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10 Incredible Military Inventions. by Taamas222 (f): 10:38am on June 7
Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
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The military invents a lot of things, and
not all of them are new types of guns.
They’re all about making things as
efficient as possible, and every once in a
while they come up with a product so
good, it ends up bleeding into civilian
life and becomes entwined with our daily
lives. As a result, there’s a good chance
that you’ve used many brilliant
inventions that you had no idea started
out in some top secret military facility
or another. Inventions such as…

10. GPS

Remember the awful days of yesteryear
when everyone had to rely on mere maps
to find their way from point A to point
B? Back then, the process often involved
accidental detours via points C, D and
somehow W before you finally grew
desperate enough to ask for directions.
GPS changed all of that, and as long as
your equipment holds up, an array of
satellites can now guide you from Kansas
to Guatemala without a hitch. Truly, we
live in The Future.

The US Military recognized the need for
easy global navigation that didn’t involve
asking directions from old men leaning
on fences every other mile in 1964 . The
Cold War was at full swing, and Naval
Research Laboratory scientist Roger
Easton started tinkering with a system to
figure out just what kinds of satellites
the Soviet Union was flying up there. He
initially tinkered with ground-based
tracking stations, but a breakthrough
came when he realized putting highly
accurate clocks to multiple tracking
satellites would allow them to sync their
tracking with each other with much
better accuracy.

Over the next decade, he fashioned a
system called “Navigation System Using
Satellites and Passive Ranging
Techniques,” which already incorporated
all the main features of the Global
Positioning System. The Department of
Defense approved funding for Easton’s
invention — now called the Navstar
Global Positioning System — in 1973,
and it was built bit by bit over the next
twenty years. Eventually, the government
realized that the public would benefit
from the system as well, and after a
trickledown period where watered-down
“selective availability” versions of GPS
were available to the public, the Clinton
administration opened the floodgates.

Today, the system is freely available,
though it’s still maintained by the
military — the annual operating costs of
$900 million or so, paid for by the US
Department of Defense and the US
Transportation Department.

9. Superglue

Superglue is a WWII invention that got
its start with Eastman Kodak scientists as
part of their attempts to design gun
sights to the military. Don’t worry, they
weren’t trying to panickedly glue gun
parts together. Instead, they found that
some of the things they’d come up with
during the project had some pretty
interesting properties, and revisited said
substances to create the adhesive.

The man who finally put together the
recipe for superglue was named Harry
Coover, but he didn’t see his invention
make its breakthrough until the Vietnam
War, when undersupplied, desperate field
medics got hold of the substance and
used a sprayable version to stop bleeding
in chest wounds and other serious
injuries. While this was effective, the
early versions of superglue were
decidedly not FDA-approved, and could
lead to skin irritation and assorted
serious issues when in contact with open
wounds. Later versions of the compound
were created to specifically deal with the
human body, though as we’re sure you’d
agree, they’re pretty handy fixing other
broken stuff as well.

8. Canned food

Canned food is a surprisingly old
military invention that dates back to
1795 . Napoleon Bonaparte offered a
hefty prize for whoever could figure out
how to preserve food efficiently, because
it turns out invading foreign countries
was not the greatest way to have said
country readily feed the invaders. The
prize went unclaimed for fifteen years,
until a confectioner called Nicolas
Francois Appert claimed it with his
newfangled method of heating, boiling
and sealing food in glass jars. This
innovative approach was soon improved
by an Englishman named Peter Durand,
who came up with a thick iron food
storage can lined with tin. Ironically, it
would take almost 50 more years before
Ezra J. Warner would invent the can

The final touches to the canned food
technology we all know and … well, know
once again came from the military —
this time, the Natick Soldier Systems
Center, a US Army facility that
investigates ways to make rations last
long and taste good. Incidentally, the
same facility is also behind the
processed cheese that’s used to make

7. Blood transfusions

To be perfectly honest, blood
transfusions weren’t technically invented
by the military, which has historically
been more interested in removing blood
from people than figuring out how to
put it back. However, WWI military
medicine was definitely the contributing
factor in figuring out how to do it in
relatively safe, moderately non-
horrifying ways. Before 1913, the most
advanced version of blood transfusion
was to surgically dig up the donor’s and
recipient’s veins and suture them
together. It didn’t help that no one had
really figured out how to deal with blood
clotting, and the ABO blood grouping
was still a fairly new invention that many
in the medical community treated as
newfangled nonsense.
Between 1913-1915, people started to
figure out anticoagulants, blood bottles
and donors, and WWI gave doctors
ample opportunities to try out these new
methods and hone them to perfection …
after Canada and the US joined the war.

