When asked about the kinds of aircrafts used in World War I and II, most people wouldn’t include hot air balloons on their list.
But they should because balloons were vital for keeping a close eye on enemy lines.
Tethered balloons were used as observatories. There was no better way of determining the movements of the opposition.
Balloons also helped troops to direct artillery fire. Observers reported their findings to officers on the ground who then made the decision on where to target.
Enemy planes, equipped with incendiary bullets (flexible socks filled with flammable material), targeted hot air balloons and blew them up by igniting the hydrogen.more
In WWII the Japanese launched 9,300 balloons to bomb the United States and Canada. Each balloon carried two incendiary bombs and one antipersonnel bomb, with the intention to start forest fires in the western states. The operation only killed six people, but it was probably the most threatening demonstration of ballooning warfare to date.
Operation Outward, a British WWII initiative, was a programme devised to attack Germany with free-flying balloons. Some balloons were filled with hydrogen and carried a trailing wire made from steel, intended to destroy power lines. Others carried incendiaries which started fires in forests and woodland.
The balloons’ effectiveness came under discussion numerous times, but because they were cheap to make and didn’t risk the lives of British troops, they continued to be used.
95 years ago today, fighting stopped and WWI came to a long awaited end. We will never forget those that have heroically served and risked their lives to protect our country.