Военная история

© Major William C. Schneck

The Origins of Military Mines

Major Schneck, a professional engineer, is the Assistant Division Engineer, 29th Light Infantry Division (Virginia Army National Guard), and a senior project engineer in the Countermine Division, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. A veteran of both the Gulf War and Somalia, he has published numerous papers on mine warfare. Major Schneck is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Catholic University. His e-mail address is: wschneck@nvl.army.mil

Part 1

Innovations in mine warfare have come from a variety of sources throughout history, and it is often engineers on the ground who gain the critical insights required for the next leap forward. Mine and countermine technologies and techniques have evolved over the past 3,000 years and continue to evolve in the typical measure/countermeasure/counter-countermeasure cycle seen for other weapons. Part I of this article traces that evolution from the first underground mines through the antipersonnel mines and boobytraps used during World War II.

Early Mining

Commercial underground mining first began in the Bronze Age when surface deposits of minerals and gems were exhausted, forcing miners to follow ore veins deeper into the earth by digging vertical shafts and horizontal drifts. The earliest identified underground mines, dating from 7000 B.C., were copper mines in Anatolia, now part of Turkey. Egyptians began to mine copper and turquoise in Sinai around 3400 B.C. The following Iron Age began among the Hittites, who mined iron ore between 1900 and 1400 B.C. They used this revolutionary material to make superior weapons that greatly facilitated the conquest of their neighbors.

Early in the Bronze Age, walled cities began to appear in the Middle East to protect against raiders and other attackers. Jericho, on the west bank of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea, is the oldest known walled city (dating from approximately 8000 B.C.). The walls at Jericho were about 7 meters high and 4 meters thick and were surrounded by a moat 9 meters wide and 3 meters deep. Later, protective walls developed into huge affairs. Under Nebuchadrezzar II (around 600 B.C.) the walls at Babylon increased to a thickness of about 26 meters.

Early military mining techniques were developed in response to these walled cities and probably were devised by impressed civilian miners at the behest of conquerors. Before military mining, attackers' options were limited to blockading a city (starving them out), scaling the walls, breaching the walls with a battering ram (which began in Egypt about 2000 B.C.), or by stratagem (such as the Trojan Horse). Although the stone-throwing engine of war was first developed by the Phoenicians, the catapult was one of the first effective missile engines. It was developed for battering down town walls during the reign of Phillip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great.  In the third century B.C., the great military engineer Archimedes built a missile engine that could hurl a 173-pound stone about 200 meters. Engineers took their name from these "ingenious" devices.  Mechanical stone-throwing engines remained in action as late as the Siege of Rhodes in 14805 and Cortez' conquest of Mexico (around 1520). In fact, improvised grenade-throwing catapults were used in close combat situations during both world wars.

Early Military Mines

The Assyrian Army organized the first known "corps of engineers" during the time of Ashurnasirpal II (about 850 B.C.). These elite specialists operated siege and bridge trains and provided mobility support for chariots. They were the first soldiers equipped with advanced iron pioneer tools and are credited with the first known use of offensive mine warfare. This occurred about 880 B.C. when engineer soldiers drove tunnels (mines) under or through walls and fortifications6 to gain access to fortified areas or to create a breach large enough for a full-scale attack. These engineers excavated a chamber under the wall and braced the ceiling with timber supports. The supports were then burned, causing the chamber and the structure above it to collapse. Attacking soldiers then assaulted through the breach. Among the many successful mines throughout history are those used by Alexander the Great and his engineer Diades at the sieges of Halicarnassus (334 B.C.) and Gaza (332 B.C.) and Julius Caesar and his engineer Mamurra during the siege of Marseilles in 49 B.C. Although effective mining and other combat engineering skills were critical to the military successes of both of these great captains, the skills frequently are neglected by historians.

Early Obstacles

An early example of a reinforcing obstacle intended for use on a battlefield, as opposed to during a siege, occurred around 330 B.C. during the time of Alexander the Great. The Greeks were aware of a new invention called caltrops, which could be scattered in front of their battle lines to disrupt the terrifying attacks of the massive Persian war elephants. Caltrops are devices with four metal points arranged so that when three are on the ground, the fourth projects upward as a hazard to animal hooves or tires. Caltrops were used as recently as the Korean Conflict, when the U.S. Air Force dropped them on Chinese convoys to puncture tires. The U.S. also dropped them on the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War.

During the siege of Alesia in 52 B.C., Julius Caesar's engineers directed the emplacement of a complex obstacle 100 meters deep. It was a combination of towers, palisades, ditches, abatis, and caltrops to slow the attacking Gauls, so that Roman missile engines could more effectively engage them. These obstacles gave Caesar time to successfully deploy reserve forces to threatened areas along his 13-mile perimeter.   Another early obstacle is the abatis, emplaced by English longbow men to protect against mounted French knights at the Battles of Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415).

