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Tech Developments of World War I

Tech Developments of World War I


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“Why bother studying World War I? What’s the point?” This seemingly reasonable question is asked frequently by contemporary students and quite often by seasoned scholars. After all, much of the historiography of the last hundred years has given World War I a very bad reputation. Both the popular and the scholarly images of that war paint the picture of a four-year long blood bath - a senseless war of attrition conducted by incompetent generals, without a trace of strategic thought or tactical innovation. Thus, it has become accepted wisdom that World War I has nothing to teach the student of modern war, especially in comparison to World War II, with its fast-moving armored and airborne divisions that are the basic models of military forces today.

The reality is something quite different. The scholarship over the last thirty years has shown that the period from 1914 through 1918 introduced the biggest changes in warfighting tactics and technologies in all human history. With a few significant exceptions, almost everything about how large-scale combat operations are conducted today traces its origins to World War I. If an infantry battalion commander of August 1914 were to jump ahead a scant four years to August 1918, he would be totally bewildered by what he saw happening on the battlefield around him. Almost nothing that he knew in 1914 about how to fight a battle would be of much use in 1918. On the other hand, if a battalion commander from 1918 were to jump forward to a World War II battlefield of 1940 or 1941, he would be able to understand the broad outlines of what was happening. To be sure, some military technologies would have advanced considerably in the more than twenty years, but they nonetheless would be recognizable. The battlefield problems prior to 1914 bore very little relation to those of 1918. Those of World War II were essentially the same as those of 1918 - and those of 2014 remain quite similar.

With so much change in so short a time, it was exceptionally difficult for even the most talented and intelligent of the Great War's military commanders to come to grips with the changes that seemed to come at “future shock” speed. By 1918, however, the tactical and technical solutions to the problems of the modern battlefield were starting to emerge. World War I ended in exhaustion before the new concepts could be developed fully, but the firm foundations were there for the mobile tactics and operations of World War II, and ever since.


Developments during World Wars I and II

During the first two years of World War I, code systems were used for high-command and diplomatic communications, just as they had been for centuries, and cipher systems were used almost exclusively for tactical communications. Field cipher systems such as the U.S. Signal Corps’s cipher disk mentioned above, lacked sophistication (and security), however. Nevertheless, by the end of the war some complicated cipher systems were used for high-level communications, the most famous of which was the German ADFGVX fractionation cipher, described in the section Cryptography: Product ciphers.

The communications needs of telegraphy and radio and the maturing of mechanical and electromechanical technology came together in the 1920s to bring about a major advance in cryptodevices: the development of rotor cipher machines. Although the concept of a rotor had been anticipated in the older mechanical cipher disks, American Edward H. Hebern recognized in about 1917 (and made the first patent claim) that by hardwiring a monoalphabetic substitution in the connections from contacts on one side of an electrical disk (rotor) to contacts on the other side and then cascading a collection of such rotors, polyalphabetic substitutions of almost arbitrary complexity could be realized. A set of these rotors is usually arranged in a stack called a basket the rotation of each of the rotors in the stack causes the next one to rotate, much as the wheels in an odometer advance 1 /10 of a revolution for every full revolution of its driving wheel. In operation, the rotors in the stack provide an electrical path from contact to contact through all of the rotors. In a straight-through rotor system, closing the key contact on a typewriter-like keyboard sends a current to one of the contacts on the end rotor. The current then passes through the maze of interconnections defined by the remaining rotors in the stack and their relative rotational positions to a point on the output end plate, where it is connected to either a printer or an indicator, thereby outputting the ciphertext letter equivalent to the input plaintext letter.


The Technology of World War I

Military technology has always shaped and defined how wars were fought. The First World War, however, saw a breadth and scale of technological innovation of unprecedented impact. It was the first modern mechanized industrial war in which material resources and manufacturing capability were as consequential as the skill of the troops on the battlefield.

Heavy artillery, machine guns, tanks, motorized transport vehicles, high explosives, chemical weapons, airplanes, field radios and telephones, aerial reconnaissance cameras, and rapidly advancing medical technology and science were just a few of the areas that reshaped twentieth century warfare. The AEF artists documented the new military technology as thoroughly as every other aspect of the war.

After three years on the sidelines, the United States lagged far behind the latest technology and faced a monumental task equipping hundreds of thousands of new soldiers. U.S. industry was just beginning to gear up for this challenge when the AEF arrived in France. American troops frequently used European produced equipment, as is evident in much of the AEF artwork.

Harlequin Freighters by J. André Smith, Watercolor and charcoal, July 1918

Harlequin Freighters
J. André Smith
Watercolor and charcoal, July 1918

Two Six-Ton Tanks Climbing a Hill by Harry Everett Townsend, Watercolor and pastel on paper, 1918

Two Six-Ton Tanks Climbing a Hill
Harry Everett Townsend
Watercolor and pastel on paper, 1918

Left by the Hun, 152 mm Mortar by Harry Everett Townsend, Charcoal on card, 1918

Left by the Hun, 152 mm Mortar
Harry Everett Townsend
Charcoal on card, 1918

American Artillery and Machine Guns by George Matthews Harding, Charcoal and crayon on paper, July 24, 1918

American Artillery and Machine Guns
George Matthews Harding
Charcoal and crayon on paper, July 24, 1918

Gas Alert by Harry Everett Townsend, charcoal on paper, 1918

Gas Alert
Harry Everett Townsend
Charcoal on paper, 1918

Soldiers of the Telephone by Harry Everett Townsend, Charcoal on paper, 1918

Soldiers of the Telephone
Harry Everett Townsend
Charcoal on paper, 1918

The Flying Field, Issoudun by Ernest Clifford Peixotto, charcoal on board, August 1918

The Flying Field, Issoudun
Ernest Clifford Peixotto
Charcoal on board, August 1918

Forced Landing Near Neufchateau by Harry Everett Townsend | Charcoal on paper, 1918

Forced Landing Near Neufchateau
Harry Everett Townsend
Charcoal on paper, 1918

Lame Ducks, Issoudun by J. André Smith, pencil on paper, 1918

Lame Ducks, Issoudun
J. André Smith
Pencil on paper, 1918

Valley of the Marne at Mont St. Père by George Harding Matthews, charcoal, pastel, and sanguine on paper, July 26, 1918

Valley of the Marne at Mont St. Père
George Harding Matthews
Charcoal, pastel, and sanguine on paper, July 26, 1918

The Alert Nieuports by Harry Everett Townsend, charcoal on paper, 1918

The Alert Nieuports
Harry Everett Townsend
Charcoal on paper, 1918

94th Aero Squadron “Hat-in-the-Ring” Insignia

94th Aero Squadron “Hat-in-the-Ring” Insignia

America’s first combat squadron was the 94th. Its famous “Hat-in-the Ring” insignia reflected the phrase used in April 1917 when the United States entered the war and was said to have now “thrown its hat in the ring.”

