The earliest forerunner to the modern bounding antipersonnel mine appears in Baron Minno van Coehorn’s “Nouvelle Fortification,” dated 1706, which includes an illustration of a “Boitte a Grenade” (an early form of a command detonated shell fougasse). This type was discussed in a US military engineering manual dated 1859 by General Halleck.” In fact, Colonel Marzocchi, an Italian military engineer, first proposed a design similar to the modern bounding antipersonnel mine in May 1891. His design called for a coupled (pressure-activated Jacobi) fuze linked by detonating cord to a device that launched a 22cm shell (filled with 100 to 150 grams of black powder) to a height of about four meters where it detonated. However, there is no indication that anyone ever fabricated this device.
In the accounts of the siege of Port Arthur in 1904, there was a reference to a bounding anti-personnel mine. “These “shrapnel” mines had a small charge which propelled a “shell” ten to twenty feet into the air. Upon reaching the end of a tethering wire, the mines exploded as an air burst.”
On the Eastern Front during the First World War, “Bounding mines, either automatic or wire-controlled, appeared in the Russian Army in 1916… The bottom part of the metal housing of the mine contained a powder ejection charge with an electric primer, and the upper part was a shrapnel (fragmentation) shell armed with a large number of fragmentation elements. A so-called friction fuse was inserted in the shell. The mine was placed in the ground, and the fuse of the shell was connected by a chain to its case. When the powder was ignited, the shell projected upward, and the chain pulled out the fuse scratcher. The shell detonated above the ground, scattering fragments over a large area.”
Just before the beginning of WWI, Niels Waltersen Aasen of Copenhagen patented a bounding mine as did American John Steel in 1917.
However, modern manufactured examples this type would not make their combat debut until the early days of WWII. The introduction of the German S-Mine was supposed to take place at the beginning of 1936. However, the first 1000 S-Mine 35s were not distributed until August 1938. In the following months their production experienced significant fluctuations (December 1938: 70,660 pieces, January 1939: 26.465 pieces). The total quantity of S-Mines delivered through February 1939 was 388,070 (according to plant letter No. 715/39 K (arms statistics)). The 171st Pioneer Battalion reported using S-mines during the Polish campaign. Nevertheless, the western powers only began to learn of this development when French patrols of the German West Wall (Siegfried Line) began to take unexplained casualties. These casualties were attributed to a new “secret weapon,” the famous German “S” mine. This mine was introduced in 1935 [inventor?], with an inventory of 706,000 by the beginning of the war. Indeed, the S-Mine 35 with a lethal radius of 25 meters was reported to have played a critical role in defeating the French attack into the Saarland in 1939. This attack had failed because of the inability of the French Army to advance through extensive, densely laid antipersonnel minefields which contained thousands of S-mine 35s, many of which had been emplaced by the 252nd Pioneer Battalion of the 252nd Infantry Division. The French soldiers were stunned by this new device and promptly dubbed it “the Silent Soldier.” The S-mine 35 apparently made quite an impression on the French and British who rapidly developed their own versions, the M-1939 and the Shrapnel Mine No. 2 respectively. This type is still widely used and is more commonly referred to as a “Bouncing Betty.”
The US Army began their belated development of modern antipersonnel mines like the “Bouncing Betty” only as a direct result of the dismal failure of the French offensive into Germany’s Saar region (mentioned above). US antipersonnel mine development finally began in the summer of 1940, almost a year after WWII had begun in Europe. At this point, Major Pierre Delalande (a former member of the French Corps of Engineers who had escaped from France following the German conquests in 1940) had reached the US with the designs for the French M-1939 bounding antipersonnel mine (which was based on the German S-mine). This eventually led to the fielding of the US M-2 series of antipersonnel mines beginning in April 1942, which used a 60mm mortar round. However, the M2 proved deficient in combat, consequently, the US developed their M16 directly fire the German S-mine after the war. The French also appear to have based their new M51/55 bounding mine on the German S-mine.
Nouvelle Fortification, Tant Pour un Terrain bas et Humide, Que Secc et E’Leve, by Minno Baron de Coehorn, 1706. See also Elements of Military Art and Science; or, Course of Instruction in Strategy, Fortification, Tactics of Battle &c, by H. Wager Halleck, D. Appleton & Company, New York, New York, 1859, page 363.
“Torpilles Terrestres Automatique,” by L. B., Revue du Génie Militaire, Volume XXX 1905, pages 49-51.
“Evolution of Mine Warfare,” page 16.
“The Occupation of Sapper,” page 12.
For Aasen, see German patent number 288151 (dated 20 June 1913), Swiss patent number 68354 (dated 14 April 1914), British patent number 12,797 (dated 10 December 1914). For John Steel, see US patent number 1,239,134. Patents available online through:
http://ep.espacenet.com/search97cgi/s97 ... vanced.hts
Deutsche Landminen, 1935-1945, by Wolfgang Fleischer, page 5.
Engineers in Battle, by Paul W. Thompson, Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1942, pages 64-71, translation of an article in Vierteljahreshefte fur Pioniere, 3rd Quarter, 1940.