Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, January 13, 2017

SHINE SPOTTSWOOD HALLIBURTON

DISASTER SURVIVOR 

          Shine Spottswood Halliburton survived one disaster at a time.  He was  of the first of his kind - not for his bodacious, formidable name - but as one of the first naval aviators during World War I.  Halliburton didn’t fly planes.  He was an engineer.  This is the story of a Hawkinsville, Georgia native and Macon resident, who was the chief machinist aboard the first two rigid airships of the United States Navy.

Born on April 7, 1886 in Hawkinsville, Georgia to his parents Robert Halliburton and Annie Henley Halliburton, Shine eventually moved to Macon, where he attended grade and high school.  After graduation, Shine joined the Navy as a seaman and sailed almost all of the Seven Seas primarily as an engineer.  Halliburton learned how to work in the commissary and the radio section.

           Shine Halliburton enlisted in the United States Navy on November 15, 1917. He reported to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida, where he remained until January 24, 1918.  During World War I,  beginning in February 1918, Halliburton , a machinist, flew aboard sea planes as they escorted transport ships from Norfolk and Newport News across the Atlantic Ocean to England and France.  Specifically, Halliburton was assigned to spot German U boats.

After the war, Halliburton was assigned to a post in Washington, D.C.  His first tour of duty as an engineer aboard an airship came in 1921 when he was assigned to an R38 British airship, which had been renamed the ZR2.

On June 23, 1921, the unnamed ZR2, made her first flight out of Hull, England.  Throughout the flight, Halliburton realized that there were problems with the ship. A second test flight was made and similar problems persisted.  Most of the problems were corrected on the third, and final, test flight.

At the Howden Air Base in England on the morning of August 24, 1921,  the ZR2 lifted into the air bound for a naval air station in Norfolk, England.  As the ship was practicing turning, the frame of the airship collapsed in the center.  A deadly fire erupted in the front section of ship, which quickly exploded.  Halliburton, the ZR-2's assistant engineer, tried in vain to keep the ship in the air.  The lighter than air craft plummeted down into the water.   Luck was with Shine that day as he was one of only five survivors of the horrific crash, which killed 44 members of the crew.





After the ZR2 disaster, Chief Machinist Halliburton served a brief stint aboard the USS Langley, the nations’ first aircraft carrier, while the ZR-1, the U.S.S. Shenandoah, was being constructed at the naval air station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.



The Shenandoah first flew in the autumn of 1923.  It is unclear exactly when Halliburton joined the crew as its Chief Machinist and Assistant  Engineer,  although he was onboard on October 8, 1924 when the ship flew over his home state of Georgia.  That same month, the Shenandoah became the first rigid airship to fly clear from one coast of the United States to the other.

Early on the morning of September 3, 1925, the Shenandoah lifted off on her  57th flight to resume her trip from Lakehurst on a  tour of 40 cities from the eastern states of the Midwest.

The ship was over Ohio when it encountered a violent line of thunderstorms.  A severe updraft of warm air threw the ship into a calamitous motion, which caused the ship’s hydrogen-filled air bags to come apart. Consequently the Shenandoah was ripped apart into two large pieces. One part fell rapidly downward while the other, more reinforced,  part floated gently down to safety. Fourteen members of her crew were killed,  including Commander Zachary Landsdowne and all but one member of the control room crew. Twenty nine members of the Shenandoah’s crew survived, including Halliburton, who had survived his second major crash in a Zeppelin style dirigible.

Halliburton, who was enjoying an off duty sleep period in  the No. 3 Gondola  as the ship’s assistant engineer, told reporters, “ I dressed and Lt. Sheppard (who was killed in the crash)  awoke me five minutes before the twister hit the ship.  By the time I finished dressing, I was in the officer’s quarters near the nose of the airship.  Lt. Lawrence asked me to stand by the ballast tanks in Section 140. I prepared the tanks and awaited word from the control car.  Every man on the ship, had orders to stand by.  The orders were given about four to five minutes before the crash.  We had been fighting through the storm for hours and were stuck in the very center of it at that point.  Men in the after-power cars Nos. 1, 2 and 3 remained at their posts, even after the collapse of the dirigible, and the dropping away of the control cars and the two forward power cars. They were still at their engines as the broken after part of the dirigible came close to the ground touching the tops of the trees and listing badly towards the port side,” Halliburton told newspaper reporters.

“A terrific twister caused the wreck and nothing on earth could have saved the ship.  Every man did everything under the sun to bring her thru and stuck at his post until all was gone,” Shine further explained to writers who came to the scene of the wreckage.

“Then she rose a little and the after power cars were wrenched and twisted but not torn loose from their fastenings. By that time we understood the completeness of the disaster and all of them in the power cars were climbing above the engines to get a hand grip of some kind of the frame of the dirigible,” Halliburton added.








Twelve years later Shine said to his brother, Bob Halliburton, “Some of the big men in Congress were determined to have the ship fly over their section of the country. (Navy Secretary Curtis D.  Wilbur was quick to deny the trip was political.)   And, the trip as outlined was very dangerous.  The officers in charge knew of the existence of air pockets in the lake regions, and did not want to run into them,” Shine confided. “The air service is governed by military regulations, and orders must by obeyed even at the sacrifice of human life or human safety,” the fortuitous aviation machinist proclaimed.

Of the original five rigid airships, only the USS Los Angeles, survived.  Both the USS Akron and USS Macon were lost in deadly crashes in 1933 and 1934 respectively.

After his second near fatal crash, Halliburton served in a variety of duty stations from San Diego  to Sunnyvale along with a brief stint aboard the U.S.S. Bittern in 1932. He returned to the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, N.J. in 1936.

Shine Halliburton, after suffering in poor health for more than a year in and out of hospitals, retired from the Navy in October 1939 at the age of 53.  After nearly 30 years of service to the Navy,
Halliburton and his family returned to Macon.

On December 8, 1963, Shine Spottswood Halliburton, one of the last of the first group of naval aviators and who survived the crash of two rigid airships, died at the age of 77 in Hampden, Massachusetts.  His body was buried in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. 

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