Flamethrower

Flamethrower

Overview

A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

.

Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 and natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, which is considered safer. They are used by the military and by people needing controlled burning capacity, such as in agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 (e.g.
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Encyclopedia

A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

.

Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 and natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, which is considered safer. They are used by the military and by people needing controlled burning capacity, such as in agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 (e.g. sugar cane plantations) or other such land management tasks. They can be designed to either be carried by the operator or mounted on a vehicle.

Military flamethrowers


Modern flamethrowers were first used during the trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 conditions of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

; their use greatly increased in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. They can be vehicle mounted, as on a tank, or man-portable.

The man-portable flamethrower consists of two elements: a backpack and the gun. The backpack element usually consists of two or three cylinders. In a two-cylinder system, one cylinder holds compressed, inert propellant gas (usually nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

), and the other holds flammable liquid—typically petrol with some form of fuel thickener added to it. A three-cylinder system often has two outer cylinders of flammable liquid and a central cylinder of propellant gas to maintain the balance of the soldier carrying it. The gas propels the liquid fuel out of the cylinder through a flexible pipe and then into the gun element of the flamethrower system. The gun consists of a small reservoir, a spring-loaded valve, and an ignition system; depressing a trigger opens the valve, allowing pressurized flammable liquid to flow and pass over the igniter
Spark plug
A spark plug is an electrical device that fits into the cylinder head of some internal combustion engines and ignites compressed fuels such as aerosol, gasoline, ethanol, and liquefied petroleum gas by means of an electric spark.Spark plugs have an insulated central electrode which is connected by...

 and out of the gun nozzle. The igniter can be one of several ignition systems: A simple type is an electrically-heated wire coil; another used a small pilot flame, fueled with pressurized gas from the system.

The flamethrower is a potent weapon with great psychological impact upon unprepared soldiers, inflicting a particularly horrific death. This has led to some calls for the weapon to be banned. It is primarily used against battlefield fortifications, bunkers, and other protected emplacements. A flamethrower projects a stream of flammable liquid, rather than flame, which allows bouncing the stream off walls and ceilings to project the fire into blind and unseen spaces, such as inside bunkers or pillboxes. Typically, popular visual media depict the flamethrower as short-ranged and only effective for a few meters (due to the common use of propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 gas as the fuel in flamethrowers in movies, for the safety of the actors). Contemporary flamethrowers can incinerate a target some 50–80 meters (165–270 feet) from the gunner; moreover, an unignited stream of flammable liquid can be fired and afterwards ignited, possibly by a lamp or other flame inside the bunker.

Flamethrowers pose many risks to the operator. The first disadvantage was the weapon's weight, which impairs the soldier's mobility. The weapon was very visible on the battlefield, operators become prominent targets for sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

s. Flamethrower operators were rarely taken prisoner, especially when their target survived an attack by the weapon; captured flamethrower users were often summarily executed. Finally, the flamethrower's effective range was short in comparison with that of other battlefield weapons of similar size. To be effective, flamethrower soldiers must approach their target, risking exposure to enemy fire. Vehicular flamethrowers also have this problem; they may have considerably greater range than a man-portable flamethrower, but their range is still short compared with that of other infantry weapons.

The risk of a flamethrower operator being caught in the explosion of his weapon due to enemy hits on the tanks is exaggerated in Hollywood films.
The best way to minimize the disadvantages of flame weapons was to mount them on armoured vehicles. The Commonwealth and the United States were the most prolific users of vehicle mounted flame weapons; the British and Canadians fielded the "Wasp" (a Universal Carrier
Universal Carrier
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War...

 fitted with a flamethrower) at infantry battalion level, beginning in mid 1944, and eventually incorporating them into infantry battalions. Early tank-mounted flamethrower vehicles included the 'Badger' (a converted Ram tank
Ram tank
The Tank Cruiser, Ram was a cruiser tank designed and built by Canada in the Second World War, based on the U.S. M3 Medium tank. Due to the entrance of the United States into the war and the superior design of the American Sherman, it was used exclusively for training purposes and was never used in...

) and the 'Oke', used first at Dieppe
Dieppe Raid
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter or later on Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 AM and by 10:50 AM the Allied...

