The two World Wars we faced came with a lot of destruction and human loss. The number of people who died in the WWI and WWII are easily in the tens of millions, and if any one of us could travel back in time, we would want to kill the people responsible for these wars and save the lives of millions.
But before you sit in your time travel machine to kill Adolf Hitler, here is something you should probably know – Without the technological advancements during the World Wars, we would inherently have no modern space program, we wouldn’t have modern jet planes that quickly take us from one end of the world to another, and most importantly we wouldn’t have ultrasound technology or penicillin.
We don’t even know if Einstein would have been able to do the same tremendous work in the field of science if it weren’t for the war. When WWII broke out, Einstein was traveling in the United States. Since he was a Jew, he thought it was for the best to stay in the United States.
Of course, all these advancements are nothing when it comes to the lives of millions of people who had to suffer horribly. But, the technologies made during the World Wars are definitely a silver lining.
It was in the World War I when tanks were used for the first time by the French Army. Their tanks might not be as efficient, but they definitely outperformed their American, German, and British counterparts.
By the time World War II was around the corner, the French tanks hadn’t evolved, but everyone else had. The Allied forces knew tanks would be crucial going into war with Germany, and that is why the British developed cruiser tanks.
Germans were not legally allowed to develop vehicles for military purposes because of the Treaty of Versailles, but they still made several advancements to tanks illegally. They might have lost the war, but the technology they created for modern tanks is still immeasurable.
While there is some evidence of the Chinese using flaming material in the medieval period, it was the Germans who developed the modern flamethrowers with staggering success.
Developed by Richard Fiedler, the technology was given to the German Army in 1911, and they used it in trench warfare. Usually, after a major battle on the enemy lines, the soldiers of the other side would hide under dugouts and holes to survive. While the Germans used grenades to get rid of these holed up soldiers, it often led to structural damage, and that is what flamethrowers helped avoid. Though we couldn’t help but wonder if the world would be a better place without flamethrowing technology.
13. Gas masks
As we all know, the Germans created chemical weapons on a large scale to get rid of Jews and attack other countries as well. It was in Ypres on April 22, 1915, when the Germans used chemical weapons for the first time where they sprayed chlorine gas to the surroundings. Not to mention, the Germans developed gas chambers to kill people without having to spill blood.
Going into the Second World War, the Allied forces knew they had to develop technology to combat poisonous gasses, and that is how gas masks were developed. But over time, gas masks have become a symbol of misery and pain.
12. Air traffic control
It’s hard to imagine a time when pilots would be completely isolated from the rest of the world once they took off from the ground. Now we live in a world where if an airplane loses contact, typhoon jets are sent to track it down.
They were unable to receive any kind of information or signals. But all that changed during the first World War when the US army installed the very first two-way radio. The first one was done in San Diego in 1915 and by 1916 technicians were able to send telegraph signals to over 140 miles.
11. Aircraft carriers
Most of the armies around the world today have ships which carry planes, and these ships are designed in a way to allow planes to take off from them directly. But the first time an airplane took off from a moving ship, it was during the First World War. It was a Short S.27 pontoon biplane piloted by Charles Rumney.
But this wasn’t a perfect aircraft carrier because planes couldn’t be landed on it. So the British created HMS Furious in 1917, a ship that could allow both take off and landing of airplanes. In an effort to allow more space for take-off and landing, the planes were stored in hangers that are under the runway.
10. Pilotless drone
You might think pilotless drones are a millennial technology, but the first pilotless drone was actually built during the First World War for the US Navy. It weighed over 175 pounds and was equipped with both a barometer and gyroscope to determine the altitude. The drone took its first flight on 6th March 1918, and though the experiment was successful, the scientists realized that the point and fly technique was too imprecise to be used to target ships. There was a lot of development done in the following years, but the Navy lost interest by 1925. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the initial technology proved to be the stepping stone for the modern drones.
Yes, the ultrasound technology which is now so extensively used in the medical world was actually developed during WWI.
German submarines were posing as a major threat to the Allies. Their submarines had sunk almost 5,000 Allied merchant ships over the course of time. The Allies knew they had to do something to attack the submarines, but the biggest challenge was to be able to locate them.
