Science Technology And Ww1

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Lecture 10: Science, Technology and WWI

I. General Considerations

WWI (1914-1918): 10M lives lost although many new weapons developed from mid 19th century onwards, never used in prolonged war between major powers while new technologies are introduced during WWI, initial war strategies and tactics did not change in terms of choices related to time, space, transportation of men and materials think about differences in our knowledge about heroes and generals between WWI and WWII – WWI military often regarded as old-fashioned, unable to keep up with times existing technologies (railroads, telegraphs, machine gun, barbed wire) combined with newer devices: airplane, tank, poison gas
WWI military had to figure out how the characteristics of a new technology and then decide how it should be used (i.e. its technological possibilities) created stalemate between countries that was only broken with US entering war (increased manpower and industrial resources) ideas about war not consistent with technological reality example: although many German soldiers embraced machine gun, cavalry armed with lances remained favorite of German Kaiser
British and French in particular saw machine guns as “unsporting,” unfair and unethical – preference for cavalry, bayonets emphasis on triumph of human spirit over technical prowess

II. Naval Power

one exception to rule: naval technologies skilled at propaganda and obtaining public funds which was necessity with universal suffrage (voting) romantic appeal: navigation, exploration, link with colonies naval power associated with world power; something wanted by even the smallest and poorest of nations – would give them “place in the sun” development of Navy Leagues – lobbies funded by coal and steel, shipyard, arms manufacturing industry; helped convince government that if navy not strong, nation would be destroyed; fueled ideas of nationalism innovations in naval technology had air of spectacle: 1906 Dreadnought battleship weighed 21000 tons and was equipped with 10 12-inch barrels - guns that had an 8 mile range made older ships obsolete with its power but created arms race between countries who feared for own security prior to WWI, navies become so synonymous with a country’s military strength that land armies virtually ignored; no joint planning between army and naval forces
British Admiralty: “command of the sea” this means in wartime, main duties of navy is to protect trade routes, keep communications open throughout empire and prevent invasion countries like Germany build up their naval technology to prevent own invasion and create stalemate only one major battle of Dreadnoughts occur in WWI between England and Germany in 1916: no conclusive results (some dispute about this) prior to WWI, advances in submarine technology made by Germans
U-19: torpedoes cause problems for British leads to British innovations in defensive technologies against subs; by 1917, have hydrophones that are able to detect submarines, depth charges launched from destroyers able to wipe out U-boats anti-submarine mines; convoys

III. Mass Combat and the Introduction of New Land and Air Weapons

railroads and the mobilization of troops (universal military service introduced in the 19th century) while military initially understood relationship between transportation technologies and mobilizing troops and materials for quick initial strikes, they had little idea about what to do in event of a long war planned for short and not long war which would be fought by military personnel while Chief of Staff of British Army (Lord Kitchener) and German Chief of Staff (Moltke) did bring up idea of long drawn out war, this idea ignored by most individuals; most had expectation of eight weeks’ war prewar developments in weapons technology were not seen as something that would change face of warfare

a. Barbed Wire and Guns

barbed wire becomes part of military arsenal by