The development of landmine warfare

Date

2002-12

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Texas Tech University

Abstract

This dissertation traces the technical, tactical, and ethical developments in landmine warfare from its genesis some 3 000 years ago through the present. It is based largely on primary sources and relies heavily on government documents and military manuals. Landmine warfare developed from two disparate areas. The first, dating to at least the Assyrian Empire, involved digging a tunnel under a fortification in order to collapse its walls. The second is the use of pit-traps, caltrops, and other devices to form a defensive barrier and deny an enemy access to an area.

The first modern pressure-sensitive landmine was developed by Immanuel Nobel in the 1850s and first used during the Crimean War. Confederate Brigadier General Gabriel Rains copied Nobel's design during the American Civil War, and variants of Nobel's fuse are still in use. While landmines were used as part of fortification defenses after the American Civil War, the use of landmines did not become widespread until World War II. World War Two saw the development of cheap, easy-to deploy landmines and air-delivered minefields. Previous armies had typically used fewer than 100 landmines to secure a defensive position. In contrast, during the battle of Kursk in World War II, Soviet forces deployed over a half million landmines to secure their defenses. Despite some debate during the American Civil War as to where it was appropriate to use landmines, the use of landmines per se was not really questioned until the 1980s. In large part, this was a reaction to the millions of landmines used in the wars of insurgency and civil wars following World War II. Millions of these landmines are still active, and landmines injure an average of 24,000 people every year. In 1997, representatives of 122 countries signed the Ottawa Convention and promised to stop using antipersonnel mines and to destroy their existing stockpiles of antipersonnel mines. Some countries, including the United States, have not signed the treaty, however, and the use both antipersonnel and antitank mines is still standard practice for many militaries.

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Keywords

United States history, Technological innovations, Military art and science, Crimean War, Latin America, Land mines, Vietnam War

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