The Weapon Technology of World War One

The military combined with engineers and industrialist for many reasons, and these reasons were to make better equipment for the army to fight against Germany. On the other side of the war it was the same thing, and they only did this to make the war go by faster and easier for battles, but that wasn’t the case. With all the new weapons and vehicles it just caused more to die, so much more in fact about 36 million soldiers died in World War One then the Civil War.

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This was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but instead; it ended nothing, even more soldiers were dying as time went on and more wars were fought. They came from all over the world to fight and were thinking it was going to be some kind of adventure, but it was no adventure it was a battle were all these men got to see their friends and family died in front of their eyes. The devastating firepower of modern weapons helped create the trench warfare, it was either duck or run.

It wasn’t until September 15, 1916 the first tank was deployed by the British in The Battle of The Somme, the British launched a major offensive against the Germans. When heavy rain, mud and snow finally put an end to the Somme campaign in November, an estimated 1.2 million men from the German and Allied had been killed, wounded or captured. Thanks to the resolution of a middle-aged staff officer, Erich Ludendorff, a German brigade occupied the town of Liege itself in the night of August 5-6 and the citadel on August 7, but the surrounding forts held out stubbornly until the Germans brought their heazy howitzers into action against them on August 12.  These 420-millimeter siege guns proved too formidable for the forts, which one by one succumbed. The vanguard of the German invasion was already pressing the Belgian field army between the Gete River and Brussels, when the last of the Liege forts fell on August 16.

The initial clashes between the french and German armies along the Franco-German and Franco Belgian frontiers are collectively known as the Battle of the Frontiers. This group of engagements which lasted from August 14 until the beginning of the First Battle of the Marne on September 6, was to be the largest battle of the war and was perhaps the largest battle in human history up to that time, given the fact that a total of more than two million troops were involved. People called the great war the war that damaged mankind the most, it wasn’t just the 22 million who died before 1914 and 1918, it was in every way more epochal and earth shaking than World War Two. After World War One, nothing was recognizable. What was rebuilt was a shadow of its names are loaded with irony. The Great War saw chivalry and honor on the battlefield replaced by technology and firepower that swept millions. The Great War was planned for 30 years before it even took place, but when it came it came so fast no one felt prepared and seemed as if everything got way out of hand before anything even happened. The reason for this can be summed up in one word “Mobilization” the wa needed this kind of transport to get over seas and to other areas.

At the start of the war the land and sea forces used the aircraft put at their disposal primarily for reconnaissance, and air fighting began as the exchange of shots from small arms between enemy airmen meeting one another in the course of reconnoitering. Fighter aircraft armed with machine guns, however, made their appearance in 1915. Tactical bombing and the bombing of enemy air bases were also gradually introduced at this time. Contact patrolling, with aircraft giving immediate support to infantry, was developed in 1916.

Strategic bombing, on the other hand, was initiated early enough: British aircraft from Dunkirk bombed Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Friedrichshafen in the autumn of 1914, their main objective being the sheds of the German dirigible airships, or zeppelins, and raids by German airplanes or seaplanes on English towns in December 1914 heralded a great Zeppelin offensive sustained with increasing intensity from January 1915 to September 1916. In October 1916 the British in turn, began a more systematic offensive, from eastern France, against industrial targets in southwestern Germany.

 

While the British directed much of their new bombing strength to attacks on the bases of the U-boats, the Germans used theirs largely to continue the offensive against the towns of southeastern England. On June 13, 1917, in daylight, 14 German bombers dropped 118 high explosive bombs on London and returned home safely. This lesson and that of subsequent raids by the German Gotha bombers made the British think my seriously about strategic bombing and about the need for an air force independent of the other fighting services. The Royal Air Force, the world’s first separate air service, was brought into active existence by a series of measure taken between October 1917 and June 1918.

Powered aircraft were first used in war in 1911, by the Italians against the Turks near Tripoli, but it was not until the Great War of 1914–18 that their use became widespread. At first, aircraft were unarmed and employed for reconnaissance, serving basically as extensions of the eyes of the ground commander. The all-metal monoplane represented a huge increase in performance and firepower over the aircraft of World War I, and the effects were first seen in fighter tactics. Soon, however, this led to enemy air-to-air combat in which each tried to gain superiority in the air. Fighter planes were armed with fixed forward-firing machine guns that allowed the pilot to aim entire aircraft at the enemy, and the effective range of these weapons (no more than about 200 yards) meant that the first aerial combat took place at very short range.

The planning and conduct of war in 1914 were crucially influenced by the invention of new weapons and the improvement of existing types since the Franco-German War of 1970-71. The existing types since the Franco- German War of 1870-71. The  chief developments of the intervening period had been the machine gun and the rapid-fire field artillery gun. The modern machine gun, which had been developed in the 1880’s and 90s, was a reliable belt-fed gun capable of sustained rates of extremely rapid fire; it could fire 600 bullets per minute with a range of more than 1,000 yards (900 meters). In the realm of field artillery, the period leading up to the war saw the introduction of improved breech-loading mechanisms and brakes. Without a brake or recoil mechanisms, a gun lurched out of position during firing and had to be re-aimed after each round. The new improvements were epitomized in the French 75-millimeter field gun; it remained motionless during firing, and it was not necessary to readjust the aim in order to bring sustained fire on a target.

