SoCyberty – Articles of Interest of Everyday Things
Weapons of World War I
Explain the new weapons that changed warfare in World War I.
Poison gas was a deadly new weapon used in World War I. France was the first country to start using gas, but Germany is the one who perfected its use. The killing capacity of gas was limited – only 3% of combat deaths were due to gas – however, the proportion of non-fatal casualties was high, and gas remained one of the soldiers’ greatest fears. Because it was impossible to develop effective countermeasures to gas attacks, it was unlike most other weapons of the period. The first gas that was used in 1914 was called tear gas. This gas contained the chemical lachrymatory. The French put tear gas in their grenades. The tear gas made the soldiers eyes itch continuously which made them less valuable. Then Germany started using chlorine in their artillery. The gas was a greenish cloud and had a strong odor which made it very easy to detect fast. The effect would destroy tissue of the lungs, which is why the soldiers often coughed a lot. Then in late 1915, Victor Grinard made a new chemical gas called phosgene. It was difficult to detect, making it a very effective weapon. It killed a lot faster and was a lot better than chlorine. The most widely reported and perhaps, the most effective gas of the First World War was mustard gas. It often didn’t kill the person instantly, but made the victim cough up his lungs in the last two months of his life. This was the worst gas used in the war. It killed or wounded an estimated 1 million people. The only counter action that could be taken against any gas was a gas mask. The gas mask had to be on before the gas was breathed in full force. This means that someone would have to detect it very fast. Gas was a very deadly weapon used in World War I. It made people suffer very badly. Luckily countries chose not to use gas in other future wars.
Airplanes were only invented about 10 years before the war started, so they weren’t very advanced yet. The top speed was only about 100 mph. The planes was mostly made of wood and consisted of two wings with the cockpit and engine in the middle. These planes often were very small and only had room for a pilot and a gunner. The gunner had a machine gun at the back of the plane. Bombers were also used. They had a little door at the bottom of the plane that could be opened and very small bombs would fall out. First, planes were only used for spying purposes and weren’t strong enough for battle. Then, the countries started to make planes with machine guns and make bomb doors. The plane really went far in this war. It started out with a one-engine spy plane that went about 70 mph to four-engine bombers. After World War I the plane upgraded a lot and used a great deal in World War II.
Tanks were created because of the trench war. The Allies wanted a vehicle to break through the lines easier. They also wanted something that could cross the trenches and troops on the ground. From these ideas were born the new weapon of tanks. The first tanks were built from armored cars. They first protected the driver by adding a great deal of armor on the outside of the tank. Then they removed the tires and started adding tracks. Tracks made them able to go over trenches, which meant that they could pass the trenches and capture key territory. After they had armor and the tracks, they added weapons. Most of them had machine guns, but a few of them had flame throwers. The tank is the one weapon that ended trench warfare. If the tank hadn’t been invented, the war would have lasted a lot longer with no winner. The Allies broke through the lines in the Second Battle of the Mame because of the French tanks.