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Mr. Tolley
Global 3
Name: _______________
Rewriting the Rules of War?
Weapons and Tactics of World War I
World War I was like no previous war in history. The
main theatre of war, the Western Front, was a deadlocked
series of trenches that barely moved after war broke out
in 1914 until a few months before its end in 1918. By
1916 the forces of Germany, France and the British
Empire—armies millions of men strong—measured
advances in terms of a few miles gained over several
months meter by meter, day by day. Casualties for each
big attack over the trenches or 'push' ran into hundreds of
thousands on both sides, with calculations for victory
based on national birth-rates to replace the losses.
Another thing that made World War One so different was the long-term impact of the Industrial
Revolution, with its accompanying political, social and technological changes. This was the first mass global
war of the industrialized age, a demonstration of the massive strength, patriotism and killing power of
modern states backed by industrial power that fueled modern militarism. And when the new power of
these nations was combined and intensified into Entangling Alliances, this new form of war shook the
By the middle of World War One, this global conflict evolved into its final stage: ‘Total War' - the
organization of entire societies for war in a social, economic, and even spiritual sense. The vast populations of
countries involved in WWI either fought on the real Front, or supported it on the 'Home Front' because their
heightened sense of nationalism made them believe that victory for their own country was worth the cost.
A century of total, global war had begun.
As you read about the new technologies and tactics of WWI, complete the graphic organizer explained below
in your binder.
Allowed under your rules of combat? Why or why not?
New Technologies and Tactics of World War I
Machine Guns
Machine guns were one of the main killers on both war
fronts in WWI. Machine guns could shoot hundreds of
bullets a minute, but leaders on all sides did not
understand how they could change combat. They held
on the standard military tactic of the infantry charge,
which led to massive casualties. Many soldiers barely
got out of their trench before they were cut down by
machine gun fire.
Artillery, large mounted guns that fire explosive
shells, was responsible for the largest number of
casualties in WWI. The most powerful land-based
weapons were huge guns weighing hundreds of tons
apiece that moved on railways. These cannons could
bombard trenches or cities from dozens of miles
Mr. Tolley
Global 3
Name: _______________
Gas Warfare
Both sides used chemical weapons against their enemies. The
poison gases used, like chlorine and mustard gas, were not
immediately deadly, but could disable soldiers and cause terrible
physical damage. Countermeasures, such as gas masks, were
quickly developed and gas accounted for relatively few of the
massive casualties of the war.
Planes debuted as weapons of war in WWI.
The first planes in the war were used for
reconnaissance, but quickly war planners saw
the potential for taking battle to the air. Pilots
started dropping grenades, and then bombs,
from planes. New kinds of planes – bombers
and fighters (with mounted machine guns) –
were developed purely for use in the war.
Armor-plated tanks also
debuted in WWI. The British
were the first to use them, and
quickly found them very
effective in smashing through
enemy lines because their thick
armor made them immune to
machine gun fire and they
could strike fear into troops
on the ground.
Battleships & Submarines
While the British and Germans
both had built very powerful
battleships before the war, WWI
was not really a naval conflict. The
Germans did develop a new naval
technology, though – the
submarine, which the Germans
called U-Boats and used to disrupt
shipping. It was the sinking of the
American ship the Lusitania by a
German U-Boat that led the US to
enter WWI.