May 6, 1937, marked the end of rigid airships when the Hindenburg exploded at Lakehurst, N.J. On Feb. 12, 1935, the American airship USS Macon completed a training mission near the Santa Barbara Islands in California.South of Point Sur, Macon experienced squally weather and attempted to avoid a developing storm. Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley ordered a maneuver when a wind gust jarred the airship’s top fin. Efforts to control the ship were futile as it plunged to the ocean.
Before the crash, Wiley gave the order to abandon ship. With inflatable life vests, rafts and warm water temperatures, all but two of the 83-member crew survived. Its sister ship, Akron, crashed two years earlier, killing 73. One of the survivors was Lt. Cmdr. Wiley.