The first rigid airship to be designed and built by the United States Navy, Shenandoah was designed by the Bureau of Aeronautics; fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia; and assembled at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N.J. Her first frame was erected by 24 June 1922; and, on 20 August 1923, the completed airship was floated free of the ground. Shenandoah was christened on 10 October 1923; sponsored by Mrs. Edwin Denby, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned on the same day, Comdr. Frank R. McCrary in command.
On 2 September, Shenandoah departed Lakehurst on a flight to the Middle West for training and to test a new mooring mast at Dearborn, Michigan. While passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio early in the morning of the 3d, the airship was torn apart and crashed near Marietta. Shenandoah's commanding officer, Comdr. Zachary Lansdowne, and 13 other officers and men were killed. Twenty-nine survivors succeeded in riding three sections of the airship to earth.