The thing is, most of these advancements
had come from North American
researchers, so before they joined the
fray with new blood transfusion tech, the
British and French doctors from other
countries largely ignored the procedure,
and when they actually tried it with their
old methods … well, let’s just say they
were soon ready to adapt the new ones.
6. Ambulances

Like canned food, ambulances are a
direct product of Napoleon ’s penchant
for waging war. French surgeon Baron
Dominique Jean Larrey fought in the
majority of campaigns during the
Napoleonic Wars, and became convinced
that the rapid treatment of wounded
soldiers was best for everyone involved.

He sat on his drawing board and
developed what became known as the
“flying ambulance”: A nimble, horse-
drawn cart that was specially designed to
move quickly and efficiently across the
battlefield, picking up the wounded and
rushing them to field hospitals outside
the battle area.

Baron Larrey’s dedication to the
wounded was especially admirable
because many military higher-ups of the
era thought that injured men were an
unnecessary waste of supplies. As you
can probably expect, he made a lot of
powerful enemies thanks to his pesky
humanitarian attitude. Fortunately,
Napoleon himself had nothing but
respect for Larrey, and the Emperor’s
armies absolutely adored the Baron who
fought so hard to treat them. In fact,
Larrey’s strong principles and insistence
that the medics would treat wounded
enemies as well once saved his own life:

When Larrey was wounded and captured
in the aftermath of the battle of
Waterloo, the enemy soldiers were about
to shoot him when the medic who was
blindfolding him realized who he was.
Larrey was immediately sent to the
General of the Prussian forces, where he
found out he had actually saved the
General’s son’s life after an earlier
battle. Instead of a swift execution,
Baron Larrey received a dinner and was
released back to his own people with
some money and an escort.

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Rufai Oladimeji
Lagos State University
100Level, Nigeria.
5. Wrist watches

The first wrist watches were initially
treated as a laughable joke item of their
day. In 1916, the New York Times led
the charge of sensible, pocket watch-
using Americans scoffing at the wacky
European dandies who had started
wearing bracelets with clocks on them.
Vaudeville artists and early movie actors
utilized wrist watches as comedy props,
and the whole thing was treated as a fad.

However, when the great war rolled
around, wrist watches soon stopped
being a laughing matter. Telephones and
signal devices required users who knew
what time it is, and the only practical
way a soldier could wear a timepiece
that they could check at a quick glance
was … on the wrist. The joke item was
suddenly deathly serious, and European
troops were fitting their watches with
unbreakable glass and radium displays
for night-time use. The practical benefits
of the wrist watch were now too obvious
to ignore, and civilians started to use
them as well.

4. The (electric) computer

While it’s true that the computer was
technically invented by Charles Babbage ,
a 19th century mathematician who built
a crude mechanical calculator called the
“Difference Engine,” the era of the
electric computer didn’t kick off until
1944, when Great Britain’s codebreakers
unleashed the Colossus to crack Nazi
messages during World War II. Instead of
the famous Enigma code , the Colossus
focused on the less known but even
more important “Fish” transmissions that
were based on electric teleprinter

Fish messages were largely reliant on a
cipher machine called “Tunny,” which
used binary code in its encryption.
Although Alan Turing figured out a
method to crack Tunny’s cipher in 1942,
British codebreakers found it too slow to
keep up with the constant tsunami of
encrypted messages. All of this changed
in 1944, when a Post Office truck
delivered Colossus I to their Bletchley
Park headquarters. The giant machine
and its eight subsequent Mark II siblings
were the first true electric computers
that used a clock pulse to synchronize
processing steps, and proceeded to crack
Tunny codes so swiftly and efficiently
that they were able to help provide
crucial information for the Allies’ D-Day
preparations and subsequent push
toward Berlin.

