The Wreck of the USS Shenandoah
Commander Zachariah Lansdowne was a cornerstone in Ohio’s reputation as first in flight. But his name is perhaps not remembered as much as Armstrong, Glenn, and the Wright Brothers.
Unfortunately, this national hero was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in September 1925 just weeks after a fiery crash in Ava, Ohio killed him and 13 other crewmen aboard the zeppelin airship USS Shenandoah on September 3, 1925. It was 12 years before the Hindenburg disaster.
The Shenandoah was the first large airship built in the U.S. It was the first to be inflated with helium instead of explosive hydrogen. And it was the first rigid airship to serve as a commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy. It launched on August 20, 1923. It was fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, PA, and assembled in Lakehurst, NJ. The Shenandoah measured 680 feet long and 93 feet high.
Zachary Lansdowne was a Greenville, Ohio native. Under his command, that fateful last flight of the Shenandoah was met with a severe thunderstorm sending it violently to the ground near Ava, Ohio. There’s a memorial monument there today complete with a miniature replica of the airship. Zachary Lansdowne was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.
There are several sites in Greenville, Ohio that memorialize Lansdowne and the Shenandoah. A display telling their story is at the Garst Museum. A mural is on a brick wall facing Annie Oakley Park at the end of S. Broadway Ave. The commander’s birthplace home is still in town at 338 E. 3rd St. It’s a standout in the neighborhood and has several signs and plaques on the house and in the yard that read The Lansdowne House. And at the Greenville Episcopal Church, the Lansdowne family pew is marked with a plaque.
So is the short story of Ohio’s forgotten cornerstone of its illustrious history in flight. But in the words of that Time Magazine cover story, “Hereafter the name of Lansdowne will be the rhythm for a proud measure in the epic of the skies.”
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun