Weapons of the Second World War

Weapons of the Second World War

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History of nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons possess enormous destructive power from nuclear fission or combined fission and fusion reactions. Building on scientific breakthroughs made during the 1930s, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and free France collaborated during World War II, in what was called the Manhattan Project, to build a fission weapon, also known as an atomic bomb. [1] In August 1945, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were conducted by the United States against Japan at the close of that war, standing to date as the only use of nuclear weapons in hostilities. The Soviet Union started development shortly after with their own atomic bomb project, and not long after, both countries were developing even more powerful fusion weapons known as hydrogen bombs. Britain and France built their own systems in the 1950s, and the list of states with nuclear weapons has gradually grown larger in the decades since.

1 Rockets

Solid-fuel rockets had been used in warfare before WWII, but it was only during the course of the war that rocket-based weapons were developed to the point where they bestowed a significant tactical advantage. Widely fielded examples included the German Nebelwerfer ground-based multiple rocket launcher, which entered service in 1942, and the British RP-3 air-to-ground rockets that were fitted to numerous aircraft types in the latter years of the war. Probably the most iconic solid-fueled rocket of the war was the bazooka: a shoulder-launched, man-portable weapon that was used by the U.S. Army from 1942 onward.

The 14 Most Loathsome Figures Of The Second World War

World War II is remembered for its cruelty and ferocious violence, a global conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 60 million people. It was a war that featured no shortage of heinous individuals — these 14 being among the very worst.

Top image: Hitler and Himmler inspecting the troops in 1938. (Image: Getty)

When putting together this list, I decided to exclude some of the most obvious high-level personalities, including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Herman Göring, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Emperor Hirohito, and Japanese ministers Hideki Tojo and Fumimaro Konoe. Their contributions to the war are firmly established, so it's not worth repeating them here. Instead, I present to you a list of individuals (in no particular order) whose participation in the war was no less malign, but whose overzealousness, opportunism, and ideological fervor worked as force multipliers. Here are 14 heinous individuals who made World War II far more miserable than it needed to be.

1) Odilo Globočnik, SS Obergruppenfuhrer in Poland and OZAC

Referred to by Northwestern University historian Michael Allen as " the vilest individual in the vilest organization ever known ," Austrian SS Leader Odilo Globočnik had a lead role in Operation Reinhard — the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews in the General Government district of occupied Poland.

Globočnik (left) with Heinrich Himmler (right) in 1942.

Over the course of his tenure, over 1.5 million Jews were killed in the Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Majdanek death camps — camps that he himself helped to organize and supervise. In fact, historians think it likely that Globočnik came up with the idea of using gassing facilities after being "inspired" by the Nazi euthanasia programs.

Corrupt and completely without scruple, Globočnik exploited Jews and non-Jews as slave laborers in his own forced labor camps. Later in the war he was re-assigned to German-occupied Italy, the OZAC, where he converted an old rice mill into a detention center equipped with a crematorium. There, thousands of Jews, partisans, and political prisoners were interrogated, tortured and murdered. Globočnik was captured by Allied forces on May 31, 1945. He committed suicide on the same day by taking a cyanide pill.

2) General Mario Roatta, "The Black Beast" of Italy

Usually it's Germany that's remembered for its atrocities and concentration camps, but Italy was complicit in war crimes as well.

Nicknamed "the black beast" by his own men, the Italian fascist General Mario Roatta killed tens of thousands of Yugoslav citizens in reprisals and forcibly relocated thousands more to their deaths in severely depleted concentration camps. Historians James Walston and Carlo Capogeco claim that the annual death rate in Croatia's Rab concentration camp was higher than the average mortality rate in Buchenwald. In 1942, Roatta implemented a scorched earth policy in the Yugoslav territories in an effort to "de-Balkanize" and "ethnically clear" the region. Writing home, one of his soldiers wrote : "We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them." (Image: Italia Mistero/CC.)

Disturbingly, Roatta, like many other Italian war criminals, were never tried after the war. He lived in Rome until his death in January 1968.

3) Dr. Josef Mengele, "The Angel of Death"

Far from being the only Nazi doctor guilty of atrocities, Josef Mengele has remained a notorious historical figure owing to his cold, detached demeanor, the cruelty of his medical experiments, and the fact that he was never captured.

As a devout adherent of Nazi pseudo-science, Mengele used his position at Auschwitz to further his research goals by experimenting on human subjects — often with complete disregard for their welfare and in violation of sound scientific principles. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains more :

He had a wide variety of other research interests, including a fascination with heterochromia, a condition in which an individual's two irises differ in coloration Throughout his stay in Auschwitz, Mengele collected the eyes of his murdered victims, in part to furnish "research material" to colleague Karin Magnussen, a KWI researcher of eye pigmentation. He himself also conducted several experiments in an attempt to unlock the secret of artificially changing eye color. Less famously, he zealously documented in camp inmates the progression of the disease Noma, a type of gangrene which destroys the mucous membrane of the mouth and other tissues.

