19: Methods in Modern Warfare
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One hundred years ago the Battle of Waterloo had just been fought
and Napoleon's star had set never to rise again. For years he
had swept Europe with his armies, rending the nations into
fragments, and winning world-famous victories with weapons that
no one would look for today except in a military museum, weapons
antiquated beyond all possible utility on a modern field of
ANCIENT AND MODERN WEAPONS
Every fresh modern war has been fought with new weapons, and
during the past century there have been countless inventions for
the carrying on of warfare in a more destructive manner,
apparently on the philanthropic theory that war should be made so
terrible that it must quickly pass away.
But it has happened that as soon as a particularly horrible
contrivance was invented and introduced into armies and navies,
other inventors immediately set themselves to offset and discount
its probable effect. Consequently war not only has not passed
away, but we have it with us in more frightful form that ever
before. Thus it is that each big war, after being heralded as
the world's last conflagration, has proved but the herald of
another war, bigger and more death-dealing still.
Since the Civil War in the United States, in which probably more
new features in modes of fighting were introduced than in any
conflict that had preceded it, there have been immense
improvements in arms, in armament and in general efficiency of
both armies and navies. It was the Civil War that brought into
being the turreted MONITOR, one of the greatest contributions to
naval architecture the navies of the world had then known. While
the turrets on the modern battleship are very different in
design, in armor and in arrangement from those on the old
monitors, they are nothing more than an adaptation of the
The same is the case with the small arms and the field guns of
the modern armies, these having been greatly improved since the
period of the Civil war. The breech-loading and even the
magazine rifle are now in use in every army, while the smallest
field piece of today is almost as efficient as the most powerful
gun in use fifty years ago.
The first attempt to use a torpedo boat dates back to the Civil
War. A primitive contrivance it was, but it showed a possibility
in naval warfare which speedily led to the general building of
torpedo boats, and to the invention of the highly efficient
THE IRONCLAD WARSHIP
Another lesson in warfare was taught when the ironclad MERRIMAC
and MONITOR met and fought for mastery in Hampton Roads. The
ironclad vessel was not then a new idea in naval architecture,
but its efficiency as a fighting machine was then first
demonstrated. Iron for armor soon gave way to thick and tough
steel, while each improvement in armor led to a corresponding
improvement in guns and projectiles, until now a battle at sea
has grown to be a remarkably different affair from the great
ocean combats of Nelson's time.
But development in the art of war has not ceased with the
improvement in older types of weapons. New devices, scarcely
thought of in former wars, have been introduced. These include
the use of the balloon and aeroplane as scouting devices, of the
bomb filled with explosives of frightful rending power, and of
the submarine naval shark, designed to attack the mighty
battleships from under water.
THE BALLOON IN WAR
Of recent years the balloon has been developed into the
dirigible, the flying machine that can be steered and directed.
Made effective by Count Zeppelin and others, its possibilities as
an aid in war were quickly perceived. Then came the notable
invention of the Wright Brothers, and after 1904 the aeroplane
quickly expanded into an effective aerial instrument, the
probably serviceableness of which in war was evident to all.
Here we are tempted to stop and quote the remarkable prediction
from Tennyson's "Locksley Hall," the truth of which is now being
so strikingly verified:
"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunder
Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world."
GUNNING FOR AIRSHIPS
The airship does not float safely in the cental blue, aside from
attacks by flying foes. Guns pointing upward have been devised
to attack the daring aviator from the ground and flying machines
can thus be swiftly brought down, like war eagles shot in the
sky. Several types of guns for this purpose are in use, some to
be employed on warships or fortifications, others, mounted on
automobile trucks, for use in the field.
The Ehrhardt gun, a German weapon, which is designed to be
mounted on an auto-truck, weighs nearly 1700 pounds. The car
carries 140 rounds of ammunition and the whole equipment in
service condition weighs more than six tons. The gun has an
extreme range at 45 degrees elevation of 12,029 yards, or more
than six miles. The sights are telescopic, a moving object can
be followed with ease, and the gun is capable of being fired very
rapidly. The British are provided with the Vickers gun, which is
mainly intended for naval use, but the military arm is also
provided with anti-balloon guns, which have great range and can
throw a three-pound shell at any high angle. Some of these guns
use incendiary shells, intended to ignite the gas in dirigibles.
