99 Luftballons

The story about the runaway surveillance balloon,  especially in conjunction with the report that  there may have almost been an unauthorized missile launch in Formosa, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, reminded me of  this song.

Original German version, with on-screen lyrics, and  an attempt at directly translating the lyrics into English.

8 thoughts on “99 Luftballons”

  1. Just the other day I saw them for the first time. Oddly, I was off to see my father at the time, who’d been asking me if I’d seen the aerostats yet. The aerostats were 40 miles away and looked at first glance like a pair of airliners. Only when I kept looking at them did I realize what I was seeing. I had a good laugh at the whole ‘runaway blimp’ episode. I especially like the photo of the Amish wagon in Lancaster County PA with a damaged and careening blimp looming up over the hill. Classic. I was like something out of 1950’s Ray Harryhausen sci-fi movie. I still find the whole thing funny.

  2. There’s at least one of those in the lower FL Keys, easily visible from Rte 1. I hope they’re using them to detect real threats and not merely dope smugglers.

  3. I believe they’re looking for and tracking (potential) sub launched cruise missiles. The idea has been around a while. Ideally, it should be a very effective, low cost monitoring system. Provided they figure out how to hold them down and all. The Amish might need more convincing of that. What they haven’t disclosed (and I don’t want them to) is what happens if a cruise missile is detected. I assume there are anti-missile missile systems linked to the network.

  4. The first commenter at the English-language video says that a young woman of his acquaintance recently expressed great surprise when told that the song was about nuclear war. Wonder what on earth she *thought* it was about?

  5. MH…quite true. But it’s still hard to image what other interpretation could be given to these lyrics.

    Speaking of lyrics, the English vs German versions point out again the difficulty of translating anything while preserving a rhyme scheme. The wonderful line pair:

    Neun and neunzig Kriegsminister
    Streichholz and Benzinkanister

    …which means “99 war ministers / match and a can of gasoline

    is missing from the English version.

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