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 Battlefield Acoustics in the First World War: Artillery Location
Richard Daniel Costley Jr.
   Introduction and Context
Acoustics have probably been used in warfare for as long as people have been warring with each other. Indeed, in an historical review, Namorato (2000) relates the use of acoustics in warfare from biblical to modern times. The examples he describes through the nineteenth century largely rely on the human ear for hearing or not hearing and for recognizing various sounds associated with warfare.
World War I (WWI) was distinguished from earlier con- flicts by technological advancements such as the advent of electricity that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which led to the invention of devices for transmitting, detecting, and recording sound. Other technological advancements in warfare were intro- duced during this period: the machine gun was invented in 1884, the flamethrower was invented in 1914, poison gas was introduced in 1915, and the tank was invented in 1916 (Meyer, 2006).
However, advancements in artillery, which killed more people in WWI than did any other weapon, led to the development of methods to localize (and ultimately destroy) enemy artillery. In other words, artillery loca- tion technologies were developed to counter the recent advances in artillery.
In the early twentieth century, there were two classes of artillery: field artillery and heavy artillery (see Field artillery, such as that used in the US Civil War, was intended for mobile warfare and shot small caliber shells between 7.5 and 8.4 centime- ters. The projectiles traveled in flat trajectories at targets within the line of sight, so soldiers could usually see the cannon firing at them. Field artillery continued to be used in the First World War, but it was supplemented by heavy artillery (Meyer, 2006; Storz, 2014).
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Heavy artillery was developed in the late 1800s, largely by Germany because field artillery was not able to destroy improvised field fortifications in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Heavy artillery fired larger caliber rounds with increased muzzle velocities at increased ranges. Then, in 1897, France developed a gun with a long barrel recoil that had a brake mechanism that absorbed the recoil so that the gun did not require repositioning after each shot. In addition, shells combined propellant, warhead, and timing devices into a cylinder that could be quickly loaded into the guns. These developments allowed for an increased rate of fire and subsequently required an increased supply of ammunition.
One example of heavy artillery in use by the German Army in WWI was a 21-cm-caliber Morser Howitzer (Figure 1) that had a supersonic muzzle velocity of 393 meters/
 Figure 1. A 21-cm-caliber Morser Howitzer used by the German Army in World War I (WWI). Photo by Balcer~commonswiki, used under the Creative Commons license with attribution (CC
BY 2.5). Available at
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