Molotov cocktail

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A Finnish soldier with a Molotov cocktail in the 1939-40 Winter War Talvisota Molotov Cocktail.PNG
A Finnish soldier with a Molotov cocktail in the 1939–40 Winter War
A German soldier with two Molotov cocktails on the Eastern Front. German soldier with molotov cocktail.jpg
A German soldier with two Molotov cocktails on the Eastern Front.

A Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, gasoline bomb (United States), bottle bomb, poor man's grenade, Molotovin koktaili (Finnish), polttopullo (Finnish), fire bomb (not to be confused with an actual fire bomb), fire bottle or just Molotov, sometimes shortened as Molly, is a generic name used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, Molotov cocktails have been used by street criminals, protesters, rioters, criminal gangs, urban guerrillas, terrorists, hard-line militants, anarchists, anti-communists, communists, irregular soldiers, or even regular soldiers short on equivalent military-issue weapons. They are primarily intended to ignite rather than completely destroy targets, and are often used just as much to cause chaos as to actually do damage.

Firebombing A bombing technique

Firebombing is a bombing technique designed to damage a target, generally an urban area, through the use of fire, caused by incendiary devices, rather than from the blast effect of large bombs.

Improvised weapon object used as weapon, but not designed as weapon

An improvised weapon is an object that was not designed to be used as a weapon but can be put to that use. They are generally used for self-defence or where the person is otherwise unarmed. In some cases improvised weapons are commonly used by attackers in street fights, muggings, murders or during riots, usually when conventional weapons such as firearms are unavailable or inappropriate.

Incendiary device bomb designed to start fires

Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices, incendiary munitions, or incendiary bombs are weapons designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using fire, that use materials such as napalm, thermite, magnesium powder, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus. Though colloquially often known as bombs, they are not explosives but in fact are designed to slow the process of chemical reactions and use ignition rather than detonation to start and or maintain the reaction. Napalm for example, is petroleum especially thickened with certain chemicals into a 'gel' to slow, but not stop, combustion, releasing energy over a longer time than an explosive device. In the case of napalm, the gel adheres to surfaces and resists suppression.

Contents

Name

The name "Molotov cocktail" was coined by the Finns during the Winter War, [1] called in Finnish : polttopullo or Molotovin koktaili. The name was an insulting reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was one of the architects of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in late August 1939. The pact with Nazi Germany, which established that Germany would not intervene in the war, was widely mocked by the Finns (who had hoped to be supported by the Nazis if they were invaded by the Soviets). Also mocked was much of the propaganda Molotov produced during the Winter War, including his declaration on Soviet state radio that bombing missions over Finland were actually airborne humanitarian food deliveries for their starving neighbours. The Finns sarcastically dubbed the Soviet cluster bombs "Molotov bread baskets" in reference to Molotov's propaganda broadcasts. [2] When the hand-held bottle firebomb was developed to attack Soviet tanks, the Finns called it the "Molotov cocktail", as "a drink to go with the food". [3]

Finns or Finnish people are a Baltic Finnic ethnic group native to Finland.

Winter War 1939–1940 war between the Soviet Union and Finland

The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation.

Finnish language language arising and mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Uralic language of the Finnic branch spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish, along with Swedish, is an official language of Finland; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both Standard Finnish and Meänkieli, its own language or a dialect of Finnish, are spoken. The Kven language, a dialect of Finnish or even a distinct language, is spoken in Northern Norway by a minority group of Finnish descent. The status of kven and meänkieli are debated.

Design

A Molotov cocktail is a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as petrol, alcohol, or a napalm-like mixture, with some motor oil added, and usually a source of ignition such as a burning cloth wick held in place by the bottle's stopper. The wick is usually soaked in alcohol or kerosene, rather than petrol.

Napalm gelling agent for use in incendiary devices

Napalm is an incendiary mixture of a gelling agent and a volatile petrochemical. The title is a portmanteau of the names of two of the constituents of the original thickening and gelling agents: co-precipitated aluminium salts of naphthenic and palmitic acids. Napalm B is the more modern version of napalm and, although distinctly different in its chemical composition, is often referred to simply as "napalm".

Capillary action ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces

Capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, or even in opposition to, external forces like gravity. The effect can be seen in the drawing up of liquids between the hairs of a paint-brush, in a thin tube, in porous materials such as paper and plaster, in some non-porous materials such as sand and liquefied carbon fiber, or in a biological cell. It occurs because of intermolecular forces between the liquid and surrounding solid surfaces. If the diameter of the tube is sufficiently small, then the combination of surface tension and adhesive forces between the liquid and container wall act to propel the liquid.

