This space is open for any information or stories you might have about Lakehurst NAS, or LTA in general, as long as it contributes to the subject of my website. E-mail me with what you have to offer.
The following comments were provided by Rick Zitarosa (Navy Lakehurst Historical Society) 9/97:
The doors of Lakehurst's Hangar One still open on the west end. The ones on the East end were opened in the mid-80's when the building had its transit asbestos sheeting removed and the big (152lb./yard Pennsylvania RR (???) steel rails were swapped with those from the oft-used end ( which had developed a sag.)
Outside of this, I don't believe the Lakehurst "East Doors" had been opened in over 25 years. The Lakehurst doors even had a MANUAL opening feature which consisted of a capstan by which 8 spokes with 4 sailors on each spoke could walk around in circles at "low gear" and open a door in two hours ( I think it was actually done once! )
The Lakehurst Hangar One doors are massive, concrete-counterweighted affairs weighing 1350 tons each. Powered by 4-20 hp. electric motors, they could each open in about 20 minutes. On each door, near the middle end-point, is a "control house" complete with ammeters, gauges and "Frankenstein switches."
Hangar Five was the closest to hangar 1, if you were standing in front of Hangar One's west doors. Five has the water tower alongside it. It was damaged in an unusual incident in l976 when a "mini twister" blew along its north wall and the corresponding sudden pressure differential caused a 50x50 foot section of the wall to "blow" out. This was subsequently repaired in due time. This hangar has been used for a variety of activities, some of them apparently of a highly classified nature. Hangar 6 is apparently used very little.
Many of the station air shows and exhibits were held in these two sheds over the years, partly due to their proximity to runways, etc. Mat One now has many areas where the asphalt is 40-50 years old and crumbling, with weeds growing up through the cracks. The old east field is heavily forested in pitch pines now. I don't think any airships crossed through the East Doors after the mid-1940's and THAT may even be a late guess.
One person who is a real fountain of information on NAS Lakehurst is the former station fire chief, Hank Applegate. He can be reached at HanksZepps@aol.com.
The following comments were provided by Hank Applegate 10/8/97
Enjoyed your "scrapbook" from the LTA days at Lakehurst. I was the civilian Fire Chief at NAS Lakehurst = Now called Naval Air Engineering Station, Naval Air Warfare Center, Lakehurst = (retired '96, after 30 years) and started at NASL just after the airships left, and retired just after they "came back" (civilian types). Don't know if you ran into / served with my uncle, Harry Baker (from Camden, NJ) but he was there about same time as you, and I think he was in ZP3.... Was one of the founding members of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society (325 members strong) and still serve as Treasurer..... We will put up a web page someday, we publish a newsletter 6x a year - hold meetings on south side of Hgr. 1, under the water tower - place has / hasn't changed much - old barracks gone, Chief's club gone, (most all old wooden bldgs. torn down) -
This little bit of LTA history was sent to me in an email by Mike AirNikon@aol.com:
Date: Sat, 5 Jun 1999 23:34:22 EDT
My interest in airships recently surfaced after returning from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, and seeing the remains of a USN airship gondola, STILL THERE! It's a ZPW-3 and still has the serial number on it! (144243) (Picture taken April 1999)
[Larry's comment: There was originally another deck above the forward part of the condola where there were 9 bunks, stacked 3 high. Aft of the bunk room was a galley with stove, refrigerator, and eating area. These are shown in another of my web pages.]
The following comments were provided by Rick Zitarosa (Navy Lakehurst Historical Society) Jun , 2009 on changes at Lakehurst base.
On September 30, 2009 the physical facilities of NAES Lakehurst, NJ will become custody of the U.S. Air Force under the administrative umbrella of " Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst." The Navy will continue its presence at Lakehurst as before, but as a "tenant" rather than a custodian, ending an 88-year presence that started with Naval Air Station, Lakehurst (1921-1977) and then Naval Air Engineering Center, Lakehurst (1977-1992) Naval Air Warfare Center, Lakehurst (1992-1996) and finally Naval Air Engineering Station, Lakehurst (1996-present.) Of course, Lakehurst started as a Navy LTA base, and while the Navy currently maintains an LTA presence there today its functions are almost exclusively geared toward support and testing of equipment of the Navy's aircraft carrier fleet.
