War and Social Upheaval: World War I -- National Industries and Weapon Systems


Figure 1.--No information was associated with this photographs. The soldiers look like the American Doughboys sent to France after America declared war on Germany. Most had little or no military training. They are inspecting a Maxim machine gun. The Maxim gun was invented by American-British inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim (1883). It was the first recoil-operated machine gun and often called the weapon of British imperial conquest. By the time of World War I, most European armies had upgraded their machine guns. The British Vickers machine gun was a redesigned Maxim. The United States had not manufactured maxchine guns in quantity at the tome of the War and thus the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) would use British and French machine guns.

Both France and Germany had large arms industries. The German arms indutry was larger because the country had alarger industrial base--the largest in Europe. France had, however, an alliance with Russia. Tsarist Rusia was backward, but had the fastest growing industy in Europe. At the time of the War, howevr, it was not yet capable of adequately supplying the vast army it mobilized. Britain was also a major indistril power, but put much more emphasis on the Navy than Army. Austria-Hungary was a major 19th century power, but had not kept up with industry. Much of the Empire's heavy industry was located in the Czech lands. The major powers developed important arms industries. The sole exception was the United States which neither had a sizeable army or important arms industries. The United States had the largest industrial capacity in the War, but that indutry was not yet a major arms producer. As a result, when America entered the War, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) would fight ith British and French arms. This was one reason that Kaiser Wilhelm and his military advisers, viewing the almost non-existent American Army, discounted the importance of the United States. Another German leader leader would incredibly make the same mistake a generation later.

Austria-Hungary

Austria-Hungary was a major 19th century power, but had not kept up with industry. Much of the Empire's heavy industry was located in the Czech lands. Austria had notable artisan=l production and products likes porcelin, but very little of the heavy indistry needed for arms production. Almost all of this swas locatd in the Czech Lands, most notably the Skoda industrial complex. Not did the Austrian Government make any effort to develop heavy industry. The Skoda complex ws the work of Czech industrilists with vey little assistabce from the Austrian Government.

Belgium


Britain

Britain was a major industrial power, second only to Germany in Europe. Much of Britain's industrial power was focused on the Navy rather than the army like Germany.

France

French industrial capacity was smaller than that of Germany. This was especially the case after Prussia unified Germny (1870-71). The French realized that they could never fight Germany again without allies. France negotuated an alliance with Russia after Kaiser Wilhelm allowed a German alliance with Russian to lapse. In addition, France had developed close relations with Britain concerned with the rise of German naval power. In short, Kaisser Wilhem drive both Russia and Britain into an allince with France. And while France had a smaller industrial base than Germany, the alliance that coallesed around France had not only a larger industrial base, but access to imported raw materials and the ability to blockade Germany. France also was not as dependent on food resources as Germany. Thus as long as France could defeat a the German plan for a massive German offensive and quick victory, Germany was going to have a hard time winning a war. While the Germans were stopped at the Marne, the still occupied large areas of northern France. This significantly impacted French industry, meaning it lost coal mines (40 percent) and steel mills (80 percent) as well as metal working machinery (80 percent) and over half of its miners and metal workers. This could have crippled the French war effort. The French Government moved to reorganize its industrial economy. Here British economic assistance and war loans raised in Amnerica were important. The labor system was reorganized and new plants opened. Thee Royal Navy kept the sealanes open. Coal was imported from Welsh mines and other raw materials from other countries. As a result they were not only able to supply their own Army, but send aid to Russia. Munitions were, however, in short supply, primrily because so many industril workers were conscripted. France by the end of the War had large numbers of factories, employing a million workers, a quarter of whom were women. Before the War there were very few female industrial workers. The production results were impressive. French plants increased the output of 75 mm projectiles forty times, large caliber projectiles ninety times, 75 mm artilery pices thirty times, machine guns 170 times, gun powder seven times, other explosives 40 times. France with its industry supplied all the Allies except Britain, including American with its massive industrial base. France substantially increased the combatant power of irs Army by the last year of the War. French industry was adversely affected at the onset of the War by a scarcity of munitions and of heavy artillery. Conscription cut into the industrial work force. The French gradually realised that workers with specialized skills were more valuable in the factories than at the front. While French industry was smaller than German industry, it was both substantual and innovative. French industry produced one of the most imprived weapon of the War, the French 75 which played a key role in slowing the German drive through Belgium abd the onset of the War culminating in the Miracle on the Marne. Other importnt French arms were both tnks andplanes which the Germans were unable to match, in part because of raw material shirtages. The Germans produced some excellent aurcraft, but their industry was unable to match the allies in numbers. The major problem fr the Germans was the limited ability to build aircraft engines. This sutuation was even more triking in tanks. The French General Staff began development of a tank program (1914). The French produced 4,300 tanks during the War, more than the British. The Germans never deployed more than a few dozen tanks, and only 20 were German built.

Germany

Both France and Germany had large arms industries. The German arms indutry was larger because the country had a larger industrial base--the largest in Europe. German industry like the German Army had its greatest lead at the onset of the War. Germany had more of its industry oriented toward war than the Allies, so when the German offensive failed at the Marne, the allies had time to catch up. At the same time the Germans while they increased arms production, they had trouble maintining production at a high level. Insustrialists faced a variety of pronlems, including a reduced work force because of conscription, worker food shortages, obtaining raw materials, and financing. Germany had very few of the resources needed for industrial producriom. They had coal and iron ore for steel production could be imported from Sweden. The Royal Navy could not block Bktic Sea traffic. Virtually all other raw materials needed by an industrial economy were in short supply and as the war dragged on, it increasingly impaired German industrial production. The Allies could important what they needed and had access to the American capital market. The Germans did not.

Russia

Tsarist Rusia was backward, but had the fastest growing industy in Europe. At the time of the War, howevr, it was not yet capable of adequately supplying the vast army it mobilized.

United States

All the major world powers developed important arms industries. The sole exception was the United States which neither had a sizeable army or important arms industry. The United States had the largest industrial capacity in the world, but that induatry was not yet a major arms producer. The United States helped supply the Allies with munitions, but not arms. And even though the War was waged for nearly 3 years, American companies did not begin to produce arms. As a result, when America entered the War, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) would use American small arms, but for the rest of their arms they would have to use British and French arms. This was one reason that Kaiser Wilhelm and his military advisers, viewing the almost non-existent American Army, discounted the potential importance of the United States. Another German leader leader would incredibly make the same disasterous mistake a generation later. The United States set about drafting a huge army and training the men. The U.S. Army in World War II was well prepared compared to the AEF. Virtually no consideration was given to building an army or priducing modern weaponry before samerica entered the War. Most of American Expeditionry would be green troops trained in France. Many had only limited training at the time they were thrown into the World War maelstrom. This was all done in less than a year. Creating a substantil arms industry from scratch was a very different matter. So the AEF would have to fight with Allied weapons. The one American weapon widely used was the standard Springfield 1903 .3006 rifle. The one innovative American weapon that emerged from World War I was the Browing Automatic Rifle (BAR). Tragically it was not issued in important numbers. The Army was concerned about it falling into German hands. The major American industrial contribution to the War was trucks and the Liberty engine. The truck may not sound like an impressive contribution, but gave the Allies unprecedented mobility. The Germans on the other hand fought the War almost entirely with horses. They had neither the industrial capacity to build trucks or adequate oil supplies to fuel them.







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Created: 2:13 PM 12/19/2017
Last updated: 2:13 PM 12/19/2017