Military Innovations Often End up on Our Store Shelves

They say there is nothing new under the sun.

Even when we think we’ve discovered something new, we often find it’s not so new after all.

In fact, it’s frequently something that’s been around a while. And very possibly was the creation of the military.

It wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary to realize that drones, GPS systems and weather radar trace their roots to the military. But we’re surprised to discover that some other items we use or consume had their genesis in the U.S. Armed Forces.

7 ‘Ordinary’ Products With Interesting Backgrounds

A recent Popular Mechanics article listed common items that started from military innovations.

Let’s take a look at seven of them.

Duct Tape – This item was created by Johnson & Johnson at the military’s request during World War. It was intended to patch up tanks, seal ammunition cases and repair other military equipment. It was nicknamed “duck tape” because it was waterproof.

Silly Putty – This has been a toy for kids since the 1950s. But originally a G&E chemist created it while trying to produce a rubber substance. The Allies needed rubber during World War II. That was after the Japanese cut off supply lines.

Ray-Ban Sunglasses – These Aviator sunglasses were designed in the 1920s by Bausch & Lomb. They were commissioned by a U.S. Army Air Corps Colonel to create sunglasses that would eliminate the sun’s glare for pilots.

M&M’s – Forrest Mars, Sr. visited troops during the Spanish Civil War. He observed soldiers eating chocolate candies in a coating that kept them from melting. He was determined to replicate this and mass produce it. So, he created the first modern M&M in 1940.

Bug Spray – U.S. soldiers in the Pacific theater during World War II had more than one enemy. Mosquitos, including those carrying malaria, were all too prevalent. So, the Department of Defense and the USDA combined insecticide and a mist applicator. It made spraying bug repellent easier for the troops.

Super Glue – During World War II, Eastman Kodak was trying to create clear plastic gun sights for the U.S. military. A chemist there accidentally made a substance that was too sticky for the troops. Later this substance was produced commercially as Super Glue. During the Vietnam War, surgeons sprayed it over wounds to stop bleeding.

Clothing – Everything from cargo pants to weather-resistant jackets to waterproof boots got their start with troops in mind. In most cases, the military commissioned clothing manufacturers to produce these items. That way, troops could comfortably wear them in all sorts of weather conditions.

8 More Common Items With a Military History

You’d expect some items to be designed with the military in mind. Like walkie-talkies, night vision goggles, radar and satellites. But what about some of these?

Microwave Ovens – Microwave heat was discovered by military personnel, who realized radio signals generated heat. The radiation caused by tiny electromagnetic waves causes molecules in food to vibrate.

Barbed Wire – We see barbed wire on ranches and some farms today. But its original intention was to slow the movement of enemy infantries. Wire with clusters of short, sharp spikes will tend to do that.

The Internet – We can find just about anything on the Internet. Or can we? Actually, much of the Internet is invisible to Google and other search websites. This “nether” region was pioneered by U.S. Navy technology in 1998.

Digital Cameras – This technology was originally used in early spy satellites. It captured high-resolution aerial images of enemy installations. The technology improved during the Cold War and into the 1970s.

Canned Food – Grocery stores stock hundreds of canned food items every day. But at one time, this method of extending food shelf life was reserved for the military. World War II soldiers survived on canned food. It included corned beef, pork and beans, canned sausages, and more.

Wristwatches – Civilians have been wearing watches for many years now. But they were originally designed with soldiers in mind. Military officials used watches to synchronize maneuvers on the battlefield without alerting the enemy.

Freeze-Drying – This was actually invented near the beginning of the 20th century. But it was put into full use during World War II. It kept blood serum from spoiling while being transported. Now the technique is used in food processing. Plus in synthetics production and the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and ceramics.

Penicillin – Captain Alexander Fleming of the Royal Army Medical Corps watched too many World War I soldiers die from sepsis resulting from infected wounds. Later he discovered a type of mold that released a substance that could inhibit bacterial growth. It was named penicillin, which was mass produced to help troops and civilians alike.

What will the military come up with next? Hard to say. But you can bet it will eventually be used by us in everyday life.

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