After the war, parts of the Colossus
computers were transferred to the
University of Manchester, where they
served as a basis for their successor:
“Baby,” the ancestor of modern all-
purpose computers.

3. The microwave oven

Really? Microwave ovens? What use do
the military have for those? Do soldiers
carry tiny ones in their backpacks?
Wouldn’t they need a pretty long
extension cord?

Not quite. Still, the microwave oven
definitely wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for
the military. In 1946, an engineer named
Percy Spencer was developing a new way
to mass-produce radar magnetrons. He
was busy testing a military-grade
magnetron, when suddenly, he noticed
that a peanut cluster bar he had in his
pocket had turned unexpectedly melty
because of the microwaves the device
emitted. Fascinated by this unexpected
development, Spencer tested the
magnetron on an egg, which promptly
exploded on his face. After that, he
moved on to popcorn kernels, and ended
up inventing microwave popcorn.

While Spencer himself wasn’t particularly
concerned about the potential danger
microwaves posed on him during his
tests, and the very first commercial
microwave oven debuted just one year
after the initial discovery, microwaves
were still enough of an unknown
commodity for the device to catch on (it
didn’t help that it weighed around 750
pounds and cost $2,000). In the end, it
took until 1967 and the emergence of
the compact Radarange oven for the
technology to make its commercial

2. The Internet (ARPANET was a military project)

Yes, even the wild world wide web you’re
browsing this list on right now is a
military invention — or rather, its
predecessor ARPANET is. ARPANET is
largely the product of the US defense
department’s well-financed research
agency called the Advanced Research
Projects Agency (As in, ARPA — get it?).
The ARPANET network was built in 1969
to connect the mainframes of various
universities, defense contractors and
government institutions throughout the
country, and its ultimate aim was to
“bring computing to front lines.”

ARPANET never quite achieved this,
because while it was quite effective, its
locations were completely fixed, and the
computers required to operate it were
massive. However, the existence of the
system left ARPA scientists plenty of
room to tinker, and in 1974 two
researchers named Robert Kahn and Vint
Cerf sowed the seeds of internet proper
by creating the blueprint of the first
internet protocol. Only two years later,
the seemingly impossible internet started

Fun fact: ARPA later changed its name to
Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency, or DARPA. Yes, the same DARPA
that has been in the focus of assorted
conspiracy theories for, among other
things, its involvement in the supposed
weather control program HAARP.

1. Duct tape

Duct tape , if anything, seems like a
military invention. It can fix pretty much
anything you can name, and seems
custom made for use in the field.

However, military scientists had
absolutely nothing to do with its original
concept. The idea came in 1943 from an
ammunition packer named Vesta Stoudt,
whose two sons were serving in the US
Navy and who was quite keen on keeping
them alive. When she noticed that the
ammo packages were sealed with thin
paper tape and opened with a tab that
frequently tore off, which left soldiers
scrambling to open the packages,
potentially at the cost of their lives.

Stoudt brought her concerns to her
superiors and offered a solution — a
strong, cloth-based waterproof tape that
would efficiently seal the boxes shut —
but they weren’t listening to her. So she
took matters into her own hands, and
wrote a letter to President Franklin D.

Roosevelt himself. In her letter, she
described the issue and offered her tape
idea as the solution, complete with
diagrams. Roosevelt was so impressed
with Stoudt that he immediately passed
the letter on to the War Production
Board, and soon, Stoudt was showered
with letters from political and military
big shots who kept her in the loop about
the developments and asked her to send
them any other ideas she might have in
the future. The tape was approved for
production with “exceptional merit,” and
the military immediately fell in love with
it. They dubbed the new invention “the
100-mile-per-hour tape,” and use it to
this day to fix everything from boots to
Jeeps. It’s probably fair to say that the
public quite likes the tape, as well.


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