Black Powder

Although the origin of black powder is uncertain, it probably was developed by Chinese alchemists seeking an "elixir of immortality" during the T'ang Dynasty around 850 A.D. It was used against the invading Mongols of Ghenghis Khan in 1209.  Black powder apparently remained an oddity, for although it terrified those unfamiliar with it, the Chinese did not successfully integrate it into an effective weapon. It apparently impressed the Mongols, who carried black powder with them during their reign of conquest and introduced it to Europeans at the disastrous Battles of Liegnitz and Sajo River in April 1241.  The advent of black powder in Europe marked the beginning of modern artillery, when it was fired from mechanical missile engines used by military engineers of Medieval Europe. In fact, the term gunner may be a variant of "gynour," a form of engineer. Serpentine powder, the earliest form of black powder, was a dust that burned slowly and gave low bore pressure. A method of "corning" powder into larger grains to increase performance was developed about 1450.

Explosive Mines

The ability to manufacture and detonate black powder occurred in Europe in the 14th century and resulted in the next major improvements in military mining.

Tunnel Mines

The surprise and effectiveness of tunnel mines was significantly increased by exploding large charges of black powder at the end of galleries driven under fortifications. The first recorded use of such a mine in Europe was in 1403, during a war between Pisa and Florence, when the Florentines exploded a charge in a forgotten passage in the walls surrounding Pisa. One of the individuals involved with these early explosive mines was a military engineer named Leonardo Da Vinci, who was working for Ludovico, the Duke of Sforza, around 1500.However, for a long time black powder was a scarce and expensive commodity, so the less spectacular method of burning out the timber supports beneath the walls continued for some time.  The slow evolution of the cannon eventually forced the high castle walls of the Middle Ages to be replaced by low-walled bastioned fortresses, finally making this method of mining completely obsolete. In his work on siege warfare (published in 1740), Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban (French Marshal, 1630-1707) codified principles of military mining that remained valid well into the 19th century. Vauban, in what could be considered the first scientifically based demolitions manual, described a method of charge calculation and placement based on characteristics of the target fortress and the desired effect. He defined these mines by the depth and size of the charge:
*For depths less than 3 meters, it was called a fougasse (or contact mine).
*For depths greater than 3 meters, it was called a mine.
*When used as a "countermine" against an enemy mine, it was called a camouflet.
*When intended to destroy an entire fortification (using 2,500 kilograms of powder or more), it was called pressure balls (globes de compression).

According to Vauban's tables, explosive charges for mining could range up to 12,200 kilograms. The purpose of mines was not only to cause destruction but also--with the rocks and soil ejected--to form an earthen ramp that assault troops could use to gain immediate access to the breach. Because the demolition often came as a surprise to defending forces, it frequently caused panic and confusion among them.

Tunnel mines were very time consuming to employ. Typically about 18 miners and 36 unskilled workmen were employed in three 8-hour shifts to construct an assault mine. Military mining during a siege could last 30 days or more, and specialists were required for the job. During the Middle Ages, coal miners were hired. Formal mining units were not formed until standing armies were raised by the absolute monarchs of the 17th century--1673 in France, 1683 in Austria, 1742 in Prussia, and 1772 in Britain (the Company of Soldier Artificers). Their work demanded courage and special caution--lack of oxygen and possible flooding were hazards.

Against the bastioned fortresses of Vauban's time, mining normally began as soon as sappers (military specialists in attack and defense of fortifications) completed the last parallel in front of the glacis of a fortress or fortified town. Then besieging miners dug galleries about 1.25 meters high and 1 meter wide and lined them with wood. Once they reached the site selected for the explosion, they dug the blast hole perpendicular to the previous direction of the gallery. Then they filled the mine chamber with the amount of black powder determined by the siege engineer.

To ignite the mine, they fed an ignition "sausage" out of the mine chamber. This sausage was a tube made of linen and filled with granulated black powder that led back to the point of ignition (minenherd). The ignition sausage, a predecessor of the modern time fuze, was normally laid in a 6-centimeter-wide wooden duct and covered with a board to protect it from moisture or other damage. The gallery was finally tamped with sod or earth, over a length of 6 to 10 meters. At the appointed time, the miner ignited the powder in the ignition sausage with an ignition sponge and then retreated quickly before the sponge burned to the powder.

Immediately after the explosion, the besiegers could assault the fortress or extend their sap trenches into the crater and reinforce them with gabions. If necessary, additional mines were used to destroy the palisades of the covered passage and the supporting walls of the counterscarp or scarp, thus facilitating entry into the fortress.

While working in tunnels, miners looked for listening tunnels and countermines of the defender. Attackers tried to deceive the defender's listening posts by constructing phony "noise" galleries, where they intentionally produced a lot of noise.

Military engineers incorporated the latest technologies from civilian mining as they became available, including more efficient explosives: nitrocellulose in 1845 (Christian Schoenbein, Germany), dynamite in 1866 (Alfred Nobel, Sweden), picric acid in 1871, and TNT in 1902 (C. Hausermann, Germany). Other improvements included electric (galvanic) ignition (1850s)  and forced-air ven-tilation systems. During World War I, both sides employed new mechanical tunnel-boring machines developed for commercial coal mining, as well as traditional techniques.

