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0 World War I: new weapons and drugs

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  • 13-05-2020
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The military conflict, the centenary of which we commemorate this year, marked the end of an era and a prototype of modern warfare, when new weapons were used for the first time (or for the first time on such a scale). And also the things and technologies that we use to this day in civilian life.
Some, such as the plane and the submarine, were not entirely new, but it was World War I that made them a powerful weapon that grew into a form over the following generations, forming key elements of modern armies of all modern powers. Others, such as the tank, flamethrower, or chemical weapons, appeared on the fronts of the First World War as innovations, which, however, then fundamentally influenced the shape of modern military conflicts.


 Germany was the first to deploy submarines en masse during the First World War, using them mainly to disrupt Allied supply routes and to fight British ships. As early as September 5, 1914, the German submarine U-21 sank the light British cruiser Pathfinder, which was the first warship sunk by a submarine. On September 22, the German submarine U-9 managed to sink three British armored cruisers (Abourkir, Hogue and Cressy) in a matter of minutes. In less than a month, the English merchant ship Glytra with a load of sewing machines and whiskey was sunk for the first time by a German submarine U-17. This event gave a fundamentally new direction to naval warfare, and submarine attacks on merchant ships eventually became commonplace. However, it was the German way of waging war at sea that provoked resistance, especially after the sinking of the cruise liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, when a U-20 submarine under Captain Schwieger torpedoed a ship occupied by 1916 passengers without warning, of which 1152 died.
Interestingly, it is not a well-known fact that a substantial part of the commanders of the Austro-Hungarian submarine fleet were Czech officers, and many of them, such as Josef Holub, achieved remarkable success as real submarine aces. The fate of Czech soldiers in the Czech Navy is also the subject of a special thematic exhibition "Our Sea - the Austro-Hungarian Navy" at the NTM in Prague. NTM in Brno again prepared the exhibition "Technology in Peace, Technology in War".
In addition to nuclear-powered submarines, which can operate independently at sea for months, the most modern type of vessel is submarines using AIP technology, which stands for Air Independent Propulsion. This technology, which uses the combustion of diesel, hydrogen, etc., and pure oxygen in separate combustion chambers, was first used at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. It allows non-nuclear diesel-powered submarines to operate without surfacing for up to about one month. Other AIP options are hydrogen fuel cells using proton membrane exchanges. Compared to the classic drive, the advantage is also very quiet operation without waste heat, which makes it difficult to detect the submarine.

 It is an original invention from the First World War. For the first time ever, this new weapon was deployed at the front, in the autumn of 1916, by the British army against the Germans. And even though they were relatively clumsy, cumbersome machines moving at low speed, the first Mark I tanks, which emerged from the fog in front of the German trenches, caused real panic among the soldiers. With the support of the infantry, they managed to break through the static front of the protracted trench warfare. This, of course, also inspired the enemy, and the British tanks soon clashed with the German ones at the front, and the French army also acquired a promising weapon. It also represented a clash of different concepts - mobility and speed vs. high resistance and firepower, on which mainly German designers built. Mark conceived their tanks more as mobile forts - Mark I had armor 10 mm thick, which was enough to protect against infantry weapons, type A7V had frontal armor up to 30 mm, which could protect it against artillery fragments. From the problems that the first tanks had, and the knowledge that their combat deployment brought, the designers then based on the development of modern tanks, which were used in the following world war. Thanks to Hitler's blitzkrieg, they essentially marked the end of classical cavalry and the advent of modern mobile armored vehicles as we know them today.
Modern tanks: the American M-1 Abrams or the Israeli Merkava Mk4 represent the most modern generation of successors to the first tanks. High performance, speed, strong armor, composite armor and other elements of passive and active anti-ballistic protection, including powerful armaments and an overview of the environment and advanced communication systems, characterize the current cutting edge in this type of military technology.
Automatic weapons - machine gun

