Technologies and Weapons used in World War 2

The field of science and technology and its accomplishments had a tremendous and persistent effect on life during World War 2. 

After 1945, memorable images from the war consequently affected all parts of society – from economic principles to justice to the geopolitical situation of countries themselves. 

The same can be said about World War 1 as well. 

Subsequently, though, technologies created during World War 2 to win the war found new applications within industrial uses. 

They became staples of the American home in the decades following the war’s end. Wartime medical advances were also made available to civilians, resulting in a better and healthier society. 

Furthermore, developments in warfare technology also led to the advancement of progressively powerful weapons.

This circumstance simultaneously maintained disputes between global powers while fundamentally altering people’s lives. 

Suffice to say, the scientific and technological legacy of World War 2 was a quintuple sword, ushering in a modern way of life for postoperative Americans while also initiating Cold War tensions.

Nevertheless, the atomic bomb was one of the most infamous World War 2 innovations.

The United States unleashed its first (and only) nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, killing approximately 110,000 to 210,000 people. 

Although the bomb stands out for its terrible impact, as aforementioned, several other nonlethal advancements in technology and medicine during the war have dramatically transformed the globe.  

Similarly, some were ideas that couldn’t take off until the US or British governments supported these efforts to aid the Allied armies. 

Here are some technological and weapons developments that sprang during World War 2. 

Who had the best technology in World War 2?

By the end of World War 2, the Allies were the ones who had the best technology and military. The Germans, Italians, and the Japanese didn’t have significantly superior technology except in a few areas. 
However, the Germans and Japanese were already ready for war, and the Allies were the ones who had to catch up. 

What was the deadliest weapon of World War 2?

The Atom Bomb (Fat Man and Little Boy) is perhaps the most well-remembered weapon from World War 2. The effects of these bombs lasted several decades after their use and the end of the war. 

Penicillin

Alexander Fleming in his Laboratory at St Mary's Hospital London
Alexander Fleming in his laboratory at St Mary’s Hospital London

Before the widespread usage of antibiotics such as penicillin in the United States, even minor cuts and scratches could result in fatal infections. 

Alexander Fleming, a Scottish chemist, developed penicillin in 1928. But it wasn’t until World War 2 that the United States started mass-producing it as a medicinal therapy.

Making penicillin for soldiers was a top priority for the United States War Department. It even advertised the initiative as a “race against death” on one poster. 

Military surgeons were astounded by the drug’s ability to alleviate agony and enhance survival rates. Penicillin also made it easier for nurses and doctors to care for soldiers on the battlefield. 

The United States regarded penicillin as crucial to the war effort that the country prepared for the D-Day landings and prepared 2.3 million pills for the Allied troops. 

After the war, citizens obtained access to this life-saving medication as well.

Men and women worked together to experiment with deep tank fermentation, eventually establishing the process required for the large production of penicillin. 

In 1944, scientists manufactured 2.3 million penicillin pills in preparation for the Normandy invasion, raising public awareness of this “wonder medication.” 

As the war progressed, advertisements touting the benefits of penicillin promoted the antibiotic as a miracle medication responsible for saving millions of lives. 

From World War 2 to the present day, penicillin has been an effective treatment method for bacterial illness.

Electronic Computers

Grace Murray Hopper at the UNIVAC I console
Grace Murray Hopper at the UNIVAC I console

In the 1940s, “computers” were people (mainly women) who did sophisticated computations by hand. 

During World War 2, the United States created new machines to calculate ballistic trajectories. Furthermore, those who had previously done the calculations by hand were hired to program these computers.

Likewise, Jean Jennings Bartik and Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Holberton were among the programmers who worked on the University of Pennsylvania’s ENIAC machine. 

Bartik went on to spearhead the creation of computer storage and memory. Similarly, Holberton went on to build the first software application. 

Lieutenant Grace Hopper (later a rear admiral in the United States Navy) coded the Mark I machine at Harvard University during the war. 

She later also went on to invent the first computer programming language. 

Alan Turing of the United Kingdom also invented the Bombe, an electro-mechanical contraption that assisted in breaking the German Enigma cryptography. 

The Bombe, while not strictly a “computer,” was a predecessor to the Colossus machines, a sequence of British electronic computers. 

During World War 2, Dorothy Du Boisson and Elsie Booker also utilized the Colossus machines to decrypt messages encrypted with the German Lorenz encryption. 

Radar

Nakajima J1N night fighter with FD-2 nose radar
Nakajima J1N night fighter with FD-2 nose radar

Sir Robert Watson-Watt, a British physicist, developed the first operational radar system in 1935. Likewise, by 1939, England had erected a network of radar stations across its south and east coasts. 

See also  Top 10 Major Causes of World War 2

In the 1940s, MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, or “Rad Lab,” also played a significant role in advancing radar technology. However, the lab’s primary purpose was to use electromagnetic radiation as a weapon rather than a detection technique.

Their original thought was that if they could throw a beam of electromagnetic radiation at a plane, they might be able to kill the pilot by roasting them or something. 

However, this idea wasn’t working, but they were getting all the bounce-back they could get.

They reasoned that electromagnetic radiation could be employed in the same way sound radiation was used in sonar. As a result, they began developing radar. 

Radar assisted the Allies in detecting enemy ships and planes. Later, it was discovered to have various non-military applications, including directing civilian vessels and seeing significant weather phenomena such as hurricanes.

Blood Plasma Transfusion

Private Roy W. Humphrey getting blood plasma in Sicily, August 1943
Private Roy W. Humphrey getting blood plasma in Sicily, August 1943

During World War 2, a surgeon in the United States named Charles Drew standardized the manufacturing of blood plasma for medicinal use. 

They invented this whole technique by delivering two antiseptic jars. One had water in it, and another had freeze-dried blood plasma.

Plasma, as opposed to whole blood, can be given to everyone regardless of blood type. This is what makes it simpler to provide on the battlegrounds. 

Jet Engines

The Gloster Meteor, first British jet fighter to achieve combat operation
The Gloster Meteor, the first British jet fighter to achieve combat operation

In 1930, Frank Whittle, an English engineer in the Royal Air Force, received the first patent for a jet engine. However, Germany was the first country to fly a jet engine plane. 

German engineers were flying tests of their jet engine designs on August 27, 1939, just a few days before Germany invaded Poland. Both Germany and Japan had been preparing for World War 2for nearly a decade.

The British government began developing planes based on Whittle’s designs when the war broke out. On May 15, 1941, the first Allied plane to use jet propulsion got to the skies. 

Jet jets were quicker than propeller planes, but they used more fuel and were more challenging to fly. 

Though they did not affect the war (they were still in the early stages of research), jet engines would subsequently change military and civilian transportation.

Flu Vaccines

Jhonas Salk giving Polio vaccine to school children
Jhonas Salk giving Polio vaccine to school children

The 1918 and 1919 influenza epidemics significantly impacted World War 1. They motivated the United States military to create the first flu vaccine.

Scientists began isolating flu viruses in the 1930s, and the United States Army helped fund the development of a vaccine against them in the 1940s.

In 1945, the United States approved the first flu vaccination for military use. Likewise, in 1946, it was licensed for civilian use. 

Jonas Salk, the American scientist who later developed the polio vaccine, was one of the project’s key researchers. 

See also  World War 2 Memorial

The Cavity Magnetron

9.375 GHz 20 kW magnetron assembly for airport radar in 1947
9.375 GHz 20 kW magnetron assembly for airport radar in 1947

A cavity magnetron is a tiny, palm-sized gadget that one cannot ignore. This gadget aided in the victory of World War 2 and forever altered the way Americans prepared and enjoyed the food. 

The device’s name, the cavity magnetron, may not be as well-known as what it produces: microwaves. 

During World War 2, the capacity to produce shorter, or micro, wavelengths using a cavity magnetron improved prewar radar technology. 

It resulted in higher precision across longer distances. After the war, cavity magnetrons took residence away from warplanes and aircraft carriers, becoming a popular fixture in American households. 

After the war, Percy Spencer, an American engineer and expert in radar tube design who helped create radar for battle, looked for commercializing the technology. 

According to popular belief, Spencer noticed when a candy bar he carried in his pocket melted while standing in front of an active radar set. 

Spencer began experimenting with various foods, including popcorn, which paved the way for commercial microwave manufacture. 

Commercial microwaves, which put this military technology to use, became increasingly available by the 1970s and 1980s, transforming the way Americans prepared food in ways that continue today. 

The simplicity with which microwaves can heat meals has made this technology an anticipated component in the twenty-first century American home.

Aeronautics

An image of B-29 bomber, the only aircraft to use nuclear weapon
An image of a B-29 bomber, the only aircraft to use a nuclear weapon

Preceding World War 2, the nuclear arms race fueled fears that one state would acquire hegemony on Earth and in space. The Space Race sparked a new government-funded aeronautics program in the mid-twentieth century. 

Following the victorious launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957, the United States reacted four months later by launching its spacecraft, Juno 1. 

The United States Congress gave the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA) in 1958 to oversee the project to send humans into space. 

The Space Race between two powerhouses- the Soviet Union and the United States, culminated on July 20, 1969, with the Apollo 11 crew’s landing on the moon’s surface. 

The Cold War altered practically every element of society. But the nuclear arms race and the Space Race persist as crucial legacies of the science that powered World War 2.

Conclusion

From microwaves to space travel, World War 2 scientific and engineering achievements forever altered how people thought about and conversed with technology in their daily lives. 

The advancement and sophistication of military-grade weapons spawned new applications and new conflicts throughout the war. 

World War 2 enabled the development of new commercial items, breakthroughs in medicine, and new forms of scientific investigation. 

Today, World War 2 historical legacy influences almost every facet of life – from utilizing personal computers to viewing the daily weather forecast to going to the doctor. 

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