Hand Grenade Information And History

Hand grenade information and history: the grenade is a small bomb, used on the ground and up close. It's dangerous for an attacker to use, and deadly for its victims.

The grenade might be termed a "˜niche' weapon. In effect it's a small bomb, but unlike a bomb, it's used on the ground and up close. However, as with most bombs, it is not a precise weapon, scattering destruction in all directions. It gets its name from the French word for "˜Pomegranate' and during World War I and beyond it was nicknamed "˜Pineapple' because of its serrated shell. Pretty inappropriate for a weapon that's dangerous for an attacker to use, and deadly for its victims.

Like the tank, the grenade was developed to break down defenses in close-combat warfare. Grenades were first used in the 15th century, and, when reliable, must have been devastating against a lightly armored enemy. As firepower became more deadly, hand-to-hand combat declined, and with it, the use of the grenade. It was virtually abandoned after 1750, although, 100 years later, Napoleon Bonaparte's armies began to recruit large, strong soldiers who could fling grenades a long distance. These soldiers were called Grenadiers, and they dressed differently and became an elite force. The experiment didn't work too well however, and the grenadiers were eventually reabsorbed into the infantry.

In the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, the grenade proved useful in breaking the siege of Port Arthur. It came into its own in the static, defensive trench warfare of World War I. The Germans were well armed with grenades, but the Allies had to improvise. British soldiers, probably remembering childhood experiments with fireworks, started to throw glass jars filled with bits of metal and explosive. Later in the war, the British deployed the Mills Bomb, a highly effective fragmentation grenade. A contact grenade was also developed, but it was not effective. The Allies improvised further, strapping grenades to a rod, which was fired from a rifle with a blank charge, and used slingshots to deliver grenades to the enemy. The Russians actually manufactured a grenade-launching catapult on the Eastern Front in World War II.

During World War II, the grenade was refined. It gained its distinctive pineapple skin, and was packed with TNT. Despite this, however, the heavy hand grenade did not always fragment. In this war, armies were also issued with purpose-built rifle grenade launchers. The war also saw the birth of the Molotov Cocktail, a gasoline-filled bottle, with a rag stuffed in the top. This poor man's grenade was lit and thrown at armored cars and the like. In 1956, the outgunned freedom fighters in Hungary used the Molotov Cocktail against the Russian oppressors.

By the time of the Korean war, the grenade was lighter, and fragmented more easily, and by the time of Vietnam, American GIs had light, reliable grenades that exploded five seconds after the pin was pulled, killing up to 15 meters, and injuring up to 35. They had a thin shell, and dispensed thousands of tiny, jagged steel strips. Many a GI must have been grateful for early Baseball training.

Fragmentation grenades are the most common, but there are other types. In addition to the already mentioned contact and rifle launched grenades, there were machine gun grenades (they never worked properly), and a purpose-built anti-tank grenade and launcher, which evolved into the Bazooka, which in turn was replaced by more efficient recoilless weapons and anti tank missiles. Also used in war were illuminating grenades, for lighting up enemy positions and parachute drop zones, and incendiary grenades, to spread fire. Used by both the army and civilian police forces are the chemical or gas-grenade, and the smoke grenade.

As the balance between defensive and offensive warfare changes, so does the role and efficacy of the grenade. Grenades will certainly used in future wars. The speculative world of Star-Trek contains the photon-grenade, which can be launched, beamed, or thrown in the old-fashioned way. According to the Starfleet Manual, it has twenty settings, which vary its effects from stunning through killing, through total destruction. Don't laugh, this thing may be closer to reality than you think. After all, we already have laser weapons, and mankind has a supreme genius for inventing weapons of destruction. The power of the hand grenade, however, will always be limited by the throwing-power of the attacker, and the speed with which he can flee the destruction that he himself has unleashed.

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