This example came from the aircraft of Harvey Weir Cook, who shot down 3 enemy aircraft and four observation balloons. The victories are represented with iron crosses inside the brim of the hat.

Gift of Donald Sieurin and D. Peter Sieurin

The AEF WWI war art collection currently is held by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Division of Armed Forces History, from which the artworks in this exhibition are on loan.


Technology and the Weapons of the First World War, 1914-1918

American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft. Development of passive acoustic location accelerated during World War I, later surpassed by the development of radar in the 1940s.

World War I was one of the defining events of the 20th century. From 1914 to 1918 conflict raged in much of the world and involved most of Europe, the United States, and much of the Middle East. In terms of technological history, World War I is significant because it marked the debut of many new types of weapons and was the first major war to “benefit” from technological advances in radio, electrical power, and other technologies.

From the onset, those involved in the war were aware that technology would make a critical impact on the outcome. In 1915 British Admiral Jacky Fisher wrote, “The war is going to be won by inventions.” New weapons, such as tanks, the zeppelin, poison gas, the airplane, the submarine, and the machine gun, increased casualties, and brought the war to civilian populations. The Germans shelled Paris with long-range (60 miles or 100 kilometers) guns London was bombed from the air for the first time by zeppelins.

An Austrian armored train in Galicia, ca, 1915. Adding armor to trains dates back to the American Civil War, used as a way to safely move weapons and personnel through hostile territory.

World War I was also the first major war that was able to draw upon electrical technologies that had been in development at the turn of the century. Radio, for example, became essential for communications. The most important advance in radio was the transmission of voice rather than code, something the electron tube, as oscillator and amplifier, made possible. Electricity also made a huge impact on the war. Battleships, for example, might have electric signaling lamps, an electric helm indicator, electric fire alarms, remote control—from the bridge—of bulkhead doors, electrically controlled whistles, and remote reading of water level in the boilers. Electric power turned guns and turrets and raised ammunition from the magazines up to the guns. Searchlights—both incandescent and carbon-arc—became vital for nighttime navigation, for long-range daytime signaling, and for illuminating enemy ships in night engagements.

Chemical warfare first appeared when the Germans used poison gas during a surprise attack in Flanders, Belgium, in 1915. At first, gas was just released from large cylinders and carried by the wind into nearby enemy lines. Later, phosgene and other gases were loaded into artillery shells and shot into enemy trenches. The Germans used this weapon the most, realizing that enemy soldiers wearing gas masks did not fight as well. All sides used gas frequently by 1918. Its use was a frightening development that caused its victims a great deal of suffering, if not death.

The interior of an armored train car, Chaplino, Dnipropetrovs’ka oblast, Ukraine, in the spring of 1918. At least nine heavy machine guns are visible, as well as many ammunition cases.

Both sides used a variety of big guns on the western front, ranging from huge naval guns mounted on railroad cars to short-range trench mortars. The result was a war in which soldiers near the front were seldom safe from artillery bombardment. The Germans used super–long-range artillery to shell Paris from almost eighty miles away. Artillery shell blasts created vast, cratered, moonlike landscapes where beautiful fields and woods had once stood.

Perhaps the most significant technological advance during World War I was the improvement of the machine gun, a weapon originally developed by an American, Hiram Maxim. The Germans recognized its military potential and had large numbers ready to use in 1914. They also developed air-cooled machine guns for airplanes and improved those used on the ground, making them lighter and easier to move. The weapon’s full potential was demonstrated on the Somme battlefield in July 1916 when German machine guns killed or wounded almost 60,000 British soldiers in only one day.

A German communications squad behind the Western front, setting up using a tandem bicycle power generator to power a light radio station in September of 1917.

Submarines also became potent weapons. Although they had been around for years, it was during WWI that they began fulfilling their potential as a major threat. Unrestricted submarine warfare, in which German submarines torpedoed ships without warning—even civilian ships belonging to non-combatant nations such as the United States—resulted in the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915, killing 1,195 people. Finding ways to outfit ships to detect submarines became a major goal for the allies. Researchers determined that allied ships and submarines could be outfitted with sensitive microphones that could detect engine noise from enemy submarines. These underwater microphones played an important part in combatting the submarine threat. The Allies also developed sonar, but it came too close to the end of the war to offer much help.

The firing stopped on November 11, 1918, but modern war technology had changed the course of civilization. Millions had been killed, gassed, maimed, or starved. Famine and disease continued to rage through central Europe, taking countless lives. Because of rapid technological advances in every area, the nature of warfare had changed forever, affecting soldiers, airmen, sailors, and civilians alike.

Allied advance on Bapaume, France, ca. 1917. Two tanks are moving towards the left, followed by troops. In the foreground some soldiers are sitting and standing at the roadside. One of them appears to be having a drink. Beside the men is what appears to be a rough wooden cross with an Australian or New Zealand service hat on it. In the background other troops are advancing, moving field guns and mortars.

Soldier on a U.S. Harley-Davidson motorcycle, ca. 1918. During the last years of the war, the United States deployed more than 20,000 Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles overseas.

British Medium Mark A Whippet tanks advance past the body of a dead soldier, moving to an attack along a road near Achiet-le-Petit, France, on August 22, 1918. The Whippets were faster and lighter than previously deployed British heavy tanks.

A German soldier rubs down massive shells for the 38 cm SK L/45, or “Langer Max” rapid firing railroad gun, ca. 1918. The Langer Max was originally designed as a battleship weapon, later mounted to armored rail cars, one of many types of railroad artillery used by both sides during the war. The Langer Max could fire a 750 kg (1,650 lb) high explosive projectile up to 34,200 m (37,400 yd).

