A Brief History
On August 16, 1942, while on routine anti-submarine patrol, the 2 man crew of US Navy Blimp L-8 disappeared without a trace. The unmanned blimp drifted about aimlessly until crash landing in Daly City, California. No trace of the crew or reason for their disappearance has ever been found.
(Note: An unrelated disaster, the 1964 Republican National Convention was held in the modern city limits of Daly City, although History usually refers to the convention as being held in San Francisco. Barry Goldwater was nominated for President, and went on to lose by a record margin to Lyndon B. Johnson.)
A “Blimp” is a non-rigid airship, meaning it is basically a coated cloth bag or envelope filled with a lighter than air gas, usually Helium. The US Navy has used blimps for anti-submarine duty because they can stay in the air for an extended period and fly slow enough to accurately observe and target enemy submarines. First used during World War I, they made a reappearance during World War II for their simplicity and economy. In recent years, the blimp has been resurrected by the US Navy once again. Blimps are also valuable for reconnaissance, search and rescue, and flying laboratories.
The L-8 was part of a class of 22 blimps, and was 147.5 feet long with a diameter of 39 feet 10 inches. Capable of over 60 mph, it could easily out run a submarine, and could cruise at 46 mph for over 11 hours. It was powered by 2 X 145 horsepower radial engines. It was armed with 2 X 350 pound bombs for use against enemy subs, and L-8 had been used to ferry supplies to the USS Hornet for use during the famous Doolittle Raid. Of course the blimp was equipped with a radio, and the last transmission was that the crew was observing an oil slick on the water and was investigating. Incident investigators found the radio, engines and guns present and in working condition. Code books were also present, along with other normal equipment, and plenty of gas (fuel) was left. What they did not find was the crew or what happened to the crew.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think happened? Was there a stowaway aboard that murdered the crew and tossed them in the ocean? Were aliens involved? Supernatural causes? Did one or both crewmen go bonkers and commit suicide or murder suicide? Let us know what you think in the comments section below this article. We sure do not know!
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For more information, please see…
Althoff, William F. Sky Ships: A History of the Airship in the United States Navy, 25th Anniversary Edition. Naval Institute Press, 2016.