Mengele firmly endorsed the doctrine of National Socialist racial theory and engaged in a wide spectrum of experiments which aimed to illustrate the lack of resistance among Jews or Roma to various diseases. He also attempted to demonstrate the "degeneration" of Jewish and "Gypsy" blood through the documentation of physical oddities and the collection and harvesting of tissue samples and body parts. Many of his "test subjects" died as a result of the experimentation or were murdered in order to facilitate post-mortem examination.

After the war, Mengele escaped to Brazil, where he died of a drowning accident in 1979.

4 & 5) Generals Iwane Matsui and Hisao Tani, The Butchers of Nanking

These men, along with several others, were responsible for one of the most heinous and despicable acts of the Second World War — the Nanking Massacre.

By some accounts, the Second World War officially got started in 1937 with the Japanese Imperial Army's invasion of China. Later that year, after Japanese troops launched a massive attack on the city of Nanking, Chinese soldiers retreated to the other side of the Yangtze river. Over the course of the next horrible six weeks, Japanese troops committed what is now known as the Rape of Nanking — a terrible episode in which an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed and some 20,000 women raped.

After the war, those in charge were held to account. General Iwane Matsui was found guilty of "deliberately and recklessly" shirking his legal duty to "to take adequate steps to secure the observance and prevent breaches" of the Hague Convention. Likewise, General Hisao Tani was tried by the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal and sentenced to death. Other leaders who were responsible died before the war ended, including Prince Kan'in and Isamu Cho, the latter of whom issued the infamous "kill all captives" memo. (Images: Government of Japan/CC)

6 & 7) Air Marshal Arthur Harris and General Curtis LeMay

One of the many advantages of winning a war is the benefit of not having to account for all the nasty things required to win it. Such was the case for British Air Marshal Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris and American Air Force General Curtis LeMay, both of whom were responsible for civilian bombing campaigns that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths across both Germany and Japan — and for questionable gain. Whereas bombing campaigns against industrial and military targets yielded tangible results, historians have consistently shown that terror campaigns against civilians did very little to change the outcome of the war . (Image: BAF)

During the Second World War, Harris directed Allied Bomber Command. Convinced that war from the air could be decisive, he famously said:

The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

His tone was undeniably vindictive. But more to the point, Harris believed that mass bombing of civilians would turn the German population against Hitler. His "whirlwind," he thought, could end the war in months. To that end, he organized raid after raid, including those on Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, and most controversially, on Dresden at a time when the war was most certainly lost for Germany . Writing in his memoirs, Harris never wavered from his convictions: "In spite of all that happened. bombing proved a relatively humane method."

Sobering Photos Compare Dresden After The Firestorms To Now

It's the 70th anniversary of one of the darkest days of the Second World War, when Allied planes…

Over at the Pacific Theater, LeMay was waging his own brutal campaign against civilians. In the six months leading to the surrender of Japan, LeMay's firebombing raids resulted in an estimated 500,000 deaths and the displacement of five million inhabitants. The most infamous of these raids happened from March 9 to 10 (exactly 70 years ago this week) when raids over Tokyo killed an estimated 100,000 civilians, marking it the most deadly single assault on civilians during the Second World War. But unlike Harris, LeMay was fully cognizant of his own brutality, remarking after the war: "Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time. I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal." (Image: USAF)

8) Oskar Dirlewanger, SS Special Commando

SS Special Commando Oskar Dirlewanger was one of the most depraved persons to wear a Nazi uniform, which is saying something given the extent of his regime's brutality. He was an alcoholic and drug addict, a child molester, and a man prone to severe violence. Over the course of his various tours, his unit was responsible for more atrocities than any other.

In 1940, Heinrich Himmler put Dirlewanger in charge of a special Poacher's Brigade comprised of convicted criminals, all of them former hunters. After being stationed in occupied Belarus, Dirlewanger and his men engaged partisans, but they also killed civilians whose villages were in the wrong place. His preferred method of mass execution was to herd the local population inside a barn, set it on fire, and then shoot anyone who tried to escape with machine guns. Dirlewanger is estimated to have killed at least 30,000 people during his Belarus tour alone.

As noted by historian Timothy Snyder, "in all the theatres of the Second World War, few could compete in cruelty with Oskar Dirlewanger." He was arrested on June 1, 1945 and reportedly beaten to death by his Polish captors.

9) Hans Frank, "The Butcher of Poland"

Largely ignored by history, Hans Frank governed and terrorized Nazi-occupied Poland from 1939 to 1945. As Hitler's former lawyer, he tried to model his ruling style after the fuhrer. Known as the " Butcher of Poland ," it was under his rule that millions of lives were taken. As noted by historian Chris Klessmann, he may not have been the most powerful man in the Third Reich, but "he was one of those chiefly responsible for the bloody German reign of terror in Poland."

His indifference to human suffering knew no bounds. In 1940 he was quoted as saying: "In Prague, big red posters were put up on which one could read that seven Czechs had been shot today. I said to myself, 'If I had to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper.'"

Frank was one of 10 war criminals hanged at Nuremberg in 1946.

10) Dr. Shirō Ishii, Head of Unit 731

Prior to the war, the Japanese government put Dr. Shirō Ishii in charge of the "Anti-Epidemic Water Supply and Purification Bureau." More commonly known as Unit 731, it was in reality a covert biological and chemical research and development unit.

