First successful Air-raid in history
Published: 10:20 PM, 22 August 2019 Updated: 04:06 PM, 25 August 2019
Today is the day of the first successful air-raid in the history of the world. On 22nd August 1849, Austria launched about 200 pilotless balloons in Venice of Italy. The attack caused little damage, but Venice surrendered two days later.
According to the statement of an eyewitness from Time Magazine, “The balloons appeared to rise to about 4,500 ft. Then they exploded in midair or fell into the water, or, blown by a sudden southeast wind, sped over the city and dropped on the besiegers. Venetians, abandoning their homes, crowded into the streets and squares to enjoy the strange spectacle. When a cloud of smoke appeared in the air to make an explosion, all clapped and shouted. The applause was greatest when the balloons blew over the Austrian forces and exploded, and in such cases, the Venetians added cries of ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Good appetite!’”
A young Austrian artillery Lieutenant named Franz von Uchatius hatched the idea of launching balloons carrying explosives over Venice. The first attempt carried out on July 12, 1849, failed because the wind was not in Austria’s favor.
In the second attempt, on August 22, the balloons, measuring 5.7 meters in diameter and using charcoal and greasy cotton as a continuous combustion source,” were released from a “stable platform at sea.
The background behind the raid
The Republic of Venice had been independent for more than 1,000 years before it was conquered in 1797 by Napoleon, who ceded it to Austria later that year. In 1848, a year during which revolutions swept through Europe, Daniele Manin led a revolt against Austrian rule, declaring Venice to be a republic.
The raid came six months after Austria had defeated the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the First Italian War of Independence as the Austrians sought to regain control of Venice, where the revolutionary leader Daniele Maninhad established the Republic of San Marco.
The city, over which Manin’s supporters had seized control in March 1848, was under siege by the Austrians, whose victory over the Piedmontese army in March 1849 had enabled them to concentrate more resources on defeating the Venetians.
In particular, Austrian Lieutenant Uchtaius looked about Venice and saw that, for the purposes of laying siege to the city, the topography was wanting: he had trouble placing big guns in a position to properly shell the Italians. Instead, the Lieutenant imagined that lightweight hot air balloons constructed of paper could loft a payload of ordnance into the city.
How did balloons work?
The balloons were armed with bombs controlled by timed fuses - they are also said to have used fuses electrically activated via signals fed up trailing copper wires. Such balloons were crafted and carried 33 pounds of explosives, set with a half-hour time fuse, and troops scurried around with them to launch them into the proper wind currents.
What was the result?
This time a number of them hit their target, although the damaged they caused was minimal. Some of the bombs exploded as planned but the wind changed direction and blew several balloons back over the Austrian lines.
Meanwhile, the movie— ‘On a Wind and a Prayer’, claims that the balloons did have a substantial psychological effect. Whether out of balloon-related fear or due to exhaustion and starvation, the Venetians would surrender just two days later.
Some talks from history…
The first recorded use of an aerial device from aboard a ship occurred in 1806, almost 100 years before the Wright Brother's first powered flight at Kitty Hawk in December 1903. On that occasion, the Royal Navy's Lord Thomas Cochrane flew kites from the 32-gun frigate HMS Pallas to spread propaganda leaflets over the French coast. Finally 43 years later, on July 12, 1849, the Austrian vessel SMS Vulcano launched a manned hot air balloon to drop bombs on Venice. However, because of unfavorable winds, the attempt was unsuccessful.
Ballooning began in America in 1793 and by the end of 1861 the Union army, with the influence and guidance of Thaddeus Lowe, had five hot-air balloons- their first "aeronaut corps". All of the balloons in use during the Civil War were used strictly for reconnaissance. While many aeronautical designs were submitted to the U.S. Patent Office during the Civil War years, only a few inventors combined the idea of flying machines with offensive military operations; none of these was used in the war.
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