The name "Molotov cocktail" was coined by the Finns during the Winter War. The name was an insulting reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was one of the architects of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in late August 1939.
A Molotov cocktail is a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as gasoline, alcohol or a napalm-like mixture, with some motor oil added, 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.
Incendiary bottles are one of the simplest and most reliable means for destroying tanks, armored cars, transport trucks, warehouses, landed airplanes, and enemies in cover. In the hands of a brave soldier, they are a fearsome weapon. Skilled and sudden use can not only strike the enemy, but cause panic and compromise enemy organization.
The bottles work as follows: when they hit a solid object, the bottle breaks, and the liquid inside of it ignites, either with a match attached to the bottle, a special metallic igniter, or a capsule inside the bottle.
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 fuel droplets and vapor is ignited by the attached wick, causing an immediate fireball followed by spreading flames as the remainder of the fuel is consumed.
Other flammable liquids such as diesel fuel, methanol, turpentine, jet fuel, and isopropyl alcohol have been used in place of, or combined with petrol. Thickening agents such as solvents, foam polystyrene, baking soda, petroleum jelly, tar, strips of tire tubing, nitrocellulose, XPS foam, motor oil, rubber cement, detergent and dish soap have been added to help the burning liquid adhere to the target and create clouds of thick, choking smoke.
The Red Army used bottles with self-igniting "KS" fluid and flammable mixtures # 1 and # 3. To destroy the enemy tanks with bottles, each soldier carried 3 bottles, one with liquid KS and two with liquid # 1 and # 3. The soldier had to position himself in a trench, crevice, crater of shells, behind a fence, in a hole, a ditch or any other concealment, camouflage and hide from bullets and shrapnel. The soldier had to watch the movements of the tanks. When they approached, the soldier had prepared their bottles to throw them. If his bottles had used matches, he rips off the paper covers.
When the tank or cart is 15-20 meters away, the soldier takes a KS bottle, holds the cylindrical part and throws it into the tank, followed by one or two bottles # 1 and # 3. If the bottles have matches, turn them on before throwing them. Bottles # 1 and # 3 can be held by the neck, if it is more comfortable. Pull bottles with metal lighters or capsules in the same way as bottles with matches, after the KS bottle.
The soldiers had to throw the bottles while they were standing or crouching, aiming at their target. They pointed to the engine (a tank has it in the back, an armored car in the front), observation ports, poorly sealed hatches; 2-3 well-placed bottles can ignite the tank or cart.