Machine guns and rapid-firing artillery, when used in combination with trenches and barbed-wire emplacements, gave a decided advantage to the defense, since these weapons’ rapid sustained firepower could decimate a frontal assault by either infantry or cavalry. There was a considerable disparity in 1914 between the deadly effectiveness of modern armaments and the doctrinal teachings of some armies. The South African War and the Russo-Japanese War had revealed the futility of frontal infantry or cavalry attacks on prepared positions when unaccompanied by surprise, but few military leaders foresaw that the machine gun and the rapid-firing field gun would forcesaw that the machine gun and rapid-firing gun would force armies into trenches in order to survive. Insead, war was looked upon by many leaders in 1914 as a contest of national wills, spirit, and courage, A prime example of this attitude wa the French army, which was dominated by the doctrine of the offensive, French military doctrine called for headlong bayonet charges of French infantryman against the German rifes, machine guns, and artillery. German military thinking, under the influence of Alfred, Graf von Schlieffen, sought, unlike the French, to avoid frontal assaults but rather to achieve an early decision by deep flanking attacks, and at the same time to make use of reserve divisions alongside regular formations from the outset of war. The Germans paid greater attention to training their officers in defensive tactics using machine guns, barbed wire, and fortifications.

Since Germany’s previous restrictions of its submarine warfare had been motivated by fear of provoking the United States into war, the U.Ss declaration of war in April 1917 removed any reason for the Germans to retreat from their already declared policy of unrestricted warfare. Consequently, the U-boats, having  sunk 181 ships in January, 259 in February, and 325 in March, sank 430 in April. The April sinkings represented 852,000 gross tons, to be compared both with the 600,000 postulated by the German in March had pessimistically foretold for June. The Germans had calculated that if the world’s merchant shipping could be sunk at the monthly rate of 600,000 tons, the Allies, being unable to build new merchant ships fast enough to replace those lost, could not carry on the war for more than five months. At the same time, the Germans, who had 111 U-boats operational when the unrestricted campaign began, had embarked on an extensive building program that, when weighed against their current losses of one or two U-boats’ numbers. During April, one in every four of the merchant ships that sailed from British ports was destined to be sunk, and by the end of May the quantity of shipping available to carry the vital foodstuffs and munitions to Great Britain had been reduced to only 6,000,000 tons.

The April total, however, proved to be a peak primarily because the Allies at last adopted the convoy system for the protection of merchant ships. Before that, a ship bound for one of the Allies’ ports had set sail by itself as soon as it was loaded. The sea was thus dotted with single and unprotected merchant ships, and a scouting U-boat could rely on several targets coming into its range in the course of a cruise. The convoy system remedied this by having groups of merchant ships sail within a protective ring of destroyers and other naval escorts. It was logistically possible and economically worthwhile to provide this kind of escort for a group of ships. The combination of convoy and escort would force the U-boat to risk the possibility of a counterattack in order to sink the merchant ships, thus giving the Allies a prospect of reducing the U-boats’ numbers. Despite the manifest and seemingly overwhelming benefits of the convoy system, the idea was novel and, like any untried system, met with powerful opposition from within the military. It was only in the face of extreme necessity and under great pressure from Lloyd George that the system was tired, more or less as a last resort.

The first convoy sailed from Gibraltar to Great Britain on May 10, 1917; the first from the United States sailed later in May; ships using the South Atlantic sailed in convoy from July 22. During the later months of 1917 the use of convoy caused an abrupt fall in the sinkings by U-boats. The convoy system was so quickly vindicated that in August it was extended to shipping outward-bound from Great Britain. The Germans themselves soon observed that the British had grasped the principles of anti submarine warfare, and that sailing ships in convoys considerably reduced the opportunities for attack.

Apart from the convoys, the Allies improved their anti submarine technology and extended their minefields. In 1918, moreover, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, in command at Dover, set up a system whereby the English Channel was patrolled by surface craft with searchlights, so that U-boats passing through it had to submerge themselves to depths at which they were liable to strike the mines that had been laid for them. Subsequently, most of the U-boats renounced the Channel as a way into the Atlantic and instead took the passage north of Great Britain. In the summer of 1918, U.S. minelayers laid more than 60,000 mines in a wide belt across 180 miles of the North Sea between Scotland and Norway, so as to obstruct the U-boats’ only access from Germany to the Atlantic other than the closely guarded Channel.

The cumulative effect of all these measures was the gradual containment and ultimately the defeat of the U-boat campaign, which never again achieved the success of April 1917. While sinkings by submarines, after that month, steadily fell, the losses of U-boats showed a slow but steady rise, and more than 40 were destroyed in the first six months of 1918. At the same time the replacement of merchant vessels in the building program improved steadily, until it eventually far outstripped losses. In October 1918, for example, 511,000 tons of new allied merchant ships were launched, while only 118,559.

With all the new equipment created to bring destruction to the enemy, led to a much higher casualty rate after the war.

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