Marc Hoover: The crew of the mysterious ghost blimp

Marc Hoover

During WWII, Japanese submarines had sunk several American ships on America’s west coast. The U.S. Navy reacted by sending a blimp armed with depth bombs and a machine gun to counter any Japanese submarines near San Francisco. On August 16, 1942, Blimp L-8 left Treasure Island in San Francisco. Naval pilots Lieutenant Ernest Dewitt Cody and Ensign Charles Ellis Adams manned the blimp.

Just before 8 a.m., Cody radioed in that he saw an oil slick near the Farallon Islands that might be a Japanese submarine. He then said they would investigate the oil source. This was the only contact received from Cody and Adams. Something went wrong with the blimp causing it to descend. A teenager with binoculars said he could see two occupants inside the blimp’s cabin. Another witness claimed to have seen someone jump from the blimp in a parachute. This is unlikely because if either pilot jumped with a parachute the U.S. Navy would have found them.

A crowd of thousands had gathered to watch the blimp crash into a subdivision. It crashed into a utility pole and becoming tangled in electrical wires. Fortunately, no bystanders were injured or killed in the incident.

Police and firefighters investigated the crash site trying to find survivors. What they didn’t find has become one of America’s strangest mysteries; Cody and Adams had vanished. All that remained was a hat left on a radio and a briefcase with important documents. The instruments were in working order and the blimp had enough fuel to last for at least four hours.

So why did the blimp crash and what happened to the crew? Nearly 80 years later, no knows why. Planes and ships monitored the blimp and no distress signals were sent or received. A passing pilot in a plane said he saw the blimp and it didn’t appear to be in any distress. Investigators also discovered two missing life jackets and a safety bar connected to an open door was gone.

The U.S. Navy began an intensive search for the two missing pilots. They also notified the spouses of both men that their husbands were gone. Unfortunately, no one ever saw either man again. I researched different theories on the missing men. Many are absurd and unlikely. Some more common beliefs are the Japanese had captured the men after they examined the oil slick.

Another theory is the men were traitors and met with the Japanese. But if either theory was true why would the Japanese have left a briefcase with important documents behind? Another theory that aliens kidnapped the men. After the war, the U.S. Navy returned the blimp to the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Goodyear refurbished the blimp and continued using it until 1982.

It’s probably a safe assumption that no one will ever know what happened to Cody and Adams. The bodies would be gone by now. It must have been difficult for the families to spend their final days wondering what happened to their missing loved ones.

I can remember reading about this mystery many years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover both men had fallen out of the blimp. Perhaps the pilots thought they were in danger and jumped. But if they were in danger why didn’t they radio for help? According to investigators, the radio worked. There are so many questions about this mystery and no answers. It’s as if the men just vanished into thin air. It’s better than believing they were abducted by aliens.

Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on