Gamboa News

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Barrage Balloons over Pedro Miguel

chronicled by
Ray Crucet

It was an eerie sight during W.W.II air-raid alerts to see the night sky of Pedro Miguel filled with, what seemed to me to be, hundreds of cable tethered barrage balloons. The "search lights" would illuminate the whale-like balloons sporadically as their bright shafts swept the sky seeking the elusive "jap zero"...

The Army had set up a Barrage Balloon and Anti-Aircraft emplacement in the middle of the town ball field. I was delighted as we lived, at the time, in one of the four-family-quarters that ringed the field. In our play, we kids would pester the #^*+ out of the GI's who were stationed there until they finally clamped down on us and set up "off limit" areas. What prompted this action, was our innovative game of grabbing one the six or eight tie-down ropes as the balloon was just about to be released during one of the many practice drills and running and launching ourselves into a long arc; swinging "bungee- like" before dropping to the ground. The event became competitive...

To "win" you had to be the last kid to drop off the rope. After all "last-off" gave you the longest ride and It resulted in immediate recognition and appreciation as it meant you were clearly the bravest and most agile of the gang that day.

It was Don Corn, the Postmasters son, who, during one of our games, lingered in his release and caused the demise of this great sport. Normally the GI operating the winch would allow the balloon to rise only a few feet before stopping and making sure all of us were "off" the ropes before he slowly paid out cable. But on this day the balloon went skyward like a rocket. By the time the winch operator was alerted Don Corn was a speck in the sky swinging to and fro. It seemed a long time before the GI got control of the winch...stopping it, reversing, and then slowly reeling in the balloon and Don Corn. As Don with balloon attachment got lower you could hear his screaming get louder and louder. Of course, he had to be scared, but then perhaps he just may have spotted his father running out to the field to greet him...with belt in hand. Well at about ten feet above the ground, Don dropped, bounced, and still screaming and crying ran off the field, unhurt, but with Dad in hot pursuit.

Clearly Don Corn was the winner of all winners...a "last-off" record that stands to this day. Don was most modest about the whole thing. He never bragged about the event. In fact, except for a slight change in pallor, he never acknowledged his record in any way.

What a guy...

Unfortunately, the balloon and its environs were immediately put off limits to us for the duration. It was a great time for us Pedro Miguel kids...


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