World War I Essay

1636 words - 7 pages

By 1917, World War I was the most brutal conflict that had ever been seen on the world stage. It was no longer a war that only involved the European powers, but also countries from all over the world including the United States. During the war, the total number of casualties reached over 37 million and over eight million lives were lost (“WWI Casualty and Death Tables” 1). The extremely high number of casualties was mostly caused by new developments in warfare technology. One of the most well remembered weapons of World War I was mustard gas. Mustard gas caused the soldiers’ skin and internal organs to blister and could be fatal, but could take anywhere from a week to an entire month to claim the lives of its victims from the inside out. Mustard gas has gone down in history as one of the most dreaded elements of the war. This horrific example of chemical weaponry is just one of the numerous amounts of new warfare technology used during the First World War, including other types of chemical weapons, machine guns, bombing techniques, airplanes, submarines and radio.
Mustard gas was not the only example of chemical weaponry used during World War I. The first example of this was the Germans use of a gas called phosgene in mid-1915, which caused drastic damage to the lungs (Mack 2). The Germans began using mustard gas in 1916 and soon both sides began to use poison gas as a weapon. At a lab at American University, which at its peak employed over 1,200 scientists specifically to create chemical weapons for the war, a new gas called Lewisite was developed. Lewisite poisoned its victims through the skin and rendered gas masks useless against it. During the war as many as 50 different gases were used by both sides (Mack 2). When the war ended, the American scientists who had created the different gases wanted to continue their research, but were denied that opportunity when the Geneva Protocol was signed in 1925 that prevented use of chemical weapons in war of "asphyxiating, poisonous and other gasses" and of "bacteriological methods of warfare" (“United Nations” 1). Because the scientists were unable to continue significant research in using poison gas as a weapon, poison gas saw its use peak in World War I and decline in the following years.
Machine guns were another new development in warfare technology for World War I. The first gun to offer sequential fire with automatic reloading was patented by Richard J. Gatling in 1862 (Martin 2). The Gatling gun saw limited use in the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War, but led to developments in automatic weaponry for World War I. A popular type of weapon used by both the Entente Powers and the Central Powers during the First World War was the submachine gun. A submachine gun is a hybrid between the automatic fire of the machine gun and the cartridges of a pistol. The first true submachine gun, the Bergmann MP18 was developed during World War I and was used heavily towards the end of the war after...

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