; the most famous flame tank
Flame tank
A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

 was the Churchill Crocodile
Churchill Crocodile
The Churchill Crocodile was a British flame-throwing tank of late Second World War. It was a variant of the Tank, Infantry, Mk VI Churchill Mark VII, although the Churchill Mark IV was initially chosen to be the base vehicle....

.

Operation


A propane-operated flamethrower is a relatively straight-forward device. The gas is expelled through the gun assembly by its own pressure and is ignited at the exit of the barrel through piezo ignition
Piezo ignition
Piezo ignition is a type of ignition that is used in portable camping stoves, gas grills and some lighters, and potato guns. It consists of a small, spring-loaded hammer which, when a button is pressed, hits a crystal of PZT or quartz crystal. Quartz is piezoelectric, which means that it creates a...

.

Liquid-operated flamethrowers use a smaller propane tank to expel the liquid. For safety reasons, the propane tank is behind the combustible liquid tanks in order to prevent being hit by a bullet. The propane is fed to two tubes. The first opens in the napalm tanks, providing the pressure necessary for expelling the liquid. The other tube leads to an ignition chamber behind the exit of the gun assembly, where it is mixed with air and ignited through piezo ignition. This pre-ignition propane line is the source of the flame seen in front of the gun assembly in movies and documentaries. As the napalm
Napalm
Napalm is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with gasoline or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, primarily as an anti-personnel weapon...

 passes through the flame, it is ignited and propelled towards the target.

Origins



The concept of throwing fire as a weapon has existed since ancient times. Early flame weapons date from the Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 era, whose inhabitants used rudimentary hand-pumped flamethrowers on board their naval ships in the early 1st century AD (see Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

). Greek fire, extensively used by the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, is said to have been invented by Kallinikos (Callinicus) of Heliopolis
Baalbek
Baalbek is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude , situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire...

, probably about 673. The flamethrower found its origins also in the Byzantine Empire, employing Greek fire in a device of a hand-held pump that shot bursts of Greek fire via a siphon
Siphon
The word siphon is sometimes used to refer to a wide variety of devices that involve the flow of liquids through tubes. But in the English language today, the word siphon usually refers to a tube in an inverted U shape which causes a liquid to flow uphill, above the surface of the reservoir,...

-hose and piston
Piston
A piston is a component of reciprocating engines, reciprocating pumps, gas compressors and pneumatic cylinders, among other similar mechanisms. It is the moving component that is contained by a cylinder and is made gas-tight by piston rings. In an engine, its purpose is to transfer force from...

, igniting it with a match, similar to modern versions, as it was ejected. Greek fire, used primarily at sea, gave the Byzantines a substantinal military advantage against enemies such as members of the Arab Empire
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 (who later adopted the use of Greek fire). An 11th century illustration of its use survives in the John Skylitzes
John Skylitzes
John Skylitzes, latinized as Ioannes Scylitzes was a Greek historian of the late 11th century. He was born in the beginning of 1040's and died after 1101.- Life :Very little is known about his life...

 manuscript.

The Pen Huo Qi
Pen Huo Qi
The Pen Huo Qi(Chinese: 噴火器; Pinyin: pen huo qi, "spray fire device") is a double-piston pump naphtha flamethrower used in 919 AD in China, during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The flamethrower was carefully documented and illustrated in the Chinese military manual known as the Wujing...

 (Fire Throwing Machine) was a Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 piston flamethrower that used a substance similar to gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

 or naphtha
Naphtha
Naphtha normally refers to a number of different flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons, i.e., a component of natural gas condensate or a distillation product from petroleum, coal tar or peat boiling in a certain range and containing certain hydrocarbons. It is a broad term covering among the...

, invented around 919 AD during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Advances in military technology aided the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 in its defense against hostile neighbors to the north, including the Mongols. The earliest reference to Greek Fire in China was made in 917 AD, written by the author Wu Ren-chen in his Shi Guo Chun Qiu. In 919 AD, the siphon projector-pump was used to spread the 'fierce fire oil' that could not be doused with water, as recorded by Lin Yu in his Wu Yue Bei Shi, hence the first credible Chinese reference to the flamethrower employing the chemical solution of Greek fire. Lin Yu mentioned also that the 'fierce fire oil' derived ultimately from China's contact in the 'southern seas', with Arabia (Dashiguo). In the Battle of Langshan Jiang (Wolf Mountain River) in 932, the naval fleet of the Wenmu King of Wuyue
Wuyue
Kingdom of Wuyue , 907-978, was a small independent coastal kingdom founded during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms of Chinese history. It was ruled by the Qian family, which remains widespread in the kingdom's former territory.-Founding:...