Tunnel mining has continued sporadically into the modern era and was used by Napoleon at Acre (1799), the Crimean War (Sevastopol),  General Grant's men in the American Civil War (Vicksburg and Petersburg ), the Russo-Japanese War (Port Arthur ), World War I (Western Front29 and the Isonzo Front ), World War II (Russian Front ), and the French-Indochina War (Dien Bien Phu ). Most recently, the Peruvians used tunnel mines to liberate hostages held in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima. The North Koreans may use them in the future--some of their tunnels have been discovered under the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and more are suspected.


Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, stated that "Fougasses formed into a T-like mine, in order to blow up the same place three times, can be added to the entrenchments. Their use is admirable; nothing fortifies a position so strongly nor does more to ward off attackers."These fougasses were simple black powder devices first developed for defending permanent fortifications. They were intended to detonate in the face of an enemy assault. A black powder charge was placed in a chamber excavated in the face of a fortification (firing horizontally) or in front of it (firing vertically). The chamber was then packed with a quantity of fragments, normally rocks or scrap iron and called a stone fougasse, or filled with explosive artillery shells and called a shell fougasse. If properly emplaced, a horizontally fired fougasse functioned as a crude claymore mine, while the shell fougasse could function like a bounding antipersonnel (AP) mine or a simple fragmenting mine. Fougasses were command-detonated by manually igniting a powder train from a protected position at the appropriate time. Fougasses had several defects: they were vulnerable to the elements--even moderate dampness rendered them inoperative--and were difficult to detonate at the optimum time. However, in the right circumstances, fougasses caused heavy casualties, as occurred during the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and Santander in the Duke of Wellington's Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars.

Fougasses were employed by one of George Washington's engineers, Francois de Fleury (of de Fleury Medal fame), in October 1777 against the Hessians at Fort Mercer, New Jersey, on the east bank of the Delaware River. During the War of 1812, an American ammunition chest accidentally exploded during a British attack on Fort Erie, Canada. This caused the attack to collapse, and the fear of additional fougasses prevented further British attacks.36 (The only engineer unit in the American Army during this war--the Company of Sappers, Miners and Bombardiers--fought in this battle). During the Mexican-American War of 1845, the Mexicans attempted to employ fougasses on the approaches to Chapultepec.37 Stone fougasses are still employed occasionally by irregular forces, such as the Viet Cong, Central American guerillas,38 and Bosnians,39 who lack access to modern land mines.

Self-Contained Mines

Military engineers in China employed the first self-contained explosive AP mines against Kublai Khan's Mongol invaders in 1277. Manufactured in many shapes and sizes, these mines could be command-detonated or activated with either a pressure device (probably based on a match) or a pull-firing device (a forerunner of the flintlock mechanism). However, they were seldom used and were largely forgotten by the time Western explorers arrived in the Orient.

Introduction of the European flintlock in 1547 led to the first target-activated AP mine in the West. This fladdermine, developed by Samuel Zimmermann of Augsburg in 1573, consisted of one or more pounds of black powder buried at a shallow depth in the glacis of a fortress. It was actuated by stepping on it or by tripping a wire along the ground that released a flintlock igniter to fire the main charge. Like the fougasse, these devices were highly vulnerable to dampness and required frequent maintenance. They were used mainly around fixed fortifications. Fladdermines were used against Frederick the Great during the Siege of Schweidnitz in 1758 and by the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871.

Although the Chinese first introduced explosive shells (as opposed to solid shot) in about 1221, they were unreliable and were used mainly with mortars. Reintroduction of explosive shells in the West in the 1700s, combined with the invention of the percussion cap by Reverend Alexander Forsythe of Scotland in 1814, made possible the next important step in the development of reliable mines by greatly improving their resistance to moisture. Confederate soldiers under General Gabriel Raines improvised the first of this type of AP mine from artillery shells at Redoubt No. 4 near Yorktown, Virginia, during the campaign of 1862. After several casualties, these were cleared by two companies from the 50th New York Volunteer Engineer Regiment. By the end of the Civil War, the Confederates had emplaced thousands of land torpedoes around Richmond, Charleston, Mobile, Savannah, and Wilmington, which produced hundreds of casualties (see table). Robert E. Lee, John Mosby, and J.E.B. Stuart all advocated the use of AP mines.

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Land torpedoes were also used against Sherman in Mississippi, by General Raines on roads into Augusta, and by General Wheeler on the roads into Savannah and Pocotaglio. A coal torpedo (a type of boobytrap with an irregular sheet-iron case filled with black powder and painted black) was used to destroy General Butler's headquarters steamer Greyhound, and coal torpedoes were implicated in the sinkings of the Chenango and the Sultana. Union troops of I Company, 3rd U.S. Colored Troops, also used torpedoes near Savannah. Five of the torpedoes designed by General Raines were found near Mobile, Alabama, in 1960.

