Balloon buster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Balloon busters were military pilots known for destroying enemy observation balloons. These pilots were noted for their fearlessness.[1] Seventy-seven flying aces in World War I were each credited with destroying five or more balloons, and thus were balloon aces.

The crucial role of observation balloons

This British balloon of the German Parseval-Siegsfeld type, 1916, was typical of observation balloons in the first half of World War I.

An observation balloon was both a vulnerable and a valuable target: the balloon was moored in a stationary position and was lifted by flammable hydrogen gas, whose use was necessitated by the scarcity of helium reserves among European powers. The observer, suspended in the wicker basket beneath, typically had a wireless transmitter, binoculars and/or a long-range camera. His job was to observe actions on the front-line and behind it, to spot enemy troop movements or unusual activity of any sort, and to call down artillery fire onto any worthwhile targets. Balloon observers were consequently targets of great importance to both sides, especially before any sort of infantry action or offensive, so individual pilots, flights or whole squadrons were frequently ordered to attack balloons, either in an attempt to destroy them or at least disrupt their observation activities.[1] Pilots on both sides tried to attack from a height that could enable them to fire without getting too close to the hydrogen and pull away fast. They were also cautioned not to go below 1000 feet in order to avoid machine gun and AA fire.

Due to their importance, balloons were usually given heavy defenses in the form of machine gun positions on the ground, anti-aircraft artillery, and standing fighter patrols stationed overhead. Other defenses included surrounding the main balloon with barrage balloons; stringing cables in the air in the vicinity of the balloons; putting machine guns in gondolas for observers to use; and flying balloons booby-trapped with explosives that could be remotely detonated from the ground. These measures made balloons very dangerous targets to approach.[1]

Although balloons were occasionally shot down by small-arms fire, generally it was difficult to shoot down a balloon with solid bullets, particularly at the distances and altitude involved. Ordinary bullets would pass relatively harmlessly through the hydrogen gas bag, merely holing the fabric. Hits on the wicker car could however kill the observer.[1]

One method employed was the solid-fuel Le Prieur rocket invented by Frenchman Lt. Yves Le Prieur and first used in April 1916. Rockets were attached to each outboard strut of a biplane fighter aircraft and fired through steel tubes using an electrical trigger. The rockets' inaccuracy was such that pilots had to fly very close to their target before firing.[1]

It was not until special Pomeroy incendiary bullets and Buckingham flat-nosed incendiary bullets became available on the Western Front in 1917 that any consistent degree of success was achieved. Le Prieur rockets were withdrawn from service in 1918 once incendiary bullets had become available.[1]

Balloon busting aces

The leading balloon buster, Willy Coppens, is personally decorated by his monarch, King Albert I.
Name Nationality Balloon victories Aircraft victories Total Reference
Willy Coppens[2] Belgian 35 2 37
Léon Bourjade[3] French 27 1 28
Michel Coiffard[4] French 24 10 34
Maurice Boyau French 21 14 35 [5]
Friedrich Ritter von Röth German 20 8 28 [6]
Jacques Ehrlich French 18 1 19 [7]
Heinrich Gontermann German 18 21 39 [8]
Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor South African 16 38 54 [9]
Frank Luke American 14 4 18 [10]
Karl Schlegel German 14 8 22 [11]
Oskar Hennrich German 13 7 20 [12]
Marcel Haegelen French 12 11 23 [13]
Marius Ambrogi French 11 3 14 [14]
Friedrich Friedrichs German 11 10 21 [15]
Henry Woollett British 11 24 35 [16]
Tom F. Hazell British 10 33 43 [17]
Fritz Höhn German 10 11 21 [18]
Max Näther Germany 10 16 26 [19]
Erich Thomas Germany 10 0 10 [20]
William George Barker Canadian 9 50 59 [21]
Louis Bennett American 9 3 12 [22]
Théophile Henri Condemine French 9 0 9 [23]
Hans von Freden German 9 10 19 [24]
Sidney Highwood British 9 7 16 [25]
Erich Löwenhardt German 9 45 54 [26]
Jean Andre Pezon French 9 1 10 [27]
Armand Pinsard French 9 18 27 [28]
Erich Thomas German 9 1 10 [20]
Paul Barbreau French 8 0 8 [29]
Josef Jacobs German 8 40 48 [30]
Max Kuhn German 8 4 12 [31]
Charles J. V. Macé French 8 4 12 [32]
Ernest Maunoury French 8 3 11 [33]
Friedrich T. Noltenius German 8 13 21 [34]
Fritz Pütter German 8 17 25 [35]
Otto Schmidt German 8 12 20 [36]
Maurice Bizot French 7 3 10 [37]
Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk German 7 19 26 [38]
Julius Buckler German 7 29 36 [39]
Siegfried Büttner German 7 6 13 [40]
Harry King Goode British 7 8 15 [41]
Harold B. Hudson Canadian 7 6 13 [42]
Hans Nülle Germany 7 4 11 [43]
Charles Nungesser French 7 36 43 [44]
Hans Martin Pippart German 7 15 22 [45]
Paul Santelli[46] French 7 0 7
Eugen Bönsch[47] Austro-Hungarian 6 10 16
Hans Klein[48] German 6 16 22
Antoine Laplasse[49] French 6 2 8
Donald Roderick MacLaren[50] Canadian 6 48 54
Georg Meyer[51] German 6 18 24
Marcel Bloch[52] French 5 0 5
Heinrich Bongartz[53] German 5 28 33
Fernand Bonneton[54] French 5 4 9
Godwin Brumowski[55] Austro-Hungarian 5 30 35
William Charles Campbell[56] British 5 18 23
Pierre Cardon[57] French 5 0 5
Sydney Carlin[58] British 5 5 10
Arthur Cobby[59] Australian 5 24 29
Martin Dehmisch[60] German 5 5 10
Pierre Ducornet[61] French 5 2 7
Wilhelm Frickart[62] German 5 7 12
Louis Prosper Gros[63] French 5 4 9
Francis Guerrier[64] French 5 0 5
Heinrich Haase[65] German 5 1 6
Lansing Holden[66] American 5 2 7
Adrien L. J. Leps[67] French 5 7 12
Richard Burnard Munday[68] British 5 4 9
Marcel Nogues[69] French 5 8 13
Eddie Rickenbacker[70] American 5 21 26
George R. Riley[71] British 5 8 13
Gilbert Sardier[72] French 5 10 15
William Ernest Shields[73] Canadian 5 19 24
Walter Southey[74] South African 5 15 20
Paul Y. R. Waddington[75] French 5 7 12
Joseph Wehner[76] American 5 1 6
Hans Weiss[77] German 5 11 16

