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USS LOS ANGELES (ZR-3) SET OF 5 VINTAGE RELL SAM CLEMENTS PHOTOS OF THE DIRIGIBLE AT NAS LAKEHURST, NJ 1926 & 1927, 8 X 11, SHOWING THE CONSTRUCTION, HANGER STORAGE, AND TEATHERING BEFORE FLIGHT, with four of the photos showing some light soiling and the other photo with a small margin tear, minor chipping, and loss of lower right corner, none of which affects the image, otherwise all five photos are in fine condition.

$595   #10694

The USS Los Angeles was the third of four rigid airships built for the U.S., designated ZR-3 (Zeppelin Rigid 3), which was built in 1923–1924 by the Zeppelin company in Friedrichshafen, Germany as war reparation. It was delivered to the United States Navy in October 1924 and after being used mainly for experimental work, particularly in the development of the American parasite fighter program, was decommissioned in 1932.

parasite aircraft is a component of a composite aircraft which is carried aloft and air launched by a larger carrier aircraft or mother ship to support the primary mission of the carrier. The carrier craft may or may not be able to later recover the parasite during flight.

In 1930, the US Navy airship USS Los Angeles was used to test the trapeze system developed to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft from rigid airships. The tests were a success, and the purpose built airships USS Akron and USS Macon were designed to carry parasite aircraft inside a hangar bay within the hull. The airships could carry up to five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawks for scouting or two-seat Fleet N2Y-1s for training. In 1934, two two-seat Waco UBF XJW-1 biplanes equipped with skyhooks were delivered to the USS Macon. 

The temporary system was removed from the Los Angeles, which never carried any aircraft on operational flights.[6] In 1930, the Los Angeles also tested the launching of a glider over Lakehurst, New Jersey.[7]

Although operations of these parasite aircraft were quite successful, the ultimate loss of both airships (Akron in 1933 and Macon in 1935) put an end to the program.


The second of four vessels to carry the name USS Los Angeles, the airship was built for the United States Navy as a replacement for the Zeppelins that had been assigned to the United States as war reparations following World War I, and had been sabotaged by their crews in 1919.[1] Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Luftschiffbau Zeppelin were not permitted to build military airships. In consequence Los Angeles, which had the Zeppelin works number LZ 126, was built as a passenger airship, although the Treaty limitation on the permissible volume was waived, it being agreed that a craft of a size equal to the largest Zeppelin constructed during World War I was permissible.

The airship's hull had 24-sided transverse ring frames for most of its length, changing to an octagonal section at the tail surfaces, and the hull had an internal keel which provided an internal walkway and also contained the accommodation for the crew when off duty. For most of the ship's length the main frames were 32 ft 10 in (10 m) apart, with two secondary frames in each bay. Following the precedent set by LZ 120 Bodensee, crew and passenger accommodation was in a compartment near the front of the airship that was integrated into the hull structure. Each of the five Maybach VL I V12 engines occupied a separate engine car, arranged as four wing cars with the fifth aft on the centerline of the ship. All drove two-bladed pusher propellers and were capable of running in reverse. Auxiliary power was provided by wind-driven dynamos.

Los Angeles was first flown on 27 August 1924, and after completing flight trials began the transatlantic delivery flight on 12 October under the command of Hugo Eckener, arriving at the US Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, NJ after an 81-hour flight of 4,229 nautical miles (7,832 km). The airship was commissioned into the US Navy on 25 November 1924 at Anacostia, D.C. with LCDR Maurice R. Pierce in command. On its arrival in the United States, its lifting gas was changed from hydrogen to helium, which reduced payload but improved safety. At the same time the airship was fitted with equipment to recover water from the exhaust gases for use as ballast to compensate for the loss of weight as fuel was consumed, so avoiding the necessity to vent scarce helium to maintain neutral buoyancy.

The airship went on to log a total of 4,398 hours of flight, covering a distance of 172,400 nautical miles (319,300 km). Long-distance flights included return flights to Panama, Costa Rica and Bermuda. It served as an observatory and experimental platform, as well as a training ship for other airships.

On 25 August 1927, while the Los Angeles was tethered at the Lakehurst high mast, a gust of wind caught her tail and lifted it into colder, denser air that was just above the airship. This caused the tail to lift higher. The crew on board tried to compensate by climbing up the keel toward the rising tail, but could not stop the ship from reaching an angle of 85 degrees, before it descended. The ship suffered only slight damage and was able to fly the next day.

In 1929, the Los Angeles was used to test the trapeze system developed by the US Navy to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft from rigid airships. The tests were a success and the later purpose-built Akron-class airships were fitted with this system. The temporary system was removed from the Los Angeles, which never carried any aircraft on operational flights. In 1930, the Los Angeles also tested the launching of a glider over Lakehurst, New Jersey.

As the terms under which the Allies permitted the United States to have the Los Angeles restricted its use to commercial and experimental purposes only, when the U.S. Navy wanted to use the airship in a fleet problem in 1931 permission had to be obtained from the Allied Control Commission. The Los Angeles took part in Fleet Problems XII (1931) and XIII (1932), although as was the case with all U.S. Navy rigid airships, demonstrated no particular benefit to the fleet.

The Los Angeles was decommissioned in 1932 as an economy measure, but was recommissioned for a period after the USS Akron crashed in April 1933. Soon returned to storage, the airship was struck off the Navy list in 1939 and dismantled in its hangar, thus ending the career of the Navy's longest serving rigid airship. Unlike the Shenandoah, Akron, and Macon, the Los Angeles' career did not meet a disastrous end.

Lakehurst Maxfield Field's history begins as a munitions-testing site for the Imperial Russian Army in 1916. It was then acquired by the United States Army as Camp Kendrick during World War 1. The United States Navy purchased the property in 1921 for use as an airship station and renamed it Naval Air Station Lakehurst (NAS Lakehurst). (It was later renamed Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (NAES Lakehurst).)

The United States Navy’s lighter-than-air program was conducted at Lakehurst from its inception through the 1930s. NAS Lakehurst was the center of airship development in the United States and housed three of the U.S. Navy's four rigid airships.

Rell Sam Clements (1887-1963) a photographer who lived in Lakehurst in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He took many photographs of zeppelins and sold them in a variety of formats, including panoramics and postcards.

$595   #10694