German infantrymen from Infanterie-Regiment Vogel von Falkenstein Nr.56 adopt a fighting pose in a communication trench somewhere on the the Western Front. Both soldiers are wearing gas masks and Stahlhelm helmets, with brow plate attachments called stirnpanzers. The stirnpanzer was a heavy steel plate used for additional protection for snipers and raiding parties in the trenches, where popping your head above ground for a look could be lethal move.

A British false tree, a type of disguised observation post used by both sides.

Turkish troops use a heliograph at Huj, near Aza City, in 1917. A heliograph is a wireless solar telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight usually using Morse code, reflected by a mirror.

An experimental Red Cross vehicle designed to protect the wounded while gathering them from trenches during World War I, ca. 1915. The narrow wheels and low clearance would likely make this design ineffective in the chaotic and muddy front line landscape.

U.S. soldiers in trench putting on gas masks. Behind them, a signal rocket appears to be in mid-launch. When gas attacks were detected, alarms used included gongs and signal rockets.

A disused German trench-digging machine, January 8, 1918. The vast majority of the thousands of miles of trenches were dug by hand, but some had mechanical assistance.

A German soldier holds the handset of a field telephone to his head, as two others hold a spool of wire, presumably unspooling it as they head into the field.

Western front, loading a German A7V tank onto a railroad flat car. Fewer than a hundred A7Vs were ever produced, the only tanks manufactured by Germany that they used in the war. German troops did manage to capture and make use of a number of allied tanks, however.

False horses, camouflage to allow snipers a place to hide in no-man’s land.

Women working in the welding Department of the Lincoln Motor Co., in Detroit, Michigan, ca. 1918.

A duel between tank and flamethrower, on the edge of a village, ca. 1918.

Derelict tanks lie strewn about a chaotic battlefield at Clapham Junction, Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1918.

Gas masks in use in Mesopotamia in 1918.

Americans setting up a French 37mm gun known as a “one-pounder” on the parapet of a second-line trench at Dieffmattch, Alsace, France, where their command, the 126th Infantry, was located, on June 26, 1918.

American troops aboard French-built Renault FT-17 tanks head for the front line in the Forest of Argonne, France, on September 26, 1918.

A German aviator’s suit is equipped with electrically heated face mask, vest, and fur boots. Open cockpit flight meant pilots had to endure sub-freezing conditions.

British Mark I tank, apparently painted in camouflage, flanked by infantry soldiers, mules and horses.

A Turkish artillery squad at Harcira, in 1917. Turkish troops with a German 105 mm light field howitzer M98/09.

Irish Guards line up for a gas mask drill on the Somme, in September of 1916.

The Holt gas-electric tank, the first American tank, in 1917. The Holt did not get beyond the prototype stage, proving too heavy and inefficient in design.

On the site where a steel bridge was destroyed, a wooden temporary bridge has been built in place. Note that an English tank which fell in the river when the former bridge was demolished now serves as part of the foundation for the new bridge over the Scheldt at Masnieres.

Telegraph office, Room 15, Elysee Palace Hotel, Paris, France, Major R.P. Wheat in charge. September 4, 1918.

German officers with an armored car, Ukraine, Spring of 1918.

An unidentified member of the 69th Australian Squadron, later designated No. 3 Australian Flying Corps, fixes incendiary bombs to an R.E.8 aircraft at the AFC airfield north west of Arras. The entire squadron was operating from Savy (near Arras) on October 22, 1917, having arrived there on September 9, after crossing the channel from the UK.

Seven or eight machine-gun crews are ready to set out on a sortie in France, ca. 1918. Each crew consists of two men, the driver on a motorbike and the gunner sitting in an armored sidecar.

New Zealand troops and the tank “Jumping Jennie” in a trench at Gommecourt Wood, France, on August 10, 1918.

A German column looks over a destroyed Canadian Armored Autocar, the bodies of Canadian soldiers, empty belts, and cartridge boxes strewn about.

U.S. Soldiers in training, about to enter a tear gas trench at Camp Dix, New Jersey, ca. 1918.

German troops load gas projectors. Attempting to exploit a loophole in international laws against the uses of gas in warfare, some German officials noted that only gas projectiles appeared to be specifically banned, and that no prohibition could be found against simply releasing deadly chemical weapons and allowing th wind to carry it to the enemy.

Flanders front. Gas attack, September, 1917.

French lookouts posted in a barbed-wire-covered trench. The use of barbed wire in warfare was recent, having only been used for the first time in limited form during the Spanish-American War. All sides in World War I used extensive networks of barbed wire entanglements to prevent ground troops from moving forward. The effectiveness of the wire drove the development of technologies like the tank, and wire-cutting explosive shells set to detonate the instant they made contact with a wire.

American and French photographic staff, France, 1917.

The original caption reads: “The Italian collapse in Venezia. The heedless flight of the Italians to the Tagliamento. Captured heavy and gigantic cannon in a village behind Udine. November 1917”. Pictured is an Obice da 305/17, a huge Italian howitzer, one of fewer than 50 produced during the war.

Western front, Flammenwerfers (flame throwers) in use.

A patient is examined in a mobile radiology lab, belonging to the French Army, ca. 1914.

A British-made Mark IV tank, captured and re-painted by Germans, now abandoned in a small wood.

(Photo credit: National Archives / Library of Congress / Official German Photograph of WWI).


How World War I Influenced the Evolution of Modern Medicine

One hundred years ago, when the United States declared war on Germany, it joined the-then most extensive international conflict in the history of the world. The Great War, or World War I, ushered in a new era of technological advancement, especially in the area of weaponry–tanks, machine guns and poison gas made a violent debut on the battlefields in Europe. But alongside this destructive technology came the accelerated development of modern medical tools.

Medical devices and other artifacts from the era are on view in a new exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History as part of the institution’s commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the nation’s entry into the war. Alongside four other displays highlighting other aspects of World War I, this collection explores the application of medicine on the battlefield and advances in medical science during the conflict.

The primary medical challenges for the U.S. upon entering the war were, “creating a fit force of four million people, keeping them healthy and dealing with the wounded,” says the museum's curator of medicine and science Diane Wendt. “Whether it was moving them through a system of care to return them to the battlefield or take them out of service, we have a nation that was coming to grips with that.” 