11 Secret Weapons Developed By Japan During World War 2

Normally, it's the Western Powers who are remembered for developing some of the most innovative and

Located near the city of Harbin, the facility housed some 3,000 personnel. Ishii noted that a doctor's "god-given mission" is to block and treat disease, but he made it clear that the work "upon which we are now about to embark is the complete opposite of these principles."During the war, he presided over a team that experimented with some of the world's most horrible diseases, including anthrax, plague, gas gangrene, smallpox, botulism, and others. Chinese prisoners — and even some Allied POWS —were used as guinea pigs and forced to breathe, eat, and receive injections of the pathogens. Historian Sheldon H. Harris of California State University estimates that more than 200,000 Chinese were killed in germ warfare experiments , while many others died in related blights. (Image: Government of Japan/CC)

PBS's American Experience explains what happened to Oshii after the war:

No doubt aware that his activities constituted war crimes of the highest order, Ishii faked his own death in late 1945 and went into hiding. When American occupation forces learned that Ishii was still alive, they ordered the Japanese to hand him over and investigators from Camp Detrick began interrogations. At first Ishii denied any human testing had taken place but, aware that the Soviets also wanted to talk to him and their methods might not be so mild, he later offered to reveal all the details of his program in exchange for immunity from war crimes prosecution. Anxious to learn the results of experiments that they themselves had been unable to perform, the American military accepted Ishii's offer, and approval was then given by the highest level of government. Ultimately Ishii's materials proved to be of little value, but the United States kept its end of this dubious bargain.

Disturbingly, biological weapons were never mentioned in the Japanese war crimes trials. Ishii was never held accountable for his crimes, dying a free man in 1959.

11) Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin's Bulldog

Lavrentiy Beria was to Joseph Stalin what Heinrich Himmler was to Adolf Hitler — a psychotic, vicious, and callous right-hand man.

World War 2 Inventions: Ships, Planes, Guns

During the four years of the United States’ involvement in the Second World War, a number of World War 2 inventions were introduced that revolutionized warfare. Whether weapons, vessels, aircraft, or even shipping containers, all of these inventions impacted the war and became critical components of the post-war global economy.

Below you will read about the inventors who introduced some of the most important World War 2 inventions to the world.


One of the true geniuses among American inventors, John Moses Browning dominated the firearms field like no individual before or since. His contribution to the success not only of Overlord but of World War II was enormous, though it came between twelve and eighteen years after his death.

Born in Utah of Mormon parents, Browning was raised by a gunsmith who passed along an interest and basic skills in firearms design and repair. John M. and his brothers subsequently built their own steam-powered tools for manufacturing, and young Browning sold his first design in 1878. Over the next fifty years he produced an unprecedented number and variety of innovative concepts: rifles, pistols, shotguns, and automatic weapons.

It is difficult to overstate Browning’s importance in arming the United

States during the Second World War—or for that matter, the First World War and Korea. During World War II every significant automatic weapon in the U.S. inventory was a Browning design: the M1917, M1919, and M2 machine guns, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and of course the M1911 semiautomatic pistol.

Thus, he designed five of the ten infantry firearms in the U.S. arsenal (the exceptions were the M1903 and M1 rifles, M1 Thompson, and M3 submachine guns [See Weapons, American]). Additionally, he designed the standard British pistol, the P-35 Browning Highpower (See Weapons, British). For variety, he is also credited with the Winchester Model 97 shotgun, which saw limited military use both in combat and among military police units.

Browning died while working at the FN factory in Herstal, Belgium, during one of his many European trips.


The man who made D-Day—and every other Allied amphibious operation of World War II—possible was a profane, short-tempered entrepreneur named Andrew Jackson Higgins. Born in Nebraska, he grew up in the outdoors and spent much of his youth working in the lumber business.

With outbreak of war in Europe, Higgins astutely anticipated that the United States would require massive quantities of various landing craft, more than the U.S. Navy expected. He established his boatbuilding firm in 1940, when, according to the company history, the U.S. Navy had just eighteen landing craft. Higgins mastered the techniques of forming wood into waterproof surfaces, then purchased vast quantities of oak, pine, and mahogany before America entered the war to ensure that his firm had enough material on hand to meet the future need. Subsequently he set up four high-speed assembly lines in New Orleans.

Rare for the time, Higgins Industries had a fully integrated labor force of some twenty thousand men and women, black and white, working at peak capacity. At one point his factories produced seven hundred landing craft per month.

Throughout the war Higgins delivered 20,094 landing craft of three main types: the prototype LCP, followed by the larger LCVP and LCM (See Landing Craft). The factory not only provided the critically needed small craft but taught members of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard how to use them. Higgins’s firm also built the hulls for PT boats, which were similarly constructed.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was lavish in his praise of Higgins’s contribution to victory, saying, ‘‘He is the one who won the war for us. If he had not developed and produced those landing craft, we never could have gone in over an open beach. We would have had to change the entire strategy of the war.’’

Higgins was awarded a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal half a century after the war.


