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Image:Napalm AirStrike South Vietnam 1966.jpg

Napalm, or jellied gasoline, is a flammable liquid fuel weapon first used in World War I by the Germans, with the Allies quickly following suit.[1] It was first dispensed using a pressurized air tank dispension system (a flamethrower) against soldiers in trenches. The substance is formulated to burn at a specific rate and adhere to material and personnel. A United Nations convention in 1980 (not ratified by the United States Senate) banned the use of napalm against civilian targets.

Incendiary liquids have been used in warfare for thousands of years (see Greek fire). Napalm is its modern equivalent. Four flamethrowers, using a napalm-like liquid, were among the weapons used by the German Army in their assault against the Belgian Fortress of Eben-Emael in May 1940.[2]

The term "napalm" was coined to describe an incendiary fluid developed by the US in World War II. The name came from the use of the chemicals of naphthalene and palmitate, which were added to gasoline to cause it to gel. [3]


Usage in warfare

Image:TrangBang.jpgImage:US riverboat using napalm in Vietnam.jpg On July 17, 1944 napalm incendiary bombs were dropped for the first time by American P-38 pilots on a fuel depot at Coutances, near St. Lô, France.Template:Ref Napalm bombs were first used in the Pacific Theatre during the Battle of Tinian. In World War II, Allied Forces bombed cities in Japan with napalm, and used it in bombs and flamethrowers in Germany and the Japanese-held islands. It was used by the Greek army against communist guerrilla fighters during the Greek Civil War, by United Nations forces in Korea, by Mexico in the late 1960s against guerrilla fighters in Guerrero and by the United States during the Vietnam War.

Napalm has been used recently in wartime by or against: Israel (1967, 1982), Nigeria (1969), Brazil (1972), Egypt (1973), Cyprus (1974), Argentina (1982), Iraq (1991), Serbia (1994), Turkey (1974, 1997), Angola.

Napalm, contrary to popular belief, is not necessarily a painful or inhumane weapon. It incapacitates and kills its victims very quickly. Those who survive and suffer 3rd degree burns cannot feel pain. The vascular dermis, which was burned in a third degree burn, does not have pain receptors. However, victims who suffer 2nd degree burns from splashed napalm will be in significant amounts of pain. [4]

"Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine," said Kim Phuc, known from a famous Vietnam War photograph. "Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Napalm generates temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius."Template:Ref

Phuc sustained third-degree burns to half her body and was not expected to live. But thanks to assistance from South Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut, and after surviving a 14-month hospital stay and 17 operations, she became an outspoken peace activist.

International law does not prohibit the use of napalm or other incendiaries against military targetsTemplate:Ref, but use against civilian populations was banned by a United Nations convention in 1980 Template:Ref. The United States did not sign the agreement, but destroyed its napalm arsenal by 2001.

The United States had reportedly been using incendiaries in the 2003 invasion of Iraq Template:Ref. In August 2003, U.S. Marine pilots and their commanders confirmed the use of Mark 77 firebombs on Iraqi Republican Guards during the initial stages of combat.

"We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," said Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11. "Unfortunately there were people there ... you could see them in the cockpit video. They were Iraqi soldiers. It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect." Template:Ref

These were not actually napalm. The Napalm B (Super Napalm) used in Vietnam was gasoline based. The Mk-77 firebombs used in the Gulf were kerosene based. It is, however, a napalm-like liquid in its effect. [5]

Recipes for napalm type substances are commonly circulated on the Internet. These typically purport to produce a thickened gasoline-based substance using soap or polystyrene as a jellying agent (very similar to the napalm of the Vietnam war). The methods described for producing such a substance are often dangerous, as is its use (due to flammability, adhesiveness, and poisonous fumes from burning polystyrene). It is also illegal for civilians to produce incendiary weapons in most countries, for obvious reasons.

The US patent number for napalm ("Incendiary gels") is 2,606,107. It contains detailed descriptions of its manufacture, and can be viewed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office webpage.


  • In the film Fight Club, the screenwriters were originally going to have Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) recite a working recipe for napalm. However, after questions of safety were brought to the attention of the producers, they substituted his lines with a fake recipe claiming it to be equal parts of gasoline and orange juice concentrate. Contrary to popular belief, the original recipes in the book were also modified by its publisher.
  • In the film Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kilgore declares "I love the smell of napalm in the morning"
  • In 1990, napalm was made easily accessible and was used in gang warfare by minority teenagers, causing over 80 deaths in South Compton.Template:Citation needed
  • The game Mega Man 5 features a boss named Napalm Man who resembles a walking tank and can launch rockets and small explosives. His level is designed like a jungle, similar to that of Vietnam.

See also


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