The US Navy Blimp L-8 Mystery

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
January 25, 2019
Last Updated
September 28, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
8 min read
Posted in
Conspiracy Theory Analysis, Unsolved & Unexplained

At a little after 6 am on 16th August 1942, the L-8 blimp took off from Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay area to inspect the shores of the Californian coastline. At 7:50 am, with the blimp hovering around five miles off the Farallon Island, the L-8 contacted the control tower to state they were about to investigate an oil slick below. “Standby…” came the communication from one of the crew members of the blimp. It was the last communication from the L-8. In fact, it was the last anyone ever heard from anybody on board.

The wreck of the L-8 Blimp in the street

The wreck of the L-8 Blimp

Several hours later, after apparently navigating over the Golden Gate bridge and the downtown San Francisco area, the blimp crashed down to the ground in the middle of a suburban street in the Daly City area. What is truly bizarre, though, is there was no sign of any of the crew anywhere onboard the blimp. Nor were there any sign of them anywhere nearby or along its flight path. The mystery fateful flight of Navy Blimp L-8 has baffled and fascinated investigators and researchers ever since. Was this a case of espionage in the wake of America’s recent involvement in the Second World War? Was it an early case of alien abduction? Or might the explanation be something even more untoward and bizarre?

Before we examine this darkly intriguing case in more detail, check out the very short video below. It goes over the basics but perhaps more importantly provides some great images of this one time majestic vehicle of the Californian skies.

A Regular Patrol Of The California Coast

Blimps would regularly patrol the skies of the California coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Not only did they look to protect the several US Navy facilities along the coast but also the oil facilities, crucial to both the war effort and American industry, itself only just beginning to show tentative signs of pulling itself out of the depression. They would often set off from Moffett Island and then gather at Treasure Island, around 25 miles south of San Francisco, from where they could, between them, view and monitor all incoming nautical traffic.

On this particular morning on the 16th August, the reduced two-man crew, Lieutenant Ernest Cody, and Ensign Charles Adams, would set out from Treasure Island following a delay due to the balloon being “too heavy”. Their flight mechanic, J Riley Hill, was also due to make the patrol journey but due to the weight issues with the blimp, he remained at the airstrip. Less than two hours later after informing control of their intent to examine the oil slick, they would offer their ultimate final transmission of “standby”.

Much of what we know following this comes from the crews of two ships in the area below the L-8 blimp. [1] The Liberty ship, the “Albert Gellatin” and the fishing vessel, the “Daisy Grey” would both report that the L-8 circled the area above them several times. It appeared very much as though they were looking for something in the water, possibly a Japanese submarine, which made both crews understandably nervous. Especially when several flares dropped from the blimp. They were expecting a hail of bombs, aimed at the apparent submarine to begin any moment. However, they didn’t come. The blimp, though, continued to circle the area.

Crew Members Still On Board An Hour After Last Communication!

At one stage during this display, somewhere between 8 am and 9 am, the L-8 came quite low to the surface of the water. It was still very much under control, and some members on board the respective ships claimed to clearly be able to see the crew inside the cockpit of the L-8 at this time. This is a potentially important detail, as at least before 9 am, despite no communication, the crew, or somebody acting as the crew, were apparently still on board the L-8.

At around 9 am, the blimp suddenly came out of the circling and began to head back towards San Francisco. Not only was their patrol due to last another hour, but they were also supposed to head towards the nearby Farallon Islands. Despite this change or course, no communication came from the crew of the L-8, even though continued attempts to do so came from the control tower. Because radio contact often went down on the patrolling blimps, there was no real panic among the staff. However, there was a discreet and unspoken feeling creeping through the air that something was most definitely wrong. So much so, that a communication went out to all aircraft in the area to watch out for the L-8 and report, if possible, its whereabouts.

Just before 11 am, a report came in from the pilot of a Pan American aircraft. They would claim the blimp, which was under “obvious control” was passing the Golden Gate Bridge. From its course, it would appear that it was heading back to Moffett Island. However, a second report a little over ten minutes later would suggest otherwise.

The L-8 Blimp over the Pacific

The L-8 Blimp over the Pacific

The Crashing Down In Bellevue Avenue, Daly City

Just after 11 am, a Navy search plane would report a sighting of the L-8. Alarmingly, however, it was climbing to around 2,000 feet. This was right on the edge of safe altitude for the blimp and was a height they would not normally fly at. However, like the Pan American pilot, the Navy plane would report the L-8 appeared in control and not in distress in any way. An Army pilot witnessed the blimp a few minutes later and again reported nothing unusual.

However, witnesses on the ground would report a different image. One would state that the blimp was “bent” in the middle. By 11:15 am, numerous witnesses could see the L-8, now with its motors switched off and with a deep bend or compression along the middle section where the weight of the cockpit appeared to be drag it down. It was barely hovering at around fifty feet over Ocean Beach.

Then, the wind would take it on its final crash course to the ground. It would briefly touch the beach sending sand and debris flying upwards before flying back skyward. It would head towards Daly City, apparently now at the mercy of the winds. After damaging several rooftops it came to a stop in the middle of a street named Bellevue Avenue. Sparks would occasionally flare up from the damaged electrics on board.

However, the already strange morning was about to take an even stranger turn.

No Signs Of Any Real Distress Or Excessive Damage!

