Incendiary device

Incendiary device

Incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus.

Development and use

Incendiary devices have been used since the beginning of gunpowder warfare in the Middle Ages, by the Chinese, the Muslims, and then the Europeans.

Incendiary bombs, also known as firebombs, were used as an effective bombing weapon in World War II [ [ World War II Guide.] ] . The large bomb casing was filled with small sticks of incendiaries (bomblets), and designed to open at altitude, scattering the bomblets in order to cover a wide area. An explosive charge would then ignite the incendiary material, often starting a raging fire. The fire would burn at extreme temperatures that could destroy most buildings made of wood or other combustible materials (buildings constructed of stone tend to resist incendiary destruction unless they are first blown open by high explosives). Originally, incendiaries were developed in order to destroy the many small, decentralized war industries located (often intentionally) throughout vast tracts of city land in an effort to escape destruction by conventionally-aimed high-explosive bombs. Nevertheless, the civilian destruction caused by such weapons quickly earned them a reputation as terror weapons (e.g., German "Terrorflieger") with the targeted populations, and more than a few shot-down aircrews were summarily executed by angry civilians upon capture.Fact|date=July 2007 The Nazi regime began the campaign of incendiary bombings with the bombing of London in 1940–41, and reprisal was exacted by the Allies in the strategic bombing campaign. In the Pacific War, during the last seven months of strategic bombing by B-29 Superfortresses in the airwar against Japan, a change to firebombing tactics resulted in some 500,000 Japanese deaths and 5 million more made homeless. 67 of Japan's largest cities lost significant area to incendiary attacks. The most deadly single bombing raid in all history was Operation Meetinghouse, an incendiary attack that killed some 100,000 Tokyo residents in one night.

Modern incendiary bombs usually contain thermite, made from aluminium and ferric oxide. The most effective formula is 25% aluminium and 75% iron oxide. It takes very high temperatures to ignite, but when alight, it can burn through solid steel. In WWII, such devices were employed in incendiary grenades to burn through heavy armor plate, or as a quick welding mechanism to destroy artillery and other complex machined weapons.

White phosphorus (WP) bombs and shells are essentially incendiary devices, and can be used in an offensive anti-personnel role against enemy troop concentrations. WP is also used for signaling, smokescreens, and target-marking purposes. The U.S. Army and Marines used WP extensively in WWII and Korea for all three purposes, frequently using WP shells in large 4.2-inch chemical mortars. WP was widely credited by many Allied soldiers for breaking up numerous Nazi infantry attacks and creating havoc among enemy troop concentrations during the latter part of WWII. The psychological impact of WP on the enemy was noted by many troop commanders in WWII, and captured 4.2-inch mortarmen were sometimes summarily executed by German forces in reprisal.Fact|date=February 2008 In both WWII and Korea, WP was found particularly useful in overcoming enemy human wave attacks.

Since white phosphorus can be used as a multipurpose device to mark targets, provide a smoke screen, or signal to friendly troops, it may not be covered by UN protocols on incendiary weapons when used in this fashion.Fact|date=February 2008 Protocol III of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against civilians (effectively a reaffirmation of the general prohibition on attacks against civilians in Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions), prohibits the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons against military targets located within concentrations of civilians and loosely regulates the use of other types of incendiary weapons in such circumstances.

A variety of pyrophoric materials can be also used. Selected organometallic compounds, most often triethylaluminium, trimethylaluminium, and some other alkyl and aryl derivates of aluminium, magnesium, boron, zinc, sodium, and lithium, can be used. Thickened triethylaluminium, a napalm-like substance that ignites in contact with air, is known as thickened pyrophoric agent, or TPA.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army developed the CBU-55, a cluster bomb incendiary fueled by propane, a weapon that was used only once in warfare. [ Alan Dawson, "55 Days: The Fall of South Vietnam" (Prentice-Hall 1977).] Napalm proper is no longer used by the United States, although the kerosene-fueled Mark 77 MOD 5 Firebomb is currently in use. The United States has confirmed the use of Mark 77s in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

ee also

*Bat bomb
*Fire accelerant
*Flame fougasse
*Fuel-air explosive
*Greek fire
*Pen Huo Qi (Historic Chinese flamethrower)
*Meng Huo You (Historic Chinese incendiary weapon)
*Molotov cocktail
*Incendiary ammunition
*High-explosive incendiary (HEI)
*Early thermal weapons


External links

* [ United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) 1946]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Incendiary device — Incendiary In*cen di*a*ry, a. [L. incendiarius, fr. incendium a fire, conflagration: cf. F. incendiaire. See {Incense} to inflame.] [1913 Webster] 1. Of or pertaining to incendiarism, or the malicious burning of valuable property; as, incendiary… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Incendiary — In*cen di*a*ry, a. [L. incendiarius, fr. incendium a fire, conflagration: cf. F. incendiaire. See {Incense} to inflame.] [1913 Webster] 1. Of or pertaining to incendiarism, or the malicious burning of valuable property; as, incendiary material;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Incendiary shell — Incendiary In*cen di*a*ry, a. [L. incendiarius, fr. incendium a fire, conflagration: cf. F. incendiaire. See {Incense} to inflame.] [1913 Webster] 1. Of or pertaining to incendiarism, or the malicious burning of valuable property; as, incendiary… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • incendiary — ► ADJECTIVE 1) (of a bomb or other device) designed to cause fires. 2) tending to stir up conflict or controversy. ► NOUN (pl. incendiaries) ▪ an incendiary device. DERIVATIVES incendiarism noun. ORIGIN …   English terms dictionary

  • Incendiary — Incendiary, meaning capable of causing fire , may refer to: * Incendiary device, designed to cause fires * Incendiary (novel), by Chris Cleave * Incendiary (film), by Sharon MaguireSee also arson …   Wikipedia

  • incendiary — in|cen|di|a|ry1 [ınˈsendiəri US dieri] adj [Date: 1400 1500; : Latin; Origin: incendiarius, from incendium fire ] 1.) [only before noun] designed to cause a fire incendiary bomb/device ▪ The explosion seems to have been caused by an incendiary… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • device — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ clever, ingenious ▪ labour saving/labor saving, useful ▪ complex, sophisticated ▪ simple …   Collocations dictionary

  • incendiary — I UK [ɪnˈsendɪərɪ] / US [ɪnˈsendɪˌerɪ] adjective 1) designed for the purpose of causing a fire an incendiary device/bomb 2) likely to cause anger or violence incendiary statements II UK [ɪnˈsendɪərɪ] / US [ɪnˈsendɪˌerɪ] noun [countable] Word… …   English dictionary

  • incendiary — in|cen|di|ar|y1 [ ın sendi,eri ] adjective 1. ) designed for the purpose of causing a fire: an incendiary device/bomb 2. ) likely to cause anger or violence: INFLAMMATORY: incendiary statements in|cen|di|ar|y2 [ ın sendi,eri ] noun count a bomb… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • incendiary — I adjective agitative, anarchistic, harmful, immoderate, inciting, incitive, inflammatory, instigative, intemperate, nihilistic, pernicious, poisonous, revolutionary, unbridled II index disorderly Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

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