Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eugen Schäuble

Crew Member

Age: Unknown

Hometown: Neu Isenburg, Germany

Occupation: Engineering officer

Location at time of fire: Engine gondola #3, starboard forward


Eugen Schäuble was one of three engineering officers who worked under the Hindenburg's Chief Engineer Rudolf Sauter, the other engineering officers being Wilhelm Dimmler and Raphael Schädler. Schäuble had been flying as a mechanic (and later an engineer) on Zeppelins since at least the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin's early years, and was part of the Graf Zeppelin's crew on the round-the-world flight in 1929. He transferred over to the Hindenburg when the new airship went into service in 1936.

Eugen Schäuble and several friends at Lakehurst in 1936.

As the Hindenburg came in to land at Lakehurst on May 6, 1937, Schäuble was at his standby-watch landing station in the engineering center, along with mechanic Robert Moser. Dimmler came in, and offered to relieve Schäuble. Dimmler's off-watch landing station was in engine gondola #3, and since Schäuble had family waiting on the ground to greet him, Dimmler thought Schäuble might prefer to be in one of the engine cars where he might wave to his relatives as the ship landed. Schäuble gladly accepted Dimmler's offer, and climbed out into the forward engine car on the starboard side to watch the landing. His 14 year-old niece, Eleanor Enssle, was booked on the ship's return flight and he tried to spot her and her parents in the crowd assembled near Hangar #1, to the northeast of the mooring circle.

Eugen Schäuble's location at the time of the fire (diagram is top view of the ship.)

As he stood on the gangway leading from the engine gondola to the ship, watching for his family below, Schäuble felt the ship give a heavy shake, and like many other crew members, initially thought that a rope had broken. However, he then saw fire erupting from the hull of the ship, just above and aft of the rear starboard engine gondola and moving forward. He hung on and jumped as the ship neared the ground. He ran a short distance from the wreck and then stumbled. Wilhelm Steeb, a mechanic trainee who had been stationed in the starboard forward engine car and who was running just behind Schäuble, stopped and made sure that Schäuble was all right. Schäuble replied that he was, then got up and continued running. He made it clear, relatively unscathed.

Three of the men from engine gondola #3, German Zettel, Eugen Schäuble, and Wilhelm Steeb (shown in probably just about that order, left to right) stumble away from the Hindenburg as it settles to earth. Their engine car can be seen lying on the ground just to the right of them.

Over by the hangar his relatives, the Enssles, were devastated by what they had just witnessed. As surviving members of the ship's crew began assembling in the hangar, the Enssles tried to find out if Schäuble had survived or not. Finally, they decided to drive over to the air station's infirmary to see if he was over there. On the way over, the car's headlights illuminated a man walking on the side of the road. "Stop the car!" shouted Mrs. Enssle, "That's Eugen up ahead!" Schäuble was dazedly walking nowhere in particular and, according to the later recollections of his niece Eleanor, when he saw his relatives he broke down and wept.

Schäuble was relatively unhurt in the disaster which claimed the lives of, among others, fellow engineering officer Wilhelm Dimmler, who had very likely saved Schäuble's life by switching landing stations with him at the last minute. Schäuble stayed in America another three weeks, giving testimony to the Board of Inquiry on May 19th, and finally sailed home to Germany a week after that along with other surviving crewmates, on the steamship Bremen. The next year, when the Hindenburg’s sister ship, the LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin was commissioned, Schäuble flew once again as an engineering officer.

Eugen Schäuble survived the war, and later retired near Frankfurt.

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