The British employed mines during the Boer War in 1901 to protect railroads and deny fording sites to the enemy. In the Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, the Japanese tried to breach Russian mines with volunteer suicide squads that were to force a passage by sacrificing their own bodies. Upon approaching the minefield, the volunteers found that heavy rains had exposed many of the mines.

Between the Civil War and World War I, powerful military explosives were introduced that significantly increased the mines' lethality. Black powder shells of the Civil War period burst into only two to five fragments, while those of the Franco-Prussian War burst into 20 to 30 fragments. By World War I, a 3-inch high-explosive shell produced about 1,000 high-velocity fragments.

The German tretmine (step-on mine), the next high-explosive mine to appear, went into limited production before World War I. Lieutenant Ernst Junger of the 73rd Hanoverian Fusilier Regiment described German improvised mines this way: "These hotheads are forever puzzling out the possible ways of ... making the ground in front of the trench murderous with explosive machines. Perhaps they cut a narrow passage through the wire in front of their posts in order to entice an enemy patrol, by this bait of an easy way through, straight up to their rifles."

The United States also had a fairly advanced concept of landmine warfare, as stated in Engineer Field Manual, Parts I-VII, in 1918. However, all the World War I combatants relied heavily on artillery and machine guns and seldom used AP mines. It was not until the Second World War that AP mines reached full maturity, and they have been an important facet of almost every conflict since.

Fragmenting AP Mines

Even though modern, self-contained fragmenting AP mines have been employed in the West in relatively small numbers since the American Civil War, they did not appear in significant numbers until World War II. At that time, three types of fragmenting AP mines emerged: bounding mines, the predecessors of the M16 "Bouncing Betty"; directional mines, the predecessors to the M18 Claymore; and simple fragmenting mines, like the Soviet POMZ-2 stake mine.

Bounding AP Mines. An 1859 U.S. military engineering manual by General Halleck includes the design for an improvised command-detonated bounding AP mine called a shell fougasse. However, modern manufactured examples of this type did not make their combat debut until early in World War II, when French patrols on the Siegfried Line began to take unexplained casualties. These casualties were attributed to a device the French dubbed "the silent soldier," the famous German "S" mine introduced during the 1930s. These mines were commonly called "Bouncing Bettys.

Directional AP Mines. These mines descended from an early directional type of stone fougasse used in Europe. Under the guidance of physicists Franz Rudolf Tomanek and Hubertn Schardin, the Germans developed a directional AP mine, called a trench mine, late in World War II. The French fielded a directional AP mine in 1947, but it was the Americans who refined it in response to the human-wave attacks of Chinese Communist forces during the Korean Conflict in the early 1950s. The new mine was developed and placed in production in 1953, too late to see combat in Korea. Called the M18 Claymore after a famous type of Scottish broadsword, it first saw combat in Vietnam in 1961.

Simple Fragmenting AP Mines. Stake-mounted, fragmenting AP mines were introduced in the Russo-Finnish War of 1939, when badly outnumbered Finns improvised them from grenades. When the Finns fought the Russians to a standstill along the Mannerheim Line in November 1939, this setback forced the Russians to conduct the first mounted breach of a mined, complex obstacle. In preparation for a deliberate breach, the Russians improvised roller tanks and flamethrower tanks and conducted extensive rehearsals.   The stake mine that emerged from World War II is still used today without significant changes to its design.  The best-known example is the Soviet-made POMZ-2 mine.

Blast AP Mines.

Blast AP mines descended from the vertical fougasse and large underground mines that were dug under fortified positions and then detonated. It is unclear which mine is the first modern "toe-popper" blast AP mine, but the Soviet-made PMK-4056 and the British-made "Ointment Box"  mine are good candidates.

Chemical Mines

The British-developed Livens Projector was first em-ployed in 1917 and is arguably the first chemical mine. The Germans also developed and employed what the Allies dubbed the "Yperite Mine" in 1918. It used a delayed action demolition charge containing mustard agent ("Yperite") to deny bunkers that were being abandoned during a withdrawal.  The first modern chemical mine, the Spruh-buchse 37 (Bounding Gas Mine 37), was developed and produced by Germany during World War II and normally had a mustard-agent fill. It was never used in combat. Except for the introduction of nerve-agent fills, the design of chemical mines has not changed significantly since the Second World War.

Flame Mines

"Liquid Fire" and "Greek Fire" have existed since classical times. However, the first reported flame mine was improvised by Confederate soldiers near Charleston in 1864, possibly from shells containing Greek Fire, which the Union fired into the city and that failed to function. During World War II, the Russians used a trip-wire-activated static flamethrower at the Battle of Kursk. These devices were quickly copied by the Germans and used in the Atlantic Wall. The British also employed improvised flame mines during the First Battle of El Alamein in 1942.  The United States developed the first modern flame mine, the XM-55, for use in Vietnam. It was a pressure- or trip-wire-activated bounding mine.  There are no indications that it was ever used in combat. Improvised flame mines, sometimes called flame fougasse, are still occasionally used in combat.


