Technology played a key role in determining the outcome of World War II. The high military demand for more advanced technology acted as a catalyst for the development of technology in the interwar years of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Scientists and Engineers alike poured massive amounts of research and development time into supporting the war effort, and more advanced technology was developed at an alarmingly rapid rate.
One notable fact about technology in World War II is that World War II is the first war in which many military attacks were designed specifically to sabotage the research efforts of the enemies. In the bombing of Peenemunde, the Eighth Air Force executed a bombing run to destroy hydrogen peroxide that was being used to fuel the V-2 Rocket. Another example is the Norwegian heavy water sabotage in which a group of Norwegian soldiers destroyed a heavy water plant to inhibit the Nazi development of nuclear weapons (heavy water or, deuterium oxide, can be used to produce nuclear weapons).
Yet another example is when Niels Bohr, a brilliant Danish physicist who understood and even contributed to the discovery of atomic structure, was evacuated from German-controlled Denmark and brought to Britain in 1943. The allies made all of these efforts to deter Nazi Germany from further developing much-needed technology, and this shows just how important technology and the research of technology was during the War. Almost every type of technology was utilized in the war, but the most notable technological advances involved five main categories: Weaponry, Industry, Medicine, Communication, and Transportation.
More advanced weaponry came in the form of magnetic detonating torpedos, “Tank destroyer” missile rounds, jet fighters, jet bombers, V1 autopilot bombs, proximity fuzes for shells and rockets, HEAT anti-tank warheads, aiming utilities for guns, and napalm.  Plastic explosion devices such as C2 were also developed in this time. Still more weapon developments came in the form of industrial advances. Many car factories significantly lowered the number of cars being manufactured and focused instead on the creation of guns, tanks, jets, and ammunition in order to better support the war effort.
The stamping, riveting, and welding of guns were all new techniques that came into use during World War II and revolutionized the creation of guns. Design and production methods had advanced enough to manufacture weapons of reasonable reliability such as the PPSh-41, PPS-42, Sten, MP 40, M3 Grease Gun, Gewehr 43, Thompson, and the M1 Garand rifle. World War II also marked the dawn of the semi-automatic rifle, and more importantly, the dawn of the assault rifle. These new rifles were much more accurate than other firearms of their time, and proved especially lethal.
Although modern day military forces don’t use the same weapons as they did in World War II, they do still use variations of the assault rifle. The idea of the assault rifle developed in World War II has stood the test of time, as assault rifles are still the most effective form of infantry weaponry due to their balanced weight, firepower, accuracy, and stopping power. In terms of advances in transportation, aircrafts, vehicles, and ships were all tremendously improved. This category of technology was one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of the war. The Jeep was invented in World War II.
It was used firstly and primarily as a basic troop transport vehicle, although after the war it became popular as a public transportation vehicle too. Tanks were also created not only as a source of extreme firepower, but also as armored transports. By the end of the war, the allies had developed their own personal brand of tank that transported troops through areas under heavy fire with the protection of tank armor. These transportation vehicles were integral to the success of the allies in World War II, because without the ability to move troops from point to point, attacks would be weak and disorganized.
Another noteworthy development pertaining to ground vehicles is the development of synthetic rubber. Previously, all rubber products had been made of natural rubber which was harvested in the south Pacific. During World War II, Japan cut off the U. S. from this supply of rubber which forced the U. S. to develop synthetic rubber. This turned out to be a cheaper and more practical alternative. Synthetic rubber was and still is used in the wheels of cars, as well as many other vehicles. This is just one of many lasting effects World War II has had on the US.
Ships were also revolutionized during the World War II era. Naval technology was very poor at the time, but once radar technology was developed, navigation and detection was made much easier for submarine and ship pilots. The invention of radar was still very new — being developed only 2 years prior to the start of World War II. Hours of experimentation and development were poured into enhancing radar technology so that the allied forces could better combat the Nazi fleet. Aircrafts were also made more advanced during World War II.
Aviation in general was very new at the time, so optimizing what basic aircrafts we had at the time for battle (by equipping them with guns and bombs) was a challenging feat. Considering the first powered flight had taken place only in 1903, only 40 years before World War II, both the axis and allied air force engineers had their work cut out for them. Biplanes were the most common planes leading up to the war, and engineers improved them to become stronger, more efficient, and faster. Fighters were developed first, and ran off of a single engine.
