Land Mines

One of the most destructive weapons used in the war was the land mine, millions of which were placed throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific islands. Every participant in the war used mines, and they came in dozens of shapes, sizes, and designs. The Germans used more than forty types of antivehicle mines over the course of the war, most of them buried just below the ground and detonated by the weight of a man or a vehicle.

Direct contact with a land mine usually resulted in instant death or, at a minimum, the loss of both legs. One particularly deadly German mine, known as the Bouncing Betty, propelled upward three to six feet before blasting shrapnel in all directions. This type of mine could eliminate many soldiers with a single explosion.

Mine detection ranged from the very primitive (men searching the ground on their hands and knees or prodding suspected mines with a long stick) to the relatively sophisticated (tanks fitted with special mine-exploding equipment). A device known as the bangalore torpedo was often used to carve a path through a known mine field. It consisted of a metal tube packed with explosives that detonated all mines in its vicinity. The bangalore torpedo was also used to cut through thick barbed wire and blow up railway tracks.

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