate whether or not the

depth charges could have been released in flight?”

A. “The starboard depth charge rack, as previously described,

had been distorted and the depth charge torn away forceably on

the first contact with the beach. The port depth charge was in

place and was removed by operation of the bomb release which

functioned in normal fashion.”

Q. “Who has custody of the radio and ship logs of te L-8?”

A. “I have these documents in my custody. Here they are. These

logs were found in the L-8 after its final landing and wre

delivered to me intact as I now present them.”

Photostatic copies of cover of the L-8’s ship log and pages for

flight 112 and flight of August 16, 1942, are attached hereto

and marked “Exhibit 1”. Photostatic copies of cover of the L-

8’s radio log and two pages from this log for flight 112 are

attached hereto and marked “Exhibit 2”.

Q. “From the reports you have received, could you express an

opinion as to the course of the ship during any period of time

from departure until it deflated and lande in Daly City?”

A. “Yes, we have reports indicating that the ship proceeded

directly from the Golden Gate to the point four miles East

of the Farallones as its reported position at 0738. The ship

was next sighted by Pan American Clipper pilot Richards, who

reported sighting the L-8 at 1049. The clipper reported “Over

the Golden Gate Bridge. The pilot reported henotced nothng

obviously wrong with the ship at that time.

I have previously stated tat the Army P-38 airplane reported

this ship near Mile Rock at 1053. It appears that this position

was only quite approximate. At about 1100, Navy OS2U airplane

reported the L-8 at a position three miles West of Salada Beach.

This was only an approximate position. The pilot of the Navy

plane stated he saw the ship rise through the overcast at about

2000 feet and then shortly thereafter descend and nothing in

the ship’s actions at that time indicated to him that the ship

was not in controlled flight. These are the only additional

reports that we have which have any flavor of authenticity and

the position of the ship between 0743 and 1049 has not been

established. We have inquired to obtain any records made by the

Army radex station which might give further indication of the

ship’s movements during the intervening period. Those records

have not yet been received. Further requests have been made

to the Port Director, Coast Guard authorities at the Harbor

Entrance Control Post, asking that they make inquiry from all

surface craft who might have been in that area during this time.

No reports have been received from these sources up to the


16. Q. Do you know the static condition of the ship on the

particular morning in question?

A. It was reported to me by Ensign Ulrich, who was in charge

of the ground party, that the ship was 200 pounds statically

heavy at the take-off on the morning of August 16. This is well

within the limits which we have established for the L-type ship

as a static heaviness of 600 pounds is allowed when conditions


Two hundred pounds too heavy, though up to six hundred was

acceptable. The mechanic, James Hill, was ordered off at the

last moment because the blimp was too heavy. A misunderstanding

seems odd given the experience of the men flying the L-8. What

accounts for the extra two hundred pounds? Is has been proposed

that rain or fog saturated the fabric accounting for the extra

weight. Looking at the weather data for August 1942, it only

rained about 1/10th of an inch that entire month, and there

was no rain that week. While San Francisco morning fog may add

weight, I would be puzzled why it would differ from day to day?

Ensign Ulrich’s flights the prior day were exposed to the same

elements, heated by the afternoon sun, and carried three men.

This puzzled me? Who or what accounted for the extra two hundred


I had not visited the L-8 at Pensacola yet, and started to

consider possible answers to this question that might also

answer what transpired onboard to make two men vanish.

The most obvious thing to consider was that someone was hiding

aboard already, and this intruder then sprang out, shot the

pilots, dumped their bodies overboard and randevous with

a submarine and escaping. I had read of an article in the

Oakland Bee about an incident at Treasure Island a couple of

weeks before. The guard heard the sound of breaking glass and

investigating, found a man dressed in black attempting to get

into the hangars at Treasure Island. Shots were exchanged

between the two men while running down the street. The man got

away, but it was clear that someone thought there was something

worth the risk in the buildings at Treasure Island. Obviously

enemy spies were around military sites, and Treasure Island was

the take-off point for the patrol flights as well as a military

base for Navy personnel. Moffett field was the west coast

training center for lighter than air crews, including Treasure

Island, so I wasn’t sure what was worth risking a forced entry.

