German soldier lighting his cigarette with a flamethrower

German soldier lighting his cigarette with a flamethrower, 1940s

Somewhere in Eastern Front. Flamethrowers had two fuel lines. The line he is lighting is cigarette with is sort of like a pilot line. It is a smaller fuel line that stays lit and can produce a bit of a larger flame when its trigger is pressed. The second line is for the big fire. This contains a thicker gelatinous type of fuel. So the flamer will pull the first trigger making the pilot flame larger, then pulls the second trigger emitting the thicker fuel which gets lit by the pilot flame raining hellfire upon anyone in its path. So technically its not really a blowtorch, but just a little pilot flame. Still it’s badass lighting your cigarette that way.

A common problem with flamethrowers was that if you pressed the triggers in the wrong order the thicker fuel would clog up the output for the pilot flame, putting the littler fire out and making your flame thrower useless. The soldiers would clear pillboxes with a flamethrower. Using a flamethrower was pretty difficult, they were much hotter than you’d expect and that you’d be covered with sweat and exhausted pretty fast.

A flamethrower is a mechanical incendiary device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire. They were first used during World War I, and widely used in World War II. Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and natural gas, which is considered safer.

The Germans made considerable use of the weapon (Flammenwerfer 35) during their invasion of Holland and France, against fixed fortifications. World War II German army flamethrowers tended to have one large fuel tank with the pressurizer tank fastened to its back or side. Some German army flamethrowers occupied only the lower part of its wearer’s back, leaving the upper part of his back free for an ordinary rucksack. Flamethrowers soon fell into disfavor, except in reprisal operations. Flamethrowers were extensively used by German units in urban fights in Poland, both in 1943 in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and in 1944 in the Warsaw Uprising. On the Eastern Front the German army’s “scorched earth” policy continued until the end of the war.

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