Jerry Summers: Barrage Balloon Battalion

  • Monday, February 26, 2024
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

If you have ever viewed any of the film documentaries on the D-Day landing in France on June 6, 1944 in World War II you may have noticed the many silver balloons overhead that were anchored to the ground by cables.

Many theories exist as to their purpose and use during the invasion.

In reality they were in place over the invasion sites to deter German aircraft from “entering the area to strafe or bomb.”

The balloon had been brought ashore after being transported from Southampton, England and crossed the English Channel on D-Day to the shores of Normandy, France.

They were filled with highly flammable hydrogen gas, were known as Very Low Altitude (VLA) balloons were thirty five feet long and were positioned at altitudes below 2,000 feet.

Several significant historical facts pertain to the Barrage Balloon Battalion:

1. Four of the thirty 1,000 member battalions which consisted entirely of African American soldiers (like the Tuskegee Airmen and other segregated units that made significant contributions to the war effort);

2. The balloon battalions were all trained at Camp Tyson in Henry County, Tennessee which was named after Knoxville native General Lawrence D. Tyson who served in the Spanish American War and World War I;

3. The camp consisted of 900 acres that supported 8,500 soldiers and over 500 officers and created a small city that at one point created 8,000 jobs and created an economic boom to the community to Henry County until late 1944 when the facility was declared as surplus property, shut down, and dismantled;

4. In 2023 the enormous balloon hanger building is still in existence as part of a commercial company and several of the smaller buildings of the total 400 constructed also survive.

(The next time viewers see the balloons overhead at the D-Day invasion in 1944 on the Military History Channel, et al, it can be noted with pride that a small rural community in West Tennessee was part of the historical event.)

* * *

You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

Happenings
Crabtree Farms Plant Sale, Sculpture In The Sky Set This Weekend
  • 4/18/2024

Two annual springtime events will be taking place this weekend in Chattanooga. Crabtree Farms Plant Sale will be on Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. each day. On Friday and Sunday, ... more

Hamilton County Sheriff Gives Update At Friends Of Hixson Coffee Meeting
Hamilton County Sheriff Gives Update At Friends Of Hixson Coffee Meeting
  • 4/18/2024

At the Friends of Hixson Coffee Meeting, Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett updated a large crowd on his first two years as Sheriff and his recent visit to the southern border. Sheriff ... more

Review: The Unvanquished: The Untold Story Of Lincoln's Special Forces, The Manhunt For Mosby's Rangers, And The Shadow War That Forged America's Special Operations By Patrick O'Donnell
Review: The Unvanquished: The Untold Story Of Lincoln's Special Forces, The Manhunt For Mosby's Rangers, And The Shadow War That Forged America's Special Operations By Patrick O'Donnell
  • 4/18/2024

Anyone who has read any of Patrick K. O'Donnell's narrative histories knows that he does very deep research, much of it on the front lines and at the sites, as well as reading volumes in little-known ... more