They were generally outfitted with a front machine gun and supported one or two pilots. Fighter jets were not developed until the end of the war, and saw little use on the battlefield because of this. Another type of aircraft developed during World War II was the Bomber. These enormous planes were flown deep into enemy territory where they released bombs to wreak havoc on the enemy below. Bombers often targeted key structures and production facilities to cripple the output of the enemy forces. Even more technological advances were made in the field of communication.
The invention of the transistor forever changed the way electronics such as computers and radios worked. Transistors amplify and switch electronic signals. This enabled electronic devices to be manufactured much smaller than before while still being just as (if not more) powerful. Computers that once took up entire rooms could now fit on a desk. Radios that previously lined a whole wall could now be carried by hand. This revolutionized electronic communication, and made for orders to be given and received quickly on the battlefield.
Almost all modern day technology utilizes transistors. This is yet another example of how the technological advances made in World War II have trickled down to present day. Other technological and engineering feats achieved during, or as a result of, the war include the world’s first programmable computers (Z3, Colossus, and ENIAC), guided missiles, the Manhattan Project’s development of nuclear weapons, and the development of artificial harbors and oil pipelines under the English Channel.
The furthering of computer technology is by far the most pivotal, though. Computers have developed even further than radios and televisions. Word processing programs used in the present today have completely trivialized type writers, and the internal processors and software code allows for extremely complex mathematical algorithms to be solved at the touch of a button. However, word processing and mathematics are not the only uses for the computer in the modern day world.
Computers are also used for entertainment through video games and online streams, education through online college programs and educational websites, mail through the invention of email, business transactions through the integration of the computer with the cash register, and the free transfer of ideas and news through the Internet. The idea of the computer, though conceived before World War II, blossomed and thrived in the technological boom that was provided by World War II research.
Without the research and development performed during World War II, the computer would not be where it is today. These revolutionary advances in communication were not only utilized by the military, but also by the media. Although televisions and radios existed before World War II, they became much more important to the public during the war. News of what was happening on the war front could be conveyed quickly and efficiently throughout the nation. Gone were the days of delivering information via letters and horseback — news spread like wildfire through the use of media.
For medical science, World War II was a spur to rapid advances. Newly discovered antibiotics such as penicillin, sulfonamide, and other drugs were rapidly made available for research, manufacture, and distribution. This was all made possible by the Government’s funding and support in coordination with war-time efforts to reduce the number of casualties on the battlefield. These drugs were extremely useful on the front, and saved countless lives of the wounded and the sick.
Soldiers who may have previously died of bacterial infection were instead cured on the spot. The war also showed just how effective the use of psychiatry was on the battlefield. Men who fought on the front lines and experience some of the more gruesome and cruel elements of war were sent to war-time psychiatrists and could often return to the battlefield without going insane. This psychiatry provided before and after battles also greatly reduced the number of post traumatic stress disorder victims there were as a result of World War II.
Another revolutionary technique, the extraction and storing of blood and blood plasma resulted in the saving of lives. Downed soldiers who lost fatal amounts of blood were be saved via blood transfusions. This was important, as many soldiers were often shot in non-fatal areas but died because of blood loss. However, with the option to transfuse blood into gunshot victims, many lives were saved. This was a pivotal moment for medics on the battlefield, as fewer soldiers died by bleeding out.
Many of these discoveries in blood transfusion were later adapted for peacetime usage. Blood transfusions are used every day at hospitals across the country in order to save lives, and the technology developed in World War II has only developed even further since then. Blood can now be screened for viruses such as HIV/AIDS to ensure the recipient of the transfusions will not be infected. Blood donation is very common at places of employment and sometimes even schools. There is even a blood drive every year at De La Salle!
However medicine and blood transfusions were not the only medical improvements made in World War II. Medical education in the United States accelerated during the war years. The training of wartime doctors consisted of three intense years of twelve months each instead of the usual four years of nine months each. U. S. medical schools geared up to produce physicians needed for the war effort more quickly. This ensured that there would never be a shortage of medics on the battlefield so that casualties could be minimized.
Many different forms of technology were developed during World War II, and almost all of them contributed in one way or another to the war. Whether it was new forms of transportation being discovered, new medicines being researched, new methods of communication being utilized, new weapons being manufactured, or new production methods in factories being used to revolutionize industry, every form of technology developed during the war has influenced society in some way today.
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