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What was WW1 artillery?

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Quick Answer

In World War I, artillery was divided into three types. Guns were fired on a flat trajectory, howitzers used a more curved trajectory for indirect fire, and mortars used a ballistic trajectory for long range, indirect shelling. Artillery ranged from small, 75 millimeter cannons to 42 centimeter mortars.

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Artillery had been used in wars before World War I, but it was never a very important part of warfare. When infantry forces dug into trenches along the western front, massive artillery bombardments were used to soften enemy positions before attacks. Gradually, the focus shifted away from direct-fire cannon to indirect-fire weapons, since they could be used from much farther away and fired without exposing their crews to danger from the enemy.

One of the most famous artillery pieces of the war was the Paris Gun, a German 210 millimeter cannon mounted on a railway carriage. It had a barrel that was 118 feet long, was capable of firing shells 25 miles into the air, and bombarded Paris from a position 74 miles away. While it was a terrifying weapon when first deployed, French civilians soon learned to avoid open spaces when the bombardments occurred, significantly reducing the danger from the shelling.

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