Sauls' Barrage Kite

Sauls' Barrage Kite is well known as an anti-aircraft device flown from merchant ships in World War II, but the idea first began as an advertising scheme in the years before. I found two documents concerning this famous kite's early history in amongst the Paul Garber Papers at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

This photo from the "Barrage Balloon and Kite School" in New York shows students examining Barrage Kites.

The first appears to be a first hand account from Harry Sauls of his invention and perfection of the kite as a way to fly advertising banners over popular resort areas. By 1938 the design was just about perfected, even down to a scheme for attaching giant letters to netting for attachment to kite.

A second document, from November 1942, records the early trials of the kite as an anti-aircraft weapon to be flown from merchant ships (much like a barrage balloon). By this time the name M. Vangrow appears as Saul's partner. The tests were conducted in Halifax Nova Scotia on board a merchant ship that was soon to sail out with an eastbound convoy and a mine sweeper.

In 1943 the design was recognized by Design Patent No. 136,018.

Click to enlarge or download a PDF file

Wartime service of Saul's kite, now known as Saul's Barrage Kite, is documented in this 1944 issue of Popular Science.

Future issues showed how to build your own barrage kite, and how one reader used his for aerial photography!

...and on eBay

In December of 2016 an alert reader let me know that one of these kites had just sold on eBay. It sold for $1900 with local pick-up in California. Click the images below to see the photos accompanying the listing:

Other Resources

Thomas-Michael Rudolph has a nice German site on the barrage kite. It includes photos and diagrams of what appears to be a replica he has built. It's worth a visit, even if you don't speak German.

Gomberg Kites carries a modern reproduction of the barrage kite, made by Logo of Hamburg.

The Drachen Foundation is in the process of adding Harry Saul's papers to their collection. Read about it in their May 2008 Newsletter.

Christian Kolz has an interesting website ( on historical kites, including Sauls. There is German, French and English text on his site.

Last updated December 2009