Item MC 376/420/2 - Recorded interview of General William Ellsworth Kepner, part 2 of 2 (side B of cassette)

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MC 376/420/2


Recorded interview of General William Ellsworth Kepner, part 2 of 2 (side B of cassette)


  • 7 Sep 1970 (Creation)

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1 side of audio cassette

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Relates to his stratospheric balloon flight with Captain Albert Stevens and Orvil A. Anderson, 28 Jul 1934. [00:00-05:00] Describes ascent to 60,000 ft and discovering a large hole in the balloon. [05:00-10:00] Remarks on reaching final altitude of 60,613 ft and the balloon's descent with enlarging tears. [10:00-15:00] Describes attempt to land, the balloon bursting, and parachuting out of balloon with Anderson and Stevens. [15:00-20:00] Comments on balloon's crash-landing and souvenir hunters taking items from its wreckage. Describes telephoning Air Corps Headquarters to report end of flight from farmhouse in Nebraska and being linked to live national radio broadcast. Remarks on removal of balloon wreckage, salvage of most of the instruments, data and photographs and the crash investigation. Comments on second flight in 1935 and flight's significance for space exploration. In 1927 Hawthorne Gray, of the United States Army Air Corps, was the first balloonist to reach the stratosphere (between about 40,000-50,000 ft) but he died from lack of oxygen on the descent. In November 1933, Jean Piccard reached the height of 61,000 feet using a metal cabin, or gondola, to protect the crew. Earlier pioneering balloon flights were also made by his brother, Auguste, in the 1930s. In January 1934, a Soviet balloon reached 72,000 ft, a new record, but descended too quickly, killing the crew. In 1934, General William Ellewsorth Kepner, Captain Albert Stevens and Orvil A. Anderson, reached 60,613 feet in the balloon 'Explorer I' but had to parachute to safety when the balloon ripped. They were visited by the aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart, before the launch. On their next attempt in November 1935, a balloon piloted by Anderson and Stevens reached 72,395 feet and set an altitude record which lasted for twenty-one years. This is a copy of an original audio recording which was made when General Kepner visited the American Air Force Museum in 1970. It appears to be available via the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

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There is no public access to the original recording because of preservation reasons. All access is provided by the use of copies. Access to the copies is also restricted because of copyright/sensitivity issues.

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Restrictions apply. Contact NRO for details.

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The quality of archive sound recordings may be poor. Duration is 17 minutes 18 seconds.

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This recording has been digitised. It can be listened to at the NRO only and not online. The NRO requires advance notice if you want to visit to listen to this recording.

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Created 15/01/2019 by Drojd. Modified 03/03/2020 by Drojd.


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