MAXFIELD, Louis Henry, CDR

 Service Photo   Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1920-1921, Airship
Service Years
1907 - 1921

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

108 kb

Home State
Year of Birth
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Contact Info
Home Town
St. Paul
Last Address
Not Specified

Date of Passing
Aug 24, 1921
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Sec. 3, Grave 4560

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

CDR Louis Henry Maxfield
Naval Aviator No. 17
Killed in Airship ZR-2
At Hull England 1921

24 August 1921 - The British airship R38 (ZR-2) due to be delivered to the United States Navy as the ZR-2, broke in two on a test flight near Hull, England, half falling to the ground in flames. 44 died, including British Air Commodore E.M. Maitland, Leader of Airships, and 16 Americans.  Maxfield Field at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, named 6 January 1944 in honor of Commander Louis H. Maxfield, Naval Aviator No. 17, who lost his life in the R38 crash.

Trial flights were difficult. The control cables were so slack that they slipped their sprockets at forty knots. After the third test flight, on July 17, 1921, London?s naval attache reported, with the concurrence of America?s Comdr. Lewis H. Maxfield, that some of the ship?s girders (which were designed for high-altitude flight) had suffered ?minor buckling.? He also said that ?press reports re damage are exaggerated.? In fact, the ship?s designers knew that its structure could easily handle all stresses when it was stationary, but they lacked the Germans? know-how about dynamic stresses. They could only guess how it would hold up when it was in motion and being buffeted by fierce winds, and their guesswork turned out to be tragically wrong.

On August 23 the R-38 left Howden on another test flight. After spending the night over the Channel, it attempted a high-speed rudder drill. During a sharp turn the girders cracked. Within seconds the fuel and hydrogen in the forward section exploded and burned. The crash of the R-38 was the worst aviation disaster in history to that time. Of forty-nine men aboard, five survived. Among the casualties were sixteen Americans.

Other Comments:
Comdr. Louis H. Maxfield, U.S.N., who was in charge of the U.S. Rigid Air Detachment in training at Howden, and who was to be the Commanding Officer of the ill-fated airship on the flight to America, was born in 1883 at St. Paul, Minnesota. He entered the Naval Aviation service in 1914, and was promoted to Temporary Commander in 1918. During the War he was in command of the U.S. Naval Station at Painbaeuf, France, and served with distinction. During a flight in the French airship "Capitaine Caussin" he dived overboard from a great height and rescued an enlisted man who had fallen overboard. Comdr. Maxfield was decorated by the Italian Red Cross with a silver medal for distinguished work during the Messina earthquake, with the French Naval Life-saving Medal (Silver), was an Officer of the Legion of Honour, and was decorated by the U.S. Government with the Navy Cross and the Victory Medal.

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Naval Aviator Wings
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 Duty Stations/ Advancement Schools
US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)School Assignments - StaffUS Navy
  1903-1907, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
  1914-1914, Naval Flight School
  1917-1917, LTA Akron, OH
  1917-1918, Airship
  1920-1921, Airship
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1917-1918 World War I
 Colleges Attended 
United States Naval Academy
  1903-1907, United States Naval Academy
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Lighter Than Air (LTA)
  Sep 01, 1921, Maxfield and crew
  Aug 10, 2012, General Photos
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