To ensure the health of the millions of soldiers recruited for the war effort, doctors put the young men through a series of tests to assess physical, mental and moral fitness. Typical physical examinations of weight, height and eyesight were measured on a recruitment scale. These physicals accompanied intelligence tests and sex education to keep soldiers clean or “fit to fight.”

On the battlefields, physicians employed recently invented medical technology in addressing their patients’ injuries. The X-ray machine, which had been invented a couple decades before the war, was invaluable for doctors searching for bullets and shrapnel in their patients’ bodies. Marie Curie installed X-ray machines in cars and trucks, creating mobile imaging in the field. And a French radiologist named E.J. Hirtz, who worked with Curie, invented a compass that could be used in conjunction with X-ray photographs to pinpoint the location of foreign objects in the body. The advent of specialization within the medical profession in this era, and the advancement of technology helped to define those specialized roles.

American women became a permanent part of the military at the beginning of the century with the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, but their roles in the military continued to evolve when the nation entered the war in 1917. Some women were actually physicians but only on a contract basis. The military hired Dr. Loy McAfee, a female doctor who graduated with her medical degree in 1904, as one of these "contract surgeons." She helped chronicle the history of the army's medical department during the war as a co-editor of a 15-volume text that was completed in 1930.

“It was an expanded but limited role for women,” notes Mallory Warner, project assistant in the museum's division of medicine and science. The display documents the different roles women played during the war with a rotating set of women’s uniforms.

Women found an expanded role particularly in the area of “reconstruction,” or rehabilitation. All of the major countries developed these “reconstruction” programs to treat injured soldiers and send them home as functioning members of society. Occupational and physical therapy were central to these programs and women were needed to walk patients through this rehabilitation.

The warring countries "were very concerned about not just what was happening during the war, but also what was going to happen to their wage-earning male population after the war was over,” says Wendt. Of course, it was critical for the health of soldiers to address their injuries, but it was also essential to heal as many soldiers as possible to help them reestablish the post-war workforce. It was as much an economic issue as it was a health or humanitarian one. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. was at the forefront of prosthetic design—so much so that the English hired American companies to establish prosthetic workshops in England. One of these American-produced prosthetic arms, called the Carnes arm, is on view in the museum’s display. 

As in any war, first response, or first aid, was critical to an injured soldier’s fate. Tetanus and gangrene were serious threats as germ theory was only in its infant stages. It was during the war that doctors began refining the use of antiseptics to offset the risk of infection. Clearly, stabilizing patients upon injury is always crucial in first response, and a leg splint on view in the exhibit is a reminder of the importance of the most basic medical treatments. Splints drove mortality rates down by preventing hemorrhaging.

While the display highlights American experiences in the war, it also contextualizes the American experience within a larger global arena with objects from other countries. A backpack from the Turkish army marked with the Red Crescent, the symbol introduced by the Ottoman Empire in the 1870s as the Muslim alternative to the Red Cross symbol, and a chest from an Italian ambulance are on view.

All of the objects, long held in the museum’s medical or armed forces collections, make their public debut alongside the museum’s World War I commemoration with exhibits on General John J. Pershing, women in the war, advertising and art by soldiers. The displays remain on view through January 2019 and accompany a series of public programs at the museum. 


12 Technological Advancements of World War I

Erik Sass has been covering the events leading up to World War I exactly 100 years after they happened. But today he's here to discuss some inventions of The Great War.

1. Tanks

In 1914, the “war of movement” expected by most European generals settled down into an unexpected, and seemingly unwinnable, war of trenches. With machine guns reinforcing massed rifle fire from the defending trenches, attackers were mowed down by the thousands before they could even get to the other side of “no-man’s-land.”

A solution presented itself, however, in the form of the automobile, which took the world by storm after 1900. Powered by a small internal combustion engine burning diesel or gas, a heavily-armored vehicle could advance even in the face of overwhelming small arms fire. Add some serious guns and replace the wheels with armored treads to handle rough terrain, and the tank was born.

The first tank, the British Mark I, was designed in 1915 and first saw combat at the Somme in September 1916. The French soon followed suit with the Renault FT, which established the classic tank look (turret on top). Despite their later prowess in tank combat in WWII, the Germans never got around to large-scale tank production in WWI, although they did produce 21 tanks in the unwieldy A7V model.

2. Flamethrowers

Although the Byzantines and Chinese used weapons that hurled flaming material in the medieval period, the first design for a modern flamethrower was submitted to the German Army by Richard Fiedler in 1901, and the devices were tested by the Germans with an experimental detachment in 1911. Their true potential was only realized during trench warfare, however. After a massed assault on enemy lines, it wasn’t uncommon for enemy soldiers to hole up in bunkers and dugouts hollowed into the side of the trenches. Unlike grenades, flamethrowers could “neutralize” (i.e. burn alive) enemy soldiers in these confined spaces without inflicting structural damage (the bunkers might come in handy for the new residents). The flamethrower was first used by German troops near Verdun in February 1915.

3. Poison Gas

Poison gas was used by both sides with devastating results (well, sometimes) during the Great War. The Germans pioneered the large-scale use of chemical weapons with a gas attack on Russian positions on January 31, 1915, during the Battle of Bolimov, but low temperatures froze the poison (xylyl bromide) in the shells. The first successful use of chemical weapons occurred on April 22, 1915, near Ypres, when the Germans sprayed chlorine gas from large cylinders towards trenches held by French colonial troops. The defenders fled, but typically for the First World War, this didn’t yield a decisive result: the Germans were slow to follow up with infantry attacks, the gas dissipated, and the Allied defenses were restored. Before long, of course, the Allies were using poison gas too, and over the course of the war both sides resorted to increasingly insidious compounds to beat gas masks, another new invention thus the overall result was a huge increase in misery for not much change in the strategic situation (a recurring theme of the war).

4. Tracer Bullets

While the Great War involved a lot of futile activity, fighting at night was especially unproductive because there was no way to see where you were shooting. Night combat was made somewhat easier by the British invention of tracer bullets—rounds which emitted small amounts of flammable material that left a phosphorescent trail. The first attempt, in 1915, wasn’t actually that useful, as the trail was “erratic” and limited to 100 meters, but the second tracer model developed in 1916, the .303 SPG Mark VIIG, emitted a regular bright green-white trail and was a real hit (get it?). Its popularity was due in part to an unexpected side-benefit: the flammable agent could ignite hydrogen, which made it perfect for “balloon-busting” the German zeppelins then terrorizing England.

