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Watercolor Paintings of WWII K-Ships

by Adolf Dehn

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Landing lines trail, and bow dips, as a Navy blimp nuzzles up to its mooring mast at completion of the day's mission. Other ships of the unit hover, meanwhile, over the field awaiting their turn. Note mooring man at the mooring swivel atop the portable mooring mast. He will take a line from the blimp's nose to make the ship snug to the swivel.

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A Navy blimp comes carefully in for a landing. Long training and expert ground supervision provide quick, exact handling of the lines in bringing the big non-rigid airships earthward. The skipper will keep his engines turning over, however, until he is fast to make sure he has a reserve of power for quick maneuvering in case of emergency.

Engines humming, these Navy airships set a course over their great high-ceilinged hangars after casting off on a morning flight. Air-borne, the airship is at home in the elements. Great skill, however, is required to maneuver these giants to a landing and to stow them in their hangars.

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A Navy airship rests immobile at its mooring mast, engines idle, as its crews walks forward in a floodlight's illumination. Engines soon will turn over, and it will be released to take to moonlit skies on a night mission. Meanwhile the ground crew, hands in pockets against the sharp night air, idle alertly in position until they are called to the handling lines.

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Navigating lights atwinkle and cabin windows agleam, an airship unit comes in to a landing after dark as a portable floodlight illumines the mooring scene. The blimp in the foreground has made fast a line to the mooring mast, and is being worked in to attach it to the mooring swivel after which it will be walked into its hangar. Ground crews strain at the hand lines, while the propellers still turn to allow the skipper maneuverability.

Looming big and awkward on the ground, a Navy airship is walked toward the portable mooring mast where a crewman waits to make it fast to the mooring swivel. Once brought snug against the mast, the blimp is able to revolve in a full 360 degree circle, or be towed into the hangar to its berth beside other non-rigids.

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Cabin landing wheel settles to earth, and this Navy airship has made another landing. So well trained and skilled are Navy ground crews, that blimp landing accidents are rare. The big "K Ships" possess stability and control from twin engines and their fins and rudder astern.

Strung out over a coastal inlet, a fleet of Navy blimps steers for home. Known to the Navy as "K Ships"--denoting their class--they are a sturdy breed. The lines trailing from the blimp in the foreground are handling lines, which will be caught by the landing crews to ease the big craft into a soft landing.

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The balloon was the first means by which man was able to ascend into the air. It is still going strong, for a knowledge of free ballooning is part of the stock-in-trade of the Navy lighter-than-air officer.


A requisite to operation of the powered non-rigid airship is an understanding of the operation of a free balloon in air currents and in descent and ascent. Many an airship officer has successfully free-ballooned his craft to safety in emergency or without engine power.


Here, at a lighter-than-air base, balloons ascend among the circling non-rigid Navy blimps.

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With ground crews on the handling lines, these Navy non-rigid airships are being walked out of their vaulted hangars to go about the day's business of protecting our shores. With a roar from their engines, they will take off to patrol coastal waters and convoy merchant shipping against the menace of the submarine. One of the big naval blimps is being towed by a portable mooring mast outside the hangar doors.

Like maternal hens, Navy blimps hover over a sea-borne convoy, alert to any danger on the horizon or beneath the surface. Airships are capable of speeds of 60 knots or more, yet can ride indefinitely over danger spots. Their cargo of depth bombs makes them a deadly danger to the submarine. As convoy escorts, the lighter-than-air branch of the Navy has played its part in reopening coastal shipping lanes.

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Blimp maintenance crews need a lot of the same agility aloft required of sailing men in the days of the windjammers. To scan the outer surface of a blimp envelope for rents or rips is a high job on lines or portable extension ladders. Navy crews periodically go over the big airships from engine to gas cells in a hunt for signs of stress or wear. Note the size of fins and rudder at the trail of the blimp.

Coast line and inland tidal waters pass astern as two Navy airships, caught by the artist against the setting sun, take advantage of a brisk breeze on the first leg of their coastal patrol. Armed with depth charges and with light armament in the control car, they are formidable lookouts above the ship lanes. The crews stand watch aboard ship on long cruises, always scanning the surface of the sea for suspicious craft or lights.

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These paintings were gifts from Abbott Laboratories to the Navy Art Collection at the:
Naval History and Heritage Command.

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