I spent a lot of time investigating which countries spies,

Japan or Germany, might have had enough reason to break into a

training center that they couldn’t trick or steal to satisfy,

other than sabotage. The man was carrying anything and didn’t

drop anything, so I would have to assume he was there to take

something, since sabotage would require some type of tools and I

doubt that someone would assume they could find tools along the

way. I entertained the idea that the man was attempting to sneak

on board a flight in order to kill the crew and capture any code

books or cryptographic devices carried on missions.

After visiting the gondola at Pensacola, I realized how small

the cabin was and while there was a machine “room” ( really a

small closet ), there is no real way of hiding on or above the

gondola without being seen. So I having learned about the break-

in , I was still left with the question about where the extra

two hundred pounds came from.

The inquest testimony then investigated what was on the L-8.

17. Q. What armament was aboard the L-8 on the morning of August

16, 1942?

A. The ship was loaded with two Mark 17 MCD. 1 aircraft depth

charges, weight 325 pounds each, one 30-calibre free aircraft

machine gun, weight 31 pounds and 300 rounds

weight 25 ½ pounds.

18. Q. What disposable ballast was aboard the L-8 when she took

off on August 16?

A. The most readily disposable ballast was the 50 gallons of

gas in the dump tank representing a weight of 300 pounds, and

this was the normal method of lightening ship when required.

The next most readily disposable weight was the depth charges,

each weighing 325 pounds and which could be safely dropped in

the unarmed condition. Other weights—the machine gun could be

used for ballast, also the battery, particularly after becoming

exhausted, is considered ready ballast—chairs, radio equipment

and even parachutes may be used when circumstances dictate.

19. Q. What emergency equipment was aboard the ship at the time

of the take-off?

A. The ship was equipped with three QAC parachutes. The ship

was also equipped with three standard parachute harnesses

for these parachutes. The ship also was equipped with three

standard inflatable life belts which were usually donned by the

crew—one for each—before leaving the shore line. The ship was

equipped with a four-man inflatable rubber boat. The ship also

of ammunition,

carried a Very pistol with ammunition, a signal light, a loud-

speaking horn, in addition to its radio equipment, and a reserve

lubricating oil supply. The emergency rations were not normally

carried in these small ships since they wee usually operating

over congested areas. A small tool kit and a standard Navy

first-aid box were carried.

20. Q. What, if any, of this equipment you just listed was

missing at the time the ship landed at Daly City on Sunday

August 16?

A. The only items which did not remain in the ship were two of

the life preserves which were assumed to be worn by the two

officers in the ship. The parachutes and harnesses, life boats

and other items of equipment were found intact and unused in

their normal locations in the ship.

21. Q. Were all the tools in the tool kit?

A. I am not positive. This information, I believe, can be more

positively given by Ensign Sprague, who is Squadron Assistant

Engineer and who made the first inspection of the car and I

am sure will know what tools were carried and what what tools


Lighter than air crews were trained to jump from as low as 500

feet in the United States military. German aircrews at about

375 feet, but I have not found out the survival statistics, to

say the differences were worth the attempt. I wondered why the

crew, during an in-flight emergency, would have attempted to

jump without parachutes. Even if under the 500 (or 375 feet)

height that would have been required for a successful attempt, I

think that anyone would have a parachute on even if the numbers

didn’t guareentee success.

getting the parachutes on and jumping? I wondered why, even if

to low to guarantee a successful jump, human psychology would

grasp at straws that might be at hand. The same goes for an

attempt to escape into the ocean in the boat if the gondola was

within an easy height over the water to make it into the boat.

If parachutes or boats were available why not use them if you


The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they were not in

any condition to use those devices.

The inquest questioning then turned to the condition of the L-8

when Naval personnel and rescue teams arrived on the scene.

What would prevent the pilots from

27. Q. What was the condition of the L-8 at the time you arrived

at the scene of the ship where it landed in the street?

