Armored Cars, Tanks, and Camouflage: Shaping up World War I

Scientific American Chronicles: World War I, is full of technical developments of the time, and this issue, which is being covered over here presents a cover image of the United State’s first car armor vehicle, named- the King Armored Car.

armored tank

The Armored Car:

It started off with just two experimental units being built in 1915 but by 1916, eight were ordered by the US Marine Corps. Defying expectations, these vehicles were not put into use during World War I. But they were not left out fully as Haiti and Santa Domingo did have a use for these later on. One reason for their absence was that these vehicles needed functional and dry streets or roads to travel on wheels, so there was no way this vehicle could navigate potholes, craters, waterlogged areas, and such similar areas effectively.

But that didn’t mean it was useless, as on the Eastern front and in the Egyptian campaign, the car armor was able to break through to the opposing lines and open an attack which led to important successes. Its presence also allowed for the maintenance of important telegraph lines as well as for the carrying of dispatches through very long stretches of a hostile environment. But for all its uses, there are some drawbacks in the early models as well. This was heavily due to the additional weight in the chassis which weighed down the machine more.

armored car

Tanks:

The issue mentions another car armor- A Tank and the case in point is a British Mark I “male” tank which comes armed with 6 pounder and machine guns. In 1916, a workable version was made and it was powered by an internal combustion engine and drove on a tread made up of the continuous link instead of wheels. This solved the problem of the previous vehicle as this one could work on any terrain and accomplish the task of carrying heavy weapons and soldiers into the midst of fighting. This one major change made this invention a decisive weapon in battles for a century and even till now it is in use but it is vulnerable to anti-tank weapons currently. While one might think the tank was received with applause but there was skepticism back in 1916, and people did think that it was grotesque and laughable.

armored vehicle

Camouflage:

With tanks and car armor used in wars, people sitting in the 21st century might think that without question it must have been camouflaged. But the meaning of camouflage now and its meaning back then have differences. What is known now as a disruptive pattern material was known as a system of protective painting where the tanks were painted in greens, browns, and yellows that protected the tanks by allowing them to hide in the landscape and evade detection. The tanks being camouflaged was a new thing but the concept of camouflage itself wasn’t foreign as field guns and other exposed things/ objects in the field went through it regularly as well.