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Volume 5129

By Rick Johnson
Remember when the Hindenburg was built in 1931?  Well neither do I but in historical hindsight, we can understand a lot more about the disaster and how that affected Burroughs when he helped build the O-220.  Why focus on the Hindenburg when that airship wasn’t built until after the O-220 returned from her mission to the Inner World?  Because as the largest, it begs comparison with the O-220.  As the most famous, everyone knows about her. As for safety, she symbolizes the dangers that could have plagued the earlier O-220.

Consider that airships MUST be huge.  Remember my earlier paper on a block of steel 1 foot across weighs 490 pounds but a block of water that same size weighs 62 pounds?  We have to make the steel box much larger to displace water so it floats.  Same with airships, they must be huge to float upon the atmosphere as a steel ship floats upon the hydrosphere.

If the Hindenburg displaces 232 tons of air, it must weigh LESS than 232 tons which means that it MUST be huge!  Just as a steel boat MUST be huge to float on water, an Airship MUST be huge to float on the air.

Now consider the politics of the time, the later 1920s to the mid-1930s.  The Nazi Party was rising to power in Germany, rebuilding their ruined nation into a major military power… and America was scared!   Winning WW-I nearly ruined America and the nation was STILL feeling the post-war depression.  America simply could not survive another war and the National Socialists were a major political party in America at that time.  The American people saw the Nazi’s in Europe turn a nation so ruined by war that it took 2 million marks to mail a first-class letter, a nation where women were selling their bodies for a loaf of bread, a nation where people were living in ruins as they starved to death and within a few years, houses were rebuilt, inflation was under control and people were working again.  Compare that to America where ¼ of the population was still out of work.  If the Nazi’s could rebuild Germany, why not give them a chance in America?

True, there was a cost.  A few Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals were locked up but really, back then no one liked ‘those‘ kind anyway.  American was doing medical experiments on Negros in the south because the Negro was seen, even in America, as sub-human only a step below the Jew so really? Would they be missed?  It can’t happen here, right?

Then the LZ-127 arrives!  The Graf Zeppelin was world’s most famous airship and an amazing luxury liner, internationally famous and who built it?  Not America.  Even the USS Los Angeles, America’s most famous Airship of the time was actually the renamed LZ-126 purchased… from Germany!   The Hindenburg didn’t actually take her Maiden Flight until 1931, a year after the 0-220 returned from Pellucidar but the German Zeppelins were long famous from their first flights in 1900, had seen military service during WW-I (aka The Great War) and were making regular transatlantic flights since 1919 and people loved these gigantic airships.  The fact that they had been invented by and most were piloted by Germans only fueled the American Government’s paranoia.  The Hindenburg disaster of 1937 simply justified that paranoia.

*Note: The first transatlantic airship flight was the British R-34 but the Germans understood propaganda and made certain that the world knew about every zeppelin flight they made.

Ok, the Hindenburg was NOT made by the Nazis.  It was the product of the privately owned Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH in 1931.  In fact, Hermann Goering ordered the company to rename it “The Adolf Hitler” a demand that was refused by Company Chairman Hugo Eckener who named the airship after Paul Von Hindenburg, President of Germany from 1925 until 1934.   Goering threatened Eckener who stood firm and Eckener actually won, though he did allow a compromise, the Swatstika was painted on the aircraft to reinforce Nazi propaganda.

The frame of the Hindenburg was built from Duraluminium purchased from England and was to be filled with Helium purchased from America.   But America backed off.  It was dangerous enough to have these images of Nazi superiority flying over America, to be known as a supporter of German Airships was…. Well, the military value of a Zeppelin was absolutely zero!  But the propaganda value was priceless.  So America listed Helium as a valuable military resource and so could not be sold to Germany.  Thus the Hindenburg underwent a redesign and was filled with hydrogen.

How, do you ask, does this relate to the O-220?