Aviators with victories over four observation balloons

Name Origin Balloon victories Aircraft victories Total
Heinrich Arntzen German 4 7 11[78]
Otto Brauneck German 4 6 10[79]
Harvey Weir Cook American 4 3 7[80]
Gustave Daladier French 4 8 12[81]
Benno Fiala Ritter von Fernbrugg Austro-Hungarian 4[note 1] 24 28[82]
Elwyn King Australian 4 22 26[83]
Wilhelm Kühne German 4 3 7[84]
Georges Lachmann French 4 5 9[85]
Auguste Lahoulle French 4 6 10[86]
Edgar McCloughry Australian 4 17 21[87]
Paul Petit French 4 3 7[88]
Maurice Rousselle French 4 1 5[89]
Karl Schattauer German 4 5 9[90]
Leonard Taplin Australian 4 8 12[91]
Edgar Taylor American 4 1 5[92]
Guy Wareing English 4 5 9[93]

World War I aviators who shot down three observation balloons

Name Origin Balloon victories Aircraft victories Total
Giovanni Ancillotto Italian 3 8 11[94]
Yves F. Barbaza French 3 2 5[95]
Hans Böhning German 3 14 17[96]
Karl Bohny German 3 5 8[97]
Walter von Bülow-Bothkamp German 3 25 28[98]
Hamilton Coolidge American 3 5 8[99]
Pierre Delage French 3 4 7[100]
Rudolf von Eschwege German 3 17 20[101]
Henri Hay De Slade French 3 16 19[102]
Francis W. Gillet American 3 17 20[103]
Max Gossner German 3 5 8[104]
Justus Grassmann German 3 7 10[105]
Robert Hall South African 3 2 5[106]
Ludwig Hanstein German 3 13 16[107]
William Frederick James Harvey English 3 23 26[108]
Albert Haussmann German 3 12 15[109]
Heinrich Henkel German 3 5 8[110]
Adolf Heyrowsky Austro-Hungarian 3[note 1] 9 12[111]
Camille Lagesse Canadian 3 17 20[112]
Friedrich Manschott German 3 9 12[113]
George McElroy Irish 3 44 47[114]
Maurice Newnham English 3 15 18[115]
John Steele Ralston Scots 3 9 12[116]
Paul Rothe German 3 2 5[117]
Franz Rudorfer German 3 8 11[118]
Cecil Thompson South African 3 3 6[119]
Remington Vernam American 3 3 6[120]
Hans Waldhausen German 3 3 6[121]
Herbert Gilles Watson New Zealander 3 11 14[122]

