Balloon buster

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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[edit]

Typical observation balloons 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.

The leading balloon buster, Willy Coppens, is personally decorated by his monarch, King Albert I.

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 .45 calibre explosive 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[edit]

The below list is believed to be complete. Please note any possible additions or corrections on Talk page of article.

Name Nationality Balloon victories Aircraft victories Total
Willy Coppens Belgian 35 2 37[2]
Léon Bourjade French 27 1 28[3]
Michel Coiffard French 24 10 34[4]
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 43 53[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[29]
Paul Barbreau French 8 0 8[30]
Josef Jacobs German 8 40 48[31]
Max Kuhn German 8 4 12[32]
Charles J. V. Macé French 8 4 12[33]
Ernest Maunoury French 8 3 11[34]
Friedrich T. Noltenius German 8 13 21[35]
Fritz Pütter German 8 17 25[36]
Otto Schmidt German 8 12 20[37]
Maurice Bizot French 7 3 10[38]
Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk German 7 19 26[39]
Julius Buckler German 7 29 36[40]
Siegfried Büttner German 7 6 13[41]
Harry King Goode British 7 8 15[42]
Harold B. Hudson Canadian 7 6 13[43]
Hans Nülle Germany 7 4 11[44]
Charles Nungesser French 7 36 43[45]
Hans Martin Pippart German 7 15 22[46]
Paul Santelli French 7 0 7[47]
Eugen Bönsch Austro-Hungarian 6 10 16[48]
Hans Klein German 6 16 22[49]
Antoine Laplasse French 6 2 8[50]
Donald Roderick MacLaren Canadian 6 48 54[51]
Georg Meyer German 6 18 24[52]
Marcel Bloch French 5 0 5[53]
Heinrich Bongartz German 5 28 33[54]
Fernand Bonneton French 5 4 9[55]
Godwin Brumowski Austro-Hungarian 5 30 35[56]
William Charles Campbell British 5 18 23[57]
Pierre Cardon French 5 0 5[58]
Sydney Carlin British 5 5 10[59]
Arthur Cobby Australian 5 24 29[60]
Martin Dehmisch German 5 5 10[61]
Pierre Ducornet French 5 2 7[62]
Wilhelm Frickart German 5 7 12[63]
Louis Prosper Gros French 5 4 9[64]
Francis Guerrier French 5 0 5[65]
Heinrich Haase German 5 1 6[66]
Lansing Holden American 5 2 7[67]
Adrien L. J. Leps French 5 7 12[68]
Richard Burnard Munday British 5 4 9[69]
Marcel Nogues French 5 8 13[70]
Eddie Rickenbacker American 5 21 26[71]
George R. Riley British 5 8 13[72]
Gilbert Sardier French 5 10 15[73]
William Ernest Shields Canadian 5 19 24[74]
Walter Southey South African 5 15 20[75]
Paul Y. R. Waddington French 5 7 12[76]
Joseph Wehner American 5 1 6[77]
Hans Weiss German 5 11 16[78]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Guttman, Dempsey 2005, pp. 7-9.
  2. ^ Franks et al 1997, pp. 98-99.
  3. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 122-123.
  4. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 133-134.
  5. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 124-125.
  6. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 192-193.
  7. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 157-158.
  8. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 116.
  9. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 68-69.
  10. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 58-59.
  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.
  19. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 172-173.
  20. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 216.
  21. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 62-64.
  22. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 23.
  23. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 135.
  24. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 109.
  25. ^ Shores et al 1990, p. 194.
  26. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 158-160.
  27. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 205-206.
  28. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 206-207
  29. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 216.
  30. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 116.
  31. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 135-136.
  32. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 151.
  33. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 187-188.
  34. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 193-194.
  35. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 174-175.
  36. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 183.
  37. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 202-203.
  38. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 119-120.
  39. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 77.
  40. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 87-88.
  41. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 91-92.
  42. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 171-172.
  43. ^ Shores et al 1990, p. 203.
  44. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 175.
  45. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 198-199.
  46. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 180.
  47. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 216-217.
  48. ^ Franks et al 1997, pp. 174-175.
  49. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 145-146.
  50. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 182.
  51. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 249-250.
  52. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 166-167.
  53. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 120.
  54. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 81-82.
  55. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 121.
  56. ^ Franks et al 1997, pp. 175-176.
  57. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 96-97.
  58. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 128.
  59. ^ Shores et al 1990, p. 98.
  60. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 110.
  61. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 97.
  62. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 156.
  63. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 109-110.
  64. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 166-167.
  65. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 168.
  66. ^ Franks et al 1993, p. 121.
  67. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 44-45.
  68. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 184-185.
  69. ^ Shores et al 1990, p. 287.
  70. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 197.
  71. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 67-68.
  72. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 321-322.
  73. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 217.
  74. ^ Shores et al 1990, p. 336.
  75. ^ Shores et al 1990, pp. 346-347.
  76. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, pp. 225-226.
  77. ^ Franks, Bailey 1992, p. 80.
  78. ^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 227-228.
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[edit]