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Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

Article about: Small group to Captain Maurice Smith of the 5th Balloon Company. France 1917 to 1919 - Recommended for the DSC twice - 2 Flaming Balloon jumps - DJ

  1. #11

    Default Re: Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

    My gr-grandfather Vern Joslin was a Pvt in the 5th Balloon Company. I have an album (Not for sale) of photos taken by him while they were stationed in France. In the album is a typed copy of a History of the 5th Balloon Company. There is no indication who authored it (but not likely my gr-grandfather). I have transcribed the History and will attempt to attach or copy it below. There is also a program from a Company Dance given Dec. 20, 1917 while they were in training at Ft. Omaha. Company personnel are listed, including Lt. Maurice R. Smith (also mentioned in the History).
    I hope some of you may find the History interesting. Near the end is a recounting of the events of Nov. 6, 1918 when their balloon was attacked and shot down by two Spads bearing American markings.
    As I am new to this forum, I am having problems figuring out how to do an attachment. So I will copy at least the text of the History file below, but will have to work further on how to attach the Dance Program .JPG image.
    - Richard -

    The following is a faithful transcription of a typed, four page (8-1/4 x 13 inch paper) document contained in a photo album belonging to my great-grandmother Jenny Pierce Joslin. Her son (my grandfather) Vern George Joslin was a member (rank = private) of the 5th Balloon Company and took numerous pictures while stationed overseas. He enlisted in Oct. 1917 at Joplin, MO and was subsequently inducted at the Jefferson Barracks Army Training Camp, near St. Louis, MO. He was discharged in late April or early May 1919 and arrived back home in Cassville, MO on May 16, 11919. Of the document’s four pages, one is original typing; the other three are blue carbons (not mimeographs), one being a first carbon, the other two being 2nd or 3rds. I will post this variously on the Internet and hope that some others may find some things of interest in it. I am typing this up exactly as it is written (except for correcting some occasional misspellings); regrettably I am not familiar with some of the abbreviations used in it (i.e.-A.S.U.S.R.).

    Richard Joslin Carlton
    Clermont County, Ohio
    Oct. 25, 2011

    21st November, 1919

    The Fifth Balloon Company was organized at Fort Omaha, Nebraska, November 4th, 1917, with an authorized strength of six officers and ninety men, under the name of Company “A” 3rd Balloon Squadron, which name it carried until June 18th, 1918, when the organization in squadrons was discontinued in the Balloon Service and balloon companies were considered more as individual units, which were assigned to different Wing Headquarters, each operating with an Army Corps.

    The 3rd Balloon Squadron consisting of a Headquarters and four companies of the line, was commanded by Major Arthur Boettcher, A.S. Company “A” was put in charge of 1st Lieut. R.L.Sparks, A.S.U.S.R., and the following officers, after having served with the Company while awaiting their commissions, were commissioned and officially assigned to the Company on the date indicated:
    1st Lt. Harry D. Baird, A.S.U.S.R., November 8th, 1917.
    1st Lt. Roderick H. Tait, A.S.U.S.R., Dec. 2nd, 1917.
    1st Lt. David G. Boyd, A.S.U.S.R., Dec. 22nd, 1917.
    1st Lt. Kenneth F. Hill, A.S.U.S.R., Jan. 3rd, 1918.
    1st Lt. Malcolm M. Mitchell, A.S.U.S.R., Jan.4th, 1918.
    On the 6th of December, 1st Lt. Maurice R. Smith, A.S.U.S.R., was placed in command, relieving 1st Lieut. R.L.Sparks. All of the above officers were free balloon pilots and all had been trained in the observers course at the Reserve Officers School at Fort Omaha Nebraska.
    The enlisted personnel came largely from Kelly Field, Texas, and up to the date of the formation of the Squadron had little or no balloon training. The problem presented was to organize and equip and train this Squadron for overseas duty in the shortest possible time. The men were trade tested, assigned to the various technical departments which go to make up a balloon company, and were given intensive courses at the post schools, which were at that time following the policies of the British Air Forces as laid down by Major Hanney, R.F.C.