World War I aviators who shot down two observation balloons

Name Origin Balloon
victories
Aircraft
victories
Total
Edgar O. Amm South African 2 5 7[123]
Maurice Arnoux French 2 3 5[124]
Horace Barton South African 2 17 19[125]
John Courade Bateman English 2 5 7[125]
Douglas John Bell South African 2 17 19[126]
Armond J. Berthelot French 2 9 11[127]
Billy Bishop Canadian 2 70 72[128]
Konrad Brendle German 2 7 9[79]
Jean Casale French 2 11 13[129]
William Gordon Claxton Canadian 2 35 37[130]
Edwin Cole English 2 6 8[131]
James Connelly American 2 5 7[132]
Charles Cudemore English 2 13 15[133]
Gilbert de Guingand French 2 6 8[134]
Armand de Turenne French 2 13 15[135]
Pierre Dufaur de Gavardie French 2 4 6[136]
Eduard Ritter von Dostler German 2 24 26[137]
Otto Fitzner German 2 7 9[138]
Willi Gabriel German 2 9 11[139]
Karl Gallwitz German 2 8 10[140]
George Gates English 2 7 9[141]
Frederick Stanley Gordon New Zealander 2 7 9[142]
Franz Gräser Austro-Hungarian 2 16 18[143]
Fernand Guyou French 2 10 12[144]
Erich Hahn German 2 4 6[145]
Georges Halberger French 2 3 5[146]
Lloyd Hamilton American 2 8 10[147]
Thomas Sinclair Harrison South African 2 20 22[148]
Robert Heibert German 2 11 13[109]
Albert Hets German 2 4 6[149]
Ernest Charles Hoy Canadian 2 11 13[150]
Frederick Hunt English 2 7 9[151]
Albert Leslie Jones English 2 5 7[152]
Erich Just German 2 4 6[153]
Arthur Korff German 2 6 8[154]
James Latta English 2 3 5[155]
Pierre Leroy de Boiseaumarie French 2 3 5[156]
Frederick Luff American 2 3 5[157]
John Mackereth English 2 5 7[158]
Malcolm Plaw MacLeod Canadian 2 5 7[159]
Rudolf Matthaei German 2 8 10[160]
Maurice Mealing English 2 12 14[161]
Zenos Miller American 2 3 5[162]
Hans Karl Müller German 2 7 9[163]
Edmund Nathanael German 2 13 15[164]
Otto Parschau German 2 6 8[165]
Andre Petit-Delchet French 2 3 5[166]
Croye Pithey South African 2 8 10[167]
Arthur Rahn German 2 4 6[168]
Hervey Rhodes English 2 8 10[167]
Cyril Ridley English 2 9 11[169]
Charles G. Ross South African 2 18 20[170]
Hugh Saunders South African 2 13 15[171]
Gustav Schneidewind German 2 5 7[172]
Wilhelm Schwartz German 2 6 8[173]
Kurt Schönfelder German 2 11 13[174]
Sumner Sewall American 2 5 7[175]
Langley Smith Canadian 2 6 8[176]
Werner Steinhauser German 2 8 10[177]
Francis S. Symondson English 2 11 13[178]
Mathieu Tenant de la Tour French 2 7 9[179]
Renatus Theiller German 2 10 12[180]
Bernhard Ultsch German 2 10 12[181]
Gilbert J. Uteau French 2 3 5[182]
Clive W. Warman American 2 10 12[183]
Paul Wenzl Germany 2 8 10[184]

Fictional portrayals

William Sanders' novel The Wild Blue and the Gray was set in a World War I squadron that flew several balloon-busting missions.

In Wilbur Smith's The Burning Shore the lead character carries out balloon-busting missions during World War I.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Includes the Italian airship M4.

References

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  5. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 124–125.
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  7. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 157–158.
  8. ^ Franks et al. 1993, p. 116.
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  11. ^ Franks et al. 1993, p. 199.
  12. ^ Franks et al. 1993, p. 128.
  13. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 172–173.
  14. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 112–113.
  15. ^ Franks et al. 1993, p. 110.
  16. ^ Shores et al. 1990, pp. 389–390.
  17. ^ Shores et al. 1990, p. 190.
  18. ^ Franks et al. 1993, pp. 130–131.
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  109. ^ a b Franks, Bailey & Guest (1993), p. 125.
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  111. ^ Franks, Guest & Alegi (1997), pp. 183–184.
  112. ^ Shores, Franks & Guest (1990), p. 229.
  113. ^ Franks, Bailey & Guest (1993), p. 162.
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Bibliography
  • Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank; Guest, Russell. Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1993. ISBN 0-948817-73-9, ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.
  • Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN 1-898697-56-6, ISBN 978-1-898697-56-5.
  • Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank. Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1992. ISBN 0-948817-54-2, ISBN 978-0-948817-54-0.
  • Guttman, Jon; Dempsey, Harry. Balloon-Busting Aces of World War 1. Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-84176-877-4, ISBN 978-1-84176-877-9.
  • Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell. Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Grub Street, 1990. ISBN 0-948817-19-4, ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.

External links

  • "Balloon-Busters of World War I". theaerodrome.com. 2013. 
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