Thursday, March 23, 2006

Deadliest Weapons

They’re the most lethal devices ever invented. Built for a single purpose; to end life. This programme will profile five of man’s deadliest weapons, focusing on the inventors, the battles, and the dark technology behind their lethality.

During World War I, technological advances in weaponry led to the deaths of over 8 million. One of the deadliest killers of the war was the machine gun. Steadfast commanders relied on old tactics developed for cavalry to attack this new killing machine. After the first 24 hours of the Battle of Somme, 20,000 British soldiers were mowed down behind a barrage of bullets from this new killing machine.

In World War II, the use of incendiary bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people. The RAF, under the command of "Bomber" Harris attacked the city of Dresden, Germany with incendiaries, creating a deadly firestorm that killed 50,000 in a single day.

The invention of napalm led to more effective incendiaries that literally destroyed countless Japanese cities. During two days of incendiary bombing over Japan, B-29’s dropped more than 1500 tons of incendiary bombs creating a firestorm that killed over 100,000. By the end of the war incendiary bombs had killed more people than the two atomic bombs combined.

Another deadly invention of the Second World War was the proximity fuse, or VT fuse. The proximity fuse made it possible for artillery to detonate within a predetermined range of an enemy target, a marked improvement over the contact and timed fuses used earlier in the war.

The result was increased lethality for anti-aircraft weapons and mortar shells. Developed under the utmost secrecy at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, the VT fuse destroyed numerous Japanese aircraft in the war for the Pacific Ocean. Later it was an effective anti-personnel weapon that killed countless Germans during the Battle of the Bulge leading General Patton to claim that it was the most important invention of the war.

There is little doubt that the deadliest weapons ever used on people were the atomic bombs, known as "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" that exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9th. Over 150,000 were killed instantly, with countless others dying in the days, weeks, and months that followed.

Yet science had only scratched the surface of lethality. The atomic bomb was followed by the thermonuclear bomb. By releasing immense energy and irradiating debris, this weapon of mass destruction has the potential to kill millions.

Finally, we will profile what many believe to be the deadliest chemical agent ever created: VX nerve gas. It takes only fifty micrograms of VX to kill a person within minutes.

This deadly agent has only been used twice on people, both by Saddam Hussein, with devastating results.


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