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Motor Vehicles

(664 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Motor Vehicles The technology of motor vehicles had already been progressing at a tremendous pace before the outbreak of the war. Dissatisfied with their cumbersome, horse-drawn supply convoys, all the armies were greatly interested in trucks. However, the technological advances were so rapid that motor vehicles soon became obsolete, which spoke against their acquisition for the army. Instead, most nations decided to help the private economy purchase trucks in exchange for the obligation to place …

Artillery

(3,394 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Artillery Next to infantry and cavalry, artillery was the third combat arm of the land forces in 1914. Its task was to support other branches of the service, in particular the infantry. Since modern warfare was thought of as a war of movement, artillery doctrine, equipment and training were designed for mobile combat. It had to be able to follow the infantry in the field. This requirement restricted…

Balloons

(471 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Balloons The early 19th century saw the first balloons employed for military purposes. The use of free balloons in the Franco-Prussian War attracted much attention. The balloons helped the beleaguered capital maintain communications with the surrounding countryside. After 1871 most European Powers created military airship detachments in particular to oper…

Haber, Fritz

(330 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Haber, Fritz (December 9, 1868, Breslau – January 29, 1934, Basel), German chemist. Prior to the World War, Haber developed the scientific principles for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in the form of ammonia (NH3), which was then technically realized by Carl Bosch (Haber-Bosch process). However, ammonia was not only used as a base substance for the manufacturing of artificial nitrogenous fertili…

Shrapnel

(344 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Shrapnel Artillery projectile for anti-personnel purposes, introduced in the 19th century. At the outbreak of the First World War shrapnel was the principal type of ammunition employed by the field artillery of all the combatant nations. Designed to scatter its contents in mid-air, a shrapnel shell can be imagined as a kind of “flying shotgun.” A time fuse caused the shell to burst at a certain distance from its intended target. The explosive charge was most often built into the bottom of the pro…

Barrage Fire

(300 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Barrage Fire A “curtain of fire” created by the artillery, that is the intense, concentrated shelling of a section of terrain to prevent attacking infantry from approaching a defensive position, or to isolate an enemy position from its rear area. The barrage was not aimed at identified, visible targets, but instead sought to deny the enemy movement through a specific area by employing a maximum amount of firepower. Fire distribution and adjustment of the firing batteries had to be completed on schedule as part of the artillery prepara…

Alpine Warfare

(2,447 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Alpine Warfare When the Italian declaration of war was delivered on May 23, 1915, it plunged Austria-Hungary into a desperate situation. While this move by Italy did not come unexpected, almost all the forces of the Danube Monarchy were tied up on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans, where the Central…

Soixante-Quinze

(621 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Soixante-Quinze French for 75. Nickname given to the M 1897 75 mm cannon, introduced in 1897 as the standard gun used by the French field artillery. The weapon combined several technical innovations, the most significant of which was the long barrel-recoil system. The energy of the recoil was no longer transmitted directly to the gun’s carriage; instead, the barrel slid on a cradle, which checked its backward motion by means of an integral braking device. At the end of the recoil stage the barrel…

Fortresses

(737 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Fortresses Sites provided with permanent, artificial reinforcement, so as to protect them from capture by the methods of field warfare. For this reason, the battle for fortresses was always given a particular designation as “fortress warfare,” to distinguish it from “field warfare,” or war as waged by mobile field forces. The technical design of fortresses closely paralleled developments in artillery, which made tremendous advances during the 19th century (introduction of guns made from drawn steel, long-range howitzers, armor-piercing shells).…

Creeping Barrage

(304 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Creeping Barrage Moving curtain of fire laid down by the artillery in front of the attacking infantry. It was designed to keep the defenders, especially the defending infantry, from taking defensive measures and mounting counterattacks. For this purpose, it was essential that the advancing infantry followed the creeping barrage as closely as possible and was prepared to take casualties from short artillery rounds. The creeping barrage was first used by the German Army on the Eastern Front in 1916 …

Mortar

(587 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Mortar A mortar (German Minenwerfer or “mine thrower”) describes a short-range, indirect fire weapon. The shell that was fired was usually a thin-walled, particularly powerful explosive shell. Germany had developed…

Hartmannswillerkopf

(377 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Hartmannswillerkopf Mountain in Upper Alsace (956 m) situated on the eastern edge of the Vosges. The vantage point on the summit affords a commanding view of the Upper Rhine Plain. The front in the area of the Hartmannswillerkopf was not firmly established until late 1914/early 1915, at which point the summit was in German hands. In the spring of 1915, French troops were temporarily able to occupy the mountaintop. After the successful counteroffensive, the Germans consciously abandoned the classic notion of establishing forw…

Regiment

(328 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Regiment Major administrative unit of a service branch, normally led by a colonel. The infantry of all European countries had been organized into regiments since the late 17th century. In order to ensure command efficiency, regiments were further divided into battalions and companies. Other branches of the army, notably the cavalry and artillery branches, were also organized into regiments. Administrative units corresponded with tactical units except for any existing regiments of special troops, …

Škoda 30.5-cm Siege Howitzer

(528 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Škoda 30.5-cm Siege Howitzer 30.5-cm M 11 mortar of the Austro-Hungarian army, a weapon specifically designed to destroy the most modern fortress complexes. At the beginning of the war, the Austro-Hungarian army possessed 24 howitzers of this type, designed and manufactured by the Škoda company. The gun could be dismantled into three parts, and was transported by a motorized tractor, which gave this “marvelous gun” (in the words of the Austrian general-staff manual) a degree of mobility not achieved…

Conscription

(596 words)

Author(s): Storz, Dieter
Conscription A state’s compulsory enlistment of its citizens for military service. Conscription in the modern sense arose during the French Revolution. The new state, founded on the will of the people, demanded military service from its citizens. This enabled the state to expand its armed forces enormously, and to intensify its military activities accordingly. European monarchies too had to resort to this means of raising an army, if they wished to assert themselves militarily against France. Once Napoleon had been defeated, two kinds of compulsory military service came into b…