World War II Science

Nazi gold
Figure 1.--

Science and industry are inextricably linked. Science had played a citical role in the industrial revolution. At first the industrial revolution occurred largely as part of the textile industry. Gradually science became increasingly important such as the development of dyes to be used on textile. Germany proved to be a leader in the chemical industry and dyes were an importat part of the developing industry in early years. As industry demanded answers to a wide range of problems connected with industrial production, more financil support was lavished on science. Education began to shift away from pure classicism to include the sciences. Research institutes were established, often connected to major universities. Americans interested in science often went to Europe to study. Many studied in Germany because of the prestige of German universities. One of those individuls was Franklin Roosevelt's half brother who was studying engineering. France, England, and Germany were the leading countries, but smaller countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerlnd also made important contributions. Italy was a large country, but had a smaller scientic establishment and industrial base than the other large countries. And America's expanding university system and demand from growing industries stedily expanded its scientific establishment. The Soviet Union inherited a substantial Tsarist scientific establishment, but Stalinist interfearence and restructions on free exchanges limited its effectiveness. A major develooment begun after the NAZI take over. The persecution of Jews and anti-NAZIS caused large numbers of scientists to flee the country. Many found refuge in the United States. America at the time was developing an important scienific establishment and the influx of refugee scientists, in some cases leaders in their field, significantly aided this process. At the same time, NAZI dilution of academic standards undermined the future of science in the country. These trends can be onserved in Nobel Prize awards. Science played a greater role in World War II than in any other previou war. This was because of the tremendous advances in scientific discuiplines and the proliferation of combat applications for electronics. Several countries had important scientific established at the time of the War, but as it traspired only three countries (America, Britain, and Germany) made full use use of their scientific communities to play critical roles in the War. It was primarily Britain and Germaby that mobilized their scientific communities as World War II approached. Here the Germans had a lead because because Hitlr even befor becoming Chancellor was planning the War. The British responsed only when it became clear that Hitler was going to launch another War. Here Winson Churchill while still a back bencher played a crucial role. The Americans were ar first far behind, but Primeminister Churchill's decesion to turn over Britain's work on advanced weaponry quickly revolutionjized American arms production. And America had what both Britain and Germany lacked, the resources and industrial base to manufacture weapons in unpreceded quantities.

Science and Industry

Science and industry are inextricably linked. Science had played a citical role in the industrial revolution. At first the industrial revolution occurred largely as part of the textile industry. Gradually science became increasingly important such as the development of dyes to be used on textile. Germany proved to be a leader in the chemical industry and dyes were an importat part of the developing industry in early years. As industry demanded answers to a wide range of problems connected with industrial production, more financil support was lavished on science.

Evolution of Science

Science played a role in human information before it actually existed. Ir seenms to be hard wired into the himan mind. Tool making was a signature capability of humans. The oricess of tool making was trial and errior with a healty dies of accident. The first indivuals who might be ccalled pro-cientists were arguavly metalurgists. The ability to produce metal tools and weapons were a critical capabikitty abnd defined much of the ancient world. Geneticists befor the invention of genetics followed as the Agricultural Reviolutiion took hold. And with agicultue, record keeping becane necessary which mean the birt of matemstics. Other proto-scientists were astrolgers and alcamests. The firstr true scientists did not appear until the modern era (17th century). It was not until the Industruial Revolution, however, that science bbecame well-established , at least in the West (19th century). The firsr scientists were Europeans. Thec first American scientist was Benjamin Franklin. Education began to shift away from pure classicism to include the sciences. Research institutes were established, often connected to major universities. Military science changed little (18th century). Wars at the end of the decasde were being fought in much the same way as they were being fought at the berginning of the decade. This changed in the 19th century. Inventiions made possible buy scientists created new abnd more edweadly weapons that revolutionized war, although tactcs lagged behind the invention of weapons. This is why the Americcan Civil War proved so deadly. Yet the advanes were made nore by inventors tan actual scienhtists. This changed in the 20th century, esopcially by World war II when science proved absoluetely central in the war effort. Science played a greater role in World War II than in any other previou war. This was because of the tremendous advances in scientific discuiplines and the proliferation of combat applications for electronics.

Disciplines


Political Leadeship

Political leadership was vital to the scientific effort. Political leadership was vital in mobilizing the country's scientific capabilitie and giving them the needed resources. Here the different national leaders varied widely as did the scientific establidhmrnt in each country. Wunston Churchill was by a wide margin the most far-sighted of theWorld war II leaders. He also had the greatest interest in science, both because iof his inquiring mind and his Workd War I leadrship roles. And somehowv was able to launch Britain's scientific effort while still a back-bencher, 5 years before the War. As First Lord of the Admiralty and Munitions Minister as well as other posts, he had learned to be skeptical about the pronouncements of even top military commanders. And entirely by chance, he met Oxford University physicist F.A. Lindemann (whose father was German and mother American) at a tennis match. Lindemann had perforned experiments aboard airplanes during the War. He took the opportunity to begin lecturing Churchill on how sciebce might protect Britain in a fur=ture war, especially how to protect Bruitish cities from aerial bombardment (1934). Churchill who was already interested in science, pressed the Government to ebngage scientific advisers. The Government was not interested in costly military rearmament, but fortunately did bring in some scientists, in part it could be done at low cost. The first of these scientists were Henry Tizard (chemist), A.V. Hill (biologit), and Patrick Blackett (pysicist). [Budiansky] Hundreds more would follow and would playv a key role in the British war effort. Nothing like this had occurred in America. Churchill decided to turn their work over ti the Americans (October 1940). Adolf Hitler upon becoming Chancellor gained control over a countryy with an important industrial abd scientific base. Germany even after World War I had the srongest scientific establishmnt in the world. It was one of Germany's great strengths. It was, however, an establishment in which Jews played a small, but important role, most notably in physics. Hitker was interested in industry, but not in particularly in science. He was more inclined to form opinions as to what science should teach than to incourage free scientific inquiry. And his approach was not to seek advise from scientists or any one ekse. Rather he was more incklined to issye orders or make demands, realistic or not. Of all the national leadwrs, he had the longest period to prepare for war. The Germany that Hitkler seized control of, hiwever, had many weaknesses including limited access to critical raw materials, a limited opopulation, and substanhtial but still inadequate industrial capacity for another world war. Only almost incoceivable stupidity on the part of Allied leaders abd voters would give Hitler the opportunities he needed. Incredibly he almost pulled it off. The Red Army offensive before Moscow (December 1941) denied Hutler the quick victory he needed. As soon as the War became a repeat of World war I, a lengthy war of attrition, the NAZIs were lost. Only a super weapon like the atmomic bomb could have saved thr NAZIs and here Hitler had incredibly disarmed Germany. Shortly after becoming Chancellor, he told German scientific leader Max Plank. who warmed thatvhis anti-Semetic campaign was disarming German physics, Hitler erupted showing his disdain for both Jews and sciebtusts, "Our national policies will not be revoked or modified. Even for scientists. If the dismissal of Jewish scientists means the annihilation of contemporary German science, then we shall do without science for a few years!" Fraklin Roosevelt was not a deep thinker, but an individual of enormous political skills and devotion to the ideals of democracy. He among all the Allied political leaders took an immediate distaste to Hitler and the NAZIs. (Churchill was out of Government at the time.) He had very little interest in science or the military. His focus was on the