There is another type that explodes shrapnel. In addition to
these, rifle fire is apt to be effective, in case of airships
coming within its range.
Jules Vedrines, a well-known French aviator, tells this story of
his experience while doing scout duty for the French army:
"Those German gunners surely have tried their best to get me," he
wrote. "Each night when I come back to headquarters my machine
looks more and more like a sieve because of the numerous bullet
holes in the wings.
"I have been keeping tab on the number of new bullet holes in my
machine each day, marking each with red chalk, so that I won't
include any of the old ones in the next day's count. My best
record so far for one day is thirty-seven holes. That shows how
close the enemy has come to hitting me. My duties as scout
require me to cover various distances each day. The best record
so far in one day is 600 miles."
The submarine is another type of war apparatus, one the utility
of which promises to be very great. It is of recent origin. At
the time of the Spanish-American War there were only five
submarines in all the navies of the world, and of this number
three were in the French navy, one in Italy and one in Portugal.
The United States was building its first one, and had not decided
what type to select. At the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War
Great Britain had nine of the American (Holland) type of
submarines and was building twenty more, while France had
accumulated thirty-six of various types and of various grades of
reported efficiency, while Germany had none. In 1914 there were
nearly four hundred vessels of this type in the world's navies,
France standing first with 173.
It was believed that the moral effect of the submarine would be
almost as important as its physical effect in dealing with an
enemy's warship, and this idea has been justified. Some persons
maintained that fights of submarines with each other might take
place, each, like the Kilkenny cats, devouring the other. But
the fact is that when submerged the submarine is as blind as the
traditional bat. Its crew cannot see any object under water, and
is compelled to resort to the use of the periscope, which emerges
unostentatiously above the water, in order to see its own course.
It is known that the periscope is the eye of the submarine, and
naturally attention has been paid to the best way of destroying
this vital part of such boats. Recently, grappling irons have
been devised for use from dirigibles, which are expected to drag
out the periscope as the dirigible flies above it. Careful plans
for torpedoing submarines also have been made, but their
effectiveness likewise remains to be demonstrated.
Submarine builders have naturally held the view that the
submerged boat could not be seen. But it has been discovered
that from a certain height an observer may trace the course of a
submerged submarine with as great accuracy as if it were running
on the surface. It is found that the submerged boat can readily
be seen from the dirigible and the aeroplane. On the other hand
an anti-balloon gun has been devised which can be raised from the
submarine when it comes to the surface, and used against the
The submarine is supposed to have its most important field of
operation against a fleet of battleships and cruisers besieging a
seaport city. These great war craft, covered above the water-
line with thick steel armor, are vulnerable below, and a torpedo
discharged from a torpedo boat or an explosive bomb attached to
the lower hull by a submarine may send the largest and mightiest
ship to the bottom, stung to death from below.
With this idea in view torpedo boars, destroyers designed to
attack torpedo boats and submarines have been multiplied in
modern navies. We have just begun to appreciate the
effectiveness of this type of vessels. Their possibilities are
enormous and their latent power renders the bombardment from sea
of town or fort a far more perilous operation than of old. Fired
at by the great guns of the fort capable of effective work at
eight or ten miles distance, exposed to explosive bombs dropped
from soaring airships, made a target for the deadly weapon of the
torpedo boat, and in constant risk of being stung by the
submarine wasp, these great war ships, built at a cost of ten or
more millions and peopled by hundreds of mariners, are in
constant danger of being sent to the bottom with all on board a
contingency likely to shake the nerves of the steadiest Jack Tar
or admiral on board.
A typical submarine has a length of about 150 feet and diameter
of 15 feet, with a speed of eleven knots on the surface and five
knots when submerged. Some of the more recent have a radius of
navigation of 4,500 miles without need of a new supply of stores
and fuel. On the surface they are propelled by gasoline engines,
but when submerged they use electric motors driven by storage
batteries. If the weather should grow too rough they can sink
below the waves.
THE NEW TYPE OF BATTLESHIP
While the peril of the big ship has thus been increased, the size
and fighting capacity of those ships have steadily grown and at
the same time their cost, which is becoming almost prohibitive.