 defeated the fleet of the Kingdom of Wu
Wu (Ten Kingdoms)
Wu , also referred to as Huainan , Hongnong , Southern Wu , or Yang Wu , was one of the Ten Kingdoms in south-central China which was in existence between the years of 907 and 937. Its capital was Jiangdu Municipality...

 because he had used 'fire oil' (huo yóu, 火油) to burn his fleet; this signified the first Chinese use of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 in warfare, since a slow-burning match fuse was required to ignite the flames. The Chinese applied the use of double-piston
Piston
A piston is a component of reciprocating engines, reciprocating pumps, gas compressors and pneumatic cylinders, among other similar mechanisms. It is the moving component that is contained by a cylinder and is made gas-tight by piston rings. In an engine, its purpose is to transfer force from...

 bellows
Bellows
A bellows is a device for delivering pressurized air in a controlled quantity to a controlled location.Basically, a bellows is a deformable container which has an outlet nozzle. When the volume of the bellows is decreased, the air escapes through the outlet...

 to pump petrol out of a single cylinder (with an upstroke and a downstroke), lit at the end by a slow-burning gunpowder match to fire a continuous stream of flame (as referred to in the Wujing Zongyao
Wujing Zongyao
The Wujing Zongyao was a Chinese military compendium written in 1044 AD, during the Northern Song Dynasty. Its authors were the prominent scholars Zeng Gongliang , Ding Du , and Yang Weide , whose writing influenced many later Chinese military writers. The book covered a wide range of subjects,...

manuscript of 1044 AD). In the suppression of the Southern Tang
Southern Tang
Southern Tang was one of the Ten Kingdoms in south-central China created following the Tang Dynasty from 937-975. Southern Tang replaced the Wu Kingdom when Li Bian deposed the emperor Yang Pu....

 state by 976 AD, early Song naval forces confronted them on the Yangtze River in 975 AD. Southern Tang forces attempted to use flamethrowers against the Song navy, but were accidentally consumed by their own fire when violent winds swept in their direction. Documented also in later Chinese publications, illustrations and descriptions of mobile flamethrowers on four-wheel push carts appear in the Wujing Zongyao, written in 1044 AD (its illustration redrawn in 1601 as well).

Although flamethrowers were never used in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, the use of Greek Fire was threatened, and flamethrowers have been in use in most modern conflicts ever since.

Early 20th century


The English word 'flamethrower' is a loan-translation of the German word Flammenwerfer, since the modern flamethrower was first invented in Germany. The first flamethrower, in the modern sense, is usually credited to Richard Fiedler
Richard Fiedler
Richard Fiedler was a German scientist who invented the flamethrower, which is a weapon that projects a stream of ignited liquid, usually oil. He submitted evaluation models of his Flammenwerfer to the German army in 1901...

. He submitted evaluation models of his Flammenwerfer to the German army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 in 1901. The most significant model submitted was a man-portable device, consisting of a vertical single cylinder 4 feet (1.2 m) long, horizontally divided in two, with pressurized gas in the lower section and flammable oil in the upper section. On depressing a lever the propellant gas forced the flammable oil into and through a rubber tube and over a simple igniting wick device in a steel nozzle. The weapon projected a jet of fire and enormous clouds of smoke some 20 yards (18 m). It was a single-shot weapon—for burst firing, a new igniter section was attached each time.

Using fire in a World War I battle predated actual flamethrower use, with a petrol spray being ignited by an incendiary bomb in the Argonne-Meuse sector in October 1914.

It was not until 1911 that the German army accepted their first real flamethrowing device, creating a specialist regiment of twelve companies equipped with Flammenwerferapparaten. Despite this, the weapon went unused in World War I until February 26, 1915, when it was briefly used against the French outside Verdun. On July 30, 1915, it was first used in a concerted action, against British trenches at Hooge
Hooge
Hooge can refer to:*Hooge, Prince Su*Houvenkopf Mountain known as "Hooge Kop"*Hooge, Germany, an island and municipality in northern Germany*Hooge, Belgium...