Kerosene, also known as paraffin, lamp oil, and coal oil, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid which is derived from petroleum. It is widely used as a fuel in aviation as well as households. Its name derives from Greek: κηρός (keros) meaning wax, and was registered as a trademark by Canadian geologist and inventor Abraham Gesner in 1854 before evolving into a genericized trademark. It is sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage. The term kerosene is common in much of Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and the United States, while the term paraffin is used in Chile, eastern Africa, South Africa, Norway, and in the United Kingdom. The term lamp oil, or the equivalent in the local languages, is common in the majority of Asia and "Earth Oil" in some parts of southern Asia.Liquid paraffin is a more viscous and highly refined product which is used as a laxative. Paraffin wax is a waxy solid extracted from petroleum.

In action, the wick is lit and the bottle hurled at a target such as a vehicle or fortification. When the bottle smashes on impact, the ensuing cloud of fuel droplets and vapour is ignited by the attached wick, causing an immediate fireball followed by spreading flames as the remainder of the fuel is consumed.

Explosion Sudden release of heat and gas

An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. Supersonic explosions created by high explosives are known as detonations and travel via supersonic shock waves. Subsonic explosions are created by low explosives through a slower burning process known as deflagration.

Other flammable liquids such as diesel fuel, methanol, turpentine, jet fuel, and isopropyl alcohol have been used in place of, or combined with petrol. Thickening agents such as solvents, foam polystyrene, baking soda, petroleum jelly, tar, strips of tyre tubing, nitrocellulose, XPS foam, motor oil, rubber cement, detergent and dish soap have been added to help the burning liquid adhere to the target and create clouds of thick, choking smoke. [4]

Diesel fuel liquid fuel used in diesel engines

Diesel fuel in general is any liquid fuel used in diesel engines, whose fuel ignition takes place, without any spark, as a result of compression of the inlet air mixture and then injection of fuel. Diesel engines have found broad use as a result of higher thermodynamic efficiency and thus fuel efficiency. This is particularly noted where diesel engines are run at part-load; as their air supply is not throttled as in a petrol engine, their efficiency still remains very high.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol amongst other names, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH (a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group, often abbreviated MeOH). Methanol acquired the name wood alcohol because it was once produced chiefly by the destructive distillation of wood. Today, methanol is mainly produced industrially by hydrogenation of carbon monoxide.

Turpentine Organic solvent

Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin from live trees, mainly pines. It is mainly used as a solvent and as a source of materials for organic synthesis.

In addition, toxic substances are also known to be added to the mixture, in order to create a suffocating or poisonous gas on the resulting explosion, effectively turning the Molotov cocktail into a makeshift chemical weapon. These include bleach, chlorine, various strong acids, pesticides, among others.

Chemical weapon Device that uses chemicals to harm or kill people

A chemical weapon (CW) is a specialized munition that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm on humans. According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), "the term chemical weapon may also be applied to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves."

Bleach number of chemicals which remove color, whiten, or disinfect, often via oxidation

Bleach is the generic name for any chemical product which is used industrially and domestically to clean, to lighten hair color and to remove stains. It often refers, specifically, to a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite, also called "liquid bleach".

Chlorine Chemical element with atomic number 17

Chlorine is a chemical element with the symbol Cl and atomic number 17. The second-lightest of the halogens, it appears between fluorine and bromine in the periodic table and its properties are mostly intermediate between them. Chlorine is a yellow-green gas at room temperature. It is an extremely reactive element and a strong oxidising agent: among the elements, it has the highest electron affinity and the third-highest electronegativity on the Pauling scale, behind only oxygen and fluorine.

Development and use in war

Spanish Civil War

Improvised incendiary devices of this type were used for the first time in the Spanish Civil War between July 1936 and April 1939, [5] before they became known as "Molotov cocktails". In 1936, General Francisco Franco ordered Spanish Nationalist forces to use the weapon against Soviet T-26 tanks supporting the Spanish Republicans in a failed assault on the Nationalist stronghold of Seseña, near Toledo, 40 km (25 mi) south of Madrid. [6] After that, both sides used simple petrol bombs or petrol-soaked blankets with some success. Tom Wintringham, a veteran of the International Brigades, later publicised his recommended method of using them:

