20. Editorial Note

One method of distributing publications in enemy territory pursued by the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was the use of balloons. On April 18, 1918, Director of the CPI Foreign Section Will Irwin sent a telegram to Hugh Gibson, First Secretary at the Embassy in Paris: “Have invention here which is great improvement on anything formerly devised for getting literature to civilian population of Germany. Consists of balloon about nine feet in diameter carrying apparatus which will hold ten thousand quarter size leaflets and feed them separately on principle of automatic feed of printing press at rate of 12 or 24 per minute. Has bomb attachment which will destroy apparatus when last leaflet is fed. Such a balloon with average wind currents would have touring range of between five and seven hundred miles and could therefore easily reach Prussia. Rises to about two and one half miles and could therefore take advantage of the stable upper air currents. Clock arrangement enables starter to make it begin feeding at any time he desires after rising. Works perfectly on the ground but [Page 46] are going to have it tested soon as possible in actual flight. Apparatus including balloon will probably cost about one hundred dollars apiece making cost of distributing leaflets one dollar per thousand.” (Telegram 3601 from Paris, April 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 732, 103.93/183s)

On May 7, Irwin sent a telegram to CPI Commissioner in France James Kerney in Paris: “Preparing to manufacture carriers for distributing balloon and question arises whether sheets of eight and half by fourteen inches or nine by twelve inches are more easily and economically cut in France. Please see some practical French printer or book binder and wire answer.” (Telegram 3910 to Paris, May 7; National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 732, 103.93/261j)

Kerney sent a telegram on June 15 that confirmed the use of aerial methods for distributing information: “Rifle grenades for shooting propaganda into enemy trenches being used by our army as well as French at every possible opportunity. Paper balloons also being used for civilian propaganda. Other methods under experiment.” (Telegram 4219 from Paris, June 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 732, 103.93/400)

On July 22, Kerney sent another telegram from Paris reporting that French, British, and Belgian representatives were “anxious to have Americans assume distribution of material to be sent by balloon into interior of Germany which is feasible because of our location at front.” (Telegram 4541 from Paris, July 22; National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 733, 103.93/537)