common knowledge that weapons such as machine guns, hand grenades
and tanks were invented to help countries win wars. In fact, wartime
inventions go all the way back to the second century B.C., when the
Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes invented the catapult.
As the news is filled with coverage of
the war on terror every day, the staff here at Invention Mysteries
World Headquarters wondered if any beneficial inventions have ever
resulted from war. It turns out that there have been quite a few.
While writing this story, I remembered
the "combination spoon and can opener" that hangs on my dad's
basement wall to this day as a memento from his service in the
Korean War. Like the inventions profiled in this story, that
invention was probably born out of necessity. Unlike the inventions
profiled in this story, though, it didn't have a useful purpose once
the war was over.
rather ride in a two-wheel or four-wheel "vehicle"?
It probably comes as no surprise that
the first ambulance system in the United States was a direct result
of war. Or that a government official was against the system
before he was for it. The surprising part is that the war
that gave us the ambulance was the Civil War.
The Union's medical director, Jonathan
Letterman, established the first ambulance system at the start of
the war to transport injured soldiers to the field hospitals. The
nation's first trial lawyer was right behind that very first
Unlike modern ambulances, those used in
the Civil War were drawn by horses, since no motor vehicles had been
invented yet. Later ambulances used railroads and steamships to
transport the wounded soldiers; some boats were even remade as
floating hospitals. Just as today, the earliest ambulances were
outfitted with medical supplies, and people who were not able or
willing to fight ran the ambulance system.
Supply wagons were also used as
ambulances following major battles. These wagons weren't the most
comfortable means of transportation, but at least their floors were
covered with hay.
In the 1950s, the United States began
using helicopters as ambulances during the Korean War.
[to top of second column
in this article]
Originally known as the "general
purpose vehicle" and then as the GP for short, the jeep's powerful
engine, four-wheel drive and deep-treaded tires helped soldiers
navigate through all types of terrain in World War II.
Just before the war began, the U.S.
government called on 135 American car companies to create a
prototype for what would become the jeep. It took the tiny American
Bantam Car Company only seven weeks to produce the winning
prototype, but the U.S. Army awarded the contract to the larger
Willys Truck Company and Ford Motor Company. To add insult to
injury, the contract called for Willys and Ford to produce the jeep
based on Bantam's original design.
Just how big a role did the jeep play
in World War II?
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said that
America could not have won without it.
We depart from the theme of vehicles
with our third wartime invention. No, this segment is not about a
white Ford Bronco but rather frozen concentrate orange juice.
What's so important about frozen
concentrate orange juice?
It's simple when you think about it.
Soldiers were inflicted with scurvy all year-round, but orange juice
-- which helped cure scurvy -- was available only during the warmer
Dr. Edwin Moore led a team that
developed the frozen concentrate during World War II. Despite the
importance of their work, they received no royalties for their
discovery because they were working for the U.S. government at the
we'll take a look at more war-related inventions, including the one
that saved more than a million lives since World War II, even though
it was discovered by accident.
Invention Mysteries is written each
week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004