    About the 1st of January 1918, the Company was equipped and trained for the field, and while awaiting orders for overseas duty, was engaged with the other Companies of the Squadron in battalion drill. After more than two weeks of expectation and many goodbyes, the Squadron, with men fully equipped, was reviewed by the Commander of the Post, Lieut. Col. H.B. Hersey and after receiving a rousing sendoff from the people of Omaha, left on a special train for Garden City. After remaining there for ten days, and with more goodbyes we entrained in the wee hours of the morning, for Hoboken, where the S.S. Adriatic was boarded for some overseas port. The officers and the men were comfortably located and the huge ship slipped out of port quietly and proceeded with a convoy of twelve other troop laden ships on a slow but pleasant trip of thirteen days. A calm sea was encountered during the whole trip, and except for the fact that the convoy had to change its course and go south of Ireland instead of north, the trip across was completed without incident. On February 16th, we landed at Liverpool. The Squadron immediately entrained and went by daylight across fair England to Romsey, in the southern part, where there was a so called rest camp.

    - 2 –

    The Company remained in Romsey for three days, and on Feb. 19th, went by rail to Southampton and embarked on H.M.S. Hunslet. During the crossing of the Channel that night the ship narrowly missed collision with another ship, and after running thru one of our own mine fields, docked at La Havre. The Squadron spent that night at an English camp and the next day proceeded by special train to replacement camp at St. Maixent. After two weeks at this camp, the Headquarters Company of the Squadron was split up and now each Company of the line had 100 enlisted men. These companies then went to different stations, never to be reunited. Company “A” went to camp Coetquidan, an Artillery training center to train with the Artillery in the regulation of fire. The Commanding Officer assigned duties as follows: Lt. Tait, Supply Officer, Lt. Boyd, Maneuvering Officer, Lt. Baird, Telephone Officer, Lt. Hill, Transportation Officer, Lt. Mitchell, Chartroom Officer and Liaison Officer. At Coetquidan the Company received its transportation and the remainder of its equipment. This equipment was French and marked the transformation of the policy of the Department. A camp was established a few kilometers from the range with telephone liaison between the artillery and the point of operations. For almost five months the balloon ascended almost every day, weather permitting, to assist the artillery in its regulation of fire, or to carry out observation exercises with the aid of a projector. Col. Def. Chandler, C.A.S., Balloon Section, regularly sent us pamphlets of instruction, which we followed, and make our operation reports direct to his office.

    On March 30th, 1st Lt. Maurice R. Smith, 1st Lt. Malcolm M. Mitchell and 1st Lt. Roderick H. Tait Jr., proceeded to Saumaur for a special artillery course, and 1st David G. Boyd assumed temporary command of the Company, on Apr. 6th, 1st Lt. Joseph M. fox, A.S.U.S.R. was assigned to the Company as an observer. On Apr. 20th, 1st Lt. Mitchell and Lt. Tait were ordered back to the Company, and on Apr. 25th, 1st Lt. David G. Boyd, 1st Lt. Harry D. Baird, and 1st Lt. Kenneth P. Hill left the Company for special artillery training at Saumur; 1st Lt. Tait assuming command temporarily on that date. On Apr. 28th, 1st Lt. Charles L. Furber, FANG., and 1st Lt. Donald Appleton, F.A.N.G. were attached to this company as observers.

    On May 17th, 2nd Lt. Samuel E. White, A.S.U.S.R. and 72 enlisted men of the 3rd Balloon Detachment were assigned to the Company for duty, increasing the strength of the Company to 170 enlisted mend as per the new tables of organization. On May 22nd, 1st Lt. Appleton was ordered to rejoin his original unit, Battery “A”, 101st F.A. At this time the Company had a good baseball team and played a game every Sunday. On May 26th, 1st Lt. Axel C.P. Gagge, A.S.U.S.R., reported to the Company as Maneuvering Officer. On May 28th, the barracks occupied by the officers of the Company were destroyed by fire. On may 29th, 1st Lt. Gagge, and 28 enlisted men went to Cazeaux for two weeks course in machine gunnery. On June 4th, 1st Lt. James A. McDevitt, and 1st Lt. Lloyd G. Bowers and 2nd Lt. J.W. Lane were assigned to the Company from the first graduating class of the American Balloon School at Souge.

    On June 18th, 1st Lt. Smith, after having taken a course at Souge, and having spent three weeks at the front, returned and again took command of the Company. On June 28th, 1st Lt. Tait and Lieut. Mitchell and 2nd Lt. White were ordered to the Balloon School at Souge. On July 2nd, 2nd Lts. H. Bair, R.S. Stansbury, J.S. Burrell and W.H. Mallory of F.A., and on July 6th, 1st Lt. Durrschmidt, F.A. and 2nd Lt. Leo T. McMahon, F.A. were assigned for instructions as balloon observers. On July 3rd, 6 enlisted men went to the front to be trained as Lookouts. On July 23rd, 1st Lt. McDevitt and 1st Lt. Durrschmidt, and 2nd Lts. Bair and Burrell, Mallory, McMahon and Stansbury, were relieve from duty with the company and 2nd Lt. Walter J. Kropf, A.S.US.SR., assigned for duty.

