the

History of the Parachute

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in the early years of our present

century a group of government and

military man gathered to evaluate the

possibilities of a new vehicle for use

by the army here the air age began many

of the early designs were not the most

reliable aircraft in point of fact some

proved themselves to be no aircraft at

all

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but man was determined to fly and the

beginning of the air age was also

inevitably the beginning of the

widespread development of the parachute

true even as late as World War 1 most

American pilots did not wear parachutes

but as air warfare developed the French

and the Germans made them regulation

issue among their pilots

in the years just after World War one

the parachute in America remained a

device for barnstorming stuntmen but by

the early 1930s Russia looking ahead to

the time when she would need shock

troops for her global plans began

experimenting with the parachute for

military use this experimenting was not

confined to human parachutists but

included vehicles and weapons the

airplanes at their disposal were crude

but their vision of the future role of

the parachute in military operations was

clear and even in these so-called

peacetime years every means of

increasing communist striking power was

to be explored

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they worked out an early method for

cargo drops in which the parachute was

dropped before the cargo

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they even tried dropping man vehicles

without benefit of parachute but though

some attempts were successful it became

clear that the parachute was the most

practical means of air-to-ground

delivery

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even before the actual beginning of

World War two the parachutes new and

more deadly role was put to the test by

the Germans on a larger scale than their

earlier drops into Norway the Nazis

airborne operations in the early

blitzkrieg thrusts in Europe set a

pattern they were the first to mount

really large-scale successful airborne

attacks as they dropped into the

Netherlands and scored a major success

in the parachute blitz of the island of

Crete this highly profitable Nazi

paratrooper attack on Crete established

clearly in military thinking the

importance of this kind of highly mobile

striking force

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by the time America began messing her

forces in England for the invasion of

Normandy our own paratroop units were in

being highly trained and formatively

able at their work the time for using

the men of America's Airborne Infantry

had come and the men were ready during

World War two the parachute found a

great many other uses vast areas of the

enemy shipping lanes were seeded with

mines from the air with parachutes to

slow their descent and prevent

detonation from landing shot toward the

end of the war the Germans came up with

an unusual ribbon chute designed to act

as an air brake for dive bombers and

gliders

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the Russians continue their

experimenting too they worked out a

complicated two-stage canopy which would

bring their paratroopers down at greater

speed a smaller canopy slowed the fall

for most of the descent then a larger

square shaped canopy open to cushion the

final approach to the ground it was

interesting and it worked but it never

came into widespread use

in Korea techniques for parachute

delivery of huge masses of combat

material to the front lines were

developed to an almost exact science

special shoots big enough to drape the

suburban home had been developed shoots

big enough to handle jeeps artillery

even light armor the big nylon umbrellas

had brought a great change in the

concept of military supply tons of

essential combat material could be

delivered over distances that would have

been out of the question in terms of

land transport the importance of the

parachute in making possible this

high-speed large-scale delivery of

material is virtually impossible to

exaggerate

with the development of supersonic

aircraft parachute escape techniques had

to change the seat ejection parachute

was about to come into being initial

testing involved men as well as machines

seat ejection would have to be swift but

not so Swift that pilots could not bear

the acceleration stresses during world

war two the nazis had worked on an

ejection seat design and captured german

film showed us something of the problems

they had encountered we didn't intend

for this kind of thing to happen with

our design so the testing the designing

and refining went on in the search for a

way to give a pilot and his parachute a

protective package as self ejecting

package which would get him clear of a

supersonic jet in a hurry and with

safety

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it was a tough problem but the solution

was found and the ejection seat

principle was proven in practice

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in still another way the parachute has

added a margin of safety to the flying

of jet aircraft special braking chutes

are standard equipment on many Jets

giving pilots the ability to land safely

on a much shorter runway than they could

otherwise use

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in the field of guided missiles this

same adaptation of the parachute has

found wide use the Regulus supersonic

submarine missile is a good example the

missile is recoverable because it can be

guided to a landing by escort aircraft

and because it uses a rugged nylon

canopy to slow it to a safe unswerving

stop once it touches down the Army's

drone reconnaissance crap

controlled from the ground can fly over

enemy terrain taking such detailed

motion pictures as these for use by

field commanders and then return to base

to be used again and again because it

carries its own recovery parachute to

bring it and its cameras down gently

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para rescue teams need special

parachuting skills and they practice

them often for instance the right timing

for slipping the harness in a water

descent comes only with experience or

take a jump over thick woods to battle a

forest fire

a man needs know how to land in the

treetops and come out of it in one piece

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in countless other situations as well

where relief could come only from the

air the parachute is brought supplies

aid and comfort to those cut off from

help recently a lot of attention has

been given to parachuting as a sport

both military and civilian skydiving is

called and clubs have sprung up

everywhere perhaps it isn't likely to

replace baseball as the national pastime

but few sports fans can claim the

thrills that parachuting gives the

skydiver

the parachute has truly come a long way

from the early days of the barnstorming

Daredevils to its hundreds of uses in

the world of today the parachute has

brought into being a whole new field of

techniques and given a new type of

fighting man to the modern army the

airborne soldier of today must know

everything that classic infantryman had

to know and a great deal more and the

added training the added mobility the

added striking power which has come from

the full development of the parachutes

ability to deliver both assault troops

and combat supplies forms a central

element of the fast-moving hard-hitting

pin Tomic army concept even with the

Space Age opening up ahead it seems safe

to speculate that they are here to stay

they're dependable versatile umbrellas

of the sky

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