Besides an obvious puncture on the balloon and minor damage where the L-8 had crashed into the ground or rooftops, the majority of the cockpit was still in fine working order. There was, however, no sign of two crewmen. They were literally nowhere to be seen. When authorities searched the cockpit, the scenario appeared even stranger. The parachutes and lifeboat were where they were stored and untouched suggesting they hadn’t attempted to abandon the blimp. Furthermore, all of the firearms on board were likewise.

Further still, under the pilot’s seat, the box containing secret codes that were to be destroyed upon an emergency crash or capture were still exactly as they should be. Even the fuel was relatively full, certainly more than adequate to continue flying. In short, all indications were, aside from the change of direction and the sudden climb, nothing obviously unusual took place on board. Aside from the missing crew themselves, the only seemingly unusual discovery was an unhinging of the gondola door. This last detail perplexed investigators even more.

Of course, the real mystery was, just where were the two crew members? And at what point did they abandon the L-8. Remember, the two ships out in the Pacific near Treasure Island stated they could clearly see the two crew members on board. And someone certainly had to purposely turn the blimp around and take it back inland. So, with this in mind, the crew, or someone, was on board as late as 9 am. However, the Navy, following their investigation were “confident” that the crew members were no longer aboard the L-8 by the time it was over land. Where they were, though, they couldn’t answer.

Picture showing the L-8 Blimp beginning to sag

Picture showing the L-8 Blimp beginning to sag

A Case Of Involuntary Abandonment

Although they didn’t know where the two airmen were, the Navy did conclude that their “abandonment was involuntary” after finding “no reason for voluntary abandonment”. Besides which, if they had needed to abandon the aircraft, they would have surely informed their base of such a move. Remember, the radio communications on board were working as they should. Furthermore, none of the emergency procedures had been actioned. And even if they had abandoned the L-8, where were their bodies which, incidentally, have never been found?

There are several other theories as to might have taken place. However, besides there being no evidence to support any of them, the same glaring question snags all of them. At what point in the journey did these speculative actions take place?

For example, some would claim the crew members simply “fell out”, but when? If it had been during the sudden climb they would have been seen by the pilots. And why had they remained out of communication for nearly two hours at that point? Or perhaps a stowaway had attacked them? But again, at what point? And why did the airmen not draw their weapons? Some would, perhaps understandably, wonder if the Japanese had indeed attacked the blimp. However, as well as there being no evidence of this, files examined after the war showed no records of any Japanese presence off the American coast at that time.

With all of the “reasonable” theories exhausted, then, attention inevitably would drift towards the unreasonable and the extraordinary.

Presumed Dead But Still Very Much Unexplained!

Although the men were officially declared “presumed dead”, many researchers would reexamine the case over the years. Perhaps, as many have suggested, the incident is a bizarre case of alien abduction? It is perhaps important to note that following the sighting by the Navy pilot, he would lose sight of the L-8 for a brief few seconds when it entered “thick cloud”. Might it have been at this point when the two pilots somehow disappeared? And if so, was their abduction one that would simply “beam” them out of the ship? After all, at least as far as the public is aware, no sightings or radar confirmation of any “unknown” aircraft are on record for that day.

Or, might the bizarre vanishing be more in line with some of the many bizarre disappearances. Many of which are on record throughout history? Might the crew have, albeit for a tiny amount of time, occupied a space in the air similar to the Bermuda Triangle? One that saw them transported to another dimension, time, or even world?

Or, although perhaps slightly less outlandish, might the two crew members involved have been part of some kind of secret military experiment? One that went wrong, or right depending on its aims. And one that perhaps even the Navy themselves are completely unaware of? Most of us accept that there are powers within powers within the world’s governments and militaries. And most of the time, these secret shadow influencers have only their agenda in mind.

The crash site of the L-8 Blimp

The crash site of the L-8 Blimp

Ongoing Top-Secret Military Experiments?

Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves of a case that took place only several years previously in October 1939. The encounter would take place slightly to the south of San Francisco in San Diego, California. One recalled as the “Massacre In Midair” incident. As the name suggests, the encounter was altogether more violent and bloody than the L-8 incident almost four years later. However, if we are questioning if secret military experiments are taking place on board aerial craft, possibly without the knowledge of the pilots and crew, it is one that is worth examining alongside it.

That October afternoon, a US military Cargo plane left San Diego with a “mystery cargo” on board. And a full crew. However, several hours later, the control tower would receive distress calls from the plane. Even stranger, a short time later, it would return to its original destination. With all communications now ceased, it came to a stop on the runway.

A shocking scene would await the emergency crews when they gained entry to the plane. They would discover all of the crew dead with a “gaping hole” in their torsos. The pilot and co-pilot were also dead. Their guns drawn and empty casings on the floor by their feet. For unknown reasons, the co-pilot was in the pilot’s seat. Had he guided the plane home before losing his life? And what had caused the violent deaths of the crew? Might the “mystery cargo” be to blame? And most importantly, does it share a connection to the mysterious incident of 16th August 1943 over San Francisco?

Check out the video below. It looks at this most fascinating case in a little more detail. Just what did take place on board the Navy Blimp L-8?


1 Mystery of the Ghost Blimp, John J. Geoghegan, History Net

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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1 Comment

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  • gotporn says:

    Next to sight L-8 was an Army P-38 pilot, who spotted the blimp near Mile Rock. He noticed nothing amiss, assuming it was headed to Treasure Island. A few minutes later Richard Quam, an off-duty seaman heading for a day at the beach, was driving along the coastal highway between San Mateo and San Francisco when he spotted L-8 in the distance and noted that the blimp was bent in the middle. Quam stopped to snap a photograph; his film would soon be confiscated by the authorities.

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