 The term "machine gun" (from it. Maschinegewehr, ie machine gun), which is known to all readers of the Fates of the Good Soldier Švejk, characterizes the advent of a completely new generation of weapons enabling multi-shot continuous firing. More or less successful attempts to create them are older (Gatling gun, etc., if we omit ancient ancient or Chinese and Korean self-propelled systems), but only the implementation of a machine gun patented by Maxim or Vickers made the automatic weapon a revolutionary machine for the death of modern age.
 The machine gun, which was patented by Hiram Maxim in 1884, was used mainly as a stationary weapon in trenches and fortresses in their defense due to its weight and the need for a service team (3 to 4 men). However, unlike previous systems, which required certain activities to continue firing (e.g., turning a crank), Hiram's invention was equipped with a system that uses another mechanism to fire another blow to the gases generated during the shot. It was a principle that is used by today's modern automatic weapons. Already during the war, lighter models of machine guns were created, which allowed their portability and use as infantry weapons. Improved and more reliable automatic weapons also quickly became part of the armament of armored vehicles, where their heavier weight did not matter, problematic for infantry, but on the contrary, their destructive firepower could be used.
Modern successors and successors: Machine guns remained constantly improved classical armament, but also led to the development of personal infantry automatic weapons, which are now the basis of armaments of all armies, not only them, as shown by the legendary American M16 or the most widespread automatic rifle in the world used all over the world from regular units to Somali pirates.

  The authorship of this drastic weapon in its modern form is attributed to Germany, but its history is older as usual. The German invention of 1901 (when engineer Richard Fiedler offered his first portable Flammenwerfer to the German armed forces) is essentially a modernized equivalent of the legendary Greek fire, an unquenchable incendiary device that was the fear of ancient and medieval battles. It experienced its renaissance in the First World War, where it was successfully deployed by virtually all warring parties, especially in the fight against trenches, machine gun nests and fortresses that are difficult to hit by fire.
An inflammable liquid is fired from the tank by the pressure of an inert gas up to a distance of tens of meters in the form of short or several-second bursts. The first combat use of flamethrowers in bulk, as specialized weapons occurred on September 25, 1914 during the attack on the fortress Camp de Romains, in the trenches were used en masse in 1915 near Verdun. In 1915, the Germans created a special Flammenwerfer Abteilung (flamethrower division), commanded by Major Herman Reddemann - a civilian chief of the fire brigade from Leipzig. The high efficiency earned this weapon the admiration of military strategists, but also because of the drastic effects, the hatred of the soldiers - the operation of the flamethrowers certainly could not count on surviving the rest of the war as prisoners.

Gas, chemical weapons

Contrary to the general awareness that the "inventors" of the chemical war were the Germans, the fact that the very first use of gas as a weapon was the fault of the French, who already used several chloroacetone gas grenades during the first day of the war. However, the first mass gas attack on the Western Front was actually carried out by the Germans - at the Nouve Chapelle in October 1914, and at the end of January 1915, followed by another gas attack on the Eastern Front. However, in these cases it was mainly non-lethal, mostly tear gas. What started the real chemical war was the use of gas as a weapon in April 1915 at Ypres, where toxic chlorine was used. The British first used chlorine at Loos in August 1915, but it was here that the main problem with using the gas discharged from the cylinders arose - when the direction of the wind changed, the gas could damage the side that used it. Therefore, artillery gas grenades began to be used.
One of the most insidious warfare agents of the First World War was the so-called mustard gas - mustard (the name was given to the place where it was first used - near the Flemish city of Ypres), which could not be seen or felt. He stayed at the affected place for a long time, which made it impossible for the winners to fill such a conquered position. Nearly 130,000 tons of combat gas used during World War I by all major powers (most of them by the German army) are responsible for tens of thousands of dead and maimed - statistics show 1,297,000 people affected by the gas attacks, of which 91,200 died.

It is the tragic experience of the First World War that is the reason why a gas mask is still part of the equipment of all modern soldiers (although chemical weapons are already internationally banned).
Aircraft carrier

Yes, even this key element of today's armies has its roots in the First World War. The rebuilt British cruiser HMS Furious began to serve as the first ship of this type during this war. A 49 m long runway was set up at the bow of the ship, on which the historically first landing of the aircraft on a sailing ship took place on August 2, 1917 - it was carried out by Major Edwin Harris Dunning with his Sopwith Pup. After another reconstruction, which was completed in March 1918, Furious acquired a landing platform at the stern. On July 18, 1918, Furious carried out an air attack on the Zeppelin base in Tondern. However, the real turning point and the decisive stage that started the era of aircraft carriers was the Second World War and the years after it.

The Germans also found that their classic feldgrau - field gray, is not a universal solution in all circumstances, and an irregular pattern composed of different colors, which optically breaks the contours, works much better as camouflage. Coats made of multicolored 6-angles have appeared on the planes - the germ of modern camouflage, which uses the same principle that was later adopted by modern armies and brought to perfection.
  For example, BAE Systems is testing a special camouflage for tanks and armored vehicles made of proven 6-polygonal surfaces, on which the image of the environment in which the machines are currently is projected. The machines thus blend in perfectly with their surroundings and are really practically invisible, thanks to special technologies even for infrared systems.

 Initially clumsy and fragile machines became powerful killing machines during the four years of the war. The aircraft were not armed at first and were used as a novelty mainly for reconnaissance purposes, but later the pilots began to take weapons with them and tried to attack enemy aircraft, albeit in relatively primitive ways - usually pistols, rifles, but also various heavy objects or hand grenades. that crashed into enemy positions. Since the autumn of 1914, aircraft with machine guns at the rear, controlled by another member of the crew, have appeared at the front. And then even faster and faster machines with a fixed machine gun, which could control a straight pilot - usually above the upper wing, or in front (for aircraft with a thruster like De Havilland DH9). The boom of fighter aircraft occurred mainly in the last years of the war at a time when some major technical problems of firing were solved - key inventions included synchronizing machine guns for firing around the propeller circuit instead of reflectors used until then, or placing weapons so that the trajectory passed out of range. propeller. This allowed for more accurate firing in the axis of the aircraft. The most famous machines of the time included the British Sopwith Pup and Camel, SE-5, the French Spad VII and the German Fokker DR-1 aircraft (which made the "Red Baron" von Richthofen famous), the Fokker D5 and the Albatross.
In addition to fighters designed to destroy the enemy's air force, bombers quickly appeared, capable of hitting and destroying ground targets on a large scale, which was a harbinger of modern military conflicts. Air bombing brought a completely new element to the war - the ability to attack strategic targets such as factories, bridges, railways, etc. in the rear of the enemy, which were until then in the background safe.
 In addition to the German Gotha machines and the four-engine Riesenflugzeug, it was mainly the Russians who experimented with giant long-range bombers: as early as the end of 1914, the "Airship Squadron" was established in Tsarist Russia, the first special air unit of heavy bombers. Their designer was Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, who created at that time a giant four-engine machine Ilya Muromec with a wingspan of 32 m and a speed of almost 100 kilometers. It was successfully tested even in the seaplane version - until then the largest seaplane ever built.

Modern aircraft: in contrast to various design solutions from the pioneering days of armed aviation, modern machines are more or less identical, optimized thanks to computer design and simulations for maximum aerodynamics and exceeding several times the speed of sound. The main weapons are no longer firearms (machine guns and cannons) and precision sights, but advanced missile systems that, in conjunction with radars and advanced avionics, allow you to attack targets as far as many kilometers away, which the pilot does not even have to see physically.
The deployment of new weapons is also characterized by the case of the first submarine destroyed by aircraft at sea on September 15, 1916. Two Austrian "flying" boats Lohner, piloted by frigate Lieutenant Walter Zelezny with observer von Klimburg, and Lieutenant Dimitri Konjovic with observer cadet North 70 Foucault The seaplanes dropped depth charges on the submarine, which damaged it, the submarine was still able to reach the surface, but the seaplanes bombed it again, so the captain decided to surrender with the crew, leave the submarine and sink. to remain on the hull and on the floats on the surface until they were taken on board by an Austrian torpedo boat.

Medicine and medicine, radio engineering

 In the treatment and treatment of various injuries, doctors also gained significant knowledge, especially surgeons who operated in the often desperate conditions of victims of war, which was reflected in the development of modern surgery. Alexandr Fleming, who later became famous for the invention of penicillin, also followed up on the knowledge gained during the medical practice of the First World War in the study of antiseptic agents. These antibiotics helped save lives in the next war and beyond.
During the First World War, it was found, among other things, that meat stored in warehouses after firing cotton and ammunition spoils less. This was due to sanitarium and guamo, which were part of these explosives and showed preservative effects. Soon, these raw materials were replaced by nitrite salt, which kept the food preserved. This technology began to be used industrially in the storage and preservation of food for its preservation.
 Military needs have also contributed to the progress of research in radio engineering. Marconi's wireless telegraphy began to be used in maritime communications in the pre-war years. In 1914, the American physicist Irving Langmuir perfected the tube with a high vacuum and the addition of a second grid, in 1915 the German engineer Walter Schottky constructed shielded tubes and the American researcher Lee de Forest the first tube transmitter - these and other innovations helped radio talk between Paris and Washington. at a distance of more than 9000 km.

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