Page:A Concise History of the U.S. Air Force.djvu/6

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They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
Isaiah 40:31


The Genesis of American Air Power

Americans took to the skies at an early date. Benjamin Franklin considered the possibility of using balloons in warfare in 1783, only days after the first successful hot-air balloon flights in France. John Sherburne, frustrated by the Army's ineffectiveness during the Seminole War of 1840, proposed using balloons for observation above the wilderness that hid the adversary. John Wise, dismayed by the prospects of a long and costly siege of Veracruz during the Mexican War, suggested using balloons in 1846 for bombing defending forces, three years before Austria actually did so against Venice.

John LaMountain and Thaddeus Lowe successfully launched manned reconnaissance balloons in support of Union operations during the American Civil War. In late June 1861 Lowe's map of Confederate positions in Falls Church, Virginia, was the first significant contribution of manned flight to American warfare, although the Union lost the battle at Bull Run in July. The map allowed Lowe to report after the battle that the Confederates were not advancing on Washington. He was thus able to help prevent panic following the defeat. In September he demonstrated the balloon's potential when he directed artillery fire at Confederate posi-


By means of such balloons as the Intrepid, shown being inflated during the Civil War battle at Fair Oaks outside Richmond, Virginia, in the spring of 1862, the Union Army conducted reconnaissance missions over enemy territory in America's first use of air power.

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