The flamethrower has a long history of military use.
– In the first century AD, the Greek navy developed a hand-pumped apparatus that shot bursts of fire at enemy ships.
– In the 10th century AD, the Chinese employed a piston-driven weapon that sprayed “fierce fire oil.”
– In 1915, Germany deployed a Flammenwerfer in a concerted action against British trenches, but most casualties were soldiers flushed into the open and shot.
– In 1916, the British used a cumbersome experimental flame projector in the Battle of the Somme.
It wasn’t until World War II that the flamethrower saw extensive use by both Allied and Axis powers. In the Pacific War, US Marines used the backpack-type M2A1-7 flamethrower and M2-2 flamethrowers to clear Japanese trenches, bunkers and caves. Sherman tanks, fitted with the “Ronson” system, were also deployed.
Flamethrowers were used much less in the European campaign, although they were available for special deployments such as the Allied Normandy landings and the German response to the Warsaw ghetto uprising.