War brings death and destruction everywhere it goes. But at the same time, periods of war have also been the forefront of some of the everyday inventions that we use every day now. When war arose, inventors had to put their brains together to ensure that they had new inventions that aided the times around them – making everything as easy as it could be while the war surrounded them. From doing this, there have been inventions that have lasted throughout history and stood the test of time.

1. Drones

With no need of a pilot, this plane could fly into parts of the world that had previously been too dangerous for someone to pilot by themselves. This enabled the drones to be able to fly out quickly without endangering anyone’s life while they could detect the risk.


Unmanned drones were created in 1916, by American pair Peter Hewitt and Elmer Sperry. Even though it was revolutionary, the new model was full of mistakes and bugs. It could fly itself but it wasn’t in a controlled way – aided by gyroscopes. Inside the drone, there was a barometer which worked out the altitude and assesed its destination. However, the initial drone wasn’t fit for purpose when it came to weaponry as it wasn’t reliable enough. All the same, it was the blueprint for the drones that we know and use today.





2. Tanks

Tanks have been a vital part of war machines for a long time. Older versions of them were tanks that slowly ambled into battle, huge and overbearing with a soldier atop of them driving them. They looked intimidating but also were practical in their mission.


Prior to tanks being invented, soldiers were forced into unsafe positions where they had to wait in fear before attacking their enemies. Without any shelter aside from the trenches, they were often vulnerable to harm as they couldn’t get away easily. Even the most powerful weapons proved to be useless in such situations. Tanks are enhanced so that they can easily cross difficult terrain.



3. Kleenex

Cellucotton was once an underused and underrated material that only came into use during wartime. Used also for tampons, the cotton is the main material for something we all use every day – a Kleenex.


The genesis of the Kleenex came following the tampons being introduced to the market. Even though they were a niche, they didn’t immediately sell as women were embarrassed to buy them – especially when the person serving them was male. Thus, Kimberly-Clark took the very same material and ironed it out – forming the soft Kleenex that we know and use today.



4. Computers

You’re likely reading this on a computer or a computer-like device. Today’s modern society cannot fathom a world without computers but it was during World War II that they were remodeled and fashioned into the products we know today. One of the main inventions coming out of this was the Colossus; or in simpler terms, the world’s first digital computer.


Although you wouldn’t be able to recognize it today as the computers that we know now. All in all, it was relevant to its name: large and intense that required specialized training to be used efficiently. It was invented by Tommy Flowers, an Englishman. It decoded Enigma codes which had been transmitted by German Intelligence.



5. Microwaves

There are many everyday machines that we take for granted, the majority of them using radar technology which had been introduced during World War II. One of these inventions is the conventional microwave. Percy Spencer, a physicist who worked at leading manufacturer Raytheon in 1939 worked alongside his colleagues to enhance the radar equipment which could be utilized by the Radiation Laboratory at MIT.


During this time, Spencer stumbled upon something strange; he found that he hadn’t eaten the chocolate candy that he had kept in his pocket. Following this, he then noticed that chocolate melted extremely fast while he was running the experiments on his own equipment. He then decided to test his theory with other foods. After further experiments, the microwave was invented.


7. Jet Engines

By using jet engines, jets can easily cruise through the skies quickly and without any real effort, being pushed forward by lots of air and sometimes water. Because of this, air travel is as quick and safe as it has ever been and this is due to the enhancements and evolution that the jet engine has been put under throughout the years. Nowadays, they are also used in more things than just aircraft such as industrial machinery – increasing productivity and efficiency.


How did the jet engine come into being? The first jet engine was created in 1939 by Hans von Ohain, a German scientist. In just one year, he powered and created an engine-powered jet. This made it easier to construct a new field of warfare. Only in its early stage of life, it required more resources and money for fuel so that it could last for longer in the future. However, the modern jet engine that we know today is used every day in the industry.



7. Antibiotics and Penicillin

Today’s modern medicine is something that we often take for granted as there is a cure for so many different diseases. However, this wasn’t always the case. When World War II began, the need for medicine was growing higher and higher so that injured soldiers could be healed; especially if they had any infections which could prove to be fatal.


It was Howard Florey, an Australian scientist who created penicillin which is used so frequently today. Alongside Sir Alexander Fleming, the pair of them won a Nobel Prize for their input to medical science. By the time 1941 rolled around, this breakthrough in medicine had been distributed all across the world and has proven to be one of the greatest accomplishments of medicine.



8. Depth Charges

With the onslaught of German U-boats causing fatalities to opposing soldiers, there was a need for something equal to be curated to fight back as they couldn’t just avoid open sea. The need was for a potent device which could halt the U-boats.


These devices were coined ‘depth charges’. They were pitched from boats and used as a form of attack against enemy submarines. These were designed to explode when they had reached the specified depth, which in turn protected the ship which launched the charge from receiving any collateral damage. They were put to use in 1916 and were proficient in battling against German U-boats.



9. Flamethrowers

People have been using fire as a weapon since medieval times. The flamethrower, however, can’t be compared to the regular torch or flaming trebuchet. It was first used in World War I, although it wasn’t used consistently until World War II.


