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Not as a military weapon until the 20th Century. Napoleon had a plan to launch fleets of gas-filled balloons against England during the Napoleonic Wars that could have resulted in small-scale bombing of British military positions, but that was all.

During WW1 Germany used Zeppelins as air bombers- these were not exactly balloons but helium-filled airships equipped with bombloads that were used against Britain, and resulted in a number of air raids that killed hundreds of civilians in England until their vulnerability to being shot down by fighter 'planes using incendiary bullets became apparent to the German High Command. They then switched to the development and use of the huge four-engined Gotha bomber, which continued to bombard London and other major English cities with the loss of many people (including a direct hit on a school in London that killed most of the pupils and teachers inside). On the Wetsern Front, 'blimps' were used by the German Observation Corps to warn of incoming fighter squadrons- they were equipped with a 2-man crew suspended in a basket underneath, who had field-telephone communication to ground positions and parachutes for bailing out.

In the last World War, Britain made extensive use of 'barrage balloons', which were again gas-filled blimps with a four-tail stern and were flown over large expanses of open land that could have potentially allowed German aircraft to land there. The deterent effect was based on the fact that any aircraft attempting to run the balloon-fields would either have become entangled in the tethering cables, or hit the blimp itself which would have exploded and destroyed the aircraft with it. The tactic worked very well.

But these were gas-filled vessels; actual hot-air balloons have never played a military role in any conflict with the possible exception of reconnaissance in the American Civil War.

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7y ago
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7y ago

The use of the hot air ballon in the civil war was the first use of air reconnaissance. Troop movements could be spied on and troop encampments. In the civil war there were many military firsts. Submarines, barb wire, the medical ambulance, repeating rifles, flame throwers, torpedoes, mines, telegraph, and many other things. I think the one thing that changed how people viewed war were the photos done by Mathew Brady of the battlefields. The reality of war hit home.

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