    - 3 -

    While at Camp Coetquidan the balloon was in the air 237 hours, and made 39 regulations of fire, in addition to also reporting on the general effectiveness of fire when the same was not regulated by the balloon.

    On July 25th, the Company left Geur by special train and proceeded to Toul. During the trip across France, which was at the time of the turning of the tide at Chateau Thierry, the Company was given enthusiastic ovations by the French people. Arriving at Toul, the Company proceeded by its own transportation to its new position near Raulecourt, being assigned to work with the 82nd Division and with the 4th Army Corps, 1st Army, assisting the 8th French Army. The Company was also in liaison with the Corps Artillery in that sector. Major Jouett was our Wing Commander and Major Paegelow, commander of all Wings. Company organization was as follows: Lt. Smith, commanding Company, Lt. Furber, Liaison Officer, Lt. Gagge, Maneuvering Officer, Lt. Fox, Chartroom Officer, Lt. Bowers, Telephone and Wireless Officer, and 2nd Lt. Kropf, Asst. Maneuvering and Supply Officer. The Company woodchoppers were kept busy and the position was carefully laid out with three balloon beds and excellent retreat and advance itineraries. Forty kilometers of telephone wire were laid and kept in working order, giving all telephone liaison which could be desired. On August 11th, 1st Lt. Durrschmidt and 2nd Lt. J.S. Burrell, were again assigned to the Company for training as balloon observers. The balloon was attacked by enemy planes on same day but our machine guns turned them away. In this position the Company had 128 hours in the air, made 5 reglages, and spotted three enemy batteries in action.

    On Aug. 23rd, the Company moved to a new position near Gironville, opposite to the point of the St. Mihiel Salient, and was assigned to work with the 4th French Army. This position had never been occupied by a balloon company, and was considered a very important but very dangerous one. A camp was built, telephone liaison established, and while operating, Aug. 25th, balloon was shelled by long range gun of medium caliber, but was not damaged. Balloon was attacked and burned by an enemy plane on Aug. 28th, Observers 2nd Lt. J.S. Burrell and 2nd Lt. J.W. Lane, jumped and landed safely. The following day another attack was made on the balloon by same was not burned. Our machine guns did excellent work. 1st Lt. Lloyd G. Bowers, and 1st Lt. F.J. Durrschmidt who were observing, jumped and landed safely. On Aug. 30th, 1st Lt. Duirrschmidt and 2nd Lt. J.S. Burrell were relieved from duty with the Company. Balloon was in the air 61 hours, made 1 reglage, and spotted 1 enemy battery in action.

    On Sept. 8th the Company was transferred to the 1st Army Corps, 1st American Army, with Lt. McFarland commanding the Corps balloons, and was ordered to the vicinity of Dieulouard, near Pont-a-Mousson, where a position was to be established, but no ascensions were to be made until the day of the attack. The Company was the Corps Balloon for the 1st Army Corps, 1st Army. Before daybreak the day of the attack, balloon ascended, and in spite of a violent storm, remained in ascension for four hours, and during the afternoon another attempt was made to work but it was found to be impossible. However during the second and considerable time was spent in the air and much information was obtained. On the third day of the attack, Sept. 14th, the balloon was attacked and burned while adjusting fire at a distance of 26 kilometers on a railroad bridge directly west of Metz. 1st Lt. Maurice R. Smith and 1st Lt. Joseph M. Fox, jumped and landed safely. On Sept. 18th the balloon was shelled while in bed. The loss of gas in the balloon was the only damage done. On Sept. 20th, 1st Lt. Fox was relieved from duty with the Company and 1st Lt. Glenn Phelps, A.S.U.S.R. was assigned for duty as an observer. In this position the balloon was in the air 53 house, made 9 reglages, and spotted 35 hostile batteries in action.

    - 4 -

    On Sept. 21st, the Company was ordered to proceed to Auseville near Clermont-on-Argonne, to go into reserve.

    On Oct. 17th, the Company was ordered to proceed to Apremont-en-Argonne to relieve the 1st Balloon Company, where we were assigned Corps to the 1st Army, 1st Army and also to work with the 78th Division. On the same date 2nd Lts. Harry Cahn, W.W. Pendergast and C.S. Rogers of Field Artillery, were assigned to Company for instructions as balloon observers. On Oct. 20th,, the balloon was shelled in bed and pierced in several places. Men sleeping in tents near the balloon bed had a very narrow escape from injury. Balloon was in the air 7 hours at this position.