5. Interrupter Gear

Airplanes had been around for just a decade when WWI started, and while they had obvious potential for combat applications as an aerial platform for bombs and machine guns, it wasn’t quite clear how the latter would work, since the propeller blades got in the way. In the first attempt, the U.S. Army basically tied the gun to the plane (pointing towards the ground) with a leather strap, and it was operated by a gunner who sat beside the pilot. This was not ideal for aerial combat and inconvenient because it required two airmen to operate. Another solution was mounting the gun well above the pilot, so the bullets cleared the propeller blades, but this made it hard to aim. After the Swiss engineer Franz Schneider patented his idea for an interrupter gear in 1913, a finished version was presented by Dutch designer Anthony Fokker, whose “synchronizer,” centered on a cam attached to the propeller shaft, allowed a machine gun to fire between the blades of a spinning propeller. The Germans adopted Fokker’s invention in May 1915, and the Allies soon produced their own versions. Schneider later sued Fokker for patent infringement.

6. Air traffic control

In the first days of flight, once a plane left the ground the pilot was pretty much isolated from the terrestrial world, unable to receive any information aside from obvious signals using flags or lamps. This changed thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Army, which installed the first operational two-way radios in planes during the Great War (but prior to U.S. involvement). Development began in 1915 at San Diego, and by 1916 technicians could send a radio telegraph over a distance of 140 miles radio telegraph messages were also exchanged between planes in flight. Finally, in 1917, for the first time a human voice was transmitted by radio from a plane in flight to an operator on the ground.

7. Depth Charges

The German U-boat campaign against Allied shipping sank millions of tons of cargo and killed tens of thousands of sailors and civilians, forcing the Allies to figure out a way to combat the submarine menace. The solution was the depth charge, basically an underwater bomb that could be lobbed from the deck of a ship using a catapult or chute. Depth charges were set to go off at a certain depth by a hydrostatic pistol that measured water pressure, insuring the depth charge wouldn’t damage surface vessels, including the launch ship. After the idea was sketched out in 1913, the first practical depth charge, the Type D, was produced by the Royal Navy’s Torpedo and Mine School in January 1916. The first German U-boat sunk by depth charge was the U-68, destroyed on March 22, 1916.

8. Hydrophones

Of course it was a big help if you could actually locate the U-boat using sound waves, which required a microphone that could work underwater, or hydrophone. The first hydrophone was invented by 1914 by Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor who actually started working on the idea as a way to locate icebergs following the Titanic disaster however, it was of limited use because it couldn’t tell the direction of an underwater object, only the distance. The hydrophone was further improved by the Frenchman Paul Langevin and Russian Constantin Chilowsky, who invented an ultrasound transducer relying on piezoelectricity, or the electric charge held in certain minerals: a thin layer of quartz held between two metal plates responded to tiny changes in water pressure resulting from sound waves, allowing the user to determine both the distance and direction of an underwater object. The hydrophone claimed its first U-boat victim in April 1916. A later version perfected by the Americans could detect U-boats up to 25 miles away.

9. Aircraft Carriers

The first time an airplane was launched from a moving ship was in May 1912, when commander Charles Rumney Samson piloted a Short S.27 pontoon biplane from a ramp on the deck of the HMS Hibernia in Weymouth Bay. However, the Hibernia wasn’t a true aircraft carrier, since planes couldn’t land on its deck they had to set down on the water and then be retrieved, slowing the whole process considerably. The first real aircraft carrier was the HMS Furious, which began life as a 786-foot-long battle cruiser equipped with two massive 18-inch guns—until British naval designers figured out that these guns were so large they might shake the ship to pieces. Looking for another use for the vessel, they built a long platform capable of both launching and landing airplanes. To make more room for takeoffs and landings, the airplanes were stored in hangars under the runway, as they still are in modern aircraft carriers. Squadron Commander Edward Dunning became the first person to land a plane on a moving ship when he landed a Sopwith Pup on the Furious on August 2, 1917.

10. Pilotless Drones

The first pilotless drone was developed for the U.S. Navy in 1916 and 1917 by two inventors, Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt, who originally designed it as an unmanned aerial bomb—essentially a prototype cruise missile. Measuring just 18.5 feet across, with a 12-horsepower motor, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Aircraft weighed 175 pounds and was stabilized and directed (“piloted” is too generous) with gyroscopes and a barometer to determine altitude. The first unmanned flight in history occurred on Long Island on March 6, 1918. In the end, the targeting technique—point and fly—was too imprecise for it to be useful against ships during the war. Further development, by attempting to integrate remote radio control, continued for several years after the war, until the Navy lost interest in 1925.

11. Mobile X-Ray Machines

With millions of soldiers suffering grievous, life-threatening injuries, there was obviously a huge need during the Great War for the new wonder weapon of medical diagnostics, the X-ray—but these required very large machines that were both too bulky and too delicate to move. Enter Marie Curie, who set to work creating mobile X-ray stations for the French military immediately after the outbreak of war by October 1914, she had installed X-ray machines in several cars and small trucks which toured smaller surgical stations at the front. By the end of the war there were 18 of these “radiologic cars” or “Little Curies” in operation. African-American inventor Frederick Jones developed an even smaller portable X-ray machine in 1919 (Jones also invented refrigeration units, air conditioning units, and the self-starting gasoline lawnmower).

12. Sanitary Napkins

Women traditionally improvised all kinds of disposable or washable undergarments to deal with their monthly period, all the way back to softened papyrus in ancient Egypt. But the modern sanitary napkin as we know it was made possible by the introduction of new cellulose bandage material during the First World War it wasn’t long before French nurses figured out that clean, absorbent cellulose bandages were far superior to any predecessors. British and American nurses picked up on the habit, and corporate America wasn’t far behind: In 1920, Kimberly-Clark introduced the first commercial sanitary napkin, Kotex (that’s “cotton” + “texture”). But it was rough going at first, as no publications would carry advertisements for such a product. It wasn’t until 1926 that Montgomery Ward broke the barrier, carrying Kotex napkins in its popular catalogue.


Technology Advancements of World War 2

The World War Two era was a time of change. There were many technological advancements during this time. These advances can be categorized into three categories. They are weapon advances, vehicle advances, and strategic advances. This technology would change the face of war forever.