A. The gas bag was completely deflated. The car was resting

on its stern end approxiamately 60 degrees inclined up. The

starboard engine had struck the ground at some point and there

was a considerable amount of dirt and leaves stuck inside of the

cowling and between the cylinders. The starboard depth charge

was missing with the starboard depth charge rack dished inand

the handling rail in the way of the starboard depth charge

considerably dished in. A small deflection in the longeron

opposite this point. The starboard propeller seemed to be

completely undamaged. The port engine was undamaged as far as

could be seen by visual inspection. The port propeller had one

tip slightly bent , apparently due to the scraping along the

roadway. The port depth charge remained in place on its rack.

The car showed evidence of contact with high-tension wires which

were known to have been knocked down on its final descent. The

fins had obviously suffered only minor damage and were still

attached to the bag. The ship was removed in its entirety to

Moffett Field where a more thorough inspection has been made.

23. Q. Who was in charge of the salvage operations?

A. Lieutenant Rowland J. Blair was in charge of salvaging the

ship at Daly City and as Flight Maintenance Officer of the

squadron is now in charge of inspecting, reconditioning and

erecting the ship for further service. Lieutenant Blair will, in

this process, make a complete and detailed record of the damage

suffered by the aircraft and the time and approximate cost of

returning it to service.

24. Q. Did the condition of the propellers indicate definitely

whether the engines were running or stopped at the time of final


A. I am convinced tha the engines were stopped at the time the

ship made its final landing, although the switches were on and

there was fuel connected to the engines. The total time-the port

engine had 4125 hours and the starboard engine 890.4 hours. The

time since the last major overhaul—port engine, 488.7 hours,

starboard engine, 240.9 hours. The engines were normally run 700

hours between major overhauls.

25. Q. Have you experienced any engine failures since last


A. We have had no engine stoppage since last overhaul. The

only casualty suffered was the breaking of the starter housing

on the starter engine but the reasons for this were found and

corrected. This trouble was minor and would not stop the engine.

26. Q. Since the ship was salvaged, has any check been made with

reference to fuel in the ship as to whether or not any foreign

substance was present?

A. The main fuel strainer was examined by the Engineering

Officer and also the two carburetor fuel strainers. Only a

slight trace of water was found and by no means enough to

indicate that this might b the cause of an engine stoppage. This

inspection was made under the direction of Lieutenant (j.g.) L.

E. Stillwell, U.S.N.R.

27. Q. Since the salvage of the ship has been returned to

Moffett Field, has any test or check been made to the equipment

on board?

A. The radio equipment was checked immediately upon return

to Moffett Field for frequencies and the transmitters and

receivers were found properly set on the assigned frequencies

for this flight. A fresh battery was placed in the ship and both

transmitters and receivers were tested for operation and were

found to operate satisfactorily and in normal fashion. As part

of the test, after return to Moffett Field, the ship’s battery

having been found in a near-exhausted condition, a fresh battery

was placed in the ship and the radio transmitter and the two

receivers were turned on and tested for correct operation. All

parts of the radio equipment, except antennas (which had been

torn away during the deflation), were found to be operating


28. Q. Can you explain the electrical system of the L-8?

A. The electrical system of the L-8 consisted of one 15-

volt direct current, 25 amperes capacity main engine-driven

generator mounted on the port engine. A 34-ampere hour 12-volt

battery floated on the generator. The electrical load consisted

principally of the radio and the loud-speaking system, plus the

engine starters when used, and the running light load at night.

I may add, the problem of electrical supply has always been one

of considerable concern in the operation of these small ships.

