Weapons and their Consequences
Main Idea: Throughout history
technological innovations changed the way war was conducted.
- Ancient Warfare
- The effective use of the chariots by the Assyrians in the 8th
Century BC allowed the to conquer the entire Middle East.
- Some innovations were organizational rather than technical: In
areas where the chariot could not be used, it was more typical
to find foot soldiers organized into phalanx - a mass
formation, at least 8 men deep.
- Catapults were developed in the 4th century BCE although
its full power would be exploited by the Romans who combined
their infantry organization with the catapult. The catapult is a
winched-down "bucket" capable of hurling a 60 pound
projectile up to 150 yards.
- Europe in the Middle Ages
- The Stirrup was invented in China and
reached Europe by 9th century. Essentially made the cavalry more
effective by making the mounted rider more stable.
- A number of innovations brought about the end of the era of
the knight in Europe
- Pikes Switzerland.
- Crossbow - 11th Century. Extremely accurate at a
great distance. Able to deliver a heavy projectile.
- Longbow (England 14th Century) first used successfully by
the English against the French in the Battle of Cressey (a
battle that also was the use of artillery powered by
- Trebuchet: a weighted beam that swings a sling carrying
the projectile. Although it had a shorter range than
the catapult, it could hurl a much heavier projectile, was
more reliable and easier to use.
- Gunpowder: invented in China in the 8th Century but the
Chinese never used it in warfare. Reached Europe in 14th
century. First used in artillery, then the musket which by
the 1500's could fire three rounds per minute. The range and
accuracy of the musket was limited until the innovation of
rifled gun barrels in the 18th century. Additional
innovations in the 19th century included breech loading,
bullets that expanded upon firing, improved smokeless
- Modern Warfare:
- In many ways began with the American Civil War. During
this war such innovations as the iron clad battle ship, the
submarine, aerial surveillance, and the machine gun were used
for the first time. It was also the first war in which the
telegraph was used for communications.
- The steam powered battleship and the machine gun were major
innovations that gave a decisive advantage to European nations.
- U-boats, airplanes and Zeppelins were used extensively for the
first time during WW I
- Extensive aerial bombardment was used for the first time in
WWII. The bombing of Tokyo in March of 1945 killed 80,000
- The Atomic Bomb:
- The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6, 1945
killing 70,000 people, injuring 70,000 more and leaving
countless numbers to slowly die of radiation sickness and other
effects of radiation.
- From the beginning there was disagreement over whether and how
to use to bomb. Secretary of War Henry Stimson advocated a
sharing of information with the Russians.
- Secretary of State James Byrnes wanted to exclude the Russians
and use the bomb against Japan with no warning.
- President Harry Truman sided with Byrnes and decided to use
the bomb with no advanced warning.