BARRAGE BALLOONS

On the morning of D-Day, thousands of barrage balloons were tethered to ships and smaller craft for the cross-Channel journey to France. Floating in the sky, the bags formed a miles-wide aerial curtain, protecting the fleet, and later the men and matériel on the beaches, from enemy planes. With bombs anchored to their cables, the balloons were a lethal weapon that German pilots assiduously attempted to avoid. The 320th Barrage Balloons served 140 days in France. American balloons also flew during the Italian invasion in 1943.

Four men from a black barrage balloon unit hoist aloft a balloon during a 1942 demonstration in Washington, D.C. Elasticized ropes allowed the envelope to expand as the balloon went up and the gas inside expanded.
Photographer: Roger Smith; Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Trucks, bulldozers, jeeps and other equipment arrive on Omaha Beach on June 9, 1944. A lone “sky sentinel” floats in the background.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

320th men haul a barrage balloon through a partially cleared minefield in France on August 14, 1944, From left to right: Arko Shaw, Alvin Smith, Jessie Sumlin, and James Shrapshire.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Trucks, bulldozers, jeeps and other equipment arrive on Omaha Beach on June 9, 1944. A lone “sky sentinel” floats in the background.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Barrage balloons flying at Utah Beach on June 9, 1944.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

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