That is when the Anti-Submarine Division of the British Navy developed an underwater apparatus called ASDIC which used ultrasound to analyze underwater echo. During the WWII, this device proved to be extremely vital for the allies. After the WWII, ultrasound helped medical advancements in a huge way.
8. Mass Radio
When WWI was just starting, radios were the next big thing, but the problem with them was the fact that they were incredibly big and difficult to carry. The entire radio set took three mules to carry, back in the day.
But during the war, armies started realizing and appreciating the potential of radios as it helped them stay connected at sea, on land, and even in the air. As the demand grew, the radios also changed significantly. They were smaller, lighter, and the issue with static also got to a minimum.
With so many casualties during the Second World War, all the countries were looking for effective medicines that couldn’t just work but actually work fast. With no disinfectants around, it was easy for people to get infected even with the smallest of wounds, which led them to lose their limbs, or lives in the worst case.
But in 1928, Sir Alexandar Fleming discovered Penicillin, and soon it was being mass produced to treat people with different kinds of infections, especially against gangrene. By 1945, just 15 years later, over 650 billion units of Penicillin were being produced every month, saving countless lives.
6. Jet engines
The very first plane with a jet engine was the Heinkel He 178, and it took its first flight in 139. Developed by the Germans, the main purpose of this jet engine was air superiority. But despite the phenomenal cutting edge technology, the German jets often had a lot of issues, and their average operating lifespan was ten years.
This led both the Germans and the opposite Allied forces to develop better jet aircraft to take on each other. The British soon developed their own jet engine called Gloster Meteor to go against German V-1 flying bombs.
5. Pressurized aircraft cabins
We do take the comfort of traveling for granted these days. The ability to sit in pressurized cabins with the utmost ease and fly through continents is extraordinary.
It was the Boeing 307 Stratoliner which was the first of its kind plane that debuted pressurized cabins, but with 10 of them made, it couldn’t be used as much during the war. Though after the war, Boeing was rolled out as passenger planes and it is a predecessor of the planes that we travel in today.
Radio Detection and Ranging, or Radar is a technology which was developed in the early 1930s because of the looming threat of aerial bombardment.
Developed by Arnold Wilkins and Robert Watson, Radar became incredibly important during the Second World War. The British were completely reliant on their radar systems as the Germans decided to target big cities instead of taking on the areas around coastlines.
3. Programmable computers
During the WWII, Germans would use ‘Enigma’ secret codes over the radio, and these codes were almost impossible to crack for the allies. But with the help of programmable computers, experts in Britain were able to crack these codes, which also played a very crucial role in the defeat of the Germans.
The Americans also used digital computers during the war for complicated calculations like mechanical trajectory, ballistics, battlefield equations and much more. Soldiers would also carry a smaller version of these electronic devices in their pockets.
2. Atomic weaponry
One of the most important and profound technological advancements made during the World War II was atomic bombs. It had a big impact on the scientific community of the world, and political landscape as well. Not to mention, the atomic bomb was one of the main reasons why the WWII ended.
Because of the threat of losing the war, the British asked 20 of their scientists to go to America and join the scientists who were working on the Manhattan Project. With the invention of the atomic bomb, it was possible for a single aircraft to carry one bomb that had the potential to destroy complete cities. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to the end of the war, and several treaties were then signed to make sure atomic bombs didn’t take any more lives.
1. Space programs
Many people might not know, but World Wars helped fuel our modern space programs, and we might not have such groundbreaking space technologies if it weren’t for the innovations during the Second World War.
Germans created the first cruise missile called the V-1 flying bomb, and then they created the V-2 rocket which was actually the first ballistic missile weapon made in the world.
The V-2 rocket’s trajectory went through the whole stratosphere and was faster and higher than any other aircraft, and that is what ignited the space age in the world. Many of the scientists in Germany who helped create these missiles were Jews, and they migrated to the United States for better opportunities in every way. The same team then helped the US with the development of the Saturn V rocket, which helped us take astronauts to the moon in 1969.
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