The Todt Organization was responsible for constructing the Atlantic Wall, a process far from completion when Dr. Fritz Todt died. Todt was an early member of the Nazi Party, having joined in 1922. When Hitler became prime minister in 1933, Todt’s party connections and engineering qualifications gained him the contract to build Germany’s showcase, the Autobahn system of modern highways, then unlike anything else on earth. (Ironically, Nazi political maneuvering delayed the program before Hitler assumed power.) With Hermann Göering as interior minister, Todt was appointed to oversee the nation’s entire construction industry—a responsibility that only expanded when the war brought other nations under control of the Nazi Reich. Todt’s energy and ability thereafter were acknowledged with appointment as armaments minister as well. Arguably, Fritz Todt ranked only behind Hitler, Göering, and Heinrich Himmler as the most influential individual of the Third Reich.

Recognizing the need to defend the newly won territory in Western Europe, Hitler directed the Todt Organization to plan and begin building the Atlantic Wall. However, on 8 April 1942 Todt was killed in a plane crash following a conference at Hitler’s headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. He was replaced by Albert Speer, who proved at least as adept in administering Nazi Germany’s wartime industry.


One of the men most responsible for the success of Overlord was the least appreciated. Henry Kaiser, of Canajoharie, New York, became one of the industrial giants of the Second World War, turning his previous construction experience to good use in maritime affairs.

Reared in a poor New York family, Kaiser ended his formal education at age thirteen, when he sought employment. Immensely vigorous, he spent sixteen years building roads and railroads in the United States, Canada, and Cuba between 1914 and 1930. Undoubtedly his most notable achievement in that period was in Cuba, building a new road through three hundred miles of swamps and forbidding terrain. His demonstrated success in that field led to his appointment as chief executive of the Six Companies, Inc., which built Boulder and Parker Dams.

In 1942 Kaiser gained control of four West Coast shipyards, feeling that he could improve construction techniques and thereby offset mounting Allied losses in the Battle of the Atlantic. He was enormously successful, as his leadership and management led to huge increases in commissioning transport vessels (Liberty ships) and escort aircraft carriers. Spurning traditional techniques, Kaiser instigated modular ship construction rather than laying down keels. The time savings in prefabricated hulls proved enormous, and just one of Kaiser’s yards, in Vancouver, Washington, averaged one ‘‘jeep carrier’’ a week for the twelve months between 1943 and 1944.

The availability of millions of tons of merchant shipping, plus escort carriers to defeat the U-boats, were vital factors in preparing for D-Day.

Drawn to aviation, Kaiser became president of Brewster Aeronautical Corporation in 1943. The company had a poor record of producing Corsair fighters for the U.S. and British navies, and not even Kaiser’s managerial skills could prevent cancelation of the contract. Undaunted, he pressed ahead with other favorite projects, including charity work. President Franklin Roosevelt asked Kaiser to head the United Nations War Relief Drive in 1945 and ’46, providing clothing to displaced persons in war zones.

In 1945, before Japan’s surrender, Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer formed the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, building automobiles for the booming postwar market. Other Kaiser interests involved aluminum, steel, magnesium, and housing. Kaiser died in Hawaii in 1967, at age eighty-five.

You can also buy the book by clicking on the buttons to the left.

Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set

  • A Timeline to Victory
  • Top Secret Operation Overlord Mission Pack
  • 3 coins commemorating the most poignant anniversaries of the Second World War, alongside their individual information packs!

Order your Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set today for just £39.95!

When we think about the events of the Second World War there are some events that really stand out and stick in our minds. For the last 75 years, historians and enthusiasts have delved into the past to explore out the strategic planning and preparation behind some of the greatest missions in history that ultimately led our country to victory.

Over the years we have been able to piece together the facts and start to tell the story of these great operations and mindsets of the wartime leaders – showing future generations that British morale was a force not to be reckoned with.

A Timeline to Victory

In the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, as we remember the heroic actions of all those who fought for our nation’s freedom, The Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set immortalises the allies journey on the road to victory.

With an everlasting tribute to the heroes of the sky, the unseen plans for one of the greatest military campaigns in history, the words of the man who took the English language into battle and the headline that roared across the Europe on May 8 th 1945, this poignant set brings together our country’s secret weapons in the fight for victory.

With just limited quantities available, this set will be highly sought after especially in this important anniversary year and so, I expect substantial demand!

By ordering your Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set, you have no further commitments and your purchase is protected by The London Mint Office 14-day “no quibble” guarantee.

Order your Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set today for just £39.95!

When we think about the events of the Second World War there are some events that really stand out and stick in our minds. For the last 75 years, historians and enthusiasts have delved into the past to explore out the strategic planning and preparation behind some of the greatest missions in history that ultimately led our country to victory.

Over the years we have been able to piece together the facts and start to tell the story of these great operations and mindsets of the wartime leaders – showing future generations that British morale was a force not to be reckoned with.

A Timeline to Victory

In the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, as we remember the heroic actions of all those who fought for our nation’s freedom, The Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set immortalises the allies journey on the road to victory.

With an everlasting tribute to the heroes of the sky, the unseen plans for one of the greatest military campaigns in history, the words of the man who took the English language into battle and the headline that roared across the Europe on May 8 th 1945, this poignant set brings together our country’s secret weapons in the fight for victory.

