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Odd Items That Were Invented for WW2

Updated on December 16, 2013
Invention and manufacture of goods played a large role in America's success in WWII.
Invention and manufacture of goods played a large role in America's success in WWII. | Source

The demands of war have always forced people o come up with quick solutions to problems. Canning technology was invented during the Napoleonic Wars. The telegraph network and ambulances were developed during the American Civil War. Absorbent materials used in tampons were first used during World War I. World War II, not surprisingly, also gave rise to inventions that have become a part of modern daily life.

Synthetic Rubber

Most likely, the soles of your shoes owe their existence to World War II. In 1941, Japanese forces took over Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies, the world's largest producers of natural rubber. The American war machine was dependent on rubber to make tires for the Army's trucks, wire insulation for the Air Corp's planes and water seals on Navy ships. The nation's chemists were given two years to take the nascent synthetic rubber technology of the time and to produce an industry that could turn out 800,000 tons of synthetic rubber for the war effort. When the war started, synthetic rubber was produced in small quantities and was inappropriate for many military uses. By the end of the war, the military was running on modern synthetic rubber, and the modern synthetic rubber and plastics industry had been born.

Because men had been drafted for the war efforts, women scientists played a central role in WWII's scientific discoveries, including the testing and mass-production of synthetic rubber.
Because men had been drafted for the war efforts, women scientists played a central role in WWII's scientific discoveries, including the testing and mass-production of synthetic rubber. | Source

Freeze-Dried Food

During the war, thousands of soldiers needed blood transfusions. Thousands of civilians were willing to give blood to meet their needs. The problem was transporting blood, which spoils, across an ocean in ships that were already packed tight with other military supplies. In 1945 Stuart Mudd and Earl W. Flosdorf, inventors from Pennsylvania, found a way of separating blood into its component parts and drying it in freezing temperatures to make it easier to transport and store. The process, now known as freeze-drying is still used today in medical applications and in the production and preservation of food. If you've ever eaten flash-frozen ice cream, you've benefited from this product of World War II ingenuity

Wallace Carothers, who worked for Dupont, is credited as being the inventor of nylon.
Wallace Carothers, who worked for Dupont, is credited as being the inventor of nylon. | Source

Pantyhose

Your backpack, your socks and the flag flying outside your house are probably made from a material invented for World War II. Silk, the primary ingredient in American women's stockings, was also produced mainly in the Far East. When the war broke out, women found the silk for their stockings trapped behind enemy lines. In 1935, the DuPont company sensed an opportunity and hired the best chemists they could find to come up with a synthetic silk-like fiber. That fiber would eventually be called nylon. It was used throughout the war to make parachutes, straps and clothing. Today it is still the main ingredient in luggage webbing, parachutes and women's stockings.

Duck Tape

In war things break. The American military needed an all-purpose tool to mend broken equipment and to seal containers to keep out mud and water. To meet that need, Permacell, a division of the Johnson and Johnson Company, took their medical tape and gave it new adhesives and an army-green polyethylene coating. The tape earned the name "Duck Tape" for its ability to function well in wet environments. After the war, soldiers introduced the tape to the civilian world where the now-gray adhesive came to be used to seal ducts and patch civilian mistakes.

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