This past week I shared this photo of the Caquot Observation Balloon that is on exhibit in the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve taken many pictures of this balloon over the years. Rarely do I visit this exhibit and not just stand gazing at it for a long time. Why? It’s a connection to my grandfather, Col. Glen R. Johnson.
When my grandfather enlisted in the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918, he was sent to Fort Omaha, Nebraska for training on Caquot Balloons. I wrote about his service in this post. Taken from his obituary is the following, “In the 1950s and ’60s, he was active as national commander and newspaper editor of the National Association of Balloon Corps Veterans (NABCV) (WWI), and had contributed many artifacts to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
The official website of the Air Force Museum says of the balloon on display: Manufactured in 1944, the balloon displayed at the museum is believed to be the only survivor. The British used it for parachute testing and noncombat aerial observation and photography until 1960. The British Ministry of Defense, Royal Aircraft Establishment, presented the Caquot to the museum after it was located with the aid of American and British WWI balloon veterans in 1975. Assisted by the Goodyear Aerospace Corp. of Akron, Ohio, which had produced these balloons during WWI, museum personnel mended and sealed the balloon fabric and prepared it for inflation. It was placed on display in May 1979.
My grandfather was one of the American WWI balloon veterans who helped locate this balloon. I remember his excitement especially when it was finally ready for display. He also contributed many other artifacts to the museum including this:
Piece of WW I balloon fabric manufactured in the U.S.
Donated by Col. Glen R. Johnson, USAF (Ret) Dayton, Ohio
U.S. Insignia removed from the last observation balloon
flown by American Forces in Europe. The balloon was
assigned to the 14th Balloon Company during occupation
duty in Germany, 1919. (This was donated by Evert Wolff, N.Y.)
(Grandson in front)
Ft. Omaha Squadron 2 Flag (donor unknown)
So the next time (or the first time) you visit the Air Force museum, take a look at the Balloon that dwarfs one of the areas and take the time to check out the displays that talk about the Balloon years. I guarantee that you will learn something that you probably didn’t know before your visit.