We made use of "petrol bombs" roughly as follows: take a 2lb glass jam jar. Fill with petrol. Take a heavy curtain, half a blanket, or some other heavy material. Wrap this over the mouth of the jar, tie it round the neck with string, leave the ends of the material hanging free. When you want to use it have somebody standing by with a light [i.e., a source of ignition]. Put a corner of the material down in front of you, turn the bottle over so that petrol soaks out round the mouth of the bottle and drips on to this corner of the material. Turn the bottle right way up again, hold it in your right hand, most of the blanket bunched beneath the bottle, with your left hand take the blanket near the corner that is wetted with petrol. Wait for your tank. When near enough, your pal [or comrade-in-arms] lights the petrol soaked corner of the blanket. Throw the bottle and blanket as soon as this corner is flaring. (You cannot throw it far.) See that it drops in front of the tank. The blanket should catch in the tracks or in a cog-wheel, or wind itself round an axle. The bottle will smash, but the petrol should soak the blanket well enough to make a really healthy fire which will burn the rubber wheels on which the tank track runs, set fire to the carburetor or frizzle the crew. Do not play with these things. They are highly dangerous. [7]

Khalkhin Gol

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol, a border conflict of 1939 ostensibly between Mongolia and Manchukuo, saw heavy fighting between Japanese and Soviet forces. Short of anti-tank equipment, Japanese infantry attacked Soviet tanks with gasoline-filled bottles. Japanese infantrymen claimed that several hundred Soviet tanks had been destroyed this way, though Soviet loss records do not support this assessment. [8]

Finland

The original design of the Molotov cocktail produced by the Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko during the Winter War of 1939-40. The bottle has storm matches instead of a rag for a fuse. Molotovin cocktail.jpg
The original design of the Molotov cocktail produced by the Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko during the Winter War of 1939–40. The bottle has storm matches instead of a rag for a fuse.

On 30 November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, starting what came to be known as the Winter War. The Finns perfected the design and tactical use of the petrol bomb. The fuel for the Molotov cocktail was refined to a slightly sticky mixture of gasoline, kerosene, tar, and potassium chlorate. Further refinements included the attachment of wind-proof matches or a phial of chemicals that would ignite on breakage, thereby removing the need to pre-ignite the bottle, and leaving the bottle about one-third empty was found to make breaking more likely. [9]

A British War Office report dated June 1940 noted that:

The Finns' policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defences, even inducing them to do so by 'canalising' them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages... The essence of the policy was the separation of the AFVs from the infantry, as once on their own the tank has many blind spots and once brought to a stop can be disposed of at leisure. [10]

Molotov cocktails were eventually mass-produced by the Alko corporation at its Rajamäki distillery, bundled with matches to light them. Production totalled 450,000 during the Winter War. The original recipe of the Molotov cocktail was a mixture of ethanol, tar and gasoline in a 750 millilitres (0.79 US qt) bottle. The bottle had two long pyrotechnic storm matches attached to either side. Before use, one or both of the matches was lit; when the bottle broke on impact, the mixture ignited. The storm matches were found to be safer to use than a burning rag on the mouth of the bottle.

Great Britain

British Home Guard improvised weapons in Imperial War Museum, London. The transparent strips attached to the middle bottle are likely to be inflammable celluloid film. British Home Guard Improvised Weapons.JPG
British Home Guard improvised weapons in Imperial War Museum, London. The transparent strips attached to the middle bottle are likely to be inflammable celluloid film.

Early in 1940, with the prospect of immediate invasion, the possibilities of the petrol bomb gripped the imagination of the British public. For the layman, the petrol bomb had the benefit of using entirely familiar and available materials, [11] and they were quickly improvised in large numbers, with the intention of using them against enemy tanks. [12]

The Finns had found that they were effective when used in the right way and in sufficient numbers. Although the experience of the Spanish Civil War received more publicity, the more sophisticated petroleum warfare tactics of the Finns were not lost on British commanders. In his 5 June address to LDV leaders, General Ironside said:

I want to develop this thing they developed in Finland, called the "Molotov cocktail", a bottle filled with resin, petrol and tar which if thrown on top of a tank will ignite, and if you throw half a dozen or more on it you have them cooked. It is quite an effective thing. If you can use your ingenuity, I give you a picture of a [road] block with two houses close to the block, overlooking it. There are many villages like that. Out of the top windows is the place to drop these things on the tank as it passes the block. It may only stop it for two minutes there, but it will be quite effective. [13]

Wintringham advised that a tank that was isolated from supporting infantry was potentially vulnerable to men who had the required determination and cunning to get close. Rifles or even a shotgun would be sufficient to persuade the crew to close all the hatches, and then the view from the tank is very limited; a turret-mounted machine gun has a very slow traverse and cannot hope to fend off attackers coming from all directions. Once sufficiently close, it is possible to hide where the tank's gunner cannot see: "The most dangerous distance away from a tank is 200 yards; the safest distance is six inches." [14] Petrol bombs will soon produce a pall of blinding smoke, and a well-placed explosive package or even a stout iron bar in the tracks can immobilise the vehicle, leaving it at the mercy of further petrol bombs – which will suffocate the engine and possibly the crew – or an explosive charge or anti-tank mine.