The first category, weapon advances, is a very important category. Leading up to the war, weapons were changing constantly. Weapons of World War One were out of date. They were becoming more accurate, and capable of longer ranges. In World War One, the average soldier carried a bolt action rifle. Bolt action rifles are accurate however, they take a while to reload. After each shot, you have to reload. This would not work in World War Two. By World War Two, the average soldier would either carry a semi-automatic rifle or a machine gun of some sort. This would prove to cause bloodier battles with more casualties and injuries. The primitive machine guns of World War One were made faster, more accurate, smaller in size and lighter to carry. Small explosives, such as grenades, were made more deadly and reliable. Anti-tank weapons were not well developed during the start of the war. Germany’s blitzkrieg attack of tanks was so successful because of this. Anti tank weapons had to be made to prevent Germany from winning the war. Soldiers began carrying high powered rifles with armor piercing bullets and bazooka’s, which did work. Some anti tank guns were carried behind other vehicles. These became very effective against tanks. Torpedoes became more effective. Now they could be accurately aimed and used in shallow water. The basic German flamethrower of World War One was developed into a more deadly weapon. These advancements in weapon technology changed warfare forever.

The second group of advances is vehicle advances. This category can be broken down into a few sub-categories. They are ground vehicles, ships, and aircraft. This category of technology was one of the most important influences of the war.

First, we will discuss ground vehicle advances. The Jeep was invented in World War Two. It was used as basic transportation for troops. After the war, the Jeep became more popular and was then used as a production vehicle for the public. Tanks of World War One were very primitive and very ineffective. In World War Two, the tank was one of the most important vehicles used. Leading up to World War Two, tanks were made more powerful, faster, lighter, and stronger. Tank warfare was very important in World War Two. All countries involved in the war were producing their own models of tanks. By the end of the war, the Allies had developed a new kind of tank. It had no big guns on it. It was a troop transportation vehicle that was heavily armored. Transportation vehicles were very important in the war. Without transportation, there is no efficient way to move troops. All of these vehicles were very important in the history of war.

The next group of vehicles is the ships. Naval technology was very primitive prior to this time. The radar was a breakthrough in navigation and enemy detection. However, the radar was new technology, having been invented only a few years prior to the start of World War Two Ships were being equipped with better weapons. Submarines were still very primitive at this time. Many submarine crews died because they got lost at sea. Aircraft carriers were very effective. The Germans developed rocket propulsion, which made long range missiles a threat. Sonar had just been developed. Naval technology was changing quickly during this time.

The third group of technological advances is in aircraft. Aviation is very new at this point in time. The first powered flight had taken place in 1903, just forty years before World War Two. By World War One, biplanes were the most common type of aircraft. Just after World War One, airplane designers saw that they could make planes much more efficient. By World War Two, biplanes were not as common, but they were still used. Aircraft became stronger, lighter, and more efficient. This allowed them to carry weapons, also allowing them to perform like they needed to in war. There were many types of World War Two aircraft. The first were fighters. Fighters were single engine aircraft that were usually equipped with a machine gun on the front. They only carried one or two pilots. This was the most used aircraft in the war. Fighter jets were not developed until the very end of the war, even until after the war. The second kind of aircraft is the bomber. Bombers were not very effective of until World War Two. They were small, so they couldn’t carry big bombs. Also, they didn’t have long range capabilities, which made them unattractive during battle planning. Commercial aircraft at this time were relatively new. Commercial jets were also new, but they were also small. The goal was to get an extremely large and heavy plane, carrying explosives, to fly long distances, deep into enemy territory. The bombers developed were the largest planes ever made up to this point, which is amazing in itself. Engines were made much more powerful and lighter. The aircraft itself was made lighter as well. Bombers were unpressurized at this time. This was a problem because bombers had to fly higher than ever before. This posed a potential health and safety hazard. In 1938, ten aircraft had been pressurized prior to the war. Germany had developed the concept in 1931. America had developed this concept in 1937. This new technology was needed for high altitude flight. The American B-29 Superfortress was the first pressurized bomber. This type of aircraft was the most advanced of its time. It was very unbelievable. Not only was it pressurized, but it also had a fire control system and remote machine gun turrets. The Superfortress was the primary American bomber of World War Two. It was the kind of plane that carried the atomic bombs dropped in Japan. 3,960 B-29’s were made. In the early 1960’s, the aircraft was finally retired after years of service. The B-29 Superfortress was a breakthrough in aviation technology. Aviation navigation was also very primitive in World War Two. Pilots used basic equipment to find their way around. Aircraft carriers were hard to find in the middle of the ocean. This is where the radar was put into good use. Near the end of the war, the first jets were produced. These new jets were unreliable and not used until after the war.

The last kind of technological advancements is strategic advances. Officers were better trained than ever before. They had to keep up with technology, in hopes to be better than the enemy. Once again, the radar made a huge impact in warfare. It better prepared militaries during defense by giving them some warning. This category is similar to weapon technology. The Manhattan Project was coming to a close near the end of the war. The development of the atomic bomb was one of the most important developments in military history. The United States dropped this new atomic bomb devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was a major factor that ended the war.

Now, we will discuss the influence of technology in World War Two. Technology isn’t worth anything until it is put into action. Many battles would have had different outcomes without technology. Even the war could have had a different outcome if this technology had never existed.

First of all, technology has its flaws. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States had the radar in use. The radar was very new at this time. When the Japanese were on the way, the radar noticed something. They didn’t know what was being picked up on radar, but they knew it was something big. They assumed it was a U.S. bombing fleet returning from a bombing run. Well, everyone knows the outcome. This technological flaw cost the U.S. much more than 8 ships and 188 aircraft, it cost 2,402 lives. Most of these men were under the age of twenty.

Technology effected the war positively too. The U.S. developed a method to make synthetic rubber. Up to this point, all rubber products were made of natural rubber. Since natural rubber is harvested mainly in the south Pacific, the Japanese had cut rubber supply off to the U.S. The development of synthetic rubber allowed the U.S. to mass produce tires for military vehicles. Without tires, there are no vehicles. With no vehicles, there is no way to fight the war effectively. That is a pretty big influence.

