Innovations of World War II: Six Things that Changed How the World Was

Innovations of World War II: Six Things that Changed How the World Was

Necessity is the mother of invention or, in this case, innovations. During World War II, necessity brought about an almost infinite number of innovations that changed the daily life of virtually everyone worldwide. For most of us, these advancements are things that we take for granted daily but rest assured, there was a time when the benefits of these innovations would have never been fathomed by most.

From medical breakthroughs to mechanical and production advancements, many positives were brought about by the crisis that faced the world at the time. While an exhaustive list of every innovation that came about during this time period would be beyond extensive, we will take a look at the top six life-changing inventions that came into existence during World War II.


Everyone has suffered from an infection at some point in their lives. Most of us have been prescribed Penicillin, told to take two, and call the doctor in the morning. However, before World War II, this was not an option.

Although it was developed in 1928 in Scotland by scientist Alexander Flemming, Americans did not have access to this life-saving drug. The U. S. War Department saw the production of this almost-magical antibiotic as a priority in order to save the lives of our troops who were sick or injured.

Many pieces of American War Propaganda during the time sang the praises of Penicillin, boasting things like “Thanks to Penicillin, He Will Come Home!” The government had such beliefs in the medication, prior to D-Day, factories were producing up to 2.3 million doses per day.

Military doctors and nurses were astounded by how the drug killed infection and eased the pain of injured soldiers. These things made it much easier to treat the wounded, thus allowing medical professionals to help more troops than in prior wars.

After the War’s conclusion, Penicillin was mass-produced for the rest of the world, giving virtually everyone access to this life-saving medication.

Duct Tape

Every person who has ever done a DIY “fix it” has used Duct Tape. It is even used today to make clothing and wallets. Though its origins can be traced back to sometime in the late 19th century, what we know as modern Duct Tape was born out of necessity during World War II.

The Mother of Duct Tape is Vest Stoudt, a munitions factory worker during World War II. Worried that the munitions boxes were sealed in a way that would cost soldiers precious time on the battlefield, Stoudt created and tested a fabric tape that would seal the boxes, keeping them water-tight but still allowing easy access.

Stoudt wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to implore him to put her invention to use. Roosevelt ensured that the information would be sent to the proper manufacturer, and he sent it to a division of the Johnson and Johnson company. They had already been in the business of making fabric tape for almost two decades. Stoudt’s product differed because the tape could be ripped by hand, not needing other tools to cut it.

Because of its ease of use, Duct Tape was used by military personnel in many different ways, including fast, efficient temporary repairs of various things, much like we use it today.

The Ballpoint Pen

If you have ever held a pen in your hand, odds are one (or most) of them have been ballpoint. This is definitely an innovation that modern society takes for granted; I’d even go so far as to say most believe them to be disposable. However, before World War II, the ballpoint pen was a hope and a dream brought about by necessity.

The writing instrument used most prior to World War II, fountain pens, tended to leak and smudge. As a result, journalist Laszlo Biro saw room for change, wanting a pen whose ink dried almost immediately. He called on the help of his brother, George, a scientist, and the ballpoint pen was born in 1938.

Among the pen’s first customers was the Royal Air Force. They ordered over 30,000 units because fountain pens tended to leak once they reached a certain altitude.

The Flu Vaccine

In today’s society, the COVID-19 Vaccine is on the minds of virtually everyone in the world, and for a good reason. However, before World War II, a flu vaccine that could be administered worldwide and for a price that virtually everyone could afford seemed like an idea of science fiction.

After the influenza pandemic that plagued the world from 1918 to 1919, scientists began to work on a way to innoculate the population efficiently. In the 30s, scientists began to isolate different flu strands, and in 1940, the U.S. Army came in to assist with the efforts.

Five years later, the first flu vaccine was implemented for military personnel. The following year, 1946, the first flu vaccine was implemented for civilian use in America. There is no doubt that while we may not realize it was the War effort during WWII that spurred the use of this life-saving vaccine, and we are all grateful for it today.

The Jet Engine

Today, most of us are quick to hop on an airplane and trek around the globe without giving a second thought to where or when the innovation came into being. But this technology was put into worldwide practice during the World War II era.

Though an engineer for the Royal Air Force was the first to place a patent for this idea back in the early 30s, the German Air Force was the first to implement it on a wide scale on August 27, 1939. They performed a test flight of the jet engine mear days before the country invaded Poland.

Though it took some time for Allied forces to catch up with the Germans, using the technology from the original idea patented by the Royal Air Force, the first Allied flight of a jet was on May 15, 1941.

These jet-propelled engines allowed the planes to fly much faster without the need for propellers, but they were much more challenging to maneuver and used much more fuel than the standard propeller-powered planes.

The jet plane did not have a tremendous impact on the World War II effort because it was still in developmental stages. However, today’s military and civilian worlds would not function on the same level without implementing the technology brought about by the effort of World War II.

Blood Plasma Transfusions

While not everyone has needed a blood plasma transfusion, no doubt everyone at the very least knows someone whose life has been impacted by one. Thanks to this innovation brought to light by U.S. military surgeon Charles Drew, almost everyone in the world can benefit if the need arises.

This procedure differs from a traditional blood transfusion because plasma, unlike blood, can be given to a patient regardless of their blood type. This makes plasma transfusions faster and more efficient to administer.

When implemented on the battlefield of the Second World War, a sterile jar of water and a sterile jar containing blood plasma could be mixed and then given to the wounded soldier on the battlefield. Now, this is a procedure that is administered across the world.

Innovations of World War II: Who Knew?

While this is just a drop in the bucket of the innovations and inventions that transpired during the Second World War, it gives you a probable eye-opening look into the things that we take for granted on a daily basis that people less than a decade ago did not have access to.

You might look at this list and think to yourself, “Who knew this is something that came about as recently as World War II?” So many of these life-changing innovations came about as a result of necessity during World War II, and today, humanity thanks the men and women who found the need to solve a problem that plagued the world during a time when the need for the invention could not be ignored.

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