By August 1940, the War Office produced training instructions for the creation and use of Molotov cocktails. The instructions suggested scoring the bottles vertically with a diamond to ensure breakage and providing fuel-soaked rag, windproof matches or a length of cinema film (made of highly flammable nitrocellulose) as a source of ignition. [15]

Soldier from the Canadian Armed Forces throwing a Molotov cocktail. Canadian Forces soldier throwing Molotov cocktail.jpg
Soldier from the Canadian Armed Forces throwing a Molotov cocktail.

On 29 July 1940, manufacturers Albright & Wilson of Oldbury demonstrated to the RAF how their white phosphorus could be used to ignite incendiary bombs. The demonstration involved throwing glass bottles containing a mixture of petrol and phosphorus at pieces of wood and into a hut. On breaking, the phosphorus was exposed to the air and spontaneously ignited; the petrol also burned, resulting in a fierce fire. Because of safety concerns, the RAF was not interested in white phosphorus as a source of ignition, but the idea of a self-igniting petrol bomb took hold. Initially known as an A.W. bomb, it was officially named the No. 76 Grenade, but more commonly known as the SIP (Self-Igniting Phosphorus) grenade. The perfected list of ingredients was white phosphorus, benzene, water and a two-inch strip of raw rubber; all in a half-pint bottle sealed with a crown stopper. [16] Over time, the rubber would slowly dissolve, making the contents slightly sticky, and the mixture would separate into two layers – this was intentional, and the grenade should not be shaken to mix the layers, as this would only delay ignition. [17] When thrown against a hard surface, the glass would shatter and the contents would instantly ignite, liberating choking fumes of phosphorus pentoxide and sulfur dioxide as well as producing a great deal of heat. [16] Strict instructions were issued to store the grenades safely, preferably underwater and certainly never in a house. [16] Mainly issued to the Home Guard as an anti-tank weapon, it was produced in vast numbers; by August 1941 well over 6,000,000 had been manufactured. [18]

There were many who were sceptical about the efficacy of Molotov cocktails and SIPs grenades against the more modern German tanks. Weapon designer Stuart Macrae witnessed a trial of the SIPs grenade at Farnborough: "There was some concern that, if the tank drivers could not pull up quickly enough and hop out, they were likely to be frizzled to death, but after looking at the bottles they said they would be happy to take a chance." [19] The drivers were proved right, trials on modern British tanks confirmed that Molotov and SIP grenades caused the occupants of the tanks "no inconvenience whatsoever." [20]

Wintringham, though enthusiastic about improvised weapons, cautioned against a reliance on petrol bombs and repeatedly emphasised the importance of using explosive charges. [21] [22]

Other fronts

A display of improvised munitions, including a Molotov cocktail, from the Warsaw Uprising, 1944 MWP Sidolowka satchel molotov.JPG
A display of improvised munitions, including a Molotov cocktail, from the Warsaw Uprising, 1944

During the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Republican Army sometimes used sods of turf soaked in paraffin oil to attack British army barracks. Fencing wire was pushed through the sod to make a throwing handle. [23] [ failed verification ]

The Polish Home Army developed a version [24] which ignited on impact without the need of a wick. Ignition was caused by a reaction between concentrated sulfuric acid mixed with the fuel and a mixture of potassium chlorate and sugar which was crystallized from solution onto a rag attached to the bottle.

