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How Flamethrowers Work

        Science | Firearms

Fight Fire With Fire
French soldiers make a gas and flame attack on German trenches in Flanders, Belgium, during WWI.
French soldiers make a gas and flame attack on German trenches in Flanders, Belgium, during WWI.
Photo courtesy NARA

In World War I, the German army rediscovered the flamethrower and added it to their arsenal (in a new and improved form). By World War II, forces on both sides used a range of flamethrower weapons on the battlefield.

The most impressive innovation was the handheld flamethrower. This long, gun-type weapon has an attached fuel tank that soldiers can carry on their back.

A U.S. flamethrower operator in Vietnam during Operation New Castle -- the weight and size of the fuel tanks made the soldier extremely vulnerable to enemy fire, and troops had to be assigned to protect him.
A U.S. flamethrower operator in Vietnam during Operation New Castle -- the weight and size of the fuel tanks made the soldier extremely vulnerable to enemy fire, and troops had to be assigned to protect him.
Photo courtesy NARA