Clio's Answer: While there are some technical differences, both blimps and zeppelins are part of the same family of aircraft, known as airships or dirigibles. In fact, the zeppelin was the first commercially successful airship, and was pioneered by a German noble, the Graf von Zeppelin.
During World War I, German zeppelins rained terror on England, as crews dropped bombs from the sky, helping introduce aerial bombardment to modern warfare. However, the bombing was inaccurate and many zeppelins were lost due to accidents and air defenses. Thereafter in the 1920s and 30s, most uses were civilian. Zeppelins up to 800 feet long ferried passengers and mail across the Atlantic and to other destinations. However, zeppelins were largely abandoned by the early years of World War II, due to accidents and technical advances in airplanes.
Today, the legacy of zeppelins can be found everywhere if you look hard enough. The Empire State Building’s spire was originally intended as a zeppelin dock (though was never used as such); an airship hangar outside of Berlin is now a water theme park.
Zeppelins also appear in popular culture, making a famous appearance in an Indiana Jones movie and giving the band, Led Zeppelin, its name. So next time you watch a sporting event and see aerial footage from a blimp, think of its older cousin, the zeppelin.
This month's Clio was: Dr. Michael Kozakowski. You can hear more about zeppelins from Dr. Kozakowski this fall in HIST: 3121 - The World at War (1914-1945).
His other courses include: