Saturday, June 6, 2009

War technologies: introduction

Today, we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings (D-Day) which mark the beginning of the reconquest of Europe by the Allies. I believe it is only fitting, indeed essential, to have a thought for the thousands of women and men who have given their lives to repel the invader and to reconquer occupied territories. It is also the opportunity for me to begin a series of columns on the technologies of war. But first, let's begin with a bit of history.

The late thirties see the Great Depression, which lasted for the better part of the decade, subside little by little. Western democracies focus on how to kick start their respective economies; therefore they primarily aim to maintain peace in Europe and, in doing so, show tolerance for Hitler. The annexation of Austria resulting from the 1938 Anschluss, is Germany's first step to expand the boundaries imposed by the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War. At a conference in Munich in September 1938, in an effort to appease of the German Führer, English and French leaders endorse the Munich Agreement which conceded to Germany annexation of the Sudetes Mountains in Czechoslovakia. On September 1st 1939, Germany invaded Poland; two days later, the United Kingdom, France and other countries declare war on Germany. It will last six long years and spread to several continents and oceans.

Like all conflicts, the Second World War accelerated technological development; periods of crisis are favourable to new inventions, in part because the sense urgency promotes creativity and also because funds allocated to technological development by Governments are, if not unlimited, at least greatly increased. I will not attempt to exhaustively list all technologies of war. For these chronicles, I have chosen to cover aviation and space.

I will begin next week with the Blitzkrieg period, the concept of lightning war which allowed Hitler to invade the Europe, then Africa.

No comments: