World War I marked the introduction of many new advances in military technology. One type of deadly weapon that was heavily used in the war was artillery. Artillery pieces are cannons that can shoot a variety of heavy projectiles for great distances, often up to several miles. Although artillery had been used in various forms for hundreds of years, improvements in science and technology allowed the cannons of World War I to shoot faster and more accurately than in previous wars.
Even though trenches could protect soldiers on the Western Front from enemy rifle fire, the trenches offered little protection from artillery. While some cannons shoot straight at their targets, others arc or lob their projectiles to negate the protection of cover. So, although a soldier in a trench may be relatively safe from soldiers in the opposite trench, he was still at risk of being hit from an artillery shell (projectile) from above.
The danger of artillery was magnified by the fact that different kinds of shells could be fired from the cannons. While the most common type of shell would explode when they hit the target, cannons could also fire canisters of poison gas. One function of artillery was to destroy enemy soldiers, weapons, and defenses so that friendly soldiers could advance and capture territory more easily and with less loss of life. In an attempt to weaken and destroy German forces before the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the British fired over 100,000 shells each day for a week. Before the main battle began, the British artillery had fired over 1.5 million shells. In this photograph, Lieutenant James McGuire is sitting inside of a crater formed by an exploded German artillery shell. The hole looks to be at least eight feet deep.
Lieutenant James A. McGuire resting in a shell hole near Hannescamp, France after strenuous battling in rear guard action during the German Somme offensive, April, 1918.
How does technology influence the outcome of a war?
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Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the impact of the technology on the outcome of the war.