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9 Critical Items Invented by the Military

The need to overcome wartime challenges has led the military to invent items that are in common use today.

What follows is a partial list of some of these inventions.

1. Canned Food

In 1810, the French government offered a reward to anyone who could invent a way to preserve food.

The first invention involved preserving food in glass jars.  Breakage soon became a problem.

At the start of World War I, tin canned foods like pork and beans, corned beef, and sausages allowed for the feeding of large numbers of troops.

Just like supermarkets do today.

2. Penicillin

Alexander Fleming, a British Army physician during World War I, noted that many soldiers died of infected wounds.

After the war, he discovered a mold that released a substance that stopped bacterial growth.  

That substance is penicillin, and its use during World War II and since has saved millions of lives.

3. Jerry Cans

Hauling a funnel around in order to refuel a vehicle proved to be bothersome to German soldiers during the 1930s.

As a result, one of them designed a practical 20 liter can to make refueling easier.

It gets its name from what German soldiers were called during World War II.

4. Night Vision

Being able to see in the dark gives soldiers a distinct advantage over their adversaries, and during World War II the German Army developed the first night vision devices, of NVDs.

Since then, NVDs have been part and parcel of how many militaries fight at night, and these devices are being installed in cameras and some cars to improve safety at night.

5. Weather Radar

During World War II, the British needed a way to detect incoming German bombers.

Sir Robert Watson-Watt understood that solid objects like airplanes would reflect radio waves.  Hence radar, or radio detection and ranging, appeared.

In using radar, operators also noted that it could detect snow, rain and hail storms.  

Where would the weather channel be today?

6. Microwave Ovens

In developing radar, it also led to the production of technology capable of creating electromagnetic waves on a small scale, hence, “microwave.”

Passing one of these waves through food caused the molecules to vibrate and heat up quickly.

In 1946 the “Radaring” was built.

Large and expensive, it was not until 1967 that microwaves began to appear in today’s kitchens.

7. Duct (Duck) Tape

It’s tough; it’s adhesive; it holds everything together.

Invented during World War II, it was made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to duck cloth backing (hence the name).

Dirt and water resistant, the tape held military equipment, vehicles, and weapons together.

It even held a rover together during the Apollo 17 space flight.


8. Super Glue

Plastic gun sights?

During World War II engineers worked to create plastic gun sights.  This idea did not work out, but the engineers did accidentally discover a substance that stuck to everything.

Initially rejected by the military, since 1958 super glue is a common household product.

9. EpiPen

World War I introduced chemical weapons.  In order to combat the deadly effects of the poisons, an autoinjector (a spring loaded canister which activates when pushed hard against a thigh) was designed to quickly inject medication.

After the war, the device was paired with epinephrine (hence the name) which is used to stop severe allergic reactions in millions of people today.

The necessities of war have led to a number of modern day conveniences that benefit society today.

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