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The phrase balls to the wall, meaning an all-out effort, comes from the world of aviation.
On an airplane, the handles controlling the throttle and the fuel mixture are often topped
with ball-shaped grips, referred to by pilots as (what else?) balls. Pushing the balls
forward, close to the front wall of the cockpit increases the amount of fuel going to the
engines and results in the highest possible speed.

The earliest written citation is from 1967, appearing in Frank Harvey’s Air War—Vietnam:

"You’re in good hands with Gen. Disosway as long as you go in on those targets balls
to the wall. Never mind the brownie points."

Best I can do.

~aj
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