Another big technological influence in World War Two was with aircraft. Before this time, a pilot had to rely on his compass and knowledge to navigate from airport to airport. With the rise of the aircraft carrier, a problem arose. This was a big problem. How would a pilot find a moving aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean? This problem was quickly solved. Aircraft carriers would be equipped with some special navigational equipment, called a VOR. VOR stands for Very high frequency Omni directional Range. Simply put, the VOR would send information to pilots. This information was sent to the Allied airplanes, and only the Allied airplanes. This information could be translated into directions to find the carrier. Without this technology, just think about how many planes would have just run out of fuel in attempt to find the carrier. This technology changed flight forever.

Things like the microwave, plastics, and the computer were developed in the 1940’s. The first successful helicopter flight also took place in 1940. The radio was also very new at this time. The first electron microscope was developed in the 1940’s. World War Two was not just a time of military technology change. Technology in all areas changed rapidly.

Technology advances of World War Two were great. These advances were very influential, not only during the war, but in the future ideas and developments of technology. Many things can be accredited to World War Two technology. These advances probably changed the outcome of World War Two, but they also changed warfare forever.


WWI: Technology and the weapons of war

One of the saddest facts about World War I is that millions died needlessly because military and civilian leaders were slow to adapt their old-fashioned strategies and tactics to the new weapons of 1914. New technology made war more horrible and more complex than ever before. The United States and other countries felt the effects of the war for years afterwards.

The popular image of World War I is soldiers in muddy trenches and dugouts, living miserably until the next attack. This is basically correct. Technological developments in engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, and optics had produced weapons deadlier than anything known before. The power of defensive weapons made winning the war on the western front all but impossible for either side.

When attacks were ordered, Allied soldiers went “over the top,” climbing out of their trenches and crossing no-man’s-land to reach enemy trenches. They had to cut through belts of barbed wire before they could use rifles, bayonets, pistols, and hand grenades to capture enemy positions. A victory usually meant they had seized only a few hundred yards of shell-torn earth at a terrible cost in lives. Wounded men often lay helpless in the open until they died. Those lucky enough to be rescued still faced horrible sanitary conditions before they could be taken to proper medical facilities. Between attacks,the snipers, artillery, and poison gas caused misery and death.

Airplanes, products of the new technology, were primarily made of canvas, wood, and wire. At first they were used only to observe enemy troops. As their effectiveness became apparent, both sides shot planes down with artillery from the ground and with rifles, pistols, and machine guns from other planes. In 1916, the Germans armed planes with machine guns that could fire forward without shooting off the fighters’ propellers. The Allies soon armed their airplanes the same way, and war in the air became a deadly business. These light, highly maneuverable fighter planes attacked each other in wild air battles called dogfights. Pilots who were shot down often remained trapped in their falling, burning planes, for they had no parachutes. Airmen at the front did not often live long. Germany also used its fleet of huge dirigibles, or zeppelins, and large bomber planes to drop bombs on British and French cities. Britain retaliated by bombing German cities.

Back on the ground, the tank proved to be the answer to stalemate in the trenches. This British invention used American-designed caterpillar tracks to move the armored vehicle equipped with machine guns and sometimes light cannon. Tanks worked effectively on firm, dry ground, in spite of their slow speed, mechanical problems, and vulnerability to artillery. Able to crush barbed wire and cross trenches, tanks moved forward through machine gun fire and often terrified German soldiers with their unstoppable approach.

Chemical warfare first appeared when the Germans used poison gas during a surprise attack in Flanders, Belgium, in 1915. At first, gas was just released from large cylinders and carried by the wind into nearby enemy lines. Later, phosgene and other gases were loaded into artillery shells and shot into enemy trenches. The Germans used this weapon the most, realizing that enemy soldiers wearing gas masks did not fight as well. All sides used gas frequently by 1918. Its use was a frightening development that caused its victims a great deal of suffering, if not death.

Both sides used a variety of big guns on the western front, ranging from huge naval guns mounted on railroad cars to short-range trench mortars. The result was a war in which soldiers near the front were seldom safe from artillery bombardment. The Germans used super–long-range artillery to shell Paris from almost eighty miles away. Artillery shell blasts created vast, cratered, moonlike landscapes where beautiful fields and woods had once stood.

Perhaps the most significant technological advance during World War I was the improvement of the machine gun, a weapon originally developed by an American, Hiram Maxim. The Germans recognized its military potential and had large numbers ready to use in 1914. They also developed air-cooled machine guns for airplanes and improved those used on the ground, making them lighter and easier to move. The weapon’s full potential was demonstrated on the Somme battlefield in July 1916 when German machine guns killed or wounded almost 60,000 British soldiers in only one day.

At sea, submarines attacked ships far from port. In order to locate and sink German U-boats, British scientists developed underwater listening devices and underwater explosives called depth charges. Warships became faster and more powerful than ever before and used newly invented radios to communicate effectively. The British naval blockade of Germany, which was made possible by developments in naval technology, brought a total war to civilians. The blockade caused a famine that finally brought about the collapse of Germany and its allies in late 1918. Starvation and malnutrition continued to take the lives of German adults and children for years after the war.

The firing stopped on November 11, 1918, but modern war technology had changed the course of civilization. Millions had been killed, gassed, maimed, or starved. Famine and disease continued to rage through central Europe, taking countless lives. Because of rapid technological advances in every area, the nature of warfare had changed forever, affecting soldiers, airmen, sailors, and civilians alike.

A. Torrey McLean, a former United States Army officer who served in Vietnam, studied World War I for more than thirty years, personally interviewing a number of World War I veterans.

Additional resources:

Fitzgerald, Gerard J. 2008. "Chemical warfare and medical response during World War I." American Journal of Public Health. April 2008. 98(4): 611-625. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376985/. Corrected July 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2424079/

North Carolinians and the Great War. Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries. https://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/

Rumerman, Judy. "The U.S. Aircraft Industry Durin World War I." U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. #

"Wildcats never quit: North Carolina in WWI." State Archives of North Carolina. N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. http://www.history.ncdcr.gov/SHRAB/ar/exhibits/wwi/default.htm (accessed September 25, 2013).

WWI: NC Digital Collections. NC Department of Cultural Resources.

WWI: Old North State and the 'Kaiser Bill.' Online exhibit, State Archives of NC.