With just limited quantities available, this set will be highly sought after especially in this important anniversary year and so, I expect substantial demand!

By ordering your Secret Weapons of the Second World War Set, you have no further commitments and your purchase is protected by The London Mint Office 14-day “no quibble” guarantee.

The Apollo 11 crew had to clear customs after the moon landing

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:52:45

When re-entering the United States, it’s necessary for every traveler to go through U.S. customs first. And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from – even if you came from the Moon. That’s what the three members of the Apollo 11 crew found out when NASA declared its moon rock and moon dust samples it brought back to Earth.

The Apollo 11 customs declaration.

The idea of going through customs makes one think of carrying luggage through a conveyor, meeting with an immigration official who stares at your passport and asks you where you went on your travels. That, of course, is not what happened to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or even Michael Collins after they safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. They were too busy being hailed as heroes for living in space for eight days, spending 21 hours on the Moon, and then coming home.

Besides, if you look at their customs declaration, it appears there’s no airport code for “Sea of Tranquility” or “Kennedy Space Center.” And “Saturn V Rocket” is definitely not on the list of possible aircraft you can take from anywhere to anywhere – unless you’re Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins.

Don’t forget to sign for your cargo, you bums.

The funny part about the Apollo 11 customs declaration is that the form lists the departure area as simply “moon.”

In all likelihood, this is a pencil-whipped form, done because it’s supposed to be done and because United States airspace ends after a dozen or so miles above the Earth’s surface, and the Apollo team definitely went 238,900 miles away.

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Military Resources: World War II

Archives Surviving from World War II
An excerpt copied with permission of the author, Gerhard Weinberg, from his book A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II.

Continuing the Fight: Harry S. Truman and World War II
This Truman Library website contains a collection of documents, photographs, and eyewitness accounts concerning the latter stages of World War II.

Day of Infamy Speech
Audio of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech to Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Getting the Message Out: The Poster Boys of World War II"
Prologue article by Robert Ellis about government-produced posters from World War II.

Holocaust Era Assets
Information about the records and research available in the National Archives and Records Administration regarding Holocaust Era Assets.

Information Concerning Philippine Army and Guerrilla Records
This NARA site gives in-depth information on the collection of records of World War II Philippine Army and Guerrilla members, which have recently been transferred to the National Personnel Records Center.

"Irving Berlin: This Is the Army"
This article by Laurence Bergreen is from the Summer 1996 issue of the NARA publication Prologue, and presents an in-depth look at Irving Berlin's production of This is the Army.

Japan Surrenders
On September 2, 1945, Japanese representatives signed the official Instrument of Surrender. Both pages of the short document are available as digital images.

"Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial"
John Vernon's Prologue article about the court-martial of Second Lieutenant Jack (Jackie) Roosevelt Robinson

Journey of the Philippine Archives Collection
"The Philippine Archives Collection constitutes an invaluable source of information on the Pacific war during World War II, particularly concerning the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) military operations in the Philippines, 1941-1942 guerrilla warfare in the Philippines and conditions in the Philippines under Japanese occupation."

"Let the Records Bark!: Personal Stories of Some Special Marines in World War II"
M. C. Lang's Prologue article about Dog Record Books of each canine who enrolled in the Army and Marine Corps from December 15, 1942, to August 15, 1945.

"The Lions' History: Researching World War II Images of African Americans"
An article from the Summer 1997 issue of NARA's publication, Prologue by Barbara L. Burger.

Memorandum Regarding the Enlistment of Navajo Indians
A Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan that provides background on the Marine Corps' decision to enlist and train the Navajos as messengers during World War II.

Mobilizing for War: Poster Art of World War II
A Truman Library online exhibit of a selection of posters illustrating such topics as "wartime security, enlistment, production of food and war materials, salvage and conservation, patriotic inspiration, relief efforts, and funding of the war through the sale of war bonds."

"The Mystery of the Sinking of the Royal T. Frank"
Prologue article by Peter von Buol describing the sinking of a U.S. Army transport ship off the coast of Hawaii by the Japanese in 1942.

"Nazi Looted Art: The Holocaust Records Preservation Project"
A three-part Prologue article by Anne Rothfeld about the Holocaust Records Project (HRP) which was tasked with "identifying, preserving, describing, and microfilming more than twenty million pages of records created by the Allies in occupied Europe regarding Nazi looted art and the restitution of national treasures."

Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG)
"The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) locates, identifies, inventories, and recommends for declassification, currently classified U.S. records relating to Nazi and Japanese Imperial Government war crimes."

"Remembering Pearl Harbor . . . 70 Years Later"
Prologue article by Lopez Matthews, Zachary Dabbs, and Eliza Mbughuni discusses deck logs of ships docked in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

"Return to Sender U.S. Censorship of Enemy Alien Mail in World War II"
Lois Fiset's Prologue article on the U.S. government's mail examination and censorship programs on the correspondence of enemy aliens during World War II.

"Safeguarding Hoover Dam during World War II"
Christine Pfaff's Prologue article on the measures taken during World War II to thwart potential sabotage of the Hoover Dam.

