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U.S. Army Ballooning Renewed


The rise of civilian sport ballooning and the personal interest of two Signal Corps balloon pilots, Lt. Frank P. Lahm and Capt. Charles DeForest Chandler, renewed the U.S. Army ballooning program.

U.S. Army balloonists participated in the Gordon Bennett balloon competition, in which the team that traveled the greatest distance won the contest. Traveling a little over 400 miles, Lt. Lahm and copilot Maj. Henry P. Hersey won the first Gordon Bennett race in 1906.

Ballooning activities increased significantly during the following months as Army personnel gained aeronautical experience. In 1907 the Signal Corps purchased two hydrogen balloons, the first since the Spanish American War. One of these two balloons made a long flight from Washington, D.C., to Harrisburg, Penn., on June 4, 1907, with Capt. Chandler as the observer. In 1908 the Signal Corps began experimenting with radio communication and photography from its balloons.

By 1913, however, the Signal Corps' focus had turned to airplanes alone, and Aeronautical Division ballooning once again ceased.

Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.