The first explosive boobytraps were employed by the Chinese against the Mongols in 1277.66 They first appeared in the West during the Seminole War of 1840.   During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers employed a variety of these devices--including pull-firing devices, timer-rundown fuzes, and coal or wood "torpedoes" that detonated when burned in a boiler. Boobytraps reached full maturity during World War II, when reliable German mechanical anti-handling devices were introduced, and have been used in almost every conflict since.

Part 2

Part II of this series traces the origins of antivehicle mines and countermine equipment. Though it may seem odd, the explosive antivehicle mine predates the appearance of the tank by more than 50 years! The continuous evolution of these weapons is driven by the defender's need to economize his forces while protecting them from attack. This, in turn, drives the development of the countermine equipment that attackers must have to successfully retain their mobility.

Antivehicle Mines

One of the earliest antivehicle "mines" was described by military engineer Philo of Byzantium around 120 B.C., when he recommended that "in front of the advanced walls (of a city) empty earthenware jars should be buried. These are placed in an upright position with their mouths upward, stopped up with seaweed or imperishable grass, and covered with earth. Troops may then pass over the jars with impunity, (but) the engines and timber towers brought up by the enemy will sink into them."  Another early example occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., when Jewish Zealots dug a tunnel mine under one of the besieger's four massive siege engines (powerful battering rams on wheels), resulting in its destruction and a three-day delay in the battle.  During the American Civil War, Confederate soldiers developed and employed pressure-fuzed railroad mines that destroyed at least two heavily loaded trains in Tennessee.  To counteract the railroad mines, the Union Army improvised the first mine-clearing roller, a flatcar pushed slowly in front of a locomotive to detonate any mines ahead of it.

Table 1. Origin of Mobility Equipment

Equipment First Prototype First Production First Combat Use
Bangalore torpedo U.K., 1912 U.K., Western Front, WWI
Tank mine roller U.K., 1918 U.S.S.R. U.S.S.R.,
Tank mine plow France U.K, Sword Beach, WWII
Electronic mine detector France
Vehicle-mounted electronic mine detector France, Pre-WWII U.S. U.S.
Flail U.K., 1942 U.K., 1943 U.K., 2d El Alamein, 1942
(24 prototypes were used in this battle.)
Remote-control breaching France Germany, 1940 Germany, Sevastopol, 1942
Demolition snake Canada U.S., Anzio, May 1944
Projected line charge U.K., 1944 U.K., 1944 U.K., Calais, September 1944
Mine-resistant wheeled vehicle U.K., 1941 Sweden, 1940s U.K., North Africa, 1941
Scatterable mine-clearing system France, 1980s
Full-width mine rake U.S., 1990 U.S., 1990 U.S., Gulf War, 1991

Antitrack (Pressure-Fuzed) Mines

German pioniere (combat engineers) improvised the first antitank (AT) mines during World War I in response to another innovation in combat engineering--a British-made tank developed in September 1916 by Lieutenant Colonel E. D. Swinton, Royal Engineers (RE). Initially, the Germans buried standard artillery and mortar shells with a sensitive fuze pointed up. They also employed command-detonated mines, which are forerunners of full-width-attack AT mines. Later in World War I, the Germans improvised many types of mines, including a wooden box mine that measured approximately 14 by 16 by 2 inches and weighed about 12 pounds. Twenty 200-gram blocks of explosive were placed in each box, which was normally buried about 10 inches deep. Detonation was initiated by a hand grenade placed inside and against one wall of the box so that the primer passed through the wall. The mines functioned by pressure as tanks passed over them or by command detonation. Electric blasting caps, which first appeared in 1900, greatly facilitated command detonation.During World War I, Germans scattered their AT mines at random or in locally created patterns to reinforce wire obstacles and AT ditches in front of trench lines. 

The Germans began to manufacture standard AT mines in 1916 and produced nearly three million before the Armistice of 1918. Regrettably, no information on the characteristics of these factory-produced mines has come to light. German AT mines accounted for a sig-nificant portion of allied tank losses, including about 15 percent of U.S. tank casualties, during the battles of St. Mihiel, Catalet-Bony, Selle, and Meuse/Argonne.  The British also im-provised AT mines during World War I. Two varieties have been identified: one based on a pipe bomb and the other on a bombard shell.   In 1929, the Germans introduced the Tellermine 29, the first in a series of modern pressure-fuzed AT mines. This series formed the basis for many of the AT mines used to date, including the U.S. M15.

Antihull (Full-Width-Attack) Mines

The Russian AKS, a tilt-rod-actuated blast AT mine that appeared on the Russian front during World War II, was probably the first true full-width AT mine. However, the Germans developed the first modern full-width-attack mine toward the end of World War II. Called the Hohl-Sprung Mine 4672, it employed a tilt-rod fuze and shaped-charge kill mechanism. Although 59,000 of this mine were produced, there are no reports that it was ever used in combat.10 Nevertheless, it represented a significant improvement in mine technology. The French probably were first to field a modern full-width-attack mine when the Model 1948 entered service in 1948.

