Rushville Republican

February 18, 2014

WWII technology push shaped our future

By Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

---- — The other day I was watching an old WWII movie and several times they showed a Walkie Talkie of that vintage. First off, I know it had limited range, limited battery power and worked on only one channel. They still had these when I was in the Army in later years. Then I took my cell phone out of my pocket, held it in my palm, it had numerous ways to communicate with others, really not bad battery life, took pictures, sent messages as well as you could talk on it.

One could, if needed, contact an individual in Asia or Africa if desired and send pictures, spoken word or even text messages. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was a volunteer fireman, we went from Citizens Band radios to rather large yet adequate hand held units. We went from telephone contact of our members to a type of pager we called a monitor.

The thing is, when I was young, in reality not all that long ago, so many of the items we have and take for granted today were not even considered. Were you to tell me in 1955 when I graduated from high school that I would live to see numerous people go to the moon, I would have laughed so hard it would hurt. Yet today, I have done that as well as seeing a probe that is now out of our galaxy and still putting right along. We have rovers on Mars and, I believe, are thinking on trying to land one on a moon of another planet. My how things have changed in my life time now to see if it is for the better or the worse.

I personally believe that WWII was the thing that started this huge push for new and better things. War tends to bring out the worse and the best in people. Both sides attempted to out do the other. Radar was so new I had never heard of it, television was a toy, color television unthought-of. Cell phones, Ipad, extremely portable music playing toys unknown. But the technology push by both the Allies and Axis powers put innovation and research and development in high gear. So many things came of the experiments of both sides of the war afterward that it truly shaped our future greatly. And in our country giving the masses the ability to attend college and do so in a rather inexpensive way for all our veterans I feel pushed that tech growth even more. People were able to do things only dreamed of by their parents or grand parents.

Foam rubber was a German innovation that came about as the German’s attempted to find ways to make synthetic rubber. It was shelved as unworthy until General Tire and Rubber after the war was able to see what the Germans had done. Now a lot of things have poly urethane foam in them. Air craft took a huge stride forward, from wooden and cloth planes to ones that flew 6,000 miles and delivered thousands of thousands of pounds of bombs on the enemy. Today we have airliners that can carry 500 people at one time. Something I still am unable to comprehend. Nuclear bombs, nuclear electric plants, propulsion units all came from things started in WWII.

War is wasteful and expensive, but even so, some good things, and not so good things, come from it. I am amazed at the huge stride forward we did with air planes, communication and unfortunately weapons during a six year period. If one looks at the way things were prior to 1939 and how it is today or even in 1945 the change is amazing. And the way things were done after the war, I think had a lot to do with the way we live today. Rather than exact dire reparations from the losers, we helped them as well as our allies to rebuild their countries, something unheard of after WWI.

We have done some things right and some things wrong, but we have done things. Two of our most strident allies are our old enemies of WWII, Japan and Germany. Small countries in the Middle East have grown to huge political and economic players today due in no small part by the war. Where would Saudi Arabia be today without oil and the money it generates in huge amounts? We are learning to squeeze oil out of shale and coal economically today, thanks to need and past experimentation in Germany during WWII as well as modern thinking. We live better, kill better, communicate better and do a lot of things better and a lot worse thanks to everyone’s efforts during WWII. Wars are awful but they also tend to push technology forward way faster than it would be done otherwise. It seems your future life does give one that added push to survive and conquer. And wars make countries be less worried about cost than peace time.

Generations and wars come and go, but life still goes on. How that life does go on in many aspects is dependent on what and how those generations do their homework. If you think your lifestyle may well be lost, you do tend to work much harder to keep it and possibly make it better. Wendell Willkie wrote a book “One World” back in the 40’s that is very appropriate today. We are indeed rapidly becoming just that, one huge and interlocked world, like it or not. What our country does as well as what other countries do is much more important now than in say 1930. Yes things have changed, and no doubt will continue to do so for many years.