Major developments in 1916

In 1914 the centre of gravity of World War I had been on the Western Front, in 1915 it shifted to the Eastern, and in 1916 it once more moved back to France. Though the western Allies had dissipated some of their strength in the Dardanelles, Salonika, and Mesopotamia, the rising tide of Britain’s new armies and of its increased munition supplies promised the means for an offensive far larger in scale than any before to break the trench deadlock. Britain’s armies in France had grown to 36 divisions by the end of 1915. By that time voluntary enlistments, though massive, had nevertheless proved to be inadequate to meet Britain’s needs, so in January 1916, by the Military Service Act, voluntary service was replaced by conscription.

In December 1915 a conference of the leaders of the French, British, Belgian, and Italian armies, with representatives present from the Russian and Japanese armies, was held at Joffre’s headquarters. They adopted the principle of a simultaneous general offensive in 1916 by France, Great Britain, Russia, and Italy. But military action by Germany was to dislocate this scheme, and only the British offensive came fully into operation.

By the winter of 1915–16, Falkenhayn regarded Russia as paralyzed and Italy as inconsiderable. He considered the time at last ripe for positive action against France, after whose collapse Great Britain would have no effective military ally on the European continent and would be brought to terms rather by submarine warfare than by land operations. For his offensive in the West, however, Falkenhayn clung always to his method of attrition. He believed that a mass breakthrough was unnecessary and that instead the Germans should aim to bleed France of its manpower by choosing a point of attack “for the retention of which the French Command would be compelled to throw in every man they have.” The town of Verdun and its surrounding complex of forts was chosen, because it was a menace to the main German lines of communications, because it was within a French salient and thus cramped the defenders, and because of the certainty that the French would sacrifice any number of men to defend Verdun for reasons of patriotism associated with the town itself.

The keynote of Falkenhayn’s tactical plan was to place a dense semicircle of German heavy and medium artillery to the north and east of Verdun and its outlying fortresses and then to stage a continuous series of limited infantry advances upon the forts. These advances would draw the French infantry into defending or trying to retake the forts, in the process of which they would be pulverized by German artillery fire. In addition, each German infantry advance would have its way smoothed by a brief but extremely intense artillery bombardment that would clear the targeted ground of defenders.

Although French Intelligence had given early warnings of the Germans’ offensive preparations, the French high command was so preoccupied with its own projected offensive scheme that the warning fell on deaf ears. At 7:15 am on Feb. 21, 1916, the heaviest German artillery bombardment yet seen in the war began on a front of eight miles around Verdun, and the French trenches and barbed wire fields there were flattened out or upheaved in a chaos of tumbled earth. At 4:45 pm the German infantry advanced—although for the first day only on a front of two and a half miles. From then until February 24 the French defenders’ lines east of the Meuse River crumbled away. Fort-Douaumont, one of the most important fortresses, was occupied by the Germans on February 25. By March 6, when the Germans began to attack on the west bank of the Meuse as well as on the east bank, the French had come to see that something more than a feint was intended. To relieve the pressure on France, the Russians made a sacrificial attack on the Eastern Front at Lake Naroch (see below The Eastern Front, 1916) the Italians began their fifth offensive on the Isonzo (see above Italy and the Italian front, 1915–16) and the British took over the Arras sector of the Western Front, thus becoming responsible for the whole line from the Yser southward to the Somme. Meanwhile, General Philippe Pétain was entrusted with commanding the defense of Verdun. He organized repeated counterattacks that slowed the German advance, and, more importantly, he worked to keep open the one road leading into Verdun that had not been closed by German shelling. This was the Bar-le-Duc road, which became known as La Voie Sacrée (the “Sacred Way”) because vital supplies and reinforcements continued to be sent to the Verdun front along it despite constant harassment from the German artillery.

Slowly but steadily the Germans moved forward on Verdun: they took Fort-Vaux, southeast of Fort-Douaumont, on June 7 and almost reached the Belleville heights, the last stronghold before Verdun itself, on June 23. Pétain was preparing to evacuate the east bank of the Meuse when the Allies’ offensive on the Somme River was at last launched. Thereafter, the Germans assigned no more divisions to the Verdun attack.

Preceded by a week’s bombardment, which gave ample warning of its advent, the Somme offensive was begun on July 1, 1916, by the 11 British divisions of Rawlinson’s new 4th Army on a 15-mile front between Serre, north of the Ancre, and Curlu, north of the Somme, while five French divisions attacked at the same time on an eight-mile front mainly south of the Somme, between Curlu and Péronne. With incredibly misplaced optimism, Haig had convinced himself that the British infantry would be able to walk forward irresistibly over ground cleared of defenders by the artillery. But the unconcealed preparations for the assault and the long preliminary bombardment had given away any chance of surprise, and the German defenders were well prepared for what was to come. In the event, the 60,000 attacking British infantrymen moving forward in symmetrical alignment at a snail’s pace enforced by each man’s 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of cumbrous equipment were mowed down in masses by the German machine guns, and the day’s casualties were the heaviest ever sustained by a British army. The French participants in the attack had twice as many guns as the British and did better against a weaker system of defenses, but almost nothing could be done to exploit this comparative success.

Resigning himself now to limited advances, Haig concentrated his next effort on the southern sector of his Somme front. The Germans’ second position there (Longueval, Bazentin, and Ovillers) fell on July 14, but again the opportunity of exploitation was missed. Thenceforward, at great cost in lives, a methodical advance was continued, gaining little ground but straining the German resistance. The first tanks to be used in the war, though in numbers far too small to be effective, were thrown into the battle by the British on September 15. In mid-November early rains halted operations. The four-month Battle of the Somme was a miserable failure except that it diverted German resources from the attack on Verdun. It cost the British 420,000 casualties, the French 195,000, and the Germans 650,000.

At Verdun, the summer slackening of German pressure enabled the French to organize counterattacks. Surprise attacks directed by General Robert-Georges Nivelle and launched by General Charles Mangin’s army corps recovered Fort-Douaumont on October 24, Fort-Vaux on November 2, and places north of Douaumont in mid-December. Pétain’s adroit defense of Verdun and these counterattacks had deprived Falkenhayn’s offensive of its strategic fulfillment but France had been so much weakened in the first half of 1916 that it could scarcely satisfy the Allies’ expectations in the second. Verdun was one of the longest, bloodiest, and most ferocious battles of the war French casualties amounted to about 400,000, German ones to about 350,000.


Watch the video: Tech Developments of World War I. History (June 2022).