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New technology developed during World War I made the war incredibly complex with mass casualties on all sides. There are popular images of World War I where soldiers crawled out of muddy trenches through belts of barbwire across no man's land to reach enemy trenches. World leaders were slow to adapt to the availability of new weapons in 1914. The new weapons produced were deadlier than anything had that had been known before. There was great power and defensive weaponry that made winning the war on the Western front nearly impossible for either side. When Allied soldiers went over the top to climb out of their trenches even if they succeeded in their goal they usually only seized a few hundred yards of earth at a terrible cost in lives. As men cross no man land they were hit with sniper and artillery fire and even poison gas. There were great advancements in science and technology in airplanes, tanks, trains, chemical warfare and guns.

At the beginning of the war airplanes were used by men literally dropping bombs over the side of the plane. By the end of World War I aircraft have become far more sophisticated with many new types of fighters, bombers and long-range bombers. The development of aircraft was stimulated by the wars requirements of what the plane he needed to do. The first recorded powered flight was in 1903 so it is not unexpected that by 1914 aircraft remained crude. Navigation was based on map reading while in the air and looking for landmarks on the ground. By the end of the war both sides had light highly maneuverable fighter planes that could attack each other midair in battles called. dogfights. 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. 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. By the end of the war Germany had produced 2,000 aircraft. The United States, Britain and France had produced over 11,000 aircraft.

The British and the French first used tanks in 1916. The Germans did not have tanks at all in the beginning of the war so they were incredibly surprised to see them coming their way through the trenches. Tanks proved to be the answer to the stalemate in the trenches. The British used American designed Caterpillar tracks to move the armored vehicle forward. They were equipped with machine guns and light cannons. The tanks worked effectively on firm dry ground and moved very slowly. The tanks also were known to have mechanical problems and were vulnerable to artillery fire. Tanks are able to crush barbwire and cross trenches moving through machine gun fire. They often terrified German soldiers with their seemingly unstoppable slow speed. Britain and France had a total of 7500 tanks by the end of the war. Germany had 20 tanks by the end of the war.


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World War 1 British tank

Trains During World War I brought supplies and troops all over Europe. Britain used trains as a reliable method of supplying the front lines with shells, timber, and other supplies directly from England via train ferries to France. Russia used a mix of light and heavy armored trains. Austria-Hungary also used armored trains against the Italians in World War I. A Royal Navy armored train from Britain, armed with four 6 inch naval guns and one QF 4 inch naval gun, was used in support of the British Expeditionary Force in the opening phase of the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914.

The Germans first used chemical warfare during a surprise attack in Belgium in 1915. Gas was released from large cylinders and was carried by the wind into nearby enemy lines. As the war rages on chemical warfare had spread into artillery shells that were shot into enemy trenches. The Germans used chemical warfare the most. All sides used chemical gas warfare by 1918. Soldiers did not fight as well when they had to wear gas masks and there was a great deal of suffering and death.

There were a variety of guns used during World War I. Guns ranged from huge cannons to short-range trench mortars. The soldiers near the front lines were never safe from artillery bombardment. The Germans used super long-range artillery shells to attack Paris from 80 miles away.

Browning machine gun, 1917"Browning Machine

The most significant technological advance during World War I were machine gun improvements. American Hiram Maxim originally developed the machine gun. By 1914 the Germans recognized the machine guns potential and had large stockpiles ready to use for the war effort. In 1916 in Somme German machine guns killed or wounded 60,000 British soldiers in one day.

The war ended in November of 1918 but not before millions had been killed. World War I left a legacy of disease and death in its wake long after the fighting had stopped. Technological advances in warfare during World War I were directly responsible for 37-80 million deaths, depending on who you ask.