This is an excellent documentary about the role of science and technology in WWII. The interaction between the scientific community and the military is closely examined for both the Axis and the Allies prior to and during the War. The author examines closely the relationship between the military, scientific community, and the money source: the political leadership.
In the book, there are many names to remember, however, these are to provide accuracy and tell the story about how science and technology supported the war effort on both sides of the conflict. The author indicates that the Axis, particularly Germany, focused on development of war materials based on current technologies instead of investigating newer technological concepts. When Germany began their war on two fronts, even scientists were drafted into the military. Sometimes, scientists and engineers had trouble convincing the political leaders that their concepts were worth pursuing. Again monetary priorities were given to proven techniques which would directly aid the war effort.
In Chapter 8, Seagoing Science the author indicates that the German allocation of funds to ground forces hindered Germany’s submarine force by denying the development of the snorkel until late in the war. Admiral Doenitz remarked that the extreme loss of German submarines in 1943 was related to the Allied development of microwave radar which located the submarines traveling on the surface. The Allied Mk 18 electric torpedo and the homing torpedo, the Mk 24 known as FIDO, were based on concepts obtained from captured German torpedoes, such as the T-34 torpedo with its homing system.
Radar was also helpful in detecting incoming German planes and helping the British fighter pilots to double their efficiency by scrambling earlier. When Germany developed the jet plane, Hitler insisted that it be applied to bombers only and not fighter planes as his advisors suggested. Communication systems including Ultra and the German’s short compressed bursts of information from submarines are discussed in detail. Some of the guidance systems for bombs were aided by proximity fuses with radar homing systems. Near the end of the war, crude television homing systems were used in bombs called Robin and Azon.
Prior to WWII, several scientists were purged from Germany for political reasons. Other scientists, such as Albert Einstein, fled Germany to avoid persecution. The author spends a bit of time talking about some of the reasons that the U.S. was able to develop the atomic bomb first. There were several factors, including bombing German controlled heavy water sites, refining uranium, and industrial might. Prior to WWII, the concepts of an atomic bomb, were known to many scientists in both Axis and Allied communities.
It is noteworthy that both the Axis and Allies developed large poison gas stockpiles during the war. Fortunately, based on the lessons learned from WWI, both sides refrained from using these poison gasses. However, the author reports one accidental leakage which occurred late in WU, a German bomber bombed a U.S. ship carrying a cargo of poison gas near a Southern Italian harbor. The ship sank and some of the gasses were released causing some injuries in terms of blisters and burns.
The author talks about the limited concept of sharing technologies between the Allied partners. Initially, no one wanted to provide Russia with all the newer technologies. In the early part of WWII, Churchill was reluctant to share full atomic research concepts with the U.S. since he felt the English were more advanced than the U.S. in its development. Of course this changed, as the U.S. with its resources and scientists made rapid advancements and after Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt about the feasibility of building an atomic bomb.
After World War II, the U.S. Navy decided to maintain its technological edge developed during the war, by funding several University research laboratories, such as Johns Hopkins, Applied Research Laboratory/ Penn State, the Applied Research Laboratories, University of Texas, and the Applied Physics Laboratory. Admiral Hal Bowen (now deceased) was the director of the newly created Office of Naval Research which helped to further develop technologies after WWII for Navy applications. Facilities at MIT and Caltech supported technical innovations for the Anny.
This is an excellent book about the role of technology in World War TI. I highly recommend it for your reading. It is contains so many technological marvels that it is difficult to select which ones to use for this book report. The author details the relationships between the political, military, and scientific communities and how the interactions affected the war on both sides of the conflict.