Issue 27 Mountains Fall 2007
Men of War
It began with shrapnel, or rather Shrapnel. Lieutenant Henry
Shrapnel, that is, whose personal experiments with a new kind of brutal
explosive projectile led to the invention that now bears his name.
Adopted by the British Army in 1803, shrapnel made Shrapnel into a
much-admired man, earning him promotion to the rank of
lieutenant-general and a handsome government
surprising encounter with Shrapnel led us
to wonder about others who
have lent their names to the devices that deliver death by land, sea,
and air. Who were they, and how did the weapons come to be named after
them? Often, their names were simply the result of their inventors’
vanity, as in the case of John Thompson’s “Tommy gun.” Sometimes, as in
the case of the tank named after Civil War general William Sherman, the
reason was admiration for a legendary military figure. And in the
curious case of Big Bertha—a large German cannon named after weapons
manufacturer Gustav Krupp’s robust wife—it was a matter of the heart.
for an anachronistic, imaginary class reunion are some of the more
notable men (and the sole woman) whose names live on as
instruments of war.
It began with shrapnel, or rather Shrapnel. Lieutenant Henry Shrapnel, that is, whose personal experiments with a new kind of brutal explosive projectile led to the invention that now bears his name. Adopted by the British Army in 1803, shrapnel made Shrapnel into a much-admired man, earning him promotion to the rank of lieutenant-general and a handsome government pension.
Our surprising encounter with Shrapnel led us to wonder about others who have lent their names to the devices that deliver death by land, sea, and air. Who were they, and how did the weapons come to be named after them? Often, their names were simply the result of their inventors’ vanity, as in the case of John Thompson’s “Tommy gun.” Sometimes, as in the case of the tank named after Civil War general William Sherman, the reason was admiration for a legendary military figure. And in the curious case of Big Bertha—a large German cannon named after weapons manufacturer Gustav Krupp’s robust wife—it was a matter of the heart.
Assembled for an anachronistic, imaginary class reunion are some of the more notable men (and the sole woman) whose names live on as notorious instruments of war.
TOP ROW (from left to right)
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891): The M4 Sherman tank, developed during World War II, was named after General William Tecumseh Sherman, who served in the US Army during the Civil War and received recognition for his “scorched earth” tactics and “hard war” military strategies.
Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker (1890–1939): Anthony Fokker developed the Fokker planes, such as the Fokker E.III, Fokker Dr.I, and the Fokker D.VII for the German air force during World War I. His planes sported synchronization gears that allowed the pilot to fire his machine guns safely through the propeller blades. This invention became known as the “Fokker Scourge.”
Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher (1848–1904): Ferdinand Ritter Von Mannlicher partnered with Otto Schönauer to design the Mannlicher-Schönauer rotary magazine rifle, a product of the Austrian Arms Manufacturing Company. The rifle was adopted by the Greek and Austrian armies in 1903. The highly popular rifle was manufactured until 1972.
Otto Schönauer (1844–1913): Otto Schönauer was Technical Director of the Austrian Arms Manufacturing Company and designed the rotary magazine for the Mannlicher-Schönauer Rifle.
Vyacheslav Molotov (1890–1986): The Finnish Army named the “Molotov Cocktail” (also known as the Molotov Grenade, Molotov Bomb, or Molotov Picnic Basket) after the Soviet politician, who in a radio broadcast during the Winter War stated that the Soviet Union was not dropping bombs but rather delivering food to the starving Finns. The Molotov Cocktail was typically used as an anti-tank measure and consisted of a glass bottle filled with gasoline and stuffed with a rag. The bottle was then corked in such a way that a corner of the gasoline-soaked rag remained outside the bottle, which would be lit and thrown at military tanks.
Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842): The British Army officer Henry Shrapnel began work in 1784 on the “Shrapnel Shell,” a hollow cast-iron cannon ball filled with gunpowder and musket balls.
James Bowie (1796–1836): The Bowie knife, also known as the “Arkansas toothpick,” is named after the fiery-tempered nineteenth-century soldier and pioneer James Bowie. The Bowie knife gained recognition after Bowie used the knife to settle a brawl known as the Sandbar Fight in 1826.