Taking the British navy, the leader in this field, the size of
battleships was yearly augmented until in 1907 the famous
Dreadnought appeared, looked upon at the time as the last word in
naval architecture. This great ship was of 17,900 tons
displacement and 23,000 horse-power, its armor belt eleven inches
thick, its major armament composed of ten twelve-inch guns.
There are now twenty British battleships of larger size, some
On shore a similar increase may be seen in the size and
effectiveness of armies and the strength of fortifications. In
all the larger nations of Europe except Great Britain the whole
able-bodied male population are now obliged to spend several
years in the army, and to be ready at a moment's notice to drop
all the avocations of peace and march to the front, ready to risk
their lives in their country's service or at the command of the
autocrat under whom they live.
Mobilization is a word with strenuous significance. When it is
put into effect every able-bodied man must report without delay
for service. His name is on the army lists; if he fails to
report he is branded as a deserter. In Germany, the order to
mobilize is issued by the Emperor and is immediately sent out by
all military and civil authorities, at home or abroad. Every
person knows at once what he is required to do. Skeleton
regiments are filled out and additional regiments formed.
Simultaneously there is a levy of horses. The order reaches into
every household; into the factories, the shipyards, the hotels,
the farms, river boats, everywhere. Almost instantly the male
individuals within the prescribed ages must at once report to the
barracks to come under military discipline. Infantry, cavalry
and artillery units double and triple at once.
This is the first step in mobilization. The second is the
transportation and concentration of forces. The railways are
seized, the telegraph and telephone systems. Mail, military,
aerial and railway services are assigned. The commissary lines
are laid and transportation provided for. With marvelous
efficiency the full fighting strength, in front and rear, is made
ready and co-ordinated.
The psychological effect of mobilization is tremendous. In every
household home-ties are broken. The fields are stripped of men.
Industry stops. Artillery rolls through the streets, bands play.
An atmosphere of apprehension settles down on the country.
THE WASTE OF WAR
And the waste of it all; the criminal, unbelievable waste!
Consider the vast loss of products that is due, not only to
actual war, but to unceasing and universal preparation for war.
It has been stated on the highest authority that during the last
decade forty per cent of the total outlay of European states has
been absorbed by the armies and navies which, when war arises,
seek in every way to destroy as much as they can of the
remainder. Commenting on this state of affairs, Count Sergius
Witte, the ablest of Russian statesmen and financiers, said in
London not long ago:
"Sketch a picture in your mind's eye of all that those sums, if
properly spent, could effect for the nations who now waste them
on heavy guns, rifles, dreadnaughts, fortresses and barracks. If
this money were laid out on improving the material lot of the
people, in housing them hygienically, in procuring for them
healthier air, medical aid and needful periodical rest, they
would live longer and work to better purpose, and enjoy some of
the happiness or contentment which at present is the prerogative
of the few.
"Again, all the best brain work of the most eminent men is
focused on efforts to create new lethal weapons, or to make the
old ones more deadly. For one of the arts in which cultured
nations have made most progress is warfare. The noblest efforts
of the greatest thinkers are wasted on inventions to destroy
"When I call to mind the gold and the work thus dissipated in
smoke and sound and compare that picture with this other
villagers with drawn, sallow faces, men and women and dimly
conscious children perishing slowly and painfully of hunger I
begin to ask myself whether human culture and the white man who
personifies it are not wending toward the abyss."
In "War and Waste" Dr. David Starr Jordan quotes the table of
Richet to show the cost of a general European war.
Per day the French statistician figures the war's cost thus:
Feed of men ........................................ $12,600,000
Feed of horses ...................................... 1,000,000
Pay (European rates) ................................ 4,250,000
Pay of workmen in arsenals and ports ................ 1,000.000
Transportation (sixty miles, ten days) .............. 2,100,000
Transportation of provisions ........................ 4,200,000
Infantry, ten cartridges a day ................. 4,200,000
Artillery, ten shots per day ................... 1,200,000
Marine, two shots per day ...................... 400,000
Equipment ........................................... 4,200,000
Ambulances, 500,000 wounded or ill ($1 per day) ..... 500,000
Armature ............................................ 500,000
Reduction of imports ................................ 5,000,000
Help to the poor (20 cents per day to one in ten) ... 6,800,000
Destruction of towns, etc ........................... 2,000,000
TOTAL PER DAY ................. $49,950,000
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