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August 1914: World War I Breaks Out [Slide Show]

A look at military science from the first year of the war that engulfed Europe

By Dan Schlenoff

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RIFLE GRENADE:

Norwegian Nils Waterson Aasen invented several grenades and small bombs. Two are shown here: a rifle grenade being fired by the man on the ground, the other (in the background) we would now describe as mortar shells.....[ More ]

MACHINE GUNS:

A vital necessity for armies fighting in World War I. This version is an older French St. Etienne model 1907. 39,000 were manufactured before factories could produce more of the newer and better Hotchkiss Model 1914 machine gun.....[ More ]

MACHINE GUN TRANSPORT:

Early in the war the Belgians made use of large Belgian mastiffs (dogs) to move machine guns (such as this one made by Maxim) and their ammunition quickly and efficiently. Dogs were less expensive than horses.....[ More ]

“AN ARMY MARCHES ON ITS STOMACH”:

​Teaching cooking and hygiene to U.S. Army cooks meant that “In future wars the bullet, not ill-prepared food, will be the cause of loss of life.” (Although in World War I artillery was a more guilty culprit.)....[ More ]

FORAGING WITH STEAM:

​An army unit uses a steam-powered tractor hitched up to a train of carts to gather supplies taken from a countryside area of France, 1914.....[ More ]

SUBMARINE HUNT:

​In the opening months of World War I German submarines sank several Allied warships. In turn the Allies sank five U-boats, including U-15 and U-18, which were rammed and sunk. The image here is generic and does not refer specifically to those incidents.....[ More ]

THE STRONGEST FORTS:

​Belgium and France anchored their defenses with modern forts built around carefully designed massive turrets with iron armor several feet thick. Unfortunately, the forts were designed and constructed in the late 1880s and 1890s, and without modernization were quickly surpassed by gun technology.....[ More ]

THE BIGGEST GUN:

The two “Big Bertha” German siege howitzers were still in the prototype stage when war broke out. They were rushed to Liège, Belgium, and other forts where their 42-centimeter shells smashed the older defenses.....[ More ]

CIVILIANS IN THE WAR:

​The garrison in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, held out against the German invaders until October 10, 1914. Zeppelin airships bombed the city twice, killing 10 civilians—a new aspect of war that was considered an outrage at the time.....[ More ]

AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY:

​From the earliest days of World War I, air scouts, usually armed only with a camera, were highly valued. The device shown here was one design to make it easier to take photographs of ground fortifications and troops on the move.....[ More ]

PIGEON SCOUT:

Photographic enemy fortifications and movements from the air was a top priority in World War I. But aircraft and pilots were vulnerable. This device attempted to solve the problem: a small camera attached to a pigeon.....[ More ]

INDUSTRY OF WAR:

When World War I broke out armies quickly discovered that ammunition could not be produced quickly enough. These shells (probably British 18-pounders) are being filled with shrapnel balls by hand on a small production line.....[ More ]

KNOW THE ENEMY:

A dismounted French cavalry trooper coolly collects valuable information on movements of the enemy, 1914. The horse, however, looks a little nervous.....[ More ]

WAR AND THE IMAGINATION:

Many young men in 1914 thought war might be fun. Here British troops (from the London Scottish regiment) practice charging with rifle and bayonet. Note that the ground they are running over is firm and grassy, unlike the thick clinging mud they encountered in northern France and Flanders.....[ More ]

BARBED WIRE:

In World War I most attacks against a defensive position meant clearing a path through the dense forests of wire protecting the enemy. Here, soldiers push “Bangalore torpedoes,” long tubes filled with explosive, through wire entanglements.....[ More ]

MODERN WAR:

A photograph from the early months of World War I by Meurisse, titled “Cuirassiers of the French army assisting a wounded comrade.” It is unknown if the subject of the photo was staged, but these archaic uniforms were worn in the early stages of the war.....[ More ]

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