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WWI Technology

Profile of the Spad XIII in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

Profile of the Spad XIII in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. © John M. Shea

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On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers flew the first heavier-than-air powered airplane. The longest of their four flights was one of 59 seconds and 852 feet. By 1918, single-seat fighter planes could fly at speeds over 130 mph and heavy bombers with crews of seven had flown from Belgium to bombed London.

In 1916, the first tanks, with treads instead of wheels, were used in battle by British forces to little effect. A year later, they stunned German defenders in Battle of Cambrai. The would play a major role in the Allied victory in 1918.

In January 1915, German forces used poison gas on Russian troops in the Battle of Bolimov. The cold rendered it ineffective, and the Russia did not inform its Allies of the weapon. It would used much more effectively in April, in Ypres, Belgium.