Another important advance in the evolution of the full-width AT mine was the Russian development of influence fuzing, both seismic (VZ-1) and magnetic, during World War II.  This combination of a shaped charge with a full-width-attack fuze has proven extremely effective. Its greater coverage enables emplacing units to get the same obstacle effect with significantly fewer mines per kilometer of front. Additionally, this type of mine often produces a K-kill (catastrophic kill), with fatalities to crew members of all vehicles, including tanks and other tracked vehicles. This lethality definitely decreases the willingness of combat vehicle crews to "bull through" a mined area.

Side-Attack Mines. The advent of shoulder-fired AT weapons, beginning with the U.S. bazooka in 1942, led to the development of side-attack AT mines. First employed by the Germans and Soviets during World War II, these mines were based on the Panzerfaust.  The early Soviet-made LMG reportedly is still being used by North Korea.  This type of mine is difficult to employ due to its large size and because it must be emplaced aboveground.

Wide-Area Mines. The predecessor of the wide-area landmine--one that sends a munition toward its target without human guidance--is the Russian "dog mine" of World War II. Advanced wide-area mines are now emerging in Western Europe and the United States.

Mine-Emplacement Systems

The Italian AR-4 Thermos Bomb (also called Anti-personnel (AP) Bomb Manzolini) was one of the first scatterable mine-laying systems used in combat. Scattered by aircraft, it was used fairly extensively in North Africa from 1940 to 1942). Another early scatterable mine was the German SD-2B Schmetterling (butterfly). It was used effectively against the Poles in September 1939. Both types employed antidisturbance and time-delay fuzing. The Germans also developed a cluster-bomb version of the SD-2 that had airburst or impact fuzing. An aircraft-dropped bomb container could carry 24 Thermos bombs as a submunition. The Schmetterling could be carried as submunitions in the following cluster-bomb containers: AB 23 (23 SD-2s), the AB 250-3 (108 SD-2s), the Mk 500 (6 SD-2s), and the AB 24t (24 SD-2s), In addition to Poland, the Schmetterling was used in France, North Africa, Italy, England, and Russia. It could be dropped by one of 15 Luftwaffe groups equipped with specially modified aircraft (Ju-88s, Do-17s, Me-109s, or Ju-87s). The U.S. Air Force copied this mine, called it the M-83, and used it against Germany and later in Korea and Vietnam.  In Germany, Krupp developed (but did not field) the first mechanical mine planter, which was towed behind a Tiger tank.  The U.S. Marine Corps developed the first air-scatterable AT mine--the Douglas Model 31 from 1952 to 1958. The first one to enter production (in 1975) appears to be the U.S.-made UH-1 helicopter-mounted M-56 system, which used the M-34 AT mine.

Table 2. Origin of Countermobility Equipment

Mine/Fuze Type First Prototype First Production First Combat Use
Tunnel mining Assyria, ~1000 BC
Caltrops Greece, 330 BC
Explosive tunnel mines Florence, 1403
Self-contained AP mine China, 1277 China, 1277 China, 1277
Electric command- detonated mine France, 1858 France, Sevastopol, 1858
Blast AT Mine Germany, 1917 Germany, 1918 Germany, Western Front, 1917
Bounding AP mine U.S., 1859 Germany, 1930s Germany, West Wall, 1939
Chemical mine U.K. Germany, WWII
Flame mine Confederacy, 18641 U.S.S.R., 1943 U.S.S.R., Kursk, 1943
Mechanical boobytraps China, 1277 Confederacy, 18641 China, 1277
Side-attack AT mine Germany, 1943 U.S.S.R., 1943 Germany, Eastern Front, 1943
Full-width-attack AT mine Germany, 1945 France, 1948
Fixed-wing aircraft- scattered AP mine Germany, 1930s Germany, 1930s Germany, Polish Campaign, 1939
Fixed-wing aircraft- scattered AT mine U.S. U.S., 1960s U.S., Southeast Asia, 1960s
Helicopter-scattered AP mine U.S., Vietnam U.S.S.R., 1970s U.S.S.R., Afghanistan, 1980s
Helicopter-scattered AT mine U.S., 1970s U.S., 1975 USSR, Afghanistan, 1980s
Tube artillery-scattered mines U.S., 1970s U.S., 1970s U.S., Gulf War, 1991
Rocket artillery-scattered mines U.S.S.R., 1970s U.S.S.R., Afghanistan, 1980s
Vehicle-scattered mines U.S., 1970s
Manpack-scattered mines U.S., 1990s
Radio-controlled mines U.S.S.R., 1941 U.S.S.R., 1942
Tilt-rod fuze U.S.S.R., 1941 U.S.S.R., 1941
Daisy-chained mines Finland, 1939 Finland, 1939
Coupled mines Germany, 1942 Germany, WWII Germany, North Africa, 1942
Boosted mines Germany, 1942 Germany, North Africa, 1942
Breakwire fuze U.S., 1960s U.S.S.R., Afghanistan
Tripwire fuze Germany, 1573 Germany, 1939 Germany, 1500s (?)
Railroad mine Confederacy, 18621 Germany, WWII Confederacy, Civil War, 18621
Electronic boobytrap Yugoslavia, 1980s Yugoslavia, 1990s
Low-metal mine Finland, 1939 Finland , 1939
Influence fuze U.S.S.R., WWII U.S.S.R., WWII
Antihandling devices Germany, 1930s Germany, WWII
Mechanical mine planter Germany, WWII U.S.S.R., post-WWII
Blast-hardened mines Italy, 1980s Mujahideen, Afghanistan, 1980s
Antihelicopter mine Viet Cong, Vietnam War Viet Cong, Vietnam War
Integral electronic antihandling device Italy, 1980