    On Oct. 21st the Company moved forward to Chatel Chehery, where an excellent liaison was established with Army Corps, and Divisional Artillery. 2nd Lt. Harry Cahn and 2nd Lt. Walter J. Kropf were ordered to Army Balloon School on this date. The Company had an excellent tactical position and had the visibility been good, the company would have been able to do excellent work in the regulation of fire, but on the only day of visibility at theis position, Oct. 23rd, the balloon was attacked and burned while making a reglage. Observers 1st Lt. Charles L. Furber and 2nd Lt. Jos. W. Lane landed normally. During the night of Oct. 26th position of the company was shelled but no damage down to personnel or equipment. On Oct. 30th, balloon was attacked by an enemy plane and riddled with machine gun bullets but did not burn. Observers 1st Lt. Glenn Phelps and Sgtlel [sic] Joseph L. Cain landed normally. While at this point the balloon was in the air 16 hours, made three reglages and spotted three hostile batteries in action.

    On Nov. 3rd, when the enemy retreated from the Champigneulles-Grandpre line, the Company moved forward from Chatel Chehery to Briquenay and on the following day moved to Gorment. During the afternoon of Nov. 4th, the balloon operated and succeeded in spotting 9 hostile batteries in action; balloon being in the air 3 hours at this place.

    On Nov. 6th, the Company again started to advance and went to LaBerliere where it laid over one day to await the stabilizing of the line. On Nov. 9th the Company moved to La Besace, and on the following morning operated at a point 2 kilometers south of Rencourt. At 10:15 A.M. the balloon was attacked and burned by two Spads with American markings. Observers 1st Lt. Glenn Phelps and 1st Lt. Lloyd G. Bowers landed normally. That afternoon orders were received to return to Auseville. The following morning the Company started back, arriving at Auseville at Noon, November 12th, 1918.

    The Fifth Balloon company has been in the A.E.F. for over 9 months, and during that time the balloon has been in the air 506 hours 11 minutes, has conducted 57 regulations of fire, and has spotted 51 hostile batteries in action. Since Sept. 8th, the Company has been the Corps Balloon, 1st Army Corps, 1st Army, and took part in both the St. Mihiel and Argonne-Meuse Operations. During this action the Company has not had a casualty among its officers or enlisted personnel, although the balloon had been burned four times, attacked unsuccessfully eight times, shelled while in the air once, and the camp and balloon bed have been shelled five times. The personnel has adapted itself to conditions an done its work in an excellent manner.

    - This is the End of the document. There is no indication who may have authored it or typed it up.
    My grandfather’s name is written in pencil and underscored on the back of the last page.
    My grandfather Vern Joslin died in 1925, long before I was born and so I never had the opportunity to hear any of his recollections of his experiences in the Great War to End All Wars. The family tradition, substantiated at least one photo in the album is that he was a motorcycle courier for his Company.

    Below is a copy of a Dance Program in the album showing the Company Personell as of Dec. 20, 1917 while in training at Fort Omaha, Nebraska.
    -- Richard Joslin Carlton --

  2. #12

    Default Re: Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

    Now we'll see if I can successfully post the image of the Dance Program.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #13

    Default Re: Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

    Hi Richard, welcome to the forum!

    Thank you very much for adding all this detailed information.

    Cheers, Ade.
    Had good advice? Saved money? Why not become a Gold Club Member, just hit the green "Join WRF Club" tab at the top of the page and help support the forum!

  4. #14

    Default Re: Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

    Thank You very much for this wonderful information. The 5th was a heavy combat Balloon Company and saw much action. My personal email address is I would very much appreciate if you would contact me and possibly provide me with some images that are in your album.

    Thanks Again, Dennis Jackson

  5. #15

    Default Re: Balloon Pilot / CO of the 5th Balloon Company

    I'll be happy to do that from time to time - a little tired of working on this right now. Have started a new album - so far have just posted the program photos, but will add more. Haven't figured out how to post a text file other that as I did above as a "reply" to someone's original post. - Richard -

  6. #16

    Default Re: The 5th Balloon Company

    One correction - Vern was my grandfather (not gr-grandfather). The album came down from his mother (my gr-grandmother). Vern died in July 1925, just one week after my mother was born - so sadly, I never knew him or had a chance to hear first-hand of his experiences during the war.Click image for larger version. 

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