"'Semper Fidelis, Code Talkers'"
Adam Jevec's Prologue article on the impenetrable Navajo language code used by U.S. Marine Forces in World War II.

"Sixty Years Later, the Story of PT-109 Still Captivates"
Stephen Plotkin's Prologue article on the sinking of a Patrol Torpedo boat commanded by John F. Kennedy in the South Pacific in August 1943.

Veterans Gallery: Faces of the Men and Women Who Served during World War II
This collection of photographs of military servicemen and servicewomen was compiled by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library from submissions by the public.

"Wearing Lipstick to War: An American Woman in World War II England and France"
James H. Madison wrote this Prologue article about Elizabeth A. Richardson, who joined the American Red Cross and died in France in 1945.

World War II Photos
This collection of photographs of military servicemen and servicewomen was compiled by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library from submissions by the public.

World War II Remembered: Leaders, Battles & Heroes
"This multi-year exhibit commemorates the 70th anniversaries of WWII and will change often as we progress through the timeline of the war." From the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home.

"The 'Z Plan' Story: Japan's 1944 Naval Battle Strategy Drifts into U.S. Hands"
Greg Bradsher's Prologue article about "how the Z Plan drifted into American hands in one of World War II's greatest intelligence victories, leading to a crushing defeat for Japan in the Southwest Pacific in 1944."

Other Resources

After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor
"Approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States."

Combat Chronicles of U.S. Army Divisions in World War II
"The following combat chronicles, current as of October 1948, are reproduced from The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, pp. 510-592."

FBIS Against the Axis, 1941-1945: Open-Source Intelligence From the Airwaves
Stephen Mercado's article provides extensive information on the establishment and operation of the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service, an agency devoted to monitoring and analyzing foreign radio broadcasts for intelligence purposes, during World War II.

A Guide to World War II Materials
"Links to World War II related resources throughout the Library of Congress Web site."

Hawaii War Records Depository Photos
"The HWRD includes 880 photographs taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the U.S. Navy during World War II. These photographs, taken between 1941 and 1946, document the impact of World War II in Hawaii."

Historic Government Publications from World War II
This digital collection from Southern Methodist University Central University Libraries' Government Information Department "contains 343 Informational pamphlets, government reports, instructions, regulations, declarations, speeches, and propaganda materials distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) during the Second World War."

Hyperwar: U.S. Navy in World War II
Provides lists of ships, Naval Intelligence Combat Narratives, U.S. Naval Operations, Naval Stations and Facilities, U.S. Coast Guard members, and U.S. Navy Histories from World War II.

July, 1942: United We Stand
This is a companion web site for a Smithsonian Institution temporary exhibit that ran through October 2002. The exhibit highlights nearly 300 magazine covers featuring American flags, the slogan "United We Stand", and appeals to buy war bonds.

Medal of Honor Recipients: World War II
U.S. Army Center Center of Military History site that provides the names of Medal of Honor recipients and the actions that are commemorated.

Naval Aviation Chronology in World War II
Information compiled by the Naval History & Heritage Command.

Nuremberg Trials Project: A Digital Document Collection
Maintained by the Harvard Law School Library, this site provides access to trial documents and transcripts from the Medical Case held in 1946-1947 against 23 defendants accused of crimes against humanity in the form of harmful or fatal medical experiments and procedures. The site also provides a list of additional resources related to the Nuremberg Trials.

The OSS and Italian Partisans in World War II
Peter Tompkins, CIA, is the author of this article on the intelligence and operational support for the Anti-Nazi Resistance.

The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color
This PBS site is a companion to its program of the same name. It includes color photographs and videos that were shot to document the war.

Ration Coupons on the Home Front, 1942-1945
"Shows how the U.S. government controlled and conserved vehicles, typewriters, sugar, shoes, fuel, and food."

Stalag Luft I Online
The family of Dick Williams Jr., a prisoner of war during World War II, began this site as a tribute to his service. It now includes stories, photos, and letters that document the experiences of the POWs held at Stalag Luft I.

Student Voices from World War II and the McCarthy Era
A compilation of narratives from Brooklyn College students during World War II and the McCarthy era. Includes the oral histories of both participants in the school's Farm Labor Project and employees of the student newspaper.

Untold Stories of D-Day
This National Geographic site is an online gallery of stories and photographs telling the D-Day story.

The U. S. Coast Guard in World War II
The U. S. Coast Guard maintains this site, which includes Official Histories, Oral Histories of Coast Guard Veterans, and more.

U.S.-Russia Joint Commission Documents Database
The documents found in the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission Database consist mainly of translations of Russian-language documents retrieved from various archives in the Russian Federation pertaining to American personnel missing from World War II to the present.

Victory at Sea
From The Atlantic Monthly, this article describes the sea battles of World War II.

War Letters
This PBS website provides context to their film War Letters, based on Andrew Carroll's book of personal correspondence from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. Features letters, biographies, timelines, cartoons, and local resources.

World War II
Fordham University provides links to documents relating to World War II, including sections on the Lead Up to War, War In Europe, War In Asia, and After the War.

