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Enemy Air-Borne Forces, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 7, December 2, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The idea of the parachute goes back several hundred years. The first record of the use of the parachute device in an air disaster was the successful escape of a Pole, Jodaki Kuparento, from a burning balloon, July 24, 1808. From the birth of the balloon, the parachute remained mainly an exhibition medium, even to within recent years.

The first parachute jump from an airplane was demonstrated by a stunt man, Grant Morton, early in 1912, at Venice, California, from Phil Parmalee’s Wright. He carried the folded parachute in his arms and threw it into the air after he jumped. The first pack-type descent was made by Bert Berry, March 1, 1912, at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, from a Benoist plane flown by Tony Jannus. This parachute was not actually of pack type, as the parachute was stowed in a metal cone and held by break cords. The cone was tied to the front wheel skid, and a life line ran from the suspension lines inside the cone to a belt and trapeze bar, which supported Berry, who jumped from the rear axle. In the autumn of 1912, Rodman Law made many voluntary exhibition jumps with the Stevens pack, from the Wright airplane of Harry B. Brown. Charles Broadwick and Glenn Martin developed a similar type, repeatedly demonstrated by a girl, "Tiny" Broadwick, in 1913. The present Mrs. Floyd Smith made her first jump from a Martin plane with the Martin-Broadwick pack, on April 8, 1914, at 650 feet. At about the same time, "Tiny" Broadwick demonstrated the Martin-Broadwick pack to the Army's flying school at San Diego: the Chief Signal Officer, General Scriven, reported "considerable merit, warranting its development for use in our service."

The first record of parachute use in an airplane escape is the jump from a burning plane by an Austrian pilot on the Russian front in the fall of 1916, with a Heineke sack-type affair. Later, another Austrian made a forced jump from a disabled plane, and Austrian and German pilots in greater numbers began carrying such parachutes and using them for emergency escape. Both sides used parachutes in observation balloons, but no parachutes were used in airplanes by any of the Allies in World War I until after the Armistice. They had been offered to U.S. front-line aviation by our S.O.S. as early as August, 1917, but were refused by our front-line Air Force commander until after the Germans had used them successfully.

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