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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 air-borne troops was promulgated by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, shortly after observing the ascension of the Charles hydrogen balloon at Paris. He wrote: "Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two men each, could not cost more than five ships of the line; and where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defense, as that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?" Before this, even before the invention of the balloon, Friar Joseph Galien proposed that with such a vehicle it would be possible "to transport a whole army and all their munitions of war from place to place as desired." With the advent of large airplanes prior to World War I, the possibility of their use for troop transport was obvious.

During the first 2 years of World War I, intelligence agents were sometimes transported by air and landed close to special destinations behind enemy lines by the British. The possibilities of flying troops and supplies to points behind the enemy lines were actually planned by America's General "Billy" Mitchell for the 1919 Campaign. The British Handley-Pages had already been developed as the possible vehicle. The fighting ended before the bold plan could be tried out, but the proposition continued to be considered. It should be remembered also that in Russia during the years 1914-1917, Igor Sikorsky built 75 great transport planes, which were used mainly for bombing and observation but partly for transportation of personnel and matériel.

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