Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hazardous duty aboard the Airborne Sausages

Welcome to Knights of the Air, a weekly series on Dieselpunks spotlighting the aces and pioneering aerial technology of World War I.

Airborne SausagePICTURED ABOVE: German ground troops watch as a balloon begins its ascent on the Western Front.

Stationary balloons, anchored by steel cables to the ground, were less glamorous than planes, but their contribution to air observation was just as important. Used by both sides, the gas-filled “sausages” hovered near the lines to direct artillery fire and monitor enemy movements.

Each balloon was manned by an observer and his assistant, who telephoned reports to the ground. Barely maneuverable and unarmed, balloons were inviting targets. But they were resolutely defended by antiaircraft guns, and the balloonists usually wore parachutes.

Great War balloon

Its basket a tiny speck in the distance, a British balloon hovers over the shell-smashed battlefield at Ypres. Balloons generally were tethered two-to-five miles inside friendly lines and reached heights of up to 5,000 feet.

WWI balloon

The simultaneous demise of two German balloons shot down near Boyelles, France is captured in this remarkable photograph. Attacking airplanes fired incendiary bullets to ignite the highly flammable gasbags, which would commonly disintegrate in 20 seconds or less.

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Comment by Elvisrocks59 on January 22, 2012 at 4:44pm

Well done on your 2000th 

Comment by Leviathan on January 21, 2012 at 2:05am

Congratulations for your enthusiasm in supporting the Dieselpunk movement.

Comment by Cap'n Tony on January 20, 2012 at 9:03am

Hear hear!

Comment by Larry on January 19, 2012 at 7:27pm

Congrats to the man who's done most for the advancement of Dieselpunk than probably anyone.

Oh, and btw. This was cool article. Talk about suicide missions.

Comment by Tome Wilson on January 19, 2012 at 4:33pm

2000?  I still only feel 30.

I guess I should have noticed when they stopped carding me at the bar.

Comment by lord_k on January 19, 2012 at 4:19pm

Congrats on 2000th article!

Comment by Twizard on January 19, 2012 at 3:36pm

What's interesting is that these balloonists often wore parachutes but pilots usually didn't.  For a pilot, being shot down was usually a brutal death sentence, being burned to death in the midst of flaming dope covered canvas while plummeting to the ground at hundreds of miles an hour.

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