Most people know what a blimp is. It is an airship, but not the first airship. Most people have also heard of the Hindenburg…a airship than exploded causing an horrific crash. While one airship is loved by all who see it, and one met a horrible end, yet another airship brought fear to many. The third airship…a Zeppelin, which is a type of rigid airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who pioneered rigid airship development at the beginning of the 20th century, was used at one time as a bomber.
Zeppelin’s notions were first formulated in 1874 and developed in detail in 1893. When they were built, they were patented in Germany in 1895 and in the United States in 1899, as commercial passenger airships. The airship design was an outstanding success, and the word zeppelin is often used to refer to all rigid airships. Zeppelins were first flown commercially in 1910 by Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG), the world’s first airline in revenue service. By mid-1914, DELAG had carried over 10,000 fare-paying passengers on over 1,500 flights. Those were the good years of its use.
During World War I, the German military found a new use for the Zeppelins. They were used as bombers and scouts. The new Zeppelins brought terror to the people. During their use, the Zeppelins were used to kill over 500 people in bombing raids in Britain. The new type of bomber didn’t, however, bring victory to Germany in World War I. When you think about it, how could an airship, like the Zeppelin make a good fighting aircraft. Its very design was far too vulnerable to any kind of bullet. I suppose that it was thought that there wouldn’t be many other “bombers” in the sky, but that doesn’t make the Zeppelin a safe bomber in any way. Nevertheless…safe, effective, accurate, or not…the Zeppelin worked as a bomber for a time. Unusual as it was, the slow-moving…about 84 miles per hour…airship had the distinct honor of being a bomber in World War I.