The *bad* news is that it will no longer be a "Navy base" per se. The *good* news is that the Air Force generally has higher standards for shoreside buildings/facilities maintenance than the Navy, and the place actually stands to BENEFIT as an LTA site with a bolstered Air Force presence.
As many will recall, Lakehurst has been the target of closure rumors for DECADES ( I like to tell visitors that the Navy has been talking about closing the place since the SHENANDOAH was lost in 1925! ) Lakehurst survived the demise(s) of LTA (rigid and non-rigid airships), the recession of the 1970's, the massive military drawdown at the end of the Cold War and the Military Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) lists of 1995 and 2005. Its diversification and location have saved it on numerous occasions....becoming part of the "Joint Base" was a sure win for the place, as it gives the government an Air Force, Army and Navy facility in one contiguous piece or real estate with significant cost savings in terms of public works, facilities management, base security, etc.
As the former CO and creator of the idea (some have called him "The Savior!") , Captain Mark Bathrick, USN (Ret.) told me when the plan was hatched in 2005 " I don't care which branch of the armed services is responsible for paying the electric bill and fixing the roads, as long as the base maintains its unique function and usefulness to the Navy and the people here have their jobs!"
And so, on October 1st, Lakehurst hands over the keys to the Air Force. The position of "CO" will be abolished and the Navy people will answer to a Navy OIC (Officer-in-Charge) instead. Administrative Command of "Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst " ("JBMDL" as they are calling it) will fall under Colonel Gina Grosso, USAF, current commander of the 57th Air Wing, McGuire AFB.
The Navy Lakehurst Historical Society will continue to operate and administer the Information Center and Historic Artifacts Display in Hangar #1, all tours and other functions will continue as before through our affiliation with tenant NAVAIR.
We have met several times with Colonel Grosso and she is appreciative and understanding of the rich history she is inheriting when she takes charge of Lakehurst (making a bit of history herself in the process as the first female CO of the place!) In recognition of the upcoming changes, the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society commissioned a piece of watercolor artwork highlighting the long-standing roots of Navy-Air Force cooperation with an added Lakehurst "twist."
After much haggling and arguing with the "artist" (a tempermental fellow who had to be continually fought over his desire to use "artist's license") we achieved a reasonably-decent commemorative showing a Navy airship (the L-8) which delivered urgent spare parts to the carrier USS HORNET (CV-8) underway in the Pacific with a deckload of Army Air Force B-25 bombers which launched the famous "Doolittle Raid" of April 18, 1942.......a tribute to the Navy, the Air Force and the unique roots of cooperation between the two services, with Lakehurst having its own "unique connection."
The following comments were provided by Maryann A. Leo:
After high shcool graduation in June 1949, I started work as a civilian in Hangar 2, Overhaul and Repair Dept, at Lakehurst. I many times found myself over in Hangar 1 and I was absolutely fascinated watching airships being assembled from scratch.
My (civilian job) chief was a Naval Reserve Commander on active duty. One day he called me into his office and asked me if I would consider joining one of the Reserve squadrons there at Lakehurst. He was trying to recruit women to join the Reserves and he talked me into being his first recruit. So in Oct of 1949 I was sworn in and became the first female in the 3 Reserve Squadrons at Lakehurst and was assigned to ZP753.
The OIC of ZP753 Squadron didn't know what to do with me, so he sent me to the "Link" building and had me trained to be a Link Trainer Operator. There were 3 trainers, LTA, HTA, and Celestial trainers, and I became very proficient at sending the pilots thru their paces. Then the OIC decided I needed some actual visual contact with the controls of the blimps and helicopters and some flying experience (he called it OJT) in both. So rather than being on Reserve duty one weekend a month, I wound up being on duty 3 or 4 weekends each month (requested by him -- on my own time -- no military credit or pay -- volunteer???). Saturdays I would man the trainer, not only for the LTA pilots, but for the HTA pilots so they could collect their flight pay.
On Sundays I would fly as a crew member on the Airship. I loved it!!! It was great, like nothing I would ever experience again. When my tour was up in Oct 1953, no other women had been recruited or had joined the Reserves, so as far as I know, I have the distinct privilege of being the only female in a Naval Reserve Squadron at Lakehurst, and the only female to fly as a crew member on a Naval Airship. What an exciting life experience for an 18 yr old.
I am also a Charter Member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington, DC.
© Copyright 2002, revised 2014 by Lawrence Rodrigues
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