Observation

29 Mar

For today’s picture we take to the skies:

American Officer in Observation Balloon

An American officer mans the basket of an observation balloon just over enemy lines in June of 1918.

Balloons of this sort were crucial when it came to conducting large-scale infantry movements, and were consequently well-protected. Shooting them down from the ground was incredibly difficult, so the task of dealing with balloons on all sides of the conflict typically fell to the air force. The balloons were protected by heavy anti-aircraft batteries of the usual sort (“Archie”), and often also by a special and incredibly dangerous incendiary kind (“Flaming Onions”). They were much-prized as targets for enterprising pilots, but also very difficult to bring down.

Notably, men like the one pictured were among the first to be issued parachutes as a matter of course. They would not be given out to combat pilots in any air force until quite late in the war.

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