They were mainly useful when fighting in the trenches. Enemies often hid in the trenches and the flamethrowers were used to fight against them quickly if they were pounced upon. However, they did come with their own limits. For example, they were extremely heavy and bulky to carry around. But they were efficient in killing those who needed to be killed. They were first put to use by the Germans in 1915.



10. Canned Food

Who doesn’t love canned food? It’s a useful food to have and keep in your cupboards for a long time due to the extensive shelf life that they often have. People often stock up if they believe that there’s going to be something that will trap them in their home for a long time such as an act of God or something similar such as war. In World War I, they were extremely useful.


The soldiers needed food that would fill them up for a long time but that would also last a long time without being stored in a fridge or another container.


11. Stainless Steel

We rely on stainless steel every single day even if we don’t know it. It comes in the form of silverware cutlery sets, machinery used in factories and also skyscrapers. The need for stainless steel arose in the beginning of the 1900s.


To be specific, British military officials wanted their guns to be perfected by creating them out of a substance which wouldn’t be easily corroded. The first guns were created with a weak metal which was damaged whenever a bullet was fired. Harry Brearley, a British soldier set out to find the best material for this – stainless steel.



12. Tea Bags

The tea bag wasn’t created in just one specific war. Over ten years prior to World War I, the tea bag had been accidentally discovered when a tea merchant dropped a few bags of tea leaves in water. The leaves diffused the tea the same as a teapot would and the tea bag was then created. They were used in World War I when a German tea company took on the tea bag blueprint so that they could have tea in the trenches. They were created by cotton which isn’t used today – but it works all the same.


13. Nescafe

Nescafe was created so that it could fight any excess of something specific instead of combating a sudden increase in demand for supply in something which was lacking. In this example, this excess was Brazillian coffee beans. Nescafe took advantage of using these beans as they were sat within a warehouse shortly after the Great Depression.



14. Sun Lamps

Sun lamps are often recommended to patients suffering from poor mental health for casual use as the use of it may be able to improve their mental state, providing clarity throughout whatever situation they’re facing. This isn’t just a wacky belief, either. In Berlin 1918, there was a vast majority of children who died due to a disease called rickets which is normally found through poor living conditions. Kurt Huldschinsky, a German physician made note of how the sick children looked; pale and sickly.


Believing that he could help, he pulled together a few children and made them sleep beneath lamps which emitted ultraviolet light. Eventually, their condition began to improve. During summer, he removed the lights and let the children rest in the sun. They continued to improve. It was later discovered that the use of UV light increased their intake of vitamin D.



15. Sunglasses

While you may link these type of sunglasses to pilots from Top Gun, it’s worth noting that they aren’t just to look cool. Driving towards the sun is bad enough but flying into the sun is even worse and can greatly affect a pilot’s ability which is the last thing they need during the war. Thus, the aviator sunglasses were born in the mid-1930’s and are now still worn as a fashion accessory.


They increased in popularity following a photo of US General Douglas MacArthur circulated. Following this photo, the demand for these type of glasses increased and now they can be seen in most places.


16. Superglue

Superglue is used for almost everything – from broken plates to statues that are easily bound together by the sticky substance. However, what many people may not know is that the superglue wasn’t created on purpose.


At the beginning of the 1940s, Harry Wesley Cooper Jr., an investor was working to great the ideal gun sight. World War II was in its beginning stages and he knew that the demand for a more precise gun was vital. While he was working, he noticed that there was a substance which stuck to anything that it was rested against and couldn’t be removed easily. During the time, it was dismissed as something cool but useless. Over ten years later, it was released as superglue on the market.



17. Daylight Savings Time

This wasn’t created purely due to the war. Benjamin Franklin had suggested the concept in a manner to utilize the natural daylight and help the use of candles. However, the need for it became more apparent in World War I.


German officials soon realized in 1916 that across the nation, they were using up a lot of coal. It was then suggested that the clocks were to be moved forward by an hour to allow more daylight during hours when people were awake. Because of this, the demand for heating and lighting decreased. This was an idea that spread across Europe and now Daylight Savings is a consistent part of the year.



18. Vegetarian Sausages

Meatless sausages were something that wasn’t so often in circulation. The first vegetarian sausages were invented by the German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer and were made from soy when famine was at a high during the war due to lack of access to meat.


The fake meat had a warm taste and texture that made it close to being the real thing while also providing the same amount of nutrition. He also experimented with ingredients other than soy such as barley and rice flour. They were also called ‘peace sausages.’



19. Twinkies

Twinkies are the sort of snack that you can easily take with you when you’re on the move or you need a quick boost of sugar. However, you may not know their full history.


During the 1930s, James A. Dewar, a baker, wanted to create the ideal cake. His first draft so to speak was a sponge cake with a strawberry center. However, this didn’t present a long term prospect as strawberries couldn’t be used all year round cheaply due to being a seasonal fruit. Because of this, he created the banana filling instead. However, that also didn’t last long when World War II began as bananas were rationed. So, Dewar finally gave in to a cream filling.



20. Synchronization Gear

While the flight of battle machines may have been sensationalized in Hollywood movies, it’s not as simple as bullets raining from the sky haphazardly as this creates a risk to the plane’s blades.


Thus, the need for synchronization gear which makes an allowance for the plane to rain gunfire via the propeller, negating the need for a co-pilot to be on the guns. The gear prepares for an acute accuracy due to the line of fire being adjusted for precise aim.