Operation “AVALANCHE”

Assault Landings in the Gulf of Salerno,
D-Day, 9th September 1943

© IWM (CNA 1729)
“INVASION BALLOONS PROTECT SALERNO BEACHES: R.A.F. balloon barrage men were among the first Allied troops to land on the beaches at Salerno. Their job was to keep low flying enemy aircraft from bombing and strafing the landing barges as they came in shore. One detachment landed with their balloons in the Gulf of Salerno before daylight on invasion day. They waded ashore through three feet of water carrying their balloons, and planted them on the beach in the face of heavy machine gun and mortar fire. The balloons were flying 200 feet high as they came ashore and were let up to operational height on small hand winches as soon as the men stepped on to the mainland. Picture shows:- A balloon is brought ashore near Salerno from a landing craft.” © IWM (CNA 1729)

Balloon Units so far identified as taking part in Operation AVALANCHE are:

5 Beach Balloon Detachment – Formed at Tripoli (Libya) 13th August 1943 from 976 Squadron.

6 Beach Balloon Detachment – Formed at Tripoli (Libya) 13th August 1943 from 976 Squadron; with No. 3 Beach Group, landing in the ROGER sector.

Balloons at Salerno

“Low-flying German aircraft encountered balloons, which went ashore flying at a height of 200 feet. The crews in charge of them were a happy company and had seen much service from El Alamein onwards up the long length of North Africa to Tunis and Sicily. Now they were among the first to set foot upon European soil, and with them went Blondie, their hen, which ‘fed on rice, tea leaves and flies, had laid eggs valiantly since the Battle of the Mareth Line’.

”Royal Air Force 1939 – 1945, Volume II “The Fight Avails”, Richards D and Saunders H St. G, H.M.S.O. London, 1954, p335