One of the most controversial military weapons ever invented is the flamethrower.
Dropped by the U.S. Department of Defense
The U.S. Department of Defense decided in 1978 to stop using flamethrowers. They have been removed from the U.S. weapons arsenal and are not currently used by American soldiers. The decision by the U.S. Defense Department to ban the use of flamethrowers was voluntary. At the time, military officials stated that flamethrowers were not effective in modern combat scenarios.
Prior to dropping flamethrowers, the weapon had been widely used by U.S. soldiers in both World Wars, Korea, and the Vietnam conflict. In those combat environments, flamethrowers were used to destroy forts, bunkers and vehicles. They were also used to inflict psychological terror on enemy soldiers who were terrified of being burned alive. Modern flamethrowers can be mounted onto vehicles or a soldier’s back. Some flamethrowers can project fire 100 meters and incinerate targets within seconds.
Development and Controversy
Because of the particularly gruesome death that flamethrowers inflict on people, the weapon has been controversial since it was first used in the trenches of World War One. Typically, military flamethrowers project a stream of flammable liquid and allow soldiers to control a stream of fire. The weapon was widely used during the Battle of the Pacific in World War Two – mostly to destroy Japanese bunkers and camps on Pacific islands. Many militaries mounted flamethrowers onto tanks and armoured vehicles during World War Two.
Flamethrowers have also proved controversial because of the dangers they pose to soldiers who operate them. The back mounted weapon is very visible and explosive. As a result, soldiers who operate flamethrowers have often found themselves the target of snipers. Flamethrower operators are often viewed with particular scorn and were rarely taken prisoner in past wars. Typically, flamethrower operators have been executed once captured.
The controversy and dangers posed by flamethrowers have led to calls for the weapon to be banned in international treaties. However, to date, there are no treaties that explicitly ban the use of the weapon in combat. The U.S. is one of the few countries to voluntarily discontinue use of flamethrowers. The weapon has proven popular with terrorist organizations ranging from Al Qaeda to the Irish Republican Army.
Civilian Use of Flamethrowers
Fire has been used as a weapon since ancient times. However, modern flamethrowers have uses beyond military applications. Flamethrowers are frequently used on farms, sugar cane plantations, and elsewhere to conduct controlled burnings of vegetation and land. In the U.S., the civilian use of flamethrowers is banned in some states such as California. There is currently no federal law banning flamethrowers in the U.S.