World War II: Documents
The Avalon Project's collection of World War II documents are available on this site, including British War Blue Book, Japanese Surrender Documents, Tripartite Pact and Associated Documents, and much more.

World War II Gallery
This site from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force includes descriptions and images of World War II era aircraft, engines, weapons, and more.

World War II History
From the Internet Public Library, this site includes print and Internet resources for high school and college students beginning research on World War II.

World War II Military Situation Maps
This Library of Congress collection "contains maps showing troop positions beginning on June 6, 1944 to July 26, 1945. Starting with the D-Day Invasion, the maps give daily details on the military campaigns in Western Europe, showing the progress of the Allied Forces as they push towards Germany."

World War II Poster Collection
The Government Publications Department at Northwestern University Library has a comprehensive collection of over 300 posters issued by U.S. Federal agencies from the start of the war through 1945.

World War II: The Photos We Remember
A collection of photographs published in Life Magazine during World War II.

World War II Time Line
Provides a timeline of the major events of World War II.

This page was last reviewed on October 28, 2019.
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The Scientific and Technological Advances of World War II

The war effort demanded developments in the field of science and technology, developments that forever changed life in America and made present-day technology possible.

Of the enduring legacies from a war that changed all aspects of life—from economics, to justice, to the nature of warfare itself—the scientific and technological legacies of World War II had a profound and permanent effect on life after 1945. Technologies developed during World War II for the purpose of winning the war found new uses as commercial products became mainstays of the American home in the decades that followed the war’s end. Wartime medical advances also became available to the civilian population, leading to a healthier and longer-lived society. Added to this, advances in the technology of warfare fed into the development of increasingly powerful weapons that perpetuated tensions between global powers, changing the way people lived in fundamental ways. The scientific and technological legacies of World War II became a double-edged sword that helped usher in a modern way of living for postwar Americans, while also launching the conflicts of the Cold War.

When looking at wartime technology that gained commercial value after World War II, it is impossible to ignore the small, palm-sized device known as a cavity magnetron. This device not only proved essential in helping to win World War II, but it also forever changed the way Americans prepared and consumed food. This name of the device—the cavity magnetron—may not be as recognizable as what it generates: microwaves. During World War II, the ability to produce shorter, or micro, wavelengths through the use of a cavity magnetron improved upon prewar radar technology and resulted in increased accuracy over greater distances. Radar technology played a significant part in World War II and was of such importance that some historians have claimed that radar helped the Allies win the war more than any other piece of technology, including the atomic bomb. After the war came to an end, cavity magnetrons found a new place away from war planes and aircraft carrier and instead became a common feature in American homes.

Percy Spencer, an American engineer and expert in radar tube design who helped develop radar for combat, looked for ways to apply that technology for commercial use after the end of the war. The common story told claims that Spencer took note when a candy bar he had in his pocket melted as he stood in front of an active radar set. Spencer began to experiment with different kinds of food, such as popcorn, opening the door to commercial microwave production. Putting this wartime technology to use, commercial microwaves became increasingly available by the 1970s and 1980s, changing the way Americans prepared food in a way that persists to this day. The ease of heating food using microwaves has made this technology an expected feature in the twenty first century American home.

More than solely changing the way Americans warm their food, radar became an essential component of meteorology. The development and application of radar to the study of weather began shortly after the end of World War II. Using radar technology, meteorologists advanced knowledge of weather patterns and increased their ability to predict weather forecasts. By the 1950s, radar became a key way for meteorologists to track rainfall, as well as storm systems, advancing the way Americans followed and planned for daily changes in the weather.

Similar to radar technology, computers had been in development well before the start of World War II. However, the war demanded rapid progression of such technology, resulting in the production of new computers of unprecedented power. One such example was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), one of the first general purpose computers. Capable of performing thousands of calculations in a second, ENIAC was originally designed for military purposes, but it was not completed until 1945. Building from wartime developments in computer technology, the US government released ENIAC to the general public early in 1946, presenting the computer as tool that would revolutionize the field of mathematics. Taking up 1,500 square feet with 40 cabinets that stood nine feet in height, ENIAC came with a $400,000 price tag. The availability of ENIAC distinguished it from other computers and marked it as a significant moment in the history of computing technology. By the 1970s, the patent for the ENIAC computing technology entered the public domain, lifting restrictions on modifying these technological designs. Continued development over the following decades made computers progressively smaller, more powerful, and more affordable.

Along with the advances of microwave and computer technology, World War II brought forth momentous changes in field of surgery and medicine. The devastating scale of both world wars demanded the development and use new medical techniques that led to improvements in blood transfusions, skin grafts, and other advances in trauma treatment. The need to treat millions of soldiers also necessitated the large-scale production of antibacterial treatment, bringing about one of the most important advances in medicine in the twentieth century. Even though the scientist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibacterial properties of the Penicillium notatum mold in 1928, commercial production of penicillin did not begin until after the start of World War II. As American and British scientists worked collectively to meet the needs of the war, the large-scale production of penicillin became a necessity. Men and women together experimented with deep tank fermentation, discovering the process needed for the mass manufacture of penicillin. In advance of the Normandy invasion in 1944, scientists prepared 2.3 million doses of penicillin, bringing awareness of this “miracle drug” to the public. As the war continued, advertisements heralding penicillin’s benefits, established the antibiotic as a wonder drug responsible for saving millions of lives. From World War II to today, penicillin remains a critical form of treatment used to ward off bacterial infection.

