Old News – Balloon Corps

This article from World War I includes letters from Roy Goold of Brockport. He ended up serving in Europe from July 1918 to June 1919.

The Brockport Republic

Thursday, April 11, 1918

Roy Goold Enjoys Work as Telephone Operator

It is seldom that friends at home are enabled to know definately the lines of work and the interesting details of the work of our soldier boys in camp. Among the newest lines of army work is the work of the balloon corps. used for observation purposes. Roy Goold, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Seth Goold, enlisted in this department a few months ago and is now stationed at Ft. Omaha, Neb. From the following letter it is evident life will hold many thrills for the young man when he sees service “over there.”

Omaha, Neb., Feb. 28

I have been picked to be a telephone operator so I won’t get any more line work. I am learning to repair damaged switch boards, at present. They take a switch board and damage it so it won’t work and I have to find out what is wrong and fix it.

The balloons are funny things. they are not round but oval shaped with a thing on one end that looks  like a propeller. One broke loose last week and went way down to Oklahoma and circled around and came back here. The balloons are fastened with a cable, not loose like the aeroplanes were. They go to a height of about one thousand to five thousand feet.

March 21

This morning I was operating a switch board which has lines connected to all balloons. It has been very accurate work. If an operator makes a mistake when running that board, they put him in the guard house. They were only trying me out this morning. The instructor said I did well for the first time.

This afternoon I was operating a field telephone on a line from a balloon to headquarters. There isn’t much to do on that job except sit in the grass with a receiver under my nose all the time to listen until the balloon needs to be pulled down. Then I had to notify the fellow that runs the engine that is used for that purpose.

April 1

You asked to know about the balloon company. There are about two hundred men to a company. These are divided into different sections such as telephone, truck, motorcycle, balloon, winch, rigging, gas, machine gun and reserve. The balloon detail is composed of fellows with not much trade experience or education. Their work is to land the balloon when the observers have finished their work. The winch is a motor used to reel in the cable that’s attached to the captive balloon whic means that it is anchored at all times but is raised and lowered by the cable.When a balloon gets within a certain distance from the ground, about 50 feet, the balloon detail grabs the ropes which hang from the side and pull it down by hand. That is so the basket which carries the observers will land easy.

The gas detail takes care of the gas used in the balloons. the rigging detail does all the repairing, etc. The telephone detail is considered a very important part of a balloon company. First they have what is called the chart room. This is placed about six miles back of the batteries and is the main office. From the chart room line go to the advance exchanges where a small switch board is located. This is about four miles from the batteries. A line also connects the advance exchange with what they call group headquarters.

Of course the purpose of the balloon is to observe the actions of the enemy and find hidden batteries and supply depots. When the observer sees an object to be destroyed it is telephones to the chart room. The chart room calls upon the advance exchange to locate the batteries. The chart room then notifies the balloon and the balloon directs the fire of the battery by observing where the shots land.

My regards to Brockport friends  — Roy Goold

One Comment

  1. I have been to that camp in Omaha. It is now a school campus. I’ll have to look up some of my photos. There was a WW I soldier from Spencerport also stationed there.

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