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First use of the anti-aircraft gun?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: August 16, 2012 
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Do you know what year and where the first use of the anti-aircraft gun occurred?

—Gregory Morrow

? ? ?

Dear Mr. Morrow,

The first attempt at anti-aircraft fire began soon after the first aerial reconnaissance. In the spring of 1794 the revolutionary French sent a hydrogen balloon, dubbed l'Entreprenant ("Enterprise"), to the town of Maubeuge, then under attack by the Austrian army. After introducing himself to a skeptical General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan—who grumbled that he needed more battalions, not balloons—and had a furnace constructed to generate the hydrogen required to sustain operations, on June 2 Capitain Jean Marie Joseph Coutelle, accompanied by Adjutant Général Chef de Brigade Étienne Radet, rose from Maubeuge to carry out aviation's first military aerial reconnaissance. Austrian artillerists then shelling the town were at first awestruck by the "diabolical" device, but quickly recovered and promptly elevated their weapons to fire at it. They failed to score any hits, however, before Coutelle simply played out more cable until he rose beyond their range.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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