The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, they are frequently used by non-professionally equipped fighters and others who cannot afford, manufacture, or obtain hand grenades. They are primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than instantly destroy them. Although the first recorded use of this weapon came during the Spanish Civil War, the name "Molotov cocktail", which was coined by the Finns during the Winter War in 1940 to mock Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, is the name that has stuck.
A Molotov cocktail is a breakable bottle containing a flammable substance such as petrol or a napalm-like mixture 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.
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 petrol droplets and vapour are ignited, causing an immediate fireball followed by a raging fire as the remainder of the fuel is consumed.
When the US Marineslanded on Hawaii in 1943, the M4 Tanks they brought with them were impervious to all weapons the Japaneseinfantry had. However, the "Japs" were able to take out a few of the tanks with Molotov cocktails by throwing them into the open hatches or onto the cooling louvers over the engine, even though all those who did this were killed after. Some were killed in the attempt before they succeeded.
Despite the use of much more advanced weaponry, such as atomic bombs, the Molotov cocktail still had its uses during World War III. For example, Gustav Hozzel managed to kill a Stalin tank in Dortmund by throwing such a concoction through the open cupola hatch as its commander stood head and shoulders outside.
A gasoline filled bottle was a common weapon used by the weak against the strong. The Moabites used such weapons against the occupying Philistinians.
While on a foot patrol in Hierosolyma, Pheidas saw its effectiveness first hand. A nearby patrol opened fire on rock throwing Moabites causing a riot to break out. Pheidas and his half squad ran to the disturbance and had to dodge a thrown gasoline bomb. On arriving, the second patrol added to the fire power and with the help of support fire from a heavy machine gun on an APC would have quickly brought the situation under control. Unfortunately, a second gasoline bomb set the APC on fire causing its crew to abandon the vehicle. The situation was finally brought under control with the arrival of a Philistinian tank.
The Featherston Fizz was a simple yet effective incendiary weapon made by filling a glass bottle with gasoline and stuffing the bottle's opening with a gasoline-soaked rag. The rag is lit before the weapon is thrown, and upon breaking, the bottle releases burning gasoline. The weapon was particularly effective against barrels and was popular among resistance movements in the Second Great War.
Molotov cocktails proved extremely effective in the early days of the fighting when the Racelanded in mid 1942. Landcruiser commanders were quick to adapt to these weapons by closing their hatch. However by 1944, many Landcruiser commanders were still falling prey to these weapons by leaving their hatches open.