The original countermines were tunnels dug by besieged defenders to disrupt enemy mining efforts. A countermine was successful when an enemy tunnel was intercepted. Inevitably, a confused, close-quarters fight in the dark followed, as the two sides fought to control the tunnel. One example of this occurred during the siege of Barca about 510 B.C. "The Persians excavated underground tunnels that reached the walls. Among the Barcaeans there was a skilled worker in brass who took a brazen shield and, carrying it round within the wall, applied it here and there at places where he thought the workings might be. Where there were no mines the shield was silent, but at places near mining operations the shield made a vibrating sound. By countermining at these points, the Barcaeans broke into the enemy's works and slew the men they found there."

Explosive Countermines. The first identified use of an explosive countermine was during the siege of Belgrade in 1433, when John Vrano used black powder in a countermine against the Turks.26 In this application, the intent was to dig close to the enemy's mine gallery and emplace and detonate a charge that would collapse the tunnel and kill the miners. This type of explosive countermine was used up to World War I. During the Thirty Years War in central Europe (1618-1648), some defenders released poisonous antimony gas into tunnels to kill miners.

Manual Breaching. The first deliberate breach of a minefield was by Colonel Serrel's 1st New York Volunteer Engineers at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in August and September 1863 during the Civil War. Union sappers literally dug their way through the minefield using traditional siege warfare techniques.

Mine Plows, Rakes, and Detectors. In 1918, the French developed the first plow-equipped tank, which was based on a Renault FT-17 tank.30 However, plow tanks were not used in combat until D-Day in 1944, when the British 79th Armored Division employed a "Bullshorn" plow on a Churchill tank at Sword Beach.31 Modern versions used by most countries, including the United States, are based on an Israeli design. The highly successful full-width mine rake was first developed and used by the United States during Operation Desert Storm.

The Germans, French, Russians, and Italians entered World War II with metallic mine detectors, but information on the details of their origin is lacking. During the interwar years, the French developed the first vehicle-mounted electronic mine detector on an R-35 tank.

Bangalore Torpedo. Captain McClintock--an engineer officer in the Bengal, Bombay, and Madras Sappers and Miners--invented the bangalore torpedo in 1912. Its purpose was to counter problems caused by the rise of barbed-wire obstacles during the Boer War (1899-1902) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). The torpedo, which took its name from Bangalore, India, where it was developed, was originally a 5.5-meter length of pipe filled with 27.2 kilograms of dynamite. Early in World War II, the torpedo was found to effectively clear a path through minefields, and it remains a standard item in most armies. In 1944, the United States began experimentation for a supplemental system that would use a bullet-trap rifle grenade or small rocket to deploy a length of detonating cord, but these devices have not been generally accepted. A more likely successor is the U.S. Antipersonnel Obstacle-Breaching System (APOBS), which is based on the Israeli-developed POMINS.

Mine Rollers and Assault Bridges. At the end of World War I, the British developed a tank-mounted mine roller as a countermeasure against German AT mines. Major Martel (RE) explored the possibility of producing mine rollers and assault bridges that could be used by armored vehicles. Martel was assisted by Major Inglis from the Engineer-in-Chief's branch at general headquarters. Inglis, an engineering professor at Cambridge, had designed a prefabricated tubular mobile bridge to carry tanks across a clear span of 100 feet. Three special tank battalions, one commanded by Martel, were formed at Christ-church in Hampshire, England, in 1918. Each battalion had Mk V tanks designed to accept either mine rollers or to push/pull mobile bridges. Although the armistice came before the units were operational, Martel continued trials with the one remaining unit, called the Experimental Bridging Company, which was transitioned to the civilian-controlled Experimental Bridging Establishment in 1925. The mine roller was first used in combat in 1940, when the Russians used it to help breach Finland's Mannerheim Line.  The highly successful Russian Mugalev roller, which first saw action in 1942, was developed based on this experience.  Most rollers currently used by former Warsaw Pact countries, Israel, and the United States are patterned after the Mugalev roller.

