World War I Powers During World War I many different types of weapons were utilized by both the Allied and Central powers. Some were variations on older models of weaponry, and others were totally new inventions created to aid in the wartime effort. Most of the new weapons were used as killing machines in trench warfare, which was practiced during World War I, while others were employed as tools of espionage, scouting land areas, or air and sea warfare. Communication also played a major role in World War I, especially the newly invented short wave radio. My report will discuss several of these new types of weaponry and communication; their uses in the war and their technical make-up.
Ground warfare Trenches Trenches were long tunnel-like structures dug on the fronts during a stalemate in the war. They protected the troops inside from deadly artillery and especially machine gun fire. There were usually four sets of trenches dug on each side. An area of no-mans land separated the two sides. Crossing the no-mans land meant the risk of instant death by machine gun fire. An attack was usually staged in waves.
Line after line of troops attempted to overrun the opposing trenches, only to gain a couple of miles. The firing trench was first, backed by cover trenches, which were a back-up line of defense in case the firing trenches were overrun. Following the cover trench were the support trench and the reserve trench. Off-duty troops lived in man made dugouts in the support trench. Rations, communications, extra troops, and other utilities were stored in the reserve trench. Some trenches also had a fifth trench dug out especially for the communications systems.
Tanks Modern tanks are heavily armored track-laying military vehicles which have road speeds up to 60 mph. They weigh in between 14 and 50 metric tons and carry various types of mounted machine guns. Tanks are designed to penetrate or flank enemy lines and strike deep into the rear, capturing or eliminating vital fortifications. Although not as fast as modern tanks, and not as heavily armed, World War I saw the first mass use of tanks in open warfare. The idea of the tank was first designed by Leonardo daVinci in 1482. The French attempted to create the armored vehicles of which daVinci spoke, but it was the British who developed the first track-laying armored vehicles during World War I.
On September 16, 1916, forty nine tanks were used at the battle of Somme near Courcelette, France, with negative results. A year later, in November 1917, 400 tanks penetrated the Hindenberg line near Cambrai on the Eastern Front. This attack captured 8000 enemy soldiers and 100 enemy guns. Through this battle, the role of the tank was established in modern warfare. Chemical warfare This particularly horrific method of warfare is based on releasing toxins or incapacitating chemicals into enemy lines in order to cause mass death or at least incapacitate the enemy. During World War I there were several different types of gases used to break the deadlock of trench warfare.
Tear gas, a gas causing excessive tearing when it comes into contact with the victims eyes. Chlorine gas and phosgene were two of the more common lung irritants used by the armies. Also widely used was mustard gas, which caused whoever it came into contact with to break out in severe burns. Mustard gas was often used in conjunction with the flame-thrower. By the end of World War I, most European powers had integrated gas warfare capabilities into their armies at some levels. Between the two great wars Germany developed various different nerve gases such as sarin, a paralysis inducing gas.
Most western countries have taken steps to destroy their arsenals of chemical weapons. Flame-thrower This was a military weapon used to project flames toward the enemy. A flame-thrower consists of a fuel container filled with oil, a cylinder containing a gas propellant under a high pressure, a discharge tube with an adjustable nozzle and an ignition device. During World War I, two styles of flame-throwers were used: A heavy one mounted on a tank and a light, portable, hand carried one. The flame-thrower had great psychological impact during the war because it succeeded in inflicting fear into the enemy.
However, as a weapon it was limited by its short range and unpredictable aim. The flame-throwers used in World War I consumed great amounts of fuel. Modern flame-throwers are carried in a pouch on the persons back and can accurately project a 60 foot flame for about nine seconds. Machine Gun The machine gun is a type of gun in which the operations of loading, extraction, and firing are performed automatically. This enables the machine gun to maintain a constant fire. Before World War I practically all machine guns used the same caliber ammunition as infantry rifles.
During the war, they became divided into different types, each designed for its specific use. The lighter weight designed guns were suited to firing short, compact bursts of bullets. The heavier models were developed to be situated in one place and give off a constant barrage of fire. These came into use due to the trench warfare that took place during World War I. Machine guns were also developed for mounting in tanks and in airplanes.
Later in the war special mounts were invented to allow the machine guns to be used in antiaircraft effort. Air warfare Airplanes As the threat of Germany using zeppelins for military purposes during the war grew, many leading nations began to look critically at the potentiality of military aviation. When conflict began in 1914, both the Allies and the Germans each had about 200 aircraft on the Western Front. These were primarily used for reconnaissance or scouting out land areas, and were extremely vulnerable to antiaircraft fire due to their slow speeds. Then, in 1915, Dutch designer Anthony Fokker developed an interpreter gear which allowed a machine gun mounted on a plane to fire through the propellers without damaging the blades. This modification led to the development of speedier planes and thus the age of fighter aircraft was born.
Early in the war, bombs were dropped over the side of the plane by hand. Later, however, heavier aircraft and standardized bomb fittings enabled the bombs to be dropped with greater accuracy on military and civilian targets. By the end of World War I, over 250 metric tons of bombs had been released in raids over England, causing 9000 civilian casualties. Even though this number is nowhere near the estimates from World War II, the droppings were psychologically and strategically important. It proved that aircraft were not only capable of providing protection to the troops on the ground at the front lines, but also could be used to deploy offensive maneuvers. The use of airplanes in World War I peaked in 1918 in the battles of Chteau-Thierry and Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne in France Zeppelins The first zeppelin airship was designed by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in 1900. It consisted of a row of 17 gas cells individually covered in cloth. The body was confined in a cylindrical framework covered with smooth surfaced cotton cloth.
It was about 420 feet in length and approximately 38 feet in diameter. The ship was steered by forward and aft rudders and was powered by two 15 hp Daimler internal combustion engines, each rotating two propellers. Passengers and crew, as well as the engines were carried in two aluminum gondolas pendant from the forward part of the ship. At the beginning of World War I, ten zeppelins were used actively in the German army, and many more were constructed over the next four years. By 1918, Germany had over 65 zeppelins in its airforce.
The main use of the airships was deploying bombs and scouting enemy territory. Most were painted black so they became difficult to see during the night. However, soon after the war, most high ranking officials realized that the huge zeppelins and other massive airships were too vulnerable to airplane attack, causing a major decrease in the amount of airships in the armies. Sea warfare U-boat In 1906, the Germans built upon the basic blueprint of the submarine, designed by famous American inventor, Robert Fulton. The first changes they made were adding a diesel powered engine and a periscope. Later, after the development of self propelled torpedoes, the Germans redesigned the structure slightly to accommodate for the new torpedoes.
Thus, the U-boat was born. The German used the U-boats to sink merchant vessels coming into Britain. They hoped to cut off Britains supplies and deplete their navy. Through this process, the U-boats sunk Allied ships as well as the luxury liner-Lusitania. Because several American passengers were killed in this action, the United States was pushed to the brink of war, finally being drawn into the battle by the discovery of the Zimmerman telegram.
The Germans continued to attack Allied ships, and therefore proved the U-boat to be a very deadly weapon for its time. Its success led to the development of depth charges, used in World War II. Communication Short Wave Radio During World War I, communication was mostly done by telegraph, or by the use of the newly invented short wave radio. The short wave radio uses high frequency broadcasts, from 3 to 30 MHz, to transmit radio waves over long distances. The short wave radio played an important part in communication between headquarters and the fronts, as well as Front to front and trench to trench.