Penicillin Saves Soldiers Lives poster. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, 515170.

Of all the scientific and technological advances made during World War II, few receive as much attention as the atomic bomb. Developed in the midst of a race between the Axis and Allied powers during the war, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as notable markers to the end of fighting in the Pacific. While debates over the decision to use atomic weapons on civilian populations continue to persist, there is little dispute over the extensive ways the atomic age came to shape the twentieth century and the standing of the United States on the global stage. Competition for dominance propelled both the United States and the Soviet Union to manufacture and hold as many nuclear weapons as possible. From that arms race came a new era of science and technology that forever changed the nature of diplomacy, the size and power of military forces, and the development of technology that ultimately put American astronauts on the surface of the moon.

The arms race in nuclear weapons that followed World War II sparked fears that one power would not only gain superiority on earth, but in space itself. During the mid-twentieth century, the Space Race prompted the creation of a new federally-run program in aeronautics. In the wake of the successful launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, the United States responded by launching its own satellite, Juno 1, four months later. In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA) received approval from the US Congress to oversee the effort to send humans into space. The Space Race between the United States and the USSR ultimately peaked with the landing of the Apollo 11 crew on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. The Cold War between the United States and the USSR changed aspects of life in almost every way, but both the nuclear arms and Space Race remain significant legacies of the science behind World War II.

From microwaves to space exploration, the scientific and technological advances of World War II forever changed the way people thought about and interacted with technology in their daily lives. The growth and sophistication of military weapons throughout the war created new uses, as well as new conflicts, surrounding such technology. World War II allowed for the creation of new commercial products, advances in medicine, and the creation of new fields of scientific exploration. Almost every aspect of life in the United States today—from using home computers, watching the daily weather report, and visiting the doctor—are all influenced by this enduring legacy of World War II.

Weapons used in World War II

Spanning the entire globe and involving more countries than any other war, World War II (1939 – 1945) was also the largest armed war in human history. With its roots in the First World War, it was not a surprise to see the fusion of man and machine to the extent that witnessed the Second.

Never before had human seen such a dramatic and diverse flow of new scientific developments and new powerful weapons as World War II, culminating in the first use of nuclear weapons.

Machine gun: World War II saw many early designs still in use around the world together with some remarkable developments in reliability and rates of fire. Much of this was possible because of the consistent quality of ammunition, the fuel to drive the machine.

Small arms: pistols were one of the most prolific production weapons of WWII and rifles, then more accurate, standard for all infantry soldiers as most countries needed to arm their drafted armies rapidly with trusted, simple and effective weapons grenades still widely used by all parties.

Field artillery served a vital role in World War II. Could be used to soften the ground an attack, set up to hold the front lines or called in from great ranges and at any time to support in face of heavy opposition or counter attack, field artillery often proved to be decisive in battle.

Heavy artillery: both World War I and II witnessed the use of extremely heavy artillery, most extensively by the German. Massive warheads over great distances, once launched, brought devastating and demoralising effects to enemy. However, it often proved impractical as it might take long to deploy.

Following the breakthroughs of the World War I, most countries realized that the development of tanks would play an integral and vital part of any future war. And they played a huge role in WWII, reaching new heights of capacities and technological advances. German tanks domiated all other rivals early in the war with their sheer power of production and their effective tactics and defeated by American forces by 1943 for these very reasons.

Since their poor fighting role in WWI, these found their way in the Second.

Small, fast and deadly, fighters were quick-response weapon, able to deploy actions at the moment of notice and powerful support weapon for vulnerable ground troops, bombers and ships. Their role was decisive in opening way for advancing troops.

Bombers were the ultimate long range heavy weapons of World War II, a role they still have. They can deliver massive firepower directly to enemy’s heart and destroy its vital resources, military targets, industry, eroding its strength in battle fields. Great Britain and the United States produced the most advanced bombers and the largest bomber forces of World War II, which had limited effectiveness early in the war due to technological difficulties but gradually came to be mighty forces towards the end.

Naval units

Battleships of World War II represented both a powerful statement and ultimately a great destructive force. When unleashed with the freedom of the sea the battleship was feared for its massive guns.

Submarines were widely used by both sides in World War II, as they did in the First, as the ultimate weapon of naval blockade, sinking opponents’ merchant ships and warships. The German U-boats, following success in the first, was a “peril” to Allied navy. American joined the submarine warfare after Pearl Harbor in 1941 and gained significant achievements since 1943.

Nuclear weapons

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the first and so far the only atomic bombs used in warfare were dropped to two Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 120,000 soldiers and civilians outright, and at least as many died of sickness and injuries during the next 5 years.

Japan surrendered short after that. Arguments linger over whether the use of such massive destruction weapon was justified. But one thing for sure: the threat of nuclear weapons overshadowed and indeed defined the Cold War, following the end of World War II.