The United States Marine Corps developed a version during World War II that used a tube of nitric acid and a lump of metallic sodium to ignite a mixture of petrol and diesel fuel. [25]

Modern use

Molotov cocktails produced for use in the "Euromaidan" protests Molotov cocktails prepared in advance by protesters. Euromaidan Protests.jpg
Molotov cocktails produced for use in the "Euromaidan" protests

Molotov cocktails were reportedly used in the United States for arson attacks on shops and other buildings during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. [26]

During the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, U.S. Marines employed Molotov cocktails made with "one part liquid laundry detergent, two parts gas" while clearing houses "when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out". The tactic "was developed in response to the enemy's tactics" of guerrilla warfare and particularly martyrdom tactics which often resulted in U.S. Marine casualties. The cocktail was a less expedient alternative to white phosphorus mortar rounds or propane tanks detonated with C4 (nicknamed the "House Guest")- all of which proved effective at burning out engaged enemy combatants. [27]

Molotov cocktails were also used by protesters and civilian militia in Ukraine during violent outbreaks of the Euromaidan and the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Protesters during the Ferguson riots used Molotov cocktails. [28]

In Bangladesh during anti government protests at the time of the 2014 national election, many buses and cars were targeted with petrol bombs. A number of people burnt to death and many more were injured during the period 2013-2014 due to petrol bomb attacks. [29] [30]

In 2019 Hong Kong protests, protesters uses Molotov cocktail to attack police or create roadblock. Protester also attack MTR station and made severe damage. [31] A journalist have also been hit. [32]

Non-incendiary variants

Puputovs seen during the 2017 Venezuelan protests. Puputovs.jpg
Puputovs seen during the 2017 Venezuelan protests.

During the protests in Venezuela from 2014 and into 2017, protesters had used Molotov cocktails similar demonstrators in other countries. [33] As the 2017 Venezuelan protests intensified, demonstrators began using "Puputovs", a play on words of Molotov, with glass devices filled with excrement being thrown at authorities after the PSUV ruling-party official, Jacqueline Faría, mocked protesters who had to crawl through sewage in Caracas' Guaire River to avoid tear gas. [34] [35] On 8 May, the hashtag #puputov became the top trend on Twitter in Venezuela as reports of authorities vomiting after being drenched in excrement began to circulate. [35] [36] By 10 May 2017, Venezuelans unrelated to political parties called for a "Marcha de la Mierda", or a "March of Shit", essentially establishing puputovs in the arsenal of Venezuelan protesters. [37] [38] A month later on 4 June 2017 during protests against Donald Trump in Portland, Oregon, protesters began throwing balloons filled with "unknown, foul-smelling liquid" at officers. [39]

Legality

As incendiary devices, Molotov cocktails are illegal to manufacture or possess in many regions. In the United States, Molotov cocktails are considered "destructive devices" under the National Firearms Act and regulated by the ATF. [40] Wil Casey Floyd, formerly from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, after throwing Molotov cocktails to Seattle Police Officers May 1, 2016 during a protest, was arrested in April 2017; he pleaded guilty for using the incendiary devices on February 2018. [41] At Simpson County, Kentucky, 20-year-old Trey Alexander Gwathney-Law attempted to burn Franklin-Simpson County Middle School with five Molotov cocktails; he has been found guilty of making and possessing illegal firearms and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2018. [42]

See also

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References

Specific

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  6. William Trotter (1991). "History of the Molotov Cocktail". Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Marshall Kregel. ISBN   978-0-945575-22-1.
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  8. Coox, Alvin, 1990, Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939
  9. Trotter 2003, p. 73.
  10. Anti-tank measures; adoption and production of sticky bomb WO 185/1, The National Archives
  11. Wintringham 1940, p. 60.
  12. Cocktails A La Molotov – News item about British Home Guard training (Newsreel). British Pathé. 1 August 1940. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  13. Graves 1943, p. 71.
  14. Wintringham, Tom. Against Invasion – the lessons of Spain. Picture Post 15 June 1940 p. 14.
  15. War Office. Military Training Manual No 42, Appendix A: The Anti-Tank Petrol Bomb "Molotov Cocktail." 29 August 1940.
  16. 1 2 3 War Office. Military Training Manual No 42, Appendix B: The Self-Igniting Phosphorus Grenade, The AW Grenade. 29 August 1940, p. 25.
  17. Handbook for the Projectors, 2½ inch, Marks I & II September 1941. p. 26.
  18. Northover Projectors WO 185/23, The National Archives
  19. Macrae 1971, p. 120.
  20. Macrae 1971, pp. 84–85.
  21. Wintringham, Tom. Against Invasion – the lessons of Spain. Picture Post 15 June 1940 pp. 9–24.
  22. Wintringham 1940, p. 59.
  23. Breen, Dan (1981). My fight for Irish freedom. Anvil, p. 121. ISBN   0-900068-58-2
  24. Rafal E. Stolarski. "The Production of Arms and Explosive Materials by the Polish Home Army in the Years 1939–1945" . Retrieved 30 June 2007.
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