Napalm, invented by Fieser in 1942, is an incendiary substance made by the simple procedure of adding a "gelling" powder, composed of naphthalene and palmitate (hence "napalm"), to gasoline in varying concentrations to form a sticky, combustible substance.

This white, cloudy, jellylike substance has unique properties that render it an effective incendiary agent. Napalm is extremely stable, tolerating temperatures well above 150°F (effective in the tropics) and as low as -40°F (bomb shelters, cold weather environments). It is not shattered easily by explosives and can be stored for long periods without significant breakdown. Gelation of this substance occurs in 3-20 minutes. Gel formation enhances its effectiveness by allowing for a controlled, contained, and prolonged burn. Gelation also enhances its stability, with napalm requiring much higher temperatures to ignite than gasoline. There is no "off-sourcing" of hydrocarbon fumes associated with the nonignited compound. In fact, ignition requires the use of trinitrotoluene (TNT) to explode and ignite white phosphorus, the ignited temperature of which is high enough to result in the combustion of napalm.

Napalm has been used primarily in the form of incendiary bombs, firebombs, land mines, and flamethrowers. During World War II, firebombs, in the form of 165-gallon containers, were the primary method for the disbursement of napalm. One firebomb released from a low-flying airplane was capable of producing damage to a 2500-yd2 area. During the Korean War, the United States dropped approximately 250,000 pounds of napalm per day. Napalm's increased viscosity resulted in the enhanced effectiveness of flamethrowers, which were frequently used in World War II. Because of gasoline's increased instability, volatility, and its rapid burning and self-consumption, its effectiveness was limited to within 30 yards. Napalm, through its unique properties, extended the effective range of flamethrowers to 150 yards.

After World War II, the United States conducted an intensive effort to enhance the properties and effectiveness of napalm as an incendiary agent. This effort resulted in the development of napalm B (super napalm, NP2), which substituted polystyrene and benzene for naphthalene and palmitate. The resulting substance continued to bear the name napalm, although it lacked the 2 components of its namesake. Conventional napalm burns for 15-30 seconds, whereas napalm B burns for up to 10 minutes. Napalm B provided the United States with an incendiary substance with enhanced stability and controllability and, as such, became the weapon of choice during the Vietnam War. Such enhanced stability required an igniting agent such as white phosphorus, which burns at a higher temperature of 4532°F. White phosphorus replaced thermite, the ignitor previously used for traditional napalm.
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