Saturday, October 18, 2008
Hometown: Friedrichshafen, Germany
Location at time of fire: Engineering room, amidships
Died, either in the wreck or in the infirmary
Wilhelm Dimmler was one of three engineering officers who worked under Chief Engineer Rudolf Sauter, the others being Eugen Schäuble and Raphael Schädler. Like his fellow engineering officers, Dimmler had been flying as a Zeppelin mechanic for almost a decade, having been hired away from his machinist job at Maybach Motorenbau in May of 1928 to work for Luftschiffbau Zeppelin. He worked through the summer as LZ put the finishing touches on their new airship, the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, and when the Graf Zeppelin made her first flights in September of that year, Dimmler served aboard her as an engine mechanic. Therafter, Dimmler made most of the Graf Zeppelin's flights, including the round-the-world flight in 1929 and the Arctic flight in 1930. He was transferred to the LZ 129 Hindenburg when the new ship entered service in March of 1936, serving as a chief mechanic.
Dimmler was aboard the Hindenburg's first North American flight of the 1937 season. At the beginning of the 1937 flight season, Dimmler had been promoted to 4th Engineer, and now reported directly to Chief Sauter. As the Hindenburg came in to land at Lakehurst at the end of the flight on May 6th, Dimmler was on watch and scheduled to take a landing station in engine gondola #3, forward on the starboard side of the ship. However, Schäuble had family waiting for him in the crowd gathered in front of Hangar #1, and (according to the later recollections of Schäuble's niece Eleanor Ennsle) Dimmler offered to trade landing stations with him so that Schäuble might catch a glimpse of his relatives as the ship approached the mooring mast.
Dimmler, therefore, remained in the keel of the ship, and was with mechanic Robert Moser in one of the engineering rooms amidships when the fire broke out a short while later. As the ship's hull collapsed to the ground, Dimmler was likely trapped by wreckage and unable to escape.
Wilhelm Dimmler died either on the airfield or in the infirmary shortly after the fire.
Thanks to Herr Manfred Sauter of the Freundeskreis zur Förderung des Zeppelin Museums e.V., whose memorial article on the Hindenburg crew members who lost their lives at Lakehurst (Zeppelin Brief, No. 59, June 2011) provided additional details on Dimmler's career, and to Dr. Cheryl Ganz for providing me with a copy of the article.