Incendiary devices have been used since the beginning of gunpowder warfare in the Middle Ages, by the Chinese, the Muslims, and then the Europeans.
Incendiary bombs, also known as firebombs, were used as an effective bombing weapon in World War II. The large bomb casing was filled with small sticks of incendiaries (bomblets), and designed to open at altitude, scattering the bomblets in order to cover a wide area. An explosive charge would then ignite the incendiary material, often starting a raging fire. The fire would burn at extreme temperatures that could destroy most buildings made of wood or other combustible materials (buildings constructed of stone tend to resist incendiary destruction unless they are first blown open by high explosives). Originally, incendiaries were developed in order to destroy the many small, decentralized war industries located (often intentionally) throughout vast tracts of city land in an effort to escape destruction by conventionally-aimed high-explosive bombs. Nevertheless, the civilian destruction caused by such weapons quickly earned them a reputation as terror weapons (e.g., German Terrorflieger) with the targeted populations, and more than a few shot-down aircrews were summarily executed by angry civilians upon capture. The Nazi regime began the campaign of incendiary bombings with the bombing of London in 1940â€“41, and reprisal was exacted by the Allies in the strategic bombing campaign. In the Pacific War, during the last seven months of strategic bombing by B-29 Superfortresses in the airwar against Japan, a change to firebombing tactics resulted in some 500,000 Japanese deaths and 5 million more made homeless. 67 of Japan's largest cities lost significant area to incendiary attacks. The most deadly single bombing raid in all history was Operation Meetinghouse, an incendiary attack that killed some 100,000 Tokyo residents in one night.
Modern incendiary bombs usually contain thermite, made from aluminium and ferric oxide. The most effective formula is 25% aluminum and 75% iron oxide. It takes very high temperatures to ignite, but when alight, it can burn through solid steel. In WWII, such devices were employed in incendiary grenades to burn through heavy armor plate, or as a quick welding mechanism to destroy artillery and other complex machined weapons.
White phosphorus (WP) bombs and shells are essentially incendiary devices, and can be used in an offensive anti-personnel role against enemy troop concentrations. WP is also used for signaling, smokescreens, and target-marking purposes. The U.S. Army and Marines used white phosphorus extensively in WWII for all three purposes, frequently using white phosphorus shells in large 4.2-inch chemical mortars. WP was widely credited by many Allied soldiers for breaking up numerous Nazi infantry attacks and creating havoc among enemy troop concentrations during the latter part of WWII. The psychological impact of WP on the enemy was noted by many troop commanders in WWII, and captured 4.2-inch mortar men were sometimes summarily executed by German forces in reprisal.
Tactics & Tips
- Incendiary devices are great for hitting units in cover because they do damage over time. Either the unit will get out of cover to prevent taking damage or stay and die.
- Because the British use trenches and emplacements these are great for making them break cover.