Observation balloons spotted enemy troop movements, planes, balloons, trains, truck convoys and artillery fire and used telephones to relay information in real time. Tethered to winch trucks, they were called “kite” balloons and nicknamed “sausages.” The name “manatee” would have fit too. They stayed busy, reporting 12,018 en-emy shell bursts, nearly as many enemy aircraft and 2,649 enemy balloon ascensions during the war. Further-more they often provided official confirmation of victories claimed by American or other Allied aviators.
The balloons usually flew a few miles behind the front lines. When an enemy plane approached, their trucks would quickly winch them down. Their crews had parachutes, which saved the lives of all but one American balloonist.