Simple, the 0-220 was built in 1928-29 with materials discovered by a German, Erich von Harben, who was involved in the design and construction of the 0-220!**  Thus, although owned by Americans, it had links to Germany!   And as Helium had recently been declared a military resource by the Helium Control Act of 1927, it could not be sold to private companies or individuals without a thorough background check by the FBI.  And what did the FBI find?  Heavy financing by a foreign Lord Graystoke with strong ties to revolting African nations, a major designer was a German, far too many Germans in the crew, and an army of Black Africans carrying modern British weapons!  Remember the syphilis experiments?  No?  Well earlier in this paper I mentioned how the US was doing secret medical experiments on Black Americans.  The US Government deliberately infected a number of Black men in the south with Syphilis, a virtually incurable disease.  They then denied these people medical treatment, giving them placebos because the US wanted to see how such a disease would spread throughout a population and how it killed people.  And, as it was illegal for black people to marry outside their race, the disease could be contained.  Germany sacrificed Jews, America sacrificed the Negro.

**Note:  Burroughs began to record the events of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core in 1928 and published the work in 1930.  Thus we can presume that Jason Gridley received his message from Abner Perry in late 1928 a year after Helium became a controlled material.  The construction company that was building the O-220 probably planned to use helium but were stalled by the Helium Control Act of 1927 so chose hydrogen until some engineer realized that Harbenite COULD be used to create large and stable vacuum chambers. Once this was discovered, another design change was made to convert the O-220 into a Vacuum Airship.   This also explains the long time-frame from the first Gridley-wave message from Pellucidar and the actual launching and return of the O-220.  The actual design of the O-220 was simple!  They purchased the blueprints from the Zeppelin Company in Germany and modified them as needed during construction.

Thus to sell Helium to a private individual who had German and other foreign connections and was arming the craft with Negros… Well police are hired because they are paranoid and bullies and that mental illness is trained to a high degree so any cop, FBI especially, assume that everyone is a criminal or terrorist until proven otherwise. And were the O-220 to fly with this crew, the possibility of anti-American violence or, at best propaganda, would be immense.

Thus the FBI simply denied Burroughs’ application for the purchase of Helium and forced the author to redesign the O-220 to use the more dangerous Hydrogen.  The FBI forced the 0-220 to be built in secret and the fact that Harbenite was strong and light enough to produce a vacuum airship solved so many problems.  But were the US to learn of Harbenite, they would have invaded that nation to take this metal that would be seen as vital to American interests.***    So Harbenite HAD to remain a secret which meant that the O-220 must be built in secret. Once it was discovered that Harbenite COULD withstand atmospheric pressure, the Vacuum Airship was built, the hydrogen was dumped, and the rest, is history!

*** Remember the bat-shit war?  The United States actually went to war with Chile or Peru (I cannot remember which) over a couple islands off the coast of South America.  Why? Because the island was covered in bat-shit!  And the US wanted that guano for munitions.  We will not mention the economic reasons for the Invasion of Iraq b ut it explains why no one told anyone about Harbenite.

Imagine the expedition were they to have entered Pellucidar in a fabric-covered airship filled with helium?  One simple tear would have stranded the company with no ability to replace the gas and David Innes would still be rotting in that Korsar prison.  So perhaps American paranoia worked out for once.   Or maybe people just worked around the rules and situations, solving a problem to the betterment of the Empire of Pellucidar!

Why are there no more Vacuum Airships?

I suspect that it is because Lord Greystoke may have mined the entire world’s supply of Harbenite, leaving not enough for a second airship.  I suspect that even today, we are unable to duplicate that metal or its properties.  And with the advent of the Passenger airplane, the airship simply became useless and unneeded.

The O-220 probably remains in its secret hanger, awaiting call to action, or maybe Lord Greystoke used the O-220 to move his family from England and a revolutionary Africa into Pellucidar.  No one has head from Tarzan or that airship in decades, perhaps because he is no longer on Earth, but took the O-220 back into the Earth.

Read much more on ERB's Pellucidar at our companion site:

Next Week Woodrow Edgar Nichols travels with
Lord Greystoke to the Earth's Core on the O-220


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