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Machine Guns

 
Machine Guns


         World War I technology changed warfare forever because newer technology forced war to be fought differently. The Machine gun had the greatest impact on warfare because it’s high rate of fire and large clips made reloading time a lot faster. It also eliminated horse-mounted troops due to the fact that horses are very vulnerable to machineguns. Traditional war methods were abandoned and trench warfare resulted. It changed warfare forever.
         Richard Gatling first developed the machine gun in 1861. He created the first Gatling gun, which was a hand-cranked gun that could fire 200 rounds per minute. At the time this was unheard of as the average rifle had a firing rate of two to three rounds per minute. It was not truly automatic because it required a person to crank the gun. Its most innovative feature was the gravity fed cartridge, which allowed unskilled soldiers to fire rapidly. In 1884 the Maxim gun because the first automatic machine gun. It weighed about 110 lbs, required 4-6 men to operate, was fed by fabric belts, and was water-cooled. It fired at 300 rounds per minute. It was designed on the concept that the gas produced by firing each cartridge allowed it to generate recoil that continuously operated the guns mechanism and allowed continuous fire.
By 1914 and the start of WWI the Maxim gun had been improved. The British water-cooled Vickers could fire over 600 rounds per minute and had a range of 4,500 yards. Although these machine guns were reliable they still overheated and jammed often. Even though machine guns were very powerful and a good war tool they required a small crew and weighed a lot which made them harder to transport. Soldiers also didn’t really know how to attack with them mainly because it was new technology that hadn’t been used it previous wars. Enemies would get close together and then would be forced to hunker down and have basically a machine gun battle.
         Machine guns changed the way wars were fought because their high rate of fire made war strategies like charges unpractical as a single machine gun could mow down many soldiers. Because of their faster reloading time and almost constant rate of fire, trenches were dug in order to stay below the line of fire. Because of machine guns defensive warfare benefited. Attacks were high casualty and non affective until artillery was introduced. In many situations trench warfare resulted in slow battles. Trench warfare improved from small dugouts to large complex interlocking defensive works. These could resist Artillery and infantry especially with improvements like barbed wire and shellproof dugouts. Most of the time opposing trenches would be anywhere from 100-300 yards apart. The space in between the trenches was called no mans land because most soldiers would be instantly mowed down if the appeared in this area.
Each trench consisted of three basic sections that were all interconnected. The front trench was heavily fortified and was usually only occupied from dusk to dawn. Most of the fighting took place in these trenches and no mans land. The second trench was about 70 yards behind the first trench and was the support trench. Soldiers would move here when the front trench was bombarded. Finally, about 400 yards behind the second trench was the final trench. This was where troops could amass for a counter attack if the front line was captured. To allow for greater protection trenches were deep, zigzagged and fitted with sand bags and lips or earth to protect from blasts. Due to the effectiveness of the machine guns these trenches were necessary, especially since new tactics involved charges of soldiers with machine gun cover fire.
         Machine guns also paved the way for new weapons and tactics to be born. Things such as trench warfare, artillery, and tanks wouldn’t have results if the machine gun had not been created. Only because of machine guns did trench warfare result; new tactics such as shelling, bombarding the enemy with long constant bombing, and smarter charges would not have resulted. Because of trenches tanks were developed to take the machine gun fire and cross over trenches and no mans land.
         Machines guns were a very important part of war and they changed the history of war by making casualties higher, making war more advanced, and allowing for new technology and new strategy to emerge. They really did change warfare forever.


Works Cited

Bellis, By Mary. "Firearms - The History of Guns Rifles and Machine Guns." Inventors. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://inventors.about.com/od/militaryhistoryinventions/a/firearms.htm>.
"First World War.com - Weapons of War: Machine Guns." First World War.com - A Multimedia History of World War One. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/machineguns.htm>.
"Trench Warfare." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_warfare>.
"WW1 Heavy Weapons, Allied." Digger History; (ANZAC)  Australia & NZ at War, a History. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-weapons/heavy-ww1-allied.htm>.
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