, where the lines were just 4.5m (5 yards) apart—even there, the casualties were caused mainly by soldiers being flushed into the open and being shot by more conventional means rather than from the fire itself.

The flamethrower had other limitations: it was cumbersome and difficult to operate and could only be safely fired from a trench, so limiting its use to areas where the opposing trenches were less than the maximum range of the weapon, namely 18m (20 yards) apart—which was not a common situation; the fuel would also only last for about 2 minutes).

Nevertheless, the German army continued deploying flamethrowers during the war in more than 300 battles, usually in teams of 6.

British forces in the Battle of the Somme used experimental weapons called "Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector
Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector
Livens Large Gallery Flame Projectors were large experimental flamethrowers used by the British Army in World War I.They were named after their inventor, a Royal Engineers officer William Howard Livens. Four were deployed in 1916 the Battle of the Somme and one in 1917 in an offensive near...

", named for their inventor, a Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 officer William Howard Livens
William Howard Livens
William Howard Livens DSO MC was an engineer, a soldier in the British Army and an inventor particularly known for the design of chemical warfare and flame warfare weapons. Resourceful and clever, Livens’ successful creations were characterised by being very practical and easy to produce in large...

. This weapon was enormous and completely non-portable. Livens later invented the Livens Projector
Livens Projector
The Livens Projector was a simple mortar-like weapon that could throw large drums filled with flammable or toxic chemicals. In the First World War, the Livens Projector became the standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in the arsenal of the British Army until the early years of...

, these were in effect crude mortars firing large bombs filled with incendiary liquid. A little later the weapon was adapted to project canisters of poison gas. Hundreds, or even thousands, of projectors firing almost simultaneously, would produce an instant cloud of poison gas on the target.

In the interwar period, at least four flamethrowers were used in the Chaco War
Chaco War
The Chaco War was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region of South America, which was incorrectly thought to be rich in oil. It is also referred to as La Guerra de la Sed in literary circles for being fought in the semi-arid Chaco...

 by the Bolivian Army
Bolivian Army
The Bolivian Army or Ejército Boliviano is the land forces component of the Military of Bolivia, the Bolivian Army has around 31,500 men.- Combat units directly under the Army general command :...

, during the unsuccessful assault on the Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

an stronghold of Nanawa
Second Battle of Nanawa
The Second Battle of Nanawa was a battle fought from July 4 to 9 in 1933 between the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies during the Chaco War. It was one of the bloodiest battles fought in South America in the 20th century, coming to be labeled as the "South American Verdun" by comparison with the...

 in 1933.

World War II



The flamethrower was extensively used during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In 1939, the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 first deployed man-portable flamethrowers against the Polish Post Office in Danzig
Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig
The Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig was one of the first acts of World War II in Europe, as part of the Invasion of Poland....

. Subsequently, in 1942, the U.S. Army introduced its own man-portable flamethrower.

The vulnerability of infantry carrying backpack flamethrowers and the weapon's short range led to experiments with tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

-mounted flamethrowers (flame tank
Flame tank
A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

s), which were used by many countries.

Germany


The Germans made considerable use of the weapon (Flammenwerfer 35
Flammenwerfer 35
The Flammenwerfer 35, or FmW 35 was the one-man German flamethrower used during World War II used to clear out trenches and buildings. This was a deadly weapon that was extremely effective at close range...

) during their invasion of Holland and France, against fixed fortifications. World War II German army flamethrowers tended to have one large fuel tank with the pressurizer tank fastened to its back or side. Some German army flamethrowers occupied only the lower part of its wearer's back, leaving the upper part of his back free for an ordinary rucksack.

Flamethrowers soon fell into disfavor, except in reprisal operations. Flamethrowers were extensively used by German units in urban fights
Urban warfare
Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is very different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level...

 in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, both in 1943 in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp....

 and in 1944 in the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

. On the Eastern Front the German army's "scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

" policy continued until the end of the war. (See the Stroop Report
Stroop Report
The Stroop Report was an official 75-page report prepared in May 1943 by Jürgen Stroop of the Waffen SS, commander of the German forces which liquidated the Warsaw ghetto, to Heinrich Himmler. It documented the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising...

 and the article on the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp....

.) With the contraction of the Third Reich during the latter half of World War II, a smaller, more compact flamethrower known as the Einstossflammenwerfer 46
Einstossflammenwerfer 46
The Einstossflammenwerfer 46 was a flamethrower designed in Germany during the second half of World War II and introduced in 1944; it was engineered to be both cheap and easily mass-produced...

 was produced.

Germany also used flamethrower vehicles, most of them based on the chassis of the Sdkfz 251 half track and the Panzer II and Panzer III tanks, generally known as Flammpanzers.

The Germans also produced the Abwehrflammenwerfer 42
Abwehrflammenwerfer 42
The Abwehrflammenwerfer 42 was a German static defensive flamethrower, flame fougasse or flame mine used during the Second World War. The design was copied from Russian FOG-1 mines that were encountered in 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. These were usually buried at intervals of covering road...

, a flame-mine or flame fougasse
Fougasse (weapon)
A fougasse is an improvised mine constructed by making a hollow in the ground or rock and filling it with explosives and projectiles. Fougasse was well known to military engineers by the mid-eighteenth century but was also referred to by Vauban in the seventeenth century and was used by Zimmerman...

, based on a Soviet version of the weapon. This was essentially a disposable, single use flamethrower that was buried alongside conventional land mines at key defensive points and triggered by either a trip-wire or a command wire. The weapon contained around 8 gallons (30.3 l) of fuel, that was discharged within a second, to a second and a half, producing a flame with a 15 yards (13.7 m) range. One defensive installation found in Italy included seven of the weapons, carefully concealed and wired to a central control point.

Italy


Italy employed man-portable flamethrowers and L3 Lf
L3/35
The L3/35 or Carro Veloce CV-35 was an Italian tank used before and during World War II. Although designated a light tank by the Italian Army, its turretless configuration, weight and firepower make it closer to contemporary tankettes....

 flame tank
Flame tank
A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

s during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

 of 1935 to 1936, during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, and during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The L3 Lf flame tank was a CV-33
CV-33
The Carro Veloce CV-33 or L3/33 was a tankette originally built in 1933 and used by the Italian Army before and during World War II. Many CV-33s were retrofitted to meet the specifications of the CV-35 in 1935...

 or CV-35 tankette with a flamethrower operating from the machine gun mount. In the Northern Africa Theatre, the L3 Lf flame tank found little to no success. An L6 Lf flametank was also developed using the L6/40 light tank platform.

Japan


Japan used man-portable flamethrowers to clear fortified positions, in the Battle of Wake Island
Battle of Wake Island
The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the Attack on Pearl Harbor and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan...

, Corregidor
Battle of Corregidor
The Battle for Corregidor was the culmination of the Japanese campaign for the conquest of the Philippines. The fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942 ended all organized opposition by the U.S...

, Battle of the Tenaru
Battle of the Tenaru
The Battle of the Tenaru, sometimes called the Battle of the Ilu River or the Battle of Alligator Creek, took place August 21, 1942, on the island of Guadalcanal, and was a land battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, between Imperial Japanese Army and Allied ground forces...

 on the Guadalcanal and Battle of Milne Bay
Battle of Milne Bay
The Battle of Milne Bay, also known as Operation RE by the Japanese, was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Japanese marines attacked the Australian base at Milne Bay on the eastern tip of New Guinea on 25 August 1942, and fighting continued until the Japanese retreated on 5...

.

Britain and the Commonwealth


The British World War II army flamethrowers, "Ack Packs", had a doughnut-shaped fuel tank with a small spherical pressurizer gas tank in the middle. As a result, some troops nicknamed them "lifebuoys". It was officially known as Flamethrower, Portable, No 2
Flamethrower, Portable, No 2
The Flamethrower, Portable, No 2 , also known as the Ack Pack, was a British design of flamethrower for infantry use in the Second World War...

.

The British hardly used their man-portable systems, relying on Churchill Crocodile
Churchill Crocodile
The Churchill Crocodile was a British flame-throwing tank of late Second World War. It was a variant of the Tank, Infantry, Mk VI Churchill Mark VII, although the Churchill Mark IV was initially chosen to be the base vehicle....

 tanks in the European theatre. These tanks proved very effective against German defensive positions, and caused official Axis protests against their use. There are documented instances of German units executing, out-of-hand, any captured British flame-tank crews.

