A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

History: Benjamin Foulois Visits Sandy Hook (1909)

Tests at Sandy Hook on Balloons

"First Lieutenant Benjamin D Foulois, of the signal corps, has been ordered from Washington to duty in connection with the proposed tests of firing field artillery and small arms at captive balloons to be held at Sandy Hook Proving Grounds.

The experiment will be for the purpose of demonstrating the theory that modification in the present type of field artillery is necessary in operations against balloons. The resisting power of the balloon will be observed."

Source: The Matawan Journal, 25 Nov 1909 edition.

Foulois (left) with Orville Wright. (1909)
Benjamin Delahauf Foulois (1889 - 1967) played a major role in evaluating the role of fixed wing air power in American war-making. He arranged the purchase of the first test planes for the military from the Wright brothers in 1908. Within a year he concluded the US military should acquire airplanes and began to recommend moving away from lighter than air vehicles like dirigibles. Those who supported balloons for the military were displeased with his outspoken criticism.

He served as navigator on a record breaking flight (speed, altitude and distance) at the end of July 1909.  Foulois went to College Park, Maryland in October 1909 and took flying lessons from Orville Wright.

It was in this context that Foulois was sent to New Jersey to study the use of artillery against stationary dirigibles instead of learning to fly in suburban DC. Apparently those seeing a bright future for balloons arranged the trip for him.

The Signal Corps had important operations in New Jersey and Maryland at the time, and since the Signal Corps were playing such a major role in studying air power, travel between College Park and Sandy Hook by Foulois seems logical and reasonable. It might also shed some light on the development of Aeromarine at Keyport. It is hard to imagine details of US military weapons testing appearing in the local papers today.

As an aside, the 1900 Federal Census showed Corporal Benjamin D Foulois stationed at Sogod, Cebu, in the Philippines with Company G of the 19th Infantry Division, US Army, in connection with the Philippine Insurrection. In the wake of the US acquisition of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, an independence movement developed in the Philippines and Foulois ended up there soon after his enlistment.

Foulois would eventually attain the rank of Major General.


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