In October of 1917, Francis McHouney of the 302nd Barrage Balloon squadron, US Army Air Corp, tracked and logged several dozen “spurious flying objects [that] were not Boche or one of our guys”. Their unit had Remington Acoustical trackers (large horns that amplified sound waves and were used well into the second World War) and the then top secret Marconi Wireless Aerial Direction Finder (a predecessor of radar). “Me and the boys had moved up and around the assembling area for our next big attack against the Boche. We had heard about the new land battleships that was going to win us the war. Our unit was to put up balloons to keep the Boche from flying over. We had detectors up and manned to give [us] warning if any enemy planes were coming so that the swabbies in the landships could get them under cover”. McHouney continues, “We had heard rumors about fantastic Boche airplanes that seemed to be watching anywhere the landships were. That was why we were there, to keep them away. Our balloons were up, 4 at 500 feet, about 300 feet apart.

Four up at 1000 feet further back in a second line and the final four at 1400 feet, by the book as Capt. Burns would say.” [Ed. the 301st and 303rd were also present, the three units deployed in a semicircle in front of the army assembly area.] “The first time [I] saw them, I was on leave which meant I could go to the rear trenches. Me and a couple of others went to look at the land ships but couldn’t get near them cause of the MPs. We could see ’em across in the field, all covered with branches to hide them. Only branches left for miles, must’ve hauled them up from way back in the rear. Scary looking things, all bristling with guns. Jed [Ed. Jed Wilson, boyhood friend of Mchouney, they joined up together] shouted and pointed up. There was something that looked like a giant mess plate [Ed. A mess plate was a tin plate that looks very similar to a modern pie pan, about 8” in diameter used by US Army soldiers in WWI and WWII] just hanging over the field, directly above one of the landships.

Suddenly, it rose straight up, without making a sound until it faded into the clouds.” When McHouney arrived back to his unit, he found that the Marconis had registered something BEHIND them that just appeared and then disappeared. The Remingtons had detected nothing when hurridly turned around and aimed backwards. Over the course of the next few days, the object appeared and disappeared every few hours, causing a disturbance each time. “We were ordered to close up the spacing of the balloons and move backwards, until after a week the ballons were almost touching. A daredevil could walk around the camp on the balloons if he wanted to. We let them up to 2500 feet and used up darn near all the cables on the front and would’ve gone higher if we could’ve got more” The objects continued to be sighted. McHouney continues “On the 23rd we recieved visitors, Mr Churchill, who invented the land ships [Ed. Churchill was responsible for pushing through the development of the tanks but others are credited with the invention] and a Mr Wells who was introduced as a scientific advisor to the Ministry, and some others.

They set up a couple of cameras but rumor was all the pictures came out black, as if the plates were exposed to light accidently.” Later, “We were all questioned about what we had seen and the log books off the Remingtons and the Marconis were taken. They told us not to talk about this to anyone, but the Boche had a new super Zepplin and we were seeing the observation car hanging down from it. We all accepted this but years later, I came to doubt it. What we saw was BIG and it would’ve taken a very big Zepplin to carry it.” [From “Boche and Balloons, My Experiences With The 302nd”, Francis McHouney, published 53/04/01 by Smythe Books, London, England] Curiously, no record of these incidents appears in official unit records of the US Army Air Corp and the last surviving member [Walter “Smitty” Smith, 301st] of the 301st, 302nd, and 303rd, died on April 1, 1968 of cancer in the Pembrooke VA Hospital in North Carolina. NOTE: The above image is CGI.