In the Pacific theatre, Australian forces used converted Matilda tank
Matilda tank
The Infantry Tank Mark II known as the Matilda II was a British infantry tank of the Second World War. It was also identified from its General Staff Specification A12....

s, known as Matilda Frogs.

United States


In the Pacific theatre, the US Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 used the backpack-type M2A1-7 flamethrower and M2-2 flamethrowers, finding them especially useful in clearing Japanese trench and bunker complexes. In cases where the Japanese were installed in deep caves, the flames often consumed the available oxygen, suffocating the occupants. The Marines still used their infantry-portable systems despite the arrival of adapted Sherman tanks with the Ronson system (cf. flame tank
Flame tank
A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

).

The U.S. Army used flamethrowers in Europe in much smaller numbers, though they were available for special employments. Flamethrowers were deployed during the Normandy Invasion in order to clear Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 fortifications. Most boat teams on Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II...

 included a two-man flamethrower team.

Soviet Union


Some Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 flamethrowers had three backpack fuel tanks side by side. Its user could fire three shots, each emptying one of the tanks. The mechanism used to empty the tank was not a pressurized gas cylinder but a black powder cartridge on each fuel cylinder. This type is used in two versions, the "Light Infantry Flamethrower" (Легкий Пехотный Огнемёт) LPO-50 (ЛПО-50), and the "Heavy Infantry Flamethrower" (Тяжёлый Пехотный Огнемёт) TPO-70 (ТПО-70); a heavier, wheeled version was remotely triggered.

The ROKS-1 (РОКС-1) flamethrower was a stationary device used in defense. It could also be categorized as a projecting incendiary mine. Different from the LPO and TPO flamethrowers, the ROKS had only one cylinder of fuel. The November 1944 issue of the US War Department Intelligence Bulletin refers to 'Fougasse
Fougasse (weapon)
A fougasse is an improvised mine constructed by making a hollow in the ground or rock and filling it with explosives and projectiles. Fougasse was well known to military engineers by the mid-eighteenth century but was also referred to by Vauban in the seventeenth century and was used by Zimmerman...

 flame throwers' used in the Soviet defense of Stalingrad.

Unlike the flamethrowers of the other powers during World War II, the Soviets were the only ones to consciously attempt to camouflage
Camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

 their flamethrowers. With the ROKS-2 flamethrower this was done by disguising the "gun" as a standard issue rifle, such as the Mosin Nagant, and the fuel tanks as a standard infantryman's rucksack, to try to stop sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

s from specifically targeting flamethrower operators.

After 1945



The United States Marines used flamethrowers in the Korean
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

s. The M132 Armored Flamethrower
M132 Armored Flamethrower
The M132 was a United States built flamethrower armed variant of the M113 and M113A1 armored personnel carriers developed in the early 1960s. Approximately 350 were accepted into service....

, an M113 armored personnel carrier
M113 armored personnel carrier
The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that has formed the backbone of the United States Army's mechanized infantry units from the time of its first fielding in Vietnam in April 1962. The M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the U.S...

 with a mounted flame thrower was successfully used in the conflict.

Flamethrowers have not been in the U.S. arsenal since 1978, when the Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 unilaterally stopped using them. They have been deemed of questionable effectiveness in modern combat and the use of flame weapons is always a public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 issue due to the horrific death they inflict. They are not banned in any international treaty the U.S. has signed, thus the U.S. decision to remove flamethrowers from its arsenal is entirely voluntary.

Non-flamethrower incendiary weapons remain in modern military arsenals. Thermobaric weapon
Thermobaric weapon
A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

s have been fielded in Afghanistan by the United States. The USSR developed a rocket launcher specifically for the deployment of incendiaries—the ΡΠΟ-80 (RPO) or Rocket-launched Infantry Flamethrower. It has similarities to the famous RPG but the warhead is much bigger (approx. 2–3 liters of napalm), reducing the effective range.

In the last stages of the Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

, during the mid-80s, the IRA
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 smuggled a number of military flamethrowers (supplied to them by the Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

n government) into Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. They used a flamethrower, among other assault weapons, to storm a British Army permanent checkpoint in Derryard
Attack on Derryard checkpoint
The attack on Derryard checkpoint was a raid carried out on 13 December 1989 by a Provisional Irish Republican Army unit against a British Army permanent vehicle checkpoint manned by soldiers of the King's Own Scottish Borderers . It occurred near the Northern Ireland–Republic of Ireland border at...

