On December 7, 2012 a salvage company was able to raise a FM-2 Wildcat fighter plane from the bottom of Lake Michigan. The plane crashed on December 28, 1944 when the engine died immediately after takeoff from the U.S.S. Sable.
More than 4,000 of these fighter planes were produced between 1943 and 1945. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the plane was so popular because, “the FM-2 was notably quicker, faster climbing, longer ranged and more maneuverable than its predecessor.” (1)
This recent resurrection of cutting edge technology from the WWII era reminds us that World War II produced a variety of technologies that not only changed the face of war, but altered history itself. Below are a few other technological advancements made during World War II that changed the course of history.
One invention that altered history was Penicillin. Even though penicillin was not invented during WWII, it was discovered in 1928 and successfully used to treat a patient in 1945; the war played an intricate role in the mass production and distribution of the medicine to soldiers.
The World War II museum in New Orleans has an ad flyer from the Worthington Company boasting its role in the mass production of the antibiotic. (2)
According to the flyer, the Worthington company produced the refrigeration compressors used in the production process. Once the war was over, mass production of the drug continued, making it available to civilians. Australia was the first country to allow civilian use of penicillin.
Development of Radar Technology
Another major piece of technology that was developed during World War II was radar. The WWII Museum states that radar was just being researched at the start of the war, but the need to determine the range, altitude, direction, and the speed of objects during the war drove the constant improvement of the system.
Interestingly enough, this research was not only focused on improving the Allies’ radar, but also on fooling the radar of the Axis. The museum states that when allied bombers went on raids, they, “dropped thousands of tiny strips of tinfoil, code-named ‘window’ and ‘chaff’ to jam enemy radar.” (3)
Today, radar is not only a staple in military operations, but has also spilled over into the private and civilian sectors.
The Invention of the Bombsight
One major stride in military innovation during World War II was the development of the bombsight. Bombsights allow for the proper sighting of a target and accurate dropping of the bombs. Prior to the bombsight, bombs were dropped manually by bombardiers.
As a result, the bombs often missed their targets resulting in a less-than-destructive effect. Early bombsights were nothing more than a scope; however, the WWII bombsight ushered in a new era of bombardiering.
Johnson and Wales University described the WWII bombsights (the Sperry Bombsight, and the Norden Bombsight) as, “Both of these sights allowed for precision bombing raids during the day which increased the safety of the aircraft, the crews, and raised the effectiveness of the bombs by hitting important targets with minimal damage to civilians and surrounding areas.” Bombsights were the first steps to precision targeting systems that are employed today.
Though all of the above inventions and advancements played their part in changing history, there is one advancement that came from World War II that has changed the world; synthetic rubber.
During the war, the Axis powers controlled much of the regions where natural rubber was derived. So, the U.S government launched a secret project to improve upon the synthetic rubber already available.
The government was successful, and by 1944, 50 factories were producing 50% of the world’s rubber supply. The Allies needed this rubber, not only for tires, but for gaskets and a wide variety of other equipment parts. According to the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers, “Civilization as we know it today is wholly dependent upon rubber.” (5)
The inventions and advancements that were a result of World War II are still widely used today. Without these inventions, the would be a very different place.
References & Image Credits:
(1) US Navy History
(2) Sci-tech.org Essays
(4) Facebook 0