Balls to the Wall

Posted by Lotg on September 30, 2003

In Reply to: Balls to the Wall posted by Lewis on September 22, 2003

: : I stumbled upon your site and was surprised to see how many misconceptions there were to this phrase.

: : The term Balls to the Wall has absolutely nothing to do with sports, the supporting sides of a building or male genitalia. It comes from the days of WWII when we (the Allies) were bombing Europe and especially Germany from England.

: : The USA was using a large bomber called the B-17 Super Fortress to make these long and perilous mission runs deep into the enemy territories. Most bomber squadrons were based on British farm fields in the Midlands and East Anglia. These fields were often bordered by tall oaks, poplars and farm residences.

: : To make these runs the B-17's had to be completely topped off with fuel on top of carrying full bomb loads and ammunition for the six gunners on the aircraft. This made the aircraft extremely heavy and clearing the short converted airfields was tense on a good day. But if the fields were wet it got to be a knuckle biting situation as to which would run out first, the runway or your nerve.

: : To better facilitate the maximum power possible, brakes to the wheels would be applied while the throttles were gradually brought up to full speed. Once the propellars and engines were screaming at full power the brakes would be released and the B-17 would lumber and lean forward through the mud and muck to bareley clear the trees and buildings shaking leaves and shingles in her roaring wake.

: : The pilot's act of pushing the four engine's throttle balls as far forward toward and against the instrument panel wall was called, "going balls to the wall".

: : Thus, instead of rating a giggle, puzzlement or (heaven forbid) shock...maybe this phrase should bring forth some pride.

: : SFC Art Abshire
: : US Army Special Forces (Retired)
: : Hopkins, South Carolina USA

: Interesting comments.
: I guess from your post that the throttle controls were topped off with balls (bakelite/ceramic/wood/plastic) and the panel was known as 'the wall'.
: Can you confirm those points?
: I've flown in an aircraft of that period and can certainly attest to the "bottle" factor of take-off.

: However, I would also guess that the pilots intended it to have a double meaning unfit for polite company.

:::: Double meanings nothwithstanding, this is a fabulour piece of information to which most of us would otherwise not have had access.