US NAVY AIRSHIP LOS ANGELES REFUELING AT SEA USS PAKOTA 1924
This is the US Navy’s airship Los Angeles, the most successful of America’s rigid-body airships, engaging in a maneuver that proved dirigibles like these could be fueled without landing.
It was also designed (sort of) for use as an airborne aircraft carrier. Planes, you see, are awfully vulnerable on the ground, until they actually get up and start flying around. If you can make it so they take off in mid-air, then you don’t have to worry about someone else flying over and dropping bombs on them.
This was a zeppelin, made by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin engineers for the Allies as part of a reparations deal after World War I – an agreement that stipulated their creations would only be used for civilian purposes. Britain, you see, had too many memories of their airstrips (and everything else) being bombed by German airships like these.
The Germans operated this ship with hydrogen, but the Navy – years before the Hindenburg disaster – thought that was too risky and used more expensive helium instead.