Hunter Tran, Charlie He, Justin WangProfessor KerwinWorld History 18 January 2018World War I:The Technological AdvancementsWorld War I is considered a vast and significant event in recent history, positive effects were sparse, and the contest to build up resources and technology ultimately led to the creation of horrifying weapons that established both advancements in technology, and a long-lasting stain on the history of the human race.
Thus, weaponry such as gunplanes, tanks, chemical weapons, machine guns, and submarines, molded the beginning of modern warfare and affected the weapons we use today. The gunplane was a weaponized aircraft that had a huge impact on World War I. Typically, a gunplane used in WWI would be a biplane with a machine gun attached to the vehicle in a fixed position. The Sopwith Camel was a weaponized plane sporting a powerful engine and some of the strongest firepower of its time. As such, Camel was easily the most deadly gun plane of the war, responsible for 1,294 air to air kills. The functionality of these planes would either be to bombard the enemies on the ground with a shower of bullets, or to combat other fighter planes in midair close combat.
However, pilots took a huge risk flying in the skies, and accounted for a large portion of the deaths during the war. It was common for ground units of an army to use anti-aircraft weaponry to combat these gun planes, and pilots also ran the risk of being shot down by an enemy plane. Despite the plane being modern technology, a combination of the previous factors contributed to the pilot mortality rate to be ridiculously high. Both historians and survivors claim that the gunplanes created mental horror for both the pilot and the victim. The anxiety of bombardment from within the trenches traumatized some soldiers for a lifetime. Also, pilots had to remain in especially small & confined space, and they had no control of over whether or not they would be shot down.
In today’s world the legacy of the WWI gun planes live on in modern fighter jets, such as the U-2 spy plane and the infamous F-16 Fighting Falcon. Back on the ground, the tank became another solution to the stalemate from the trenches.Tanks were weaponized vehicles, equipped with machine guns, cannons, and other assorted accessories. The first tank produced was by the British and it was abysmal, having it’s tracks fall off within 2 days of coming out of the factory. However, the British saw potential in their creation and eventually tanks came to play a central role in WW1 and the following wars. Soldiers weren’t able to puncture the tank’s armor and as such, they weren’t able to combat with these machines. The machine guns and cannons made it nearly impossible for the soldiers to stand their ground and since soldiers weren’t able to blow through these machines, tanks were able to tread through rugged terrain while absorbing many bullets, saving thousands of soldiers’ lives.
However, nothing so powerful comes without it drawbacks. The tank suffered from several problems, such as the crew overheating and choking on toxic gas from the exhaust fumes, and the commanders barely had any strategies utilizing tanks. However, ever since WW1, tanks have paved the road for modern warfare, being used in nearly all modern wars and changing modern warfare forever. When people think about the technological advancements of WWI, they typically think about tanks, machine guns, and aircraft, forgetting the darker side of WWI weapons, chemical technology. The first chemicals utilized in the war was were irritants instead of poison/disabling. The French were the first to add chemical warfare to their arsenal, employing tear gas, a type of chemical that caused severe eye, respiratory, and skin irritation.
Other effects included bleeding, pain, and in some situations, death. Chlorine, the first killing agent of the Germans, inflicted damage to a victim’s eyes, nose, and throat and lungs. Not much information on chlorine gas itself was documented regarding the death tolls of WWI, but gas attacks in general were responsible for 1.3 million casualties (deaths or injuries), and only 90,000 of said casualties were deaths. Phosgene is also a lethal disease that is even worse than chlorine gas.
It took 24 hours to manifest, thus the soldiers could still put up a fight for the day, but would be incapacitated the next day. In today’s world, chemical warfare is generally considered too inhumane to actually be used, but in certain countries such as Syria chemical weapons are still being used. Thus, the chemical warfare of WWI sparked the use of chemical warfare to this day, and while this cruel weapon isn’t commonly used anymore, its existence still lingers.The last technological advancement during WWI that shaped our modern technology today was the submarine. In short, the submarine probably had the biggest effect on the entire war of all the technology used, with a much larger impact than any machine gun, tank, or gunplane. If WWI could be compared with a chess game, then the submarine would be a queen, with the power to cripple the enemy by attacking their most valuable ships and pieces. During the war, submarines were used by Germany to take out British cargo ships that were moving essential supplies to Britain.
Essentially, the idea was to slowly starve Britain, which was one of the biggest powers at the time, and then win the war. These submarines, most commonly known as the German “U-boat”, would cause devastating damage to all ships that they targeted. Armed with anti- aircraft guns and torpedoes, the U boat could cause damage to all troops within a 3200 feet radius.
However, serving on a U-boat was one of the most dangerous occupations possible during the war. At the beginning of the war, a U-Boat could spend, at most, a measly 5 days at sea, and only had 72 hours of air. Even worse, they could only spend up to 2 hours at a time underwater because of the requirement of switching from a diesel engine to an electric battery-powered system. Because of these flaws and limitations, U-boats tended to leave port at night and they only submerged after an attack or when they spotted an enemy. However, being submerged always caused anxiety to the crew, as once submerged, a U-boat’s electric battery was the greatest threat to the crew. At any point in time, seawater could get into these batteries and poisonous chlorine air would be released.
Being at sea and submerged, there was nothing a crew could but except their painful demise.Whenever people ponder about warfare and its advancements, they have a tendency to skip over WWI, going straight towards WWII and not realizing the significance behind the first World War. Without WWI, weaponry, chemicals, and watercrafts would never have been as prevalent in wars, and even when the world is at peace, the advancements from WWI still play a part in everyday life.
The flaws and problems from the technology during the war led to each country actively working on improving their tech, making the war being almost as much about technology as it was about fighting. The war molded the beginning of warfare, and without it, modern day technology would’ve never been as advanced if the war had never happened.