Since elementary we have been taught about The First World War (WW1) and The Second World War (WW2), but we have never focused on the differences that separate these historical events and their similarities that bring them close. This paper’s purpose is to inform you about the stark differences and the similarities between these monolithic wars. Even though these wars were similar in that they were global conflicts, they differed in the technology used, strategies used, and the scale of the war.
During WW1 the technologies used differed from WW2 in the fact that in the first world war both sides invented and used multiple poison gasses against each other. Of the most popular of these gases was chlorine gas (popularly known as mustard gas). Chlorine gas could cause water to build up in the lungs, shortness of breath, and wheezing (CDC | Facts About Chlorine). In the second world war, these chemical weapons were banned under the 1925 Geneva Protocol so chemical weapons did not see use in WW2. A more prominent example of a technological difference between these two wars was the use of motorized vehicles such as tanks. In WW1 tanks had just been invented by the British, with their Mk 1 tank ( How Britan Invented…, Brosnan Matt). The Mk 1 was created to break the stalemate of trench warfare and getting over barbed wire. While it was effective at doing this they were created in 1915 and deployed in 1916 only seeing limited use as they were deployed towards the end of the war with only 150 being built.
While tanks were used in WW1, WW2 tanks were one of the most essential military items to have during this war due to advancements in tank technology such as better armor, better crew layout, and is equipped radio. These advancements essentially changed the way the war was being fought by rendering old static warfare obsolete because these tanks were able to go up to 33 mph and breakthrough enemy lines. WW2 saw extensive use of tanks with them being used in the European, Pacific, and Asian theatre of war.
Another difference between these two wars was the strategies being used. In WW1 the strategy used a new type of warfare named static warfare. This consisted of 2 sides creating multiple layers of highly defensive positions that consisted of barbed wire, trenches, and pillboxes (machine-gun nests). Static warfare extensively used attrition. Attrition is the wearing down of an enemy’s resources by keeping pressure on them. This was accomplished by using artillery barrages that could last from a couple of hours to days on end. Attrition was also accomplished by launching the aforementioned poison gas at the enemy. After one side believed that the enemy was vulnerable enough they would leave their defensive positions and enter no-mans-land (the land between two opposing sides) and charge the enemy position to try to take the enemy position while under infantry and machine-gun fire. As a result, the attacking side would incur a massive amount of casualties and attacks would often fail. If an attack were to succeed they would only gain a small amount of land and would have to repeat the process once again.
In WW2 there were two main strategies used: mobile warfare and island hopping. Mobile warfare consisted of defending key positions such as cities or important defensive positions. Offensive movements would consist of a large number of armored vehicles, infantry, and air support focusing their attack on an important target so they could inflict the most amount of damage to the enemy while completing the offensive in the least amount of time. This strategy did come with a large number of casualties but not nearly as many as static warfare. The second WW2 strategy island-hopping only applied to the pacific theatre. Island hopping would consist of taking over islands and then after those islands were cleared of hostiles. The island would be converted to a staging area to repeat the process on another nearby island. The end goal of this strategy is to be able to get close enough to a nation to launch an effective attack. While this tactic was very useful with every offensive launched there would be a massive number of casualties.
While both WW1 and WW2 both had their differences there was one area in which they were very similar and that would be the scale of these two wars. Both of these wars have some of the highest casualties in all of history. In WW1 there was a reported 37.5 million casualties (Casualties of WW1) and in WW2 there was a reported 85 million casualties (Research Starters: Worldwide …). While both of these wars had a terrific loss of life in common, that not all that they had. They were also similar in the actual number of nations at war with each other. WW1 and WW2 are nearly identical with 32 and 31 nations participating respectively.
In conclusion, WW1 and WW2 were terrible wars that were different from each other with their technological gap, the different strategies such as static warfare and mobile warfare, but were similar in their scale with the high casualty counts and the number of nations participating. WW1 and WW2 were similar in a few ways but overall their severe technological gap and strategies make these two entirely different.
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