Technologies of World War 1

Technologies of World War 1

In mid 1914, countries across the world began to wage war with one another. Although, not all countries were immediately involved, many European countries began to battle one another. With the development of industry, many western countries were able to develop sophisticated equipment to fight with. There were advancements in chemical agents, machine guns, flamethrowers, tanks, submarines, and aircraft.[1] The weapons developed were to help countries battle in the land, the air, and the sea to effectively control and win battles. The uses of these weapons proved to be effective, yet costed the lives of millions of soldiers throughout World War I. The advancement in weaponry and the “short-war Illusion” gave the Great Powers of Europe and England, the belief that war would be swift and just. However, the advent of trench warfare would be an unexpected turn to those beliefs.[2]

In the fight on land, trench warfare became an increasingly common sight around Europe. Not long after Germany attempted to encircle Paris were some of the first trenches seen.[3] These trenches is where advances in artillery, machine guns, barbed wire, and chemical agents proved to be effective in killing, but also producing stand offs. These periods of static lines allowed for adaptations in fighting. Machine guns became common sight and sound. Enemies would fear the sound of the ever cutting machine gun. “Some believed it would even replace the rifle.”[4] The machine guns, however, were developed prior to the war and were mostly based off an 1884 model.[5] Advancements in artillery also brought increased destruction and increased the number of casualties. Artillery had killed more during the Great War than any other weapon of its time.[6] The artillery piece had received its lethality from improvements to the weapons range, variations of ammunition, and design that allowed for increased accuracy.[7]  Originally designed by the British, the advent of the tank also became and increasingly dominant weapon. Although, not until later in the war did the tank play a crucial war in battles. The First of which was by France on 23 October, 1917, where 76 tanks were successfully massed and employed in the battle of Malmaison. The largest of the Great war, however was the battle of Cambrai where more than 470 tanks were deployed by the British.[8] Land weapons were some of the most lethal of the time, however, another weapon delivery system was developed that changed the tides of war.

The airplane was new to World War I and brought both astonishment and fear. Originally designed for aerial reconnaissance, the airplane deployed the use of machine guns and payloads of up to 4,400 pounds.[9] This allowed for increased decimation of enemy combatants. Aircraft was also an essential tool used to defeat enemy supply chains. Whether this be at port, a main supply route, or a supply cache, airplanes delivered bombs that prevent food, water, medicine, ammunition, and other essential supplies from getting to troops.[10] Aircraft were pivotal to success during the Great War as well as the ships of the Maritime. Naval ships proved to be just as effective in controlling the delivery of supplies. For example, Britain established a blockade in the North Sea to prevent supplies from getting to Germany. Germany also made use of naval warfare with the development of submarines. Although previously developed by both the British, France, Russia, and the Americans, Germany developed the Unterzeeboats or the U-boat.[11] Germany had devastated allied naval and merchant ships during the Great War by declaring unrestricted submarine warfare. With improvements in torpedoes, Germany could conduct long range strikes on vessels and submarines. Germany also created a blockade of its own, in an attempt to control sea lanes to cut supply lines off from America and Britain. This was highly effective, although, eventually failed on America entered the war in 1917.

Much of the technology developed from artillery to aircraft to submarines, required more than just weapons to make them effective, they required communications. One of the main reasons that the Great War is called the first modern war was because of the introduction of radio communications.[12] Although not immediately used, radio communications allowed for more accurate communications to artillery, between vessels, and between aircraft. “Wireless” communications could be used to conduct calls for artillery, warn of impending attacks, as well as warn of gas attacks.[13] However, traditional means of communication were still used. Birds and dogs were still used in the absence of radios or when radios proved to be ineffective. These improvements in communication, weapons, and types of vehicles used in World War I produced a tremendous number of casualties. The continued improvement and refinement of these weapons of war would lead to greater tragedies in years to come.

 

 

[1] The Saylor Foundation, “European History/World War I” in University of Maryland University College Classroom, accessed February 07, 2018, http://campus.umuc.edu.

[2] Holger H. Herwig, “Germany and the “Short-War” Illusion: Toward a New Interpretation?,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 3 (July 2002): 681, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093355.

[3] The Saylor Foundation, “The Planning of the First World War” in University of Maryland University College Classroom, accessed February 07, 2018, http://campus.umuc.edu.

[4] “Weapons of World War I,” World History Group, last modified July 24, 2014, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weapons-of-world-war-i.htm.

[5] “Weapons of World War I,” World History Group, last modified July 24, 2014, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weapons-of-world-war-i.htm.

[6] “Weapons of World War I,” World History Group, last modified July 24, 2014, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weapons-of-world-war-i.htm.

[7] “Military Technology in World War I,” Library of Congress, accessed February 07, 2018, https://www.loc.gov/collections/world-war-i-rotogravures/articles-and-essays/military-technology-in-world-war-i/.

[8] “Weapons of World War I,” World History Group, last modified July 24, 2014, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weapons-of-world-war-i.htm.

[9] Richard W. Stewart, “The United States Army in a Global Era 1917-2003, (American Military History Volume II, 2005), accessed February 08, 2018, Center of Military History E-Book.

[10] Bernard Wilkin, “Aerial Warfare During World War One,” British Library, accessed February 07, 2018, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/aerial-warfare-during-world-war-one.

[11] “Weapons of World War I,” World History Group, last modified July 24, 2014, accessed February 07, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weapons-of-world-war-i.htm.

[12] “The Science of World War One: Communications,” Live Science, last modified May 15, 2014, accessed February 08, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/45641-science-of-world-war-i-communications.html.

[13] “The Science of World War One: Communications,” Live Science, last modified May 15, 2014, accessed February 08, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/45641-science-of-world-war-i-communications.html.

 

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