During the First World War, the Germans were banned from eating sausages because a component used to make them was needed for their airships. The Germans, at that time, were developing their rigid airship as bombers and scouts. Originally flown as a commercial airline in revenue service, their Zeppelin was given a different purpose when the war broke out. If you’re wondering how sausages were connected to this airship at all, then you’d be surprised to find out that these gigantic flyers were, in fact, using cow guts to fly.

Sausage in the Sky

This rigid airship could be traced back to 1874, when its notions were first formulated. It was named after its German inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Its details were developed in 1893, and by 1910, it took its first commercial flight, flown by Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG), making it the world’s first revenue service airline.

The Zeppelin airship “Deutschland LZ 8” over the city of Düsseldorf in April 1911. (Peter Lölgen Architekturfotograf, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Zeppelin was made of a rigid metal framework covered in fabric and made up of transverse rings along longitudinal girders with numerous individual gasbags. Its framework was made of a combination of aluminum and copper and two or more other metals that were a secret, although it was collectively called duralumin. As for the gasbags, they were originally made from rubberized cotton until it was changed to goldbeater’s skin, basically cattle intestines. These very same intestines used in making bratwurst were filled with hydrogen gasbags to make it float. The demand was so high during WWI that the Central Powers ordered a cut back on sausage-making, not just in Germany but also in the territories under their control. Around 250,000 cow intestines were needed to make each Zeppelin fly, so even the butchers were required to hand over their cow guts possessions. For two years, the people of Germany were without their beloved sausages. A sacrifice that was worth it, as their Zeppelins were able to fly over and drop bombs over Britain in return.

The air ships were filled with flammable hydrogen which made them enormous flying bombs.  It would have been preferable to use helium but at the time the US was the largest producer of helium in the world and considered it a strategic commodity.  As a result it was very careful about who it sold helium to.