Great War As A Modern War

1322 words - 5 pages

The First World War As A Modern War The Great War of 1914-1918 has been referred to as the first modern war, a sort of transition point between the rank-and-file, formation-based, gunpowder volleys of the 19th century and the large-scale, technologically advanced conflicts of the 20th. The First World War united the two eras by evolving from the 19th century's concepts of strategy, tactics, technology, propaganda, and intensity to the 20th century's more advanced notions and capabilities of warfare.The generals of the First World War, raised in the tradition of the 19th century methods of warfare, were very slow to change their strategy and tactics through the course of the war. Many generals had fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71; some Russian generals had fought in the even earlier Crimean War. As a result the generals were intent on emulating the successes of those earlier conflicts, blithely unaware of - or in come cases, intentionally ignoring - the battlefield implications of the intervening half-century of technological advancements.Many of these weapon advancements were simple upgrades of 19th century military technology. Artillery had existed for centuries, but advances in 19th century chemistry such as Nobel's development of dynamite produced artillery orders of magnitude more destructive than before. The submarine, developed in the 19th century to little effect, was utilized extensively by the Germans to harass British shipping. Eventually the British responded by developing the convoy system, whereby the chances of a U-boat finding prey were greatly reduced. Not only did this serve to reduce sub chances of sinking enemy ships, but those ships unlucky enough to be caught by subs were now defended by military vessels escorting them across the sea.The war also saw peaceful 19th century innovations transformed into military technology. The American invention of barbed wire, developed to keep cows in and cattle thieves out, found itself strewn across hundreds of miles of trench fortifications. Another 19th century invention, the automobile, rescued France by enabling the "Miracle of the Marne." Paris taxicabs and other privately owned automobiles served as troop transports, ferrying troops to and from military hotspots and medical stations. As important as the railroads were for troop mobilization and initial deployment and resupply of arms, they did not have the prime advantage of the automobile: flexibility and freedom of movement. Anywhere there was a road, an automobile could deposit troops. This adaptability to what was then a dynamic strategic situation made the automobile a key logistical support tool for the French. This - the use of an invention which has almost become synonymous with the 20th century - was a major step in bridging the gap between the rail-intensive terrestrial supply lines of the 19th century and the flexible automobile lines of the 20th.The trench system, the defensive fortifications that scarred the...

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