Zachary Lansdowne was born in Greenville, Ohio, on 1 December 1888. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1905 and graduated in 1909. In June 1911, following two years' service aboard the battleship Virginia, he was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. During the next five years Lansdowne served in the destroyer McCall and had recruiting and Naval Militia duty in Ohio. He then received aeronautical instruction at Pensacola, Florida, and Akron, Ohio. In September 1917, Lieutenant Lansdowne was sent to England for training in the operation of dirigibles. He spent the rest of the First World War, and the first months of 1919, at the Navy Department and at air stations in France.
In July 1919, Lieutenant Commander Lansdowne served on board the British rigid airship R-34 during its historic non-stop flight across the Atlantic to the United States. Service followed at the Navy Department, at Akron, Ohio, and as a White House Aide. He was Assistant Naval Attache in Germany in 1922-1923, during which time his duties involved negotiations that resulted in the construction of USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), the Navy's second rigid airship.
Lieutenant Commander Lansdowne took command of USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) early in 1924. Over the next year and a half he carried out an energetic development program with her, including operations at sea and a trans-Continental flight to California. While on a long-distance flight to the Midwest on 3 September 1925, Shenandoah encountered fierce weather conditions and crashed in southern Ohio. Zachary Lansdowne was among those who lost their lives in this accident.
The destroyer USS Lansdowne (DD-486), 1942-1949, was named in honor of Lieutenant Commander Lansdowne.
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