Even today, people are excited if they get to see of one of the 192 foot long, sixty foot tall, Goodyear blimps making an appearance at a sporting event or parade. Yet in 1932, De Leonians had an opportunity to watch the USS Akron, a helium-fill rigid airship that was more than four times the length and almost three times the height of Goodyear’s present day blimps, as it crossed Eastland County heading east.
Around 7:00 pm on Sunday, June 12, the Akron passed over Cross Plains at an estimated altitude of 5,400 feet and a speed of 50 mph. It was visible for about 20 minutes. Between 7:30 and 8:00 pm, the Akron was plainly visible in De Leon moving slowly across the northern sky and, as word spread through town it apparently drew the interest of many residents. The Free Press indicated that the Akron was essentially following the tracks of the Texas & Pacific Railroad as it moved between Eastland and Ranger more than 30 miles north of De Leon, but in actuality the Akron passed over Eastland County in the vicinity of Gorman and Desdemona. The article estimated the Akron’s altitude at 2,000 feet and said that although it “appeared to be moving at a snail’s pace”.
In May the Akron had flown from its station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, to Sunnyvale, California, where it ranged up and down the Pacific coast primarily for public relations. It ended its west coast visit by participating in a Navy exercise. At 12:22 a.m on Saturday, June 11, the Akron began it journey back to Lakehurst. The return to Lakehurst was described as “long and harrowing” and it was June 15th before the Akron reached New Jersey. In contrast, the trip to California which had started on May 8 reached San Diego three days later with few problem until it reached San Diego.
The Free Press noted that it was probably the first time any of its readers had seen a dirigible. As it turned out, it was probably the only time people in this area ever had the opportunity to see the Akron. It first flew on September 2, 1931. In its brief service, it experienced numerous accidents and on April 4, 1933 it crashed in ocean just east of Atlantic City, New Jersey killing 73 of its 75 crew.
Sources: De Leon Free Press June 17, 1932; Cross Plains Review June 17, 1932.