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The U.S. Army Barrage Balloon Program

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The U.S. Army Barrage Balloon Program

  • by James R. Shock
    • Merriam Press World War 2 History Series
      • Fifth Edition 2012
      • 144 6×9-inch pages
      • 58 photos
      • 16 illustrations
      • 18 charts
      • 1 three-view drawing

     This is the complete, never-before-told story of the U.S. Army's barrage balloons during World War II

     Shock covers the development, design, manufacturing, production, and use of U.S. Army barrage balloons throughout the war, as well as the men and units involved (both training and active duty in the U.S. and overseas) and their accomplishments.

     Includes coverage of the British influence and assistance they provided to the U.S. Army.

     Histories of each battery, battalion and group, along with details of their insignia—both proposed and approved—and TO&Es.



  • Introduction
  • The Barrage Balloons
  • The British
  • Barrage Balloon Training Center, Camp Tyson, Tennessee
  • Barrage Balloon Board
  • Barrage Balloon School
  • The Barrage Balloon Tactical Units
  • Coast Artillery Barrage Balloon Batteries, Battalions and Groups
  • Appendices
    • U.S. Army Barrage Balloon Units
    • Coats of Arms, Distinctive Insignia and Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
  • Bibliography

The July 20, 2003 episode of "Mail Call" on the History Channel featured a segment on barrage balloons. Jim Shock was interviewed for and appears in this segment (a direct result of this book).


The author of this book has taken a topic which has rarely merited a mention in the history of WWII aviation: barrage balloons. Indeed, one has to dig in the mainstream accounts to find anything that explains the role of these balloons in the passive air defense systems of the United States, Britain and Germany. Past that it is even more rare to find something that explains how the balloons were organized, how many soldiers operated them, how those crews were trained, etc. This book tries to redress this, especially so far as U.S. operators of the balloons.
     Barrage balloons were a useful passive air defense measure against the type of aircraft used in WWII. Balloons were used to stretch cables from the ground to the balloon and often from balloon to balloon. This presented a hazard against aircraft as any plane striking such a cable could suffer catastrophic structural damage and indeed many aircraft were damaged in this manner during the Battle of Britain. The countermeasure, flying above the level of the balloons, served to both reduce the effectiveness of bombing and to place them at an altitude where fighters could be pre-positioned for interception.
     This book is a good effort, although I myself would have organized it differently. For instance, technical data and drawings of different model balloons might have been better placed in their own appendix. Another feature to be considered might have been a map of the United States showing where balloon barrages were placed. Still, I will keep this with my other air defense books as there is nothing else available. Many good photos and drawings.
—James D. Crabtree

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