Snake. The demolition "Snake" was first developed by Major MacLean, a Canadian combat engineer from the 11th Field Company, in October 1941. Originally nicknamed the "Worthington Wiggler" after F. F. Worthington, commander of the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade, it was basically an oversized bangalore torpedo. The Snake consisted of sections of 3-inch diameter pipe loaded with explosives, which could be coupled together in lengths up to 400 feet and pushed as a unit across a minefield ahead of a tank. The subsequent detonation would clear a path through the field. The Snake was demonstrated successfully in February and March 1942. Although the U.S. Army was equipped with a small number of them during the campaign in North Africa, the Snake was first used in combat by the U.S. 1st Armored Division on 23 May 1944 during the breakout from the Anzio Beachhead.

Mine-Clearing Line Charge. A British-made, rocket-deployed, flexible line charge called the "Conger" was developed to overcome the shortcomings of the Snake. The Conger was the first modern mine-clearing line charge. Consisting of 330 yards of specially woven 2-inch diameter flexible hose, it was launched across a minefield by a 5-inch rocket. After the hose was deployed, it was filled with 2,500 pounds of a nitroglycerine-based liquid explosive known as 822C. Because it was so dangerous, the Conger was used in combat only once by the British 79th Armored Division during the battle for Calais on 25 September 1944.  Modern mine-clearing line charges like the U.S. M58 MICLIC and the British Giant Viper evolved from this device.

Mine-Clearing Flail. Lieutenant Colonel Colman, a South African engineer, got the idea for a mine-clearing flail when he saw a tracked vehicle drive by with a length of wire wrapped around its sprockets. The wire hit the ground hard with each revolution of the sprockets. Colman's idea was developed by Field Marshal Montgomery's 8th Army in the general headquarters workshops in August 1942. Twenty-four of these flails, called "Scorpions," were first used in combat during several British breaching efforts in the Second Battle of El Alamein. Eventually, the British consolidated the flail and many other specialized armored vehicles in the famous 79th Armored Division. Commanded by General Hobart, RE, this division--known as Hobart's Funnies--was probably the most advanced combat engineering organization ever de-veloped. Modern descendants of the Scorpion are in service in England and are the forerunner of the jointly developed German and Israeli Keiler system.

Remote-Controlled Breaching Vehicles. The first prototype, remote-controlled breaching vehicles for cutting wire obstacles were developed in Germany and France during World War I.  The Germans were the first to produce and deploy remote-controlled minefield breaching vehicles by using both an expendable charge-carrying vehicle (the "Goliath") and a nonexpendable vehicle (the B-IV) that was intended to drop its charge and withdraw before the charge detonated. Although these vehicles were used with some success at Sevastopol in 1942 and Kursk in 1943, they were generally considered failures.

Sea Mines

The Chinese first employed sea mines in the 14th century. The oldest known European design for a sea mine was presented by Ralph Rabbards to Queen Elizabeth I in 1574. In the West, the first known employment of sea mines occurred in 1777 when Captain David Bushnell, an American Continental Army engineer, attacked British ships on the Delaware River with floating mines. He also made the first submarine attack in the history of warfare and commanded the Company of Sappers and Miners that stormed Redoubt 10 at Yorktown. Robert Fulton and Samuel Colt both experimented with sea mines in the early 1800s but lost interest when their efforts were not well received by any government. The term "torpedo" was first applied to Fulton's submarine engine. Floating mines were used by the Russians during the Crimean War in 1855 and at Canton, China, in 1857-58.Their first significant employment, however, occurred during the American Civil War, where they were responsible for most of the Union ships sunk.

Antiaircraft Mines

This type of mine is still emerging from the technological shadows. The first improvised antihelicopter mines appeared during the Vietnam War and were used by the Viet Cong on potential landing zones. During the Cold War, the Russians developed an antiaircraft mine based on their surface-to-air (SA)-7/14 missile for use by their special-purpose forces (SPETZNAZ) against NATO airbases. In the 1990s, Britain and the United States had developmental programs for producing "smart" antihelicopter mines that could be deployed to engage low-flying helicopters, but these have been cancelled. However, a Russian company is looking for partners to help fund the development and fielding of the "Temp 20," an antihelicopter mine with a lethal range of 200 meters. Some of the technologies being developed for the Ballistic Missile Defense Office could even be considered orbiting space mines.




Веремеев Ю.Г.
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От автора cайта Конечно, у нас в России хотя каждый уверяет, что английский он знает довольно неплохо, но на самом деле скверно, если вовсе не знает, за исключением десятка - другого заезженных фраз.

Я решил просто выложить статью американского военного историка майора Уильяма Снека в оригинале с тем,  чтобы тот, кто будет читать мой опус "История зарождения и развития минного оружия"2 (на русском языке), куда я беззастенчиво таскал у Снека сведения,  мог сверять сведения, ибо я вовсе не уверен, что понял   у него все правильно и верно перевел.

Впрочем, мое творение,  не перевод, а совершенно самостоятельная работа.

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