, near Rosslea
Rosslea
Rosslea or Roslea is a small village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, near the border with County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. It stands on the River Finn and is beset by small natural lakes. Roslea Forest is nearby...

, on 13 December 1989. Another IRA unit attacked a British Army watchtower, the Borucki sangar, with an improvised flamethrower towed by a tractor in Crossmaglen
Crossmaglen
Crossmaglen or Crosmaglen is a village and townland in south County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 1,459 people in the 2001 Census and is the largest village in south Armagh...

, on 12 November 1992. The device consisted of a manure spreader
Manure spreader
A manure spreader or muck spreader or honey wagon is an agricultural machine used to distribute manure over a field as a fertilizer. A typical manure spreader consists of a trailer towed behind a tractor with a rotating mechanism driven by the tractor's power take off...

 which doused the facility with fuel, ignited few seconds later by a small explosion. A nine-meter-high fireball engulfed the tower. The four Grenadier Guards
Grenadier Guards
The Grenadier Guards is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It is the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry. It is not, however, the most senior regiment of the Army, this position being attributed to the Life Guards...

 inside were rescued by a Saxon
Saxon (vehicle)
The Saxon is an armoured personnel carrier used by the British Army and supplied in small numbers to various overseas organisations. It was developed by GKN Sankey, from earlier projects, AT 100 IS and AT104, and is due to be replaced by the Future Rapid Effect System.-Design:The Saxon was intended...

 armored vehicle.

In 1994, a man attacked school pupils at Sullivan Upper School
Sullivan Upper School
Sullivan Upper AddressBelfast RoadHolywoodBT18 9EP Phone 9042 8780 from abroadFax 9042 7644HeadteacherMr C J W Peel, M.A., B.Sc., Dip.A.S.Ed.Vice Principals*Mr. I. Ballantine, B.Sc., M.Ed., P.G.C.E....

, just outside Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

, with a home-made flamethrower.

Private ownership


In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, private ownership of a flamethrower is not restricted by federal law
Federal law
Federal law is the body of law created by the federal government of a country. A federal government is formed when a group of political units, such as states or provinces join together in a federation, surrendering their individual sovereignty and many powers to the central government while...

, but is restricted in some states, such as California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, by state law
State law
In the United States, state law is the law of each separate U.S. state, as passed by the state legislature and adjudicated by state courts. It exists in parallel, and sometimes in conflict with, United States federal law. These disputes are often resolved by the federal courts.-See also:*List of U.S...

s (cf. California Health and Welfare Codes 12750–12761, Flamethrowing Devices).

In California, unlicensed possession of a flame-throwing device—statutorily defined as "any non-stationary and transportable device designed or intended to emit or propel a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid a distance of at least 10 feet" H&W 12750 (a)—is a misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

 punishable with a county jail term not exceeding one year OR with a fine not exceeding $10,000 (CA H&W 12761). Licenses to use flamethrowers are issued by the State Fire Marshal, and he or she may use any criteria for issuing or not issuing that license that he deems fit, but must publish those criteria in the California Code of Regulations, Title 11, Section 970 et seq.

In the United Kingdom, flamethrowers are a "prohibited weapon" under section 5, part 1 (b) of the Firearms Act 1968
Firearms Act 1968
The Firearms Act of 1968 is a UK Act of Parliament controlling use and possession of firearms....

 and possession of a flamethrower would carry a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment.

A South African inventor brought the Blaster
Blaster (flamethrower)
The Blaster was a 1998 invention by South African inventor Charl Fourie designed to provide a defence against carjackings....

 car mounted flamethrower to market in 1998 as a security device to defend against carjackers. It has since been discontinued, with the inventor moving on to pocket-sized self-defence flamethrowers.

The book Breath of the Dragon: Homebuilt Flamethrowers, by Ragnar Benson
Ragnar Benson
Ragnar Benson is the pen name of a prolific survivalist author who specializes in preparedness topics, particularly survival retreats, hunting, trapping, austere medicine, false identification, explosives, firearms, and improvised weapons. Many of his books were published by Loompanics Unlimited...

 describes homebuilt construction of flamethrowers for private ownership.

Other uses


Flamethrowers are occasionally used for igniting controlled burn
Controlled burn
Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or Swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for...

s for land management
Land management
Land management is the process of managing the use and development of land resources. Land resources are used for a variety of purposes which may include organic agriculture, reforestation, water resource management and eco-tourism projects.-See also:*Sustainable land management*Acreage...

 and agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

. For example, in the production of sugar cane, where canebrake
Canebrake
Canebrake is an English noun meaning an area of land with a thick dense growth of cane, sugarcane, exotic bamboo, or similar plant material.Canebrake may also refer to:Places in the United States of America:*Canebrake...

s are burned to get rid of the dry dead leaves which clog harvester
Harvester (forestry)
A harvester is a type of heavy forestry vehicle employed in cut-to-length logging operations for felling, delimbing and bucking trees. A forest harvester is typically employed together with a forwarder that hauls the logs to a roadside landing.- History :...

s, and incidentally kill any lurking venomous snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s. More common, however, a driptorch
Driptorch
A driptorch is a tool used in wildfire suppression, controlled burning, and other forestry applications to intentionally ignite fires.The driptorch consists of a canister for holding fuel with a handle attached to the side, a spout with a loop to prevent fire from entering the fuel canister, a...

 or a flare
Flare (pyrotechnic)
A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signalling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications...

 (fusee) is used.

U.S. troops used flamethrowers on the streets of Washington, D.C. (mentioned in a December 1998 article in the San Francisco Flier), as one of several clearance methods used for the surprisingly large amount of snow that fell before the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

. A history article on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notes, "In the end, the task force employed hundreds of dump truck
Dump truck
A dump truck is a truck used for transporting loose material for construction. A typical dump truck is equipped with a hydraulically operated open-box bed hinged at the rear, the front of which can be lifted up to allow the contents to be deposited on the ground behind the truck at the site of...

s, front-end loaders, sander
Sander
A sander is a power tool used to smooth wood and automotive or wood finishes by abrasion with sandpaper. Sanders have a means to attach the sandpaper and a mechanism to move it rapidly contained within a housing with means to hand-hold it or fix it to a workbench. Woodworking sanders are usually...

s, plows, rotaries, and flamethrowers to clear the way".

See also

  • Churchill Crocodile
    Churchill Crocodile
    The Churchill Crocodile was a British flame-throwing tank of late Second World War. It was a variant of the Tank, Infantry, Mk VI Churchill Mark VII, although the Churchill Mark IV was initially chosen to be the base vehicle....

  • Converted Flamethrower 40
    Converted Flamethrower 40
    Umgebaute Flammenwerfer 40 is a backpack flamethrower converted to shoot a powerful jet of water solution of CN gas as a riot control device...

     (used to shoot tear gas dissolved in water)
  • Dragon's Breath
    Dragon's Breath
    A Dragon's Breath usually refers to a zirconium-based pyrotechnic shotgun round. When the round is fired, sparks and occasionally flames shoot out to about 15 m , beyond 15 metres, the round's already limited effectiveness is drastically reduced....

  • Early thermal weapons
  • Flame gun
  • Flame fougasse
    Flame fougasse
    A flame fougasse is a weapon. It is a type of mine which uses an explosive charge to project burning liquid onto a target. The flame fougasse was developed by the Petroleum Warfare Department in Britain as an anti-tank weapon during the invasion crisis of 1940...

  • Huo Long Jing
  • Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector
    Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector
    Livens Large Gallery Flame Projectors were large experimental flamethrowers used by the British Army in World War I.They were named after their inventor, a Royal Engineers officer William Howard Livens. Four were deployed in 1916 the Battle of the Somme and one in 1917 in an offensive near...

  • M202A1 FLASH
    M202A1 FLASH
    The M202 FLASH is an American rocket launcher, designed to replace the World War II-vintage flamethrowers that remained the military's standard incendiary devices well into the 1960s...

  • Meng Huo You
    Meng Huo You
    Meng Huo You is the name given to petroleum in ancient China, which practiced the use of petroleum as an incendiary weapon in warfare.-Historical records of petroleum:...

  • Technology of Song Dynasty

External links