Omar Nelson Bradley (1893–1981): The US Army’s M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle and the M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicle were named after World War II general Omar Bradley in 1981.
John Taliaferro Thompson (1860–1940): John Thompson, a US military officer, invented the Thompson machine gun, also known as the “Tommy gun,” in 1919. The Thompson, the first gun to be labeled as a “submachine gun,” could fire over nine hundred rounds per minute. Also known as the “Chicago Typewriter,” it was much favored by Depression-era gangsters.
Paul von Mauser (1838–1914): Paul von Mauser and his younger brother Wilhelm (1834–1882) established the Mauser Company when they developed the weapon that became known as Mauser Model 1871. They also invented the needle-gun, the first bolt-action rifle.
John Moses Browning (1855–1926): John Moses Browning was an American firearms designer who patented the design for a single-shot rifle in 1879. In 1917, he developed the Browning automatic rifle, and in 1920 he developed the Browning .50-caliber machine gun.
MIDDLE ROW (from left to right)
Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith (1888–1989): The Sopwith Camel plane was named after Sir Thomas Sopwith, who founded the Sopwith Aviation Company in 1912. The aircraft was designed for the British Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, and Royal Air Force during World War I.
Joseph Whitworth (1803–1887): Sir Joseph Whitworth designed the Whitworth rifle in 1859. The rifle became known as the “Whitworth Sharpshooter” during the American Civil War.
Eliphalet Remington II (1793–1861): Eliphalet Remington, best known for his self-named rifle, founded the Remington Arms manufacturing company in Ilion, New York, in 1816.
George Smith Patton (1885–1945): In 1912, General Patton developed the M1913 cavalry saber, a double-edged thrusting sword known as the “Patton Saber.”
Philip Henry Sheridan (1831–1888): The M551 Sheridan tank, an armored reconnaissance airborne assault vehicle, was named after US Army general Philip Sheridan in 1967.
Mikhail Kalashnikov (1919–): In 1947, Soviet military designer Mikhail Kalashnikov developed the AK-47 assault rifle (an abbreviation for Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947).
William Edward Boeing (1881–1956): The B17 and B29 bombers were named after William Edward Boeing, the aviation pioneer and founder of the Boeing Company, during World War II.
Oliver Fisher Winchester (1810–1880): Oliver Fisher Winchester manufactured and marketed his repeating rifle in 1866. Soon after, the Winchester rifle gained recognition as the “gun that won the West.”
Creighton “Thunderbolt” Abrams (1914–1974): The US Army named the M1 Abrams, an XM1 main battle tank, in honor of US Army general Creighton Abrams in 1979.
BOTTOM ROW (from left to right)
John Joseph Pershing (1860–1948): The Pershing tank and the Pershing missile were named after US Army general John Pershing. They were designed and built by Martin Marietta during the 1960s.
James Ewell Brown Stuart (1833–1864): The American M3 and M5 models of the World War II tanks were named Stuart tanks in honor of General James Stuart in 1941.
Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1886–1957): The L/14 model Howitzer gun was named “Big Bertha,” after the wife of Gustav Krupp, owner of the Krupp factory. The enormous cannon could fire 820-kilogram shells over ten kilometers and was used by Imperial Germany for the first time during World War I.Richard Jordan Gatling (1818–1903): Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling invented the Gatling gun in 1861. The gun was a handcrank-operated weapon capable of firing six hundred rounds per minute and was considered the first successful machine gun.
Samuel Colt (1814–1862): Samuel Colt invented the first revolving gun, named the Colt revolver, in 1836.
Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840–1916): In 1881, Hiram Stevens Maxim invented the Maxim gun, which became the first portable and fully automatic machine gun.
Uziel Gal (1923–2002): Major Uziel Gal designed the Uzi submachine gun in 1948. Despite Gal’s request that the gun not be named after him, the Israeli Defense Forces named it the Uzi.
Georg Johann Luger (1849–1923): Georg Johann Luger designed the Luger pistol in 1898. The Luger is a semi-automatic self-loading pistol used by Germany during both World War I and World War II.
John Cantius Garand (1888–1974): John Cantius Garand designed the world’s first automatic rifle, the M1 Garand rifle, in 1924. The rifle became the standard service rifle of the US military in 1934.
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© 2007 Cabinet Magazine