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Flamethrowers. The primary effects of flame weapons are fear, blinding, choking, and asphyxiation. Germany first invented and used the modern flame thrower in World War I. Since then, all major military powers have developed and fielded both portable and vehicle‐mounted versions. The United States used flame throwers extensively in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The U.S. model M3 man‐portable flamethrower weighed about 65 pounds fully loaded, and projected a burning stream of semiliquid fuel about 40 yards with a duration of less than ten seconds. Its storage tanks for fuel and compressed air connected by hose to a gun and igniter held with both hands by the operator. Triggers released the jellylike fuel, propelled by air pressure and ignited as it streamed past the nozzle. The United States also fielded an armored flamethrower with greater range and duration mounted inside the Sherman tank chassis.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps made wide use of flamethrowers in World War II, especially in the Pacific theater as part of a systematic tactical technique for attacking Japanese pillboxes, dugouts, and caves like those at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Attackers suppressed the objective with small‐arms fire, allowing flamethrower operators to get close enough to put fire into apertures and openings.

The U.S. military continued to use flamethrowers in Korea and Vietnam, but also fielded new flame weapons during the Vietnam War, including the M202 Flash, which was much lighter than the M3 and could hit point targets at over 100 yards and area targets out to 275 yards. The M202 is man‐portable and weighs about 25 pounds fully loaded, with four rocket‐propelled charges fired independently from the operator's shoulder.


George Feifer , Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, 1992.

George Knapp

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