Thomas Wictor

My latest acquisitions

My latest acquisitions

I can’t post tonight for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I’ve had to spend the evening with my cats, who are terrified of the skyrockets that my slobbering, obese, mentally subpar neighbors have begun shooting off. My neighbors buy illegal Mexican municipal-level fireworks that are fired with mortars, so you hear a loud bang, three seconds of silence, and then an earsplitting explosion.

It’s ironic—given what I write about—that it sounds like I live in a war zone. Each explosion panics my cats and gives me an adrenaline rush. It’ll be unbearable on July 3 and July 4.

You know what I could do if I were an evil person? I could drive around on the night of July 3 and shoot every person launching a skyrocket. The noise is going to be so bad and continuous that nobody would hear the shots, and they’d be craning their necks skyward. I could get away with murder!

Instead of thinking about how much I want to shoot my neighbors, I’ll post scans of my latest acquisitions, which calm me. Then I’ll go check on my cats. Again.

German flamethrower pioneer in full parade uniform.


He was photographed by Otto Hoeffke, who appears to have been the unofficial portraiteur of the German flamethrower regiment. Hoeffke also took a great photo of a really bizarre-looking young woman.


I find her almost unbearably attractive. It’s an amazing face.

Back to my own photos.


The caption says, “Training with flamethrowers from the earth and in the air.” Now, I discovered a German patent for an aircraft-mounted flamethrower.


Burning oil was sprayed out behind the aircraft as it flew right above the ground. I also found an account by an American soldier who described being strafed by German “flame-planes.” So far I haven’t been able to locate an image of the aircraft, but I’m getting closer.

Italian flamethrower.


The caption says, “large flame-throwing apparatus in action.” It was four big tanks of oil connected to a giant lance, the whole thing mounted on wheels. The lance operator is wearing an asbestos coat and helmet. Can you say “mesothelioma”? The Italians put toxic chemicals in the flamethrower oil, so the smoke became poison gas. It was a stupid idea, since smoke rises. All the gas just went up into the air.

An Italian with a captured German flamethrower used as a poison-gas sprayer.


There are no records of how this was done. Apparently the liquid gas was put into the flamethrower and pressurized with the propellant. Then the operator sprayed it from his trench, or else he used it on dugouts in the enemy trench.

The Turks acquired this model flamethrower from the Germans and created a company of what they called “Gas Men.” The Gas Men were sent to Iraq by railroad, riding in a special car that was isolated from all the other soldiers. Then the unit was disbanded without ever seeing combat, after the Turkish Supreme Command decided that gas was immoral. The Turks were the only belligerents who had poison gas but never used it. Because of this, British and Australian soldiers treated captured Turks with great kindness.

French officer demonstrating three models of portable flamethrower to infantrymen.


Flamethrowers are incredibly loud. They scare the hell out of people who’ve never heard them. Flamethrower troops accompanied infantrymen into battle, so the grunts had to be acclimated to the weapons. Despite what you might think, a flamethrower is more a psychological weapon than anything else. Entire bunkers surrendered when the flamethrower operator fired a jet into the air. Without the flamethrower, the position would have to be taken with hand grenades, machine guns, and infantry cannons. A huge number of people on both sides would die.

As a German general said, the flamethrower is the only weapon that makes people more afraid the more they’re exposed to it. So this hideous device actually saved lives. Counterintuitive, I know, but so is much of life.

Here you see the advantage of the German two-man flamethrower.


The lance operator can remain concealed in the trench, protected from enemy fire. All the Allied one-man models of flamethrower required that the operator expose himself in order to use the weapon. The Allies had so much trouble recruiting flamethrower operators that they reassigned the weapon to the third wave of an assault. Flamethrowers were used only for mopping up, after all the heavy fighting was done.

Germans, on the other hand, used flamethrower troops as the tip of the spear. They went in first, and when their oil was exhausted, they fought with hand grenades, pistols, and sharpened spades.

Finally, a German flamethrower operator from Assault Battalion No. 5 (Rohr).


His name was Emil, he had a tiny head, and he sent the postcard ten days before the war ended. Since he’s not listed in the battalion death book, that means he survived the war.

That postcard came sandwiched between two other cards. This is one.


“The best horse in the stall.”

I like to think I am.