We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Flamethrower?

By Henry Gaudet
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A flamethrower is a device that can project a stream of burning fuel, most often used as a weapon. Since prehistoric times, fire has been used as a weapon, valuable not only for the physical damage it inflicts but also for the fear it inspires. The earliest flamethrowers, which launched solid fuel through a tube like a blowgun, date back to at least the 5th century B.C., and the Byzantines of the 7th century employed a weapon similar to the modern flamethrower that could spray a liquid fuel known as Greek Fire. Greek Fire was especially effective as a naval weapon, because the fuel was oil-based and continued to burn even in water.

German scientist Richard Fiedler is credited for the creation of the modern flamethrower; his Flammenwerfer was submitted to the German army in 1901 for testing. Fiedler created two models: the man-portable Kleinflammenwerfer, with a range of 20 yards (18.3 meters), and the Grossflammenwerfer, which was too big for a man to carry but was capable of sustaining a 40-second constant spray over a target at a distance of up to 40 yards (36.5 meters). Both flamethrowers were introduced into the German arsenal and deployed to three battalions in 1911. During World War I, early German successes with the weapon caused Britain and France designed flamethrowers of their own.

Fiedler’s flamethrower consisted of three cylinder tanks, two filled with a liquid fuel and the third with a flammable compressed gas. Gas was fed to the weapon’s ignition system by a hose. A second hose fed into the fuel tanks, and pressure from the gas forced fuel through the weapon. Fuel was ignited as it sprayed out of the weapon, creating a steady stream of fire.

The flamethrower continued to see military use throughout the 20th century, with armies around the world deploying their own variants. United States Marines used flamethrowers during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Flamethrowers, however, do have limitations, such as comparatively poor range and the inability to control and direct a fire with any sort of precision or reliability, leading some to question their usefulness on the battlefield. The horrific nature of fire as a weapon, of death by fire and of disfiguring injuries has forced military leaders to consider the weapon’s impact on morale and public image. In 1978, the U.S. Department of Defense made the decision to remove the flamethrower from military service.

Civilians have also found the flamethrower to be useful. Most notably, it is used in forestry for controlled burns to manage forest growth. Farmers also might use flamethrowers for land management and to clear fields.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.