Whenever practicable, the engines were started on the ground

wit shore batteries in order that the ship’s battery might be

fresh after take-off. In ordinary flight, and with normal radio

loud-speaking equipment, the generator was adequate to carry the

load. However, any cranking of the engine immediately presented

a problem and a critical problem, because of the fact that these

engines were not equipped with any type of hand starter. If an

engine failed in the air it had to be started electrically or

else it could not be started at all. It was standard doctrine in

operating the L-type ship that should the engines fail, a radio

transmission of position and circumstances should be made before

the battery might become exhausted due to repeated attempts to

start the engine. The loud-speaker system consisted essentially

of a standard Bogen type audio amplifier with a vibrator source

of supply actuating a small four-inch loud-speaking horn. This

equipment was used to communicate with surface craft who would

not be contacted by radio. The electrical requirements of this

system were approximately 12 amperes which, as can be seen, is

a rather heavy load for the electrical system. The system was

found turned on but only in the “stand-by” condition. With only

the stand-by switch on, the amplifier draws two (2) amperes.

Normally the loud speaking equipment remains turned completely

off except when its use is required. However, due to location of

the amplifier and its switches, accidental turning on of this

equipment was caused by movements of the pilot’s and co-pilot’s

feet. It is therefore impossible to say that the amplifier had

been deliberately placed in the stand-by condition.

29. Q. What was the condition of the battery?

A. The battery was found to be in a near-exhausted condition,

though not to the point of being sulphated. We have no means

of determining whether there was sufficient energy remaining

to crank an engine but it is considered doubtful whether the

battery had enough energy to either crank the engine or to

operate the radio transmitter for normal or even partially

normal output. The battery alone would remain at least (10) ten

short transmissions of messages by radio without difficulty—that

is, without the generator.

This means that even if the battery had not been charging due

to a charging system problem, the battery would have had enough

energy to use the radio. Had the battery been charged up until

the engines stopped charging the battery, the drain from the

radio in standby mode would have not accounted for the battery

being exhausted from the time the L-8 was last seen running

under control and the final crash. Thirty four amp-hours, at

a draw of two amps, the radio along would have meant that the

battery should have about seventeen hours of capacity before

going dead, without any other load. The flight lasted roughly

five hours, and from take-off until just before 11am the flight

was under powered control with the engines running. The post-

mortem investigation of the battery and charging system show

that each component was working after the crash. So what drained

the battery in under one hour?

The questioning resumes on the physical condition of the L-8,

including the catenary system, the rigging that joined gondola

and gas balloon.

30. Q. What was the the condition of the internal and external

catenary system?

A. The entire catenary system was found undamaged and will be

immediately used again. The gas valves and air valves were found

undamaged and suitable for immediate use. The only part of the

bag that was known to be torn before contact at final landing

was the ceiling or fairing strip around the stern of the car in

between the bag and the car and then glued to the bag and we are

positive that the fairing strip had pulled away from the bag and

it still remained on the car. I think that is to be expected.

That has no structural function and is placed principally for

the sake of appearance. The gas dump valve was found in normal

operating condition and was inadvertently operated, during the

salvage of the ship. Further tests have indicated it was in its

normal condition.

31. Q. What was the condition of the instruments?

A. The instruments were given only visual inspection and all

were undamaged. The clock was still operating and keeping

correct time. We also ran continuity test on magneto switches

and the fuel circuits were complete.

32. Q. Has any check or examination been made of the engines of

the L-8 or is it anticipated?

A. Only visual inspection is possible at the present time at

Moffett Field. The engines have been sent today, August 18, to

Pacific Air Motors for inspection and disassembly. Lieutenant

(j.g.) Stillwell, the Squadron Junior Engineering Officer, will

be present during the disassembly of these engines and will

attempt to determine what, if any, part of the engines were in

improper condition or did not function properly.

33.Q. What disposition of salvaged parts of the L-8 is


A. All parts of the airship, with the exception of the gas

envelope, are being inspected and overhauled where found

necessary and will be used with a spare envelope now available

here, to assemble and erect the L-8 for continued service. It

is expected that the ship will be returned to service about

September 1, 1942. The gas envelope is being turned over to the

Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, California, for inspection and

recommendation as to disposition.

34. Q. From your examination of the ship after landing at Daly

City, or any other subsequent examination, did you find any

evidence that the car or any portion of the ship had touched the


A. No. I personally inspected the car and lower fin very

carefully for evidence of salt water. I am positive that the

bottom of the car was at no time in contact with the sea. The

lower fin showed some salt deposit but it is my opinion that

this may have been caused from the being moored at Treasure

Island where the constant beat of spray very likely caused

considerable salt deposits around the ship. On the port side of

the car there was definite indication of salt water having been

splashed at a point just above the depth charge. The bilges of

the car were dry and still contained dust which could not have

existed had the car touched the water. Further, had thelowr fin

dipped, there would have been a sufficient collection of salt

water in the bottom of the fin to clearly show proof. No salt

water was found there.

35. Q. Have you received any reports indicating voice contact

with surface craft?

A. No, in fact we have received no reports from surface craft

of either visual, voice or radio contact. The vision was

sufficiently good on that morning that it should have been seen

by craft normally operating in that vincinity.

36. Q.With reference to the personnel in the L-8 on this

particular morning, about how long have you known Lieutenant


A. I have been acquainted with Lieutenant Cody for a period of

about one year. Lieutenant has been under my command for the

last six months.

37. Q. From your observation and controls with Lieutenant Cody,

what is your opinion concerning his ability as a pilot?

A. I definitely consider Lieutenant Cody to be one of the

most capable pilots and one of the most able officers under

my command. He has served as senior aviator of the Treasure

Island unit for considerable periods of time during the last six

months. He has always displayed keen intelligence, unusually

sound judgment and has my complete confidence. He was of a

quiet, taciturn nature, in no way inclined to be excitable or

to lose his head under pressure. I have witnessed his actions

during hazardous operations and know that he reacts calmly,

quickly and efficiently. My lack of concern for the safety

of the ship during the period which it was unreported on the

morning of August 16, was based entirely on my complete and

utmost confidence in Lieutenant Cody’s ability as a pilot to

safety and correctly handle his ship. Lieutenant Cody was

qualified as Naval Aviator (Airship) and designated on December

31, 1941. He has 758.3 hours of time as a pilot of non-rigid

airships. He is particularly qualified in the L-type of ship

and was particularly familiar with the L-8, since that is the

ship which he normally had in his charge at Treasure Island. His

flight log shows 393.7 hours in the L-type airship. Lieutenant

Cody was completely familiar with the territory over which he

was operating as he has been operating continuously on patrol

over the area for the last six months.

38. Q. How long have you known Ensign Adams and what is your

opinion concerning his experience and knowledge concerning the

operation and maintenance of airships?

A. I have known Ensign C. E. Adams for approximately ten years

during his service as an enlisted man and more recently as a

warrant and commissioned officer. Ensign Adams was an able and

competent man in his rate and most thoroughly experienced in

airship maintenance and operation. As an enlisted man it was

not possible for Adams to be a pilot.

a great many other of our airship enlisted men, he had wide

experience in the control of non-rigid airships in flight.

However, in company with.

After receiving his commission, Adams expressed a desire to

continue his associations with airships and eventually to be

designated a Naval Aviator (Airship). I considered this most

desirable considering him a splendid man for a N.A. He was

flying as a passenger with Lieutenant Cody for the purpose of

familiarizing himself with the various types of airships and

operations, having just previously made several flights in the

larger type of airships at Moffett Field. His flight log shows

he has 2,281.5 hours of flying time in airships of all kinds.

39. Q. Have you any opinion as to the cause of this accident?

A. No, sir. Nothing that I have been able to discover has given

me any grounds to form a reasonable opinion as to the sequence

of events, why the airship was abandoned, or what happened to

the personnel. I can only reiterate my confidence in Lieutenant

Cody that his actions were well considered ones at the time.

The board informed the witness that he was privileged to make

any further statement covering anything related to the subject

matter of the investigation which he thought should be a matter

of record in connection therewith, which had not been fully

brought out by the previous questioning. The witness stated that

he had nothing further to say. The witness was duly warned and

withdrew. The board then, at 4:25 p.m., adjourned until 10 a.m.

August 19, 1942.

1 comment:

  1. has a limited amount of disk space. I put up some more pages of the L-8 JAG Inquest up on



Comments should be topical and civil. Questions are welcome but I may not be able to always supply answers. - Otto