The L2, a German naval Zeppelin

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I and even though thousands of books have been written about the Great War, readily accessible images have been scant. This is changing, however. Photo agency and library Getty Images has been working over the past couple of years to preserve, digitize, and put online tens of thousands of WWI images, which can now be seen in its Hulton Archive.

The archive's WWI photos show many aspects of the war, including the most notorious showdowns, civilians on the home front, and life in the trenches. But some of the most fascinating images are of the then-new innovations used on the battlefields.

WWI marked an unprecedented change in how warfare was conducted -- bringing in new advancements and technology. Fighting went from cavalry and hand-to-hand combat to modern warfare.

One new invention first used for fighting during WWI was the Zeppelin, which militaries deployed for bombing and scouting. The German L2 pictured here is from around 1914.

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Vickers machine gun on a tripod

During WWI, 16 million people died. Many of the casualties were caused by new innovation in firearms, which included long-range firepower; smaller, lightweight rifles; and machine guns. This image is from around 1912.

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German army cycle corps

Along with photos of high-tech innovations, the Hulton Archive also has images of the rudimentary side of WWI warfare. This image shows the German army cycle corps in a forest in 1915.

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German soldier wearing a gas mask

WWI was the first time that gas was used as a weapon of war. Several types of simple gas masks or respirators were created to protect soldiers in battle.

Pictured here is a portrait of an unidentified German soldier wearing an early-design gas mask in the 1910s.

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German soldiers run through phosgene gas

Several types of chemical weapons and gas were used in WWI. In this 1916 photo, a German officer leads his men through a cloud of phosgene gas, which they themselves set off. The gas was meant to act as a cover as the soldiers ran toward British trenches.

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German submarines, the U35 and U42

While submarines had been invented before WWI, they became widely used during the war for attacking enemy ships.

In this 1915 photo, two German submarines, the U35 and U42, surface off the Mediterranean coast.

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German soldier jumps from balloon

As with the Zeppelin, balloons were often used for scouting and surveillance during WWI. Here, a German soldier jumps from an observation balloon after it was destroyed by enemy action in 1918. Note the primitive parachute.

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A flamethrower

Flamethrowers were first used during WWI to take out nearby enemies during trench warfare. These early models could shoot blasts of black smoke and fire tens of yards. The flamethrower pictured here was photographed in 1917.

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American Martin bomber releases Navy torpedo

WWI was the first war to see extensive use of aircraft for fighting, bombing, and surveillance. Though long-range torpedoes had been invented by WWI, soldiers didn't have an efficient way to launch them from ships.

This 1920 image shows an American Martin bomber flying only a few feet above the surface of the water and dropping a torpedo as a way to launch it.

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German cavalryman wearing a gas mask and carrying a spear

WWI is often described as the war where old met new -- where tech innovation was used in conjunction with old-fashioned means of fighting.

This photo from 1917 captures this juxtaposition, as a German cavalryman wearing a gas mask carries a long spearlike pole.

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Bicycle power used to fill a balloon

This photo from 1914 shows a German invention that generated power with a converted tandem bicycle to fill a barrage balloon, or blimp.

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Fighter aircraft locked in aerial combat

WWI marked the first time aircraft were widely used for aerial combat. In this image from 1915, British SE-5s duke it out with German Fokker D7s.

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Germans test climbing power of captured British tanks

Tanks made their debut during WWI and were said to have shocked soldiers when they first saw the massive armored machines.

"If you were in battle and saw a tank coming over the hill, you'd think 'what on Earth is that?'" says Matthew Butson, vice president of Getty's Hulton Archive. "It's like us watching 'Star Wars,' and saying, 'good god, what the hell is that?'"

In this 1917 photo, Germans test out captured British tanks that have been redecorated in German colors.

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Body armor

Like the rudimentary gas masks, all sorts of primitive body armor was created during WWI. "You see people in certain suits of armor that are absolutely bonkers," says Butson.

This image is from around 1915.

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Pilots from Royal Air Force prepare to drop bombs by hand

During WWI, airplanes went from being thought of as observation machines to actual weapons of war. In this 1916 photo, British pilots from what would in 1918 become the Royal Air Force are ready to drop bombs by hand over Germany.

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