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Other WWI Aviation Airfields, equipment, tactics, training, uniforms and all other WWI aviation topics

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Old 22 July 2006, 07:11 AM   #1
CharlesNungesser
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Red face Balloon busting...

Just finished reading Osprey's book Balloon Busting Aces Of World War I, and made wonder...
Since balloon busting seemed to be a very risky business in WWI, what would it be comaparable to in later wars thinking about the dangers??
Would it be like trying to shoot down a bomber in WWII or take out a SA-2 missile site in Vietnam??
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Old 22 July 2006, 08:09 AM   #2
TomVrille
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The dangers would be similar for direct attack against any high value ground target nestled in amongst concentrated air defenses. It is still a dangerous business, as demonstrated by the current emphasis on standoff air-to-ground weapons development.
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Old 23 July 2006, 10:29 AM   #3
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Held in Awe

I think the danger involved in knocking down an enemy balloon speaks for itself in the awe and wonder most aviators help men like Coppens and Luke. The speed at which the ballons could be brought down (especially after they began using lorries to run down along the lowering cables) coupled with the masses of anti-aircraft guns that surrounded them made this enterprise an extremely risky proposition. I don't think that I would have been volunteering for it. VR, Roadhog "Memento mori."
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Old 23 July 2006, 05:52 PM   #4
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In the ETO of WW II, allied fighters typically lost four to ground fire for each in air combat. Losses to SAMs in VN get way too much attention: they accounted for about 15% of combat losses. But without statistical data on losses per sortie, a direct comparison with each war is just not possible.
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Old 24 July 2006, 12:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadhog
I think the danger involved in knocking down an enemy balloon speaks for itself in the awe and wonder most aviators help men like Coppens and Luke.
Was balloon shooting any more dangerous than trench straffing, the lot of camel pilots towards the end of the war, or artilliary observation in FE’s and RE’s or tackling the flying circus ? Outside of a squadron or two of the USAS, nobody had heard of Luke, let alone held him in “awe and wonder” and I can’t recall reading any mention of Coppens by other pilots in contemporaneous reports. All WW1 aviation was dangerous.
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Old 24 July 2006, 03:57 PM   #6
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The crucial element in making balloon-busting a decidedly unhealthy occupation was that the balloon floated at a known altitude above a known fixed position behind the front line, thus making it easier for defending guns to hit attacking aircraft; those guns including every rifle within range in addition to the heavier guns and automatic weapons dedicated to the task.

Definitely not for the faint-hearted!
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Old 24 July 2006, 04:19 PM   #7
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Now, Vin, let's hope the furry Captain didn't hear you...

Dear Vin,

"Outside of a squadron or two of the USAS, nobody had heard of Luke, let alone held him in 'awe and wonder'...”

Actually, Luke was well-known throughout the USAS, not just your couple of squadrons. This was partially due to the American newspapers of the time, particularly The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. There was also a great deal of "scuttlebut" or "word-of-mouth" in the AEF-- Captain Lewis himself has come across, to paraphrase your comment, "a diary or two", where the diarist didn't know Luke personally but knew of his exploits. Norman Archibald gives an account of this, as a POW, in his epic "Heaven High, Hell Deep." Supposedly, Luke's exploits were also reported in the French press of that time, a further avenue of research the Captain one days hopes to embark upon...

As to Charles' original query, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to compare the drachen as a weapon to some later ordinance. Men in the trenches were supposedly depressed and disheartened when they would see the the same enemy balloon, day after day, call in a barrage on their position.

Were they difficult to shoot down? Well (as Captain Lewis might have already mentioned), Luke was able to develop a tactic that greatly minimized the balloon's defensive capability: come in alone, come in low, and come in when least expected (when the balloon was already lowered and being "put to bed", so to speak). Nevertheless, this tactic failed Luke on his last mission...

A French balloon-buster whose name has escaped me (but he flew with Escadrille 77), also used a tactic of attack from below, but he ended up being burned to death from the ground fire; interestingly enough, this was also in the AEF sector, on the first day of St. Mihiel, IIRC. Comparing this now to Bennett, an American flying with the RFC and a balloon-buster as well but not generally all that well known, it seems that attacking a balloon in broad daylight was suicidal...

But, Charles, did you know that Nungesser's last four confirmed victories, all on the same day, were balloons? Also, that he and Luke supposedly knew each other? Perhaps, were we to uncover the story of those last four victories, we might gain further insight into Frank Luke-- and, God knows, how desirous is our Vin of yet even more insight into the Arizona Balloon Buster...

VBR,
Skip
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Old 25 July 2006, 04:04 AM   #8
Vin
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Whether "Luke was well-known throughout the USAS,”, “Supposedly, Luke's exploits were also reported in the French press of that time”, “able to develop a tactic that greatly minimized the balloon's defensive capability” (a method used since at least early 1918 at the other end of the Western Front by the AFC & RFC) or “supposedly” (there's that word again) knew Nungesser (who'd stopped flying before Luke's 1st claim and was probably still in hospital during Lukes 2 weeks activity), I'll leave to minds more accepting of fairy stories but even if it was all fact, that's a far cry from “..the awe and wonder most aviators help(sic) men like Coppens and Luke.
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Old 25 July 2006, 08:44 AM   #9
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Jeepers Vin...

When I spoke of awe and wonder I meant mainly squadron mates. And yes, the exploits of both men were well-reported in the press. Any flyer who did not hold these men in high esteem could only be accused of either ignorance or professional jealousy (in humble opinion, having seen both in action during the course of my military career). Roadhog "Memento mori."
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Old 26 July 2006, 12:39 PM   #10
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Hello All, I am a new member and I would like to find any specific information about German Observation Balloons (size dimentions {particularly basket descriptions}, colorartion, markings, ground support equipment, etc.). I am trying to build a balloon to include in a diorama I want to bulid. Anything that might be helpful to build a 1/72 scale model would be much appreciated.

Thanks, Roc
 
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