Military Combat Innovations of WW1: a Revolution in Military Affairs
WW1 quickly proved the lethality of modern weapons: their extended range, accuracy, ease of use, and unprecedented volume created huge casualties and stalemate. WW1 created the need for new technologies and tactics, and they were remarkable in their number. A brief list follows.
The following new weapons were invented: tracer bullets, incendiary bullets, light machine guns, flamethrowers, effective hand grenades, poison gas, and the tank.
New fire techniques were invented: artillery would fire a “creeping barrage” going forward just ahead of attacking soldiers. Artillery and machine guns would fire for long periods on the same area “suppressing” enemy action. At the same time innovative ways to locate the enemy’s guns, including the use of microphones were invented.
WW1 saw the start of using unrestricted submarine warfare to cut sea lines of communication. Inventions to counter the new submarine threat included: sonar, hydrophones, and depth charges all had to be invented.
The birth of air power meant that naval forces needed it as well, so aircraft carriers were invented.
Tethered balloons already existed, but real air power using fixed wing aircraft, both single and crewed, as well as dirigibles were fielded in large numbers and most air power missions were invented in WW1.
Air power saw the invention of effective large scale aircrew training, interrupter gear (to enable safely shooting through one’s propeller), bombsights, bombs, autopilots, airborne radios, air traffic control, pilotless bombs/drones etc.
20th century warfare was dominated by armoured land battle, submarine blockades and the application of air power to all fields of combat. All were used for the first time in WW1, creating a Revolution in Military Affairs.