Technology played an important role in World War II. Major advances in weaponry, communications, and industry by both sides impacted the way the war was fought and, eventually, the outcome in the war.
Sherman Tank Source: National Archives
On the Ground
Tanks - Although tanks were first used in World War I, it was during World War II that tanks became a major military force. Hitler utilized tanks in his fast moving Panzer divisions. They enabled him to quickly take over much of Europe using a tactic called Blitzkrieg, meaning "lightning war." Some of the most famous tanks from World War II include Germany's Tiger tank, the Soviet Union's T-34 tank, and the United States' Sherman tank.
In the Air
Aircraft - The air force became one of the most important parts of the military during World War II. Whoever had control of the air, often won the battle on the ground. Different types of planes were developed for specific tasks. There were small, fast fighter planes designed for air-to-air combat, large bombers that could drop huge bombs on enemy targets, planes designed to land and take off from aircraft carriers, and large transport planes used to deliver supplies and soldiers. Other important advances in aircraft included the first military helicopters and the first jet-powered fighter planes.
Radar Tower Source: Imperial War Museum
Radar - Radar was a new technology developed right before the war. It used radio waves to detect enemy aircraft. The British were the first to employ radar and it helped them to fight off the Germans in the Battle of Britain.
In the Ocean
Aircraft Carrier - One of the biggest changes in naval technology in World War II was the use of the aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers became the most important ships in the navy. They were able to launch air attacks from anywhere in the ocean.
Bombs - World War II saw the invention of many new types of bombs. The Germans invented the long range flying bomb called the V-1 as well as a rocket bomb called the V-2. The Allies developed a bouncing bomb that would bounce across the water and explode once it hit a dam. Other specialized bombs included bunker busters and cluster bombs.
The Atom Bomb - Perhaps the largest leap in technology during World War II was the atom bomb. This bomb caused a massive explosion by using nuclear reactions. It was used by the United States to bomb the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Enigma Machine Photo by Karsten Sperling
Secret Codes - In order to keep communications secret, both sides developed their own secret codes. The Germans used a machine called the Enigma Machine to code and decode their messages. However, the Allied scientists were able to crack the code giving them an advantage in battle.
New technology was also used to disperse propaganda. Inventions like motion pictures, the radio, and the microphone were all used by governments to broadcast their messages to the people.
Interesting Facts about World War II Technology
At one point the United States used the Native American language of the Navajo Peoples as a secret code that the Germans were unable to crack.
Technology was used to formulate precise rations (food) given to soldiers to make sure they got the right amount of nutrition and energy.
New medicines were developed during the war including advances in antibiotics, surgical techniques, and blood transfusions.
Some of the first electronic computers were developed in order to help break enemy codes.