Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Technology during World War II
Technology during World War II played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the war. Much of it had begun development during the interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s, some was developed in response to lessons learned during the war, and yet more was only beginning to be developed as the war ended. Given the scope of the war and the rapid technological escalation which happened during the war, a vast array of technology was employed, as different nations and different units found themselves equipped with different levels of technology. No area of military technology did not see development during the war.
Areas of technology
While nearly all types of technology was converted to participation or assistance in the war efforts of the participating nations, the most important items were those actually employed in the war. The main areas of technology used were vehicles, ships, aircraft, weapons, electronics, nuclear science, and industrial technology.
World War II marked the first full-scale war where mechanization played a significant role. Most nations did not begin the war equipped for this. Even the vaunted German Panzer forces relied heavily on non-motorised support and flank units in large operations. While Germany recognized and demonstrated the value of concentrated use of mechanized forces, they never had these units in enough quantity to supplant traditional units. However, the British also saw the value in mechanization. For them it was a way to enhance an otherwise limited manpower reserve. America as well sought to create a mechanized army. For the United States, it was not so much a matter of limited troops, but instead a strong industrial base that could afford such equipment on a great scale.
The most visible vehicles of the war are the tanks, forming the armoured spearhead of mechanized warfare. Their impressive firepower and armor made them the premier fighting machine of ground warfare. However, even more important to a fighting mechanized army were the large number of trucks and lighter vehicles that kept the army moving.
Naval warfare changed dramatically during World War II, with the ascent of the aircraft carrier to the premier vessel of the fleet, and the impact of increasingly capable submarines on the face of naval tactics. The development of new ships during the war was somewhat limited due to the protracted time period needed for production, but important developments were often retrofitted to older vessels.
Aircraft saw rapid and broad development during the war to meet the demands of aerial combat and address lessons learned from combat experience. From the open cockpit biplane to the sleek jet fighter, many different types were employed, often designed for very specific missions.
The actual weapons; the guns, mortars, artillery, bombs, and other devices used to actually do the killing and destruction, were as diverse as the participants and objectives. A bewildering array were developed during the war to meet specific needs that arose, but many traced their development to prior to World War I.
Note that weapon can be taken to mean any tool used to hurt the enemy. Thus one can consider the United States' industrial might to be a weapon against the Axis. This would not be incorrect, but for the purpose of this article and sub-articles, the term weapon is taken to mean the actual instrument of destruction, and not the vehicle it is carried on.
Electronics rose to prominance quickly in World War II. While prior to the war few electronics were seen as important pieces of equipment, by the middle of the war such instruments as radar and ASDIC had proven their value. Additionally equipment designed for communications and the interception of those communications was becoming critical.
While the development of new equipment was rapid, it was also important to be able to produce these tools and get them to the troops in appropriate quantity. Those nations that were able to maximize their industrial capacity and mobilize it for the war effort were most successful at equipping their troops in a timely way with adequate material.
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