If you are a weapon enthusiast, you might wonder, are flamethrowers a war crime? In 1900, a German engineer, Richard Fiedler, invented the flamethrower, which the German army accepted into service in 1911.
Since the invention of the flamethrower, it has made history as it featured in the world war. It consists of a backpack and a gun, which can throw flames up to 100 meters away.
The flamethrower is an impressive piece of weaponry, and it can inflict some gruesome physical injuries. Today, we shall discuss everything regarding a flamethrower. But before that, let’s find out if it is a war crime.
So, Are Flamethrowers A War Crime?
No. Flamethrowers are not a war crime. Even though the military seized the use of flamethrowers in their operations, one can still use them for other things.
Flamethrowers outlived their usefulness on the battlefield as engineers kept developing better weapons.
Weapons That Are Considered A War Crime
Some weapons proved so brutal and inhuman that some organizations banned them from warfare.
Other bans result from nations’ agreements and treaties not to use certain weapons against each other. Here are some of the weapons that are a war crime:
Poisonous Gas And Chemical Weapons
These weapons can suffocate a victim by filling their lungs and causing painful blisters. Poisonous gases were responsible for millions of brutal deaths during World War I.
Using chemical weapons would scar the victims’ bodies and cause irritations that would cause damage to cells. It is why the Geneva protocol prohibited the use of chemical weapons in 1925.
The use of biological weapons has been in use for many years. A good example is when Mongolians dropped rotting bodies in cities and towns under siege to spread certain diseases.
During medieval times, enemies threw dead animals in forts and towns to spread smallpox. Smallpox killed over 300 million people before scientists came up with its vaccine.
Biological weapons are inhuman and can lead to the extinction of an entire civilization. The Biological Weapons Convention banned countries from developing biological weapons, making it a war crime.
Poisoned bullets are also one of the most dangerous inventions the world has witnessed. Ship cannons would use poison bullets to lay attacks on other ships.
Poisoned bullets released a choking and poisonous effect on their victims. In 1675, the Strasbourg agreement between Rome and France restricted the use of poisoned bullets.
The invention belonged to Leonardo da Vinci, who created rounds of packing shells with sulfur and arsenic.
A cluster bomb is a bomb full of small bombs. Aircrafts often dropped it from above, and its effects were devastating. They usually opened up in the air and saturated the area under attack with explosives.
In 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions declared the bombs a war crime. The bomb is very indiscriminate and can cause a lot of damage to civilians.
Blinding Laser Weapons
This weapon is so terrible that it can also blind a person looking at it with binoculars from a far distance.
The Convention of certain conventional weapons banned it as it was inhuman to blind many people simultaneously.
The Convention of certain conventional weapons banned land mines. Land mines are quite dangerous, and if you happen to step on them, you are as good as dead.
Enemies would set up land mines in areas they knew their targets would pass. Today, minefields must be labeled and fenced to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Undetectable fragments are materials that one cannot detect easily with modern equipment. They can kill just like metal; the only problem is that they are not easily detected.
Undetectable fragmentations could consist of materials such as glass and plastic. The Convention of certain conventional weapons banned undetectable fragmentations in 1981.
Components Of A Flamethrower
The flamethrowers have many components, which vary from one flamethrower to the other. Ideally, the man-portable flamethrower will consist of cylinders in the form of a backpack and a gun for shooting flames.
Most flame throwers will have two cylinders; one for carrying compressed propellant inert gas and the other for carrying a flammable liquid.
One with three cylinders will often have outer cylinders with a flammable liquid and the middle cylinder with compressed propellant inert gas.
The compressed inert gas propels the liquid fuel through a pipe into the gun. The gun has an ignition system, a spring-loaded valve, and a small reservoir. The gun shoots out the flammable liquid after igniting it resulting in a flame.
Setbacks Of Flamethrower In War
Despite flamethrowers being an impressive invention, they also pose a great risk to the operator. Here are the disadvantages an operator might face when using flamethrowers in war:
The weight and length of this weapon can impair a soldier’s mobility at the time of war. It is difficult to run fast with the flame thrower, which is quite a problem during the war.
The flamethrower can disadvantage the operator in an incident when they notice a hand grenade thrown at them. They might be unable to escape it since the flamethrower has already compromised their mobility.
Since it is heavy, the flamethrower can tire out an operator before reaching the enemy’s territory. Hence his performance on the battlefield might reduce significantly.
A flamethrower can only support a few seconds of flame, after which you must replace the cylinders.
The weapon uses liquid fuel very fast, and the operator must be precise in handling it, making it very tough to work with.
Since the cylinders empty very fast with only a few shots of flame, it might leave the operator defenseless amid the enemy’s territory. That decreases the chances of the operator surviving an attack.
If the operator is not precise in handling the flamethrower, he can easily waste the fuel without having any impact.
Nevertheless, the cylinders require special equipment to refill the flammable liquid. Hence the operator might have to return to base every time he runs out. Therefore, the enemy will have a better chance of attacking him.
A flamethrower is visible on the battlefield, and the operators can easily be singled out, especially by snipers. Hence, it is hard for an operator to use it in an unknown territory.
Stealth is one factor that makes up a strong defense and offers a powerful attack. Army troops must be invisible to attack their enemies without getting noticed.
However, it is not easy to attack stealthily with a flame thrower, as it will produce a lot of light as it throws flames, and you have to be close to your enemy for you to attack.
This weapon has a relatively shorter range compared to what other weapons of similar size can do on a battlefield.
An operator must approach their opponent, risking their own life for a flamethrower to be effective.
The short range is a big disadvantage in war, and one might struggle while trying to attack their enemies. Hence, the flamethrower will make the operator an easy target.
Operators might suffer from burns resulting from shooting high degrees of flame. To minimize burns, the operators might have to wear highly asbestos clothing to cover themselves from the intense heat of the flamethrowers.
The clothes are quite heavy, which might limit the operator’s ability to move quickly.
An operator might be at risk of explosion if a bullet or a grenade shrapnel hits the flammable liquid cylinders. Furthermore, in an incidence of a leakage, the operator can catch fire as they try to attack their opponents.
To minimize the disadvantage of this weapon, engineers had to place it on an armored vehicle, such as a tank. Therefore, fewer operators will have to die as a result of the explosion of the weapon.
Why The Military Seized The Use Of Flamethrowers
After years of using the flamethrower, the US military decided to lay it off in 1978. The flame thrower had devastating effects on the body, and they deemed it inhuman.
However, you should note that there is no international law that burns the use of flamethrowers; hence they aren’t a war crime.
The flamethrower only has a few benefits many battlefield disadvantages. With the advancement of better weapons, flamethrowers outlived their usefulness in the field, and it was no longer important for military use.
Though the military had to resign from using it, the United States still allows one to own a flamethrower. California requires one to get a permit, while Maryland has completely banned its use.
If you were wondering if flamethrowers are a war crime, we believe we have answered your question in detail.
Flamethrowers can cause some devastating injuries to those who fall victim to them. It is quite heavy and might disadvantage an operator on a battlefield.
The United States military seized the use of flamethrowers as they considered it inhuman. Nonetheless, flamethrowers had very many disadvantages when it came to the battlefield. Some special organizations declare some weapons a war crime to prevent their use on the battlefield.