Topic 1: Causes, practices and effects of war

2. To what extent did technological developments ensure victory in twentieth century wars?

Camilla Burkot
Intro/Background Info:

  • - the 20th century saw dramatic development in technology, particularly in weaponry
    • o airplanes, gas in World War I to satellites, advanced submarines, tanks, missiles, rockets, and ultimately atomic/nuclear weapons
  • - these powerful weapons changed the face of warfare, both on the battlefield and on the homefront
    • o for example, trenches in WWI to steadily more distant ways of fighting (i.e. press a button to send a rocket halfway around the world)
    • o at home, bomb shelters, air raid sirens, duck-and-cover, etc.
  • - despite these developments, it became apparent over the course of the 20th century that the side with the most advanced weapons was not always the side that won

Thesis: While early in the century technological superiority generally resulted in victory, the later part of the century (through the Cold War) demonstrated that not only was technological superiority not a guarantee of victory, it in fact could prolong war.

I. Through WWII

  • a. Technology developed at an exponential pace
  • b. Development of fighting changed from close combat (old-fashioned hand to hand fighting) to more distance (i.e. troops shooting at each other from trenches on either side of a battlefield) – this development was most apparent in WWI
  • c. Still, the side with the most bullets/machine guns/submarines was able to outlast the other side  technology virtually ensured victory
  • d. This trend continued through WWII – the US developed the atomic bomb, dropped it on Japan, and won the war

*i. NOTE: this explanation somewhat oversimplifies the issue- the war was essentially already won by the Allies when the bomb was dropped (Germany had already surrendered). So you might not want to argue it this way, or at least point this out to avoid seeming stupid.

II. Post-WWII: The Cold War

  • a. The US acknowledged as a superpower primarily because it had the atomic bomb
  • b. USSR also achieves this status in 1949 when it tests its first bomb
  • c. Eventually, the US and USSR quickly become enemies (despite their alliance during WWII)
    • i. Sidenote: See outline #21 for more info on the relationship between the US and USSR post-WWII and the origin of the Cold War
  • d. The arms race develops as a result because the US and USSR both believe they must have the most weaponry—and most advanced weaponry—in order to be victorious over the other
    • i. Development of hydrogen bomb, ICBMs, etc.
    • ii. US fear of a “bomber gap” or “missile gap” resulted in continuously escalating weapons development—neither side really knew what the other side’s arsenal consisted of
    • iii. Ultimately, escalating production of nuclear weapons gave rise to the idea of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)
  • e. Rather than resulting in a single victor, accelerating development of technological weaponry, at a rate never seen before, actually prolonged the Cold War (neither side wanted to use its weapons against the other – hence, a “cold” war)

III. Within the Cold War: guerilla warfare

  • a. Within the Cold War framework, numerous “hot” conflicts sprang up around the world
  • b. Here, more than anywhere, it became apparent that possession of advanced technology did not ensure victory
  • c. Example: the Vietnam War
    • i. US on behalf of South Vietnam vs. Viet Cong (North Vietnamese Communist rebels, led by Ho Chi Minh)
    • ii. US had by far the technological advantage – ships, bombers, napalm, Agent Orange, etc.
    • iii. The Viet Cong faced tremendous technology, but developed such an effective style of guerilla warfare that the US was ultimately forced to face defeat
      • 1. Blended in with ordinary villagers – near impossible for US soldiers to identify VC soldiers
      • 2. Underground tunnels
      • 3. The Ho Chi Minh Trail – literally carrying supplies along the Vietnamese/Cambodian border along a network of roads/footpaths/rivers
  • d. Further Cold War examples of successful guerilla warfare: Cuba (revolution 1959), Angola (1975), Nicaragua (1979)


  • - technological developments did not necessarily ensure victory in 20th century wars, particularly in the latter part of the century, when technology even stalled open war
  • - this was in part due to more complex political and social situations in the 20th century (i.e. the relationship between the US and USSR; what would happen to the entire world if nuclear war did erupt?) – war cannot necessarily be simplified so easily

Emily Finley
a.With technological improvements in the twentieth century came the ability to overcome smaller, less equipped people
b.The amount of killing could be increased exponentially with new weapons
c.While this did not necessarily ensure victory, it did ensure a large loss of life for whoever they were fighting
a.Throughout the twentieth century communication continued to increase providing a quicker and easier way to contact people
b.Marconi’s wireless: 1901 Marconi sent first ever message via radio waves
3.World War I and II
a.WWI: Introduction of the machine gun, the tank, and poison gas
i. Resulted in the killing of 10 million
ii. Those with these new weapons were able to emerge better off that those without
b.WWII: introduction of firebombs and nuclear weapons
i. Killed 35 million

Nate Harmon

1) Intro
a) Thesis: more guns = victory
b) Weapons have become exponentially better during the 20th century
2) WW1
a) Poison gas, airplanes, and tanks were all new
b) Still relied on single fire weapons till vary end
c) Then Thompson (Tommy gun) introduced to the US army which helped end it
3) WW2
a) Helmets in the US army changed from M1 to A1 saving hundreds
b) Tanks improved, German Panzers drilled
c) Airplanes were crucial for success
d) Coded messages helped keep strategies secret
e) Heavy gun ships and subs helped protect and attack from water
f) Nuclear arms invented, which ended the war
4) Post WW2
a) Supersonic air travel
b) Precision air strikes (J-Dam)
c) Inter Continental Nuclear Missiles
d) Napalm
e) Stealth technology
f) Satellites/ space
g) Guerrilla warfare used by Viet cong to win
5) Conclusion
a) Technology wins wars, no matter what, whoever has the best technology will win. In Vietnam the Viet Cong invented a new way to combat a much more advanced force and won.


WWII: weapons of submarines, and bombs
New invention of radar and atomic bomb
As a result of industrialization, new inventions appear: electricity
1903: Orville and Wilbur Wright-air combat, observation

WWI: automatic machine guns-few guns mow down more enemies
Tank-protects troops as they advance to military lines
Submarine-Germans use to destroy allied ships
Poison gas & gas mask-against enemy trenches, lessen importance of chemical weapons
CIA intelligence during Truman’s presidency
Nuclear power, nuclear energy > creates a greater fear as seen with Japan, Cold war, Soviet Union, & U.S.

I. Introduction
A. Industrialization fueled the nation as modern commodities for Americans were created and sold….(think in broader terms, then narrow theme to discuss two wars)

II. Opening paragraph
A. Technological improvements were made as war prolonged. Artillery used for the First World War proved to be inefficient when compared to the artillery used for the Second World War. (reasons as to why-transition, aims, battles)
III. Main paragraph
A. Make connections (highlight the victories, what weapon was used?)
Nuclear warfare is a great option
B. What was accomplished? Number of deaths: thousands vs. millions
C. Influence U.S. had on other countries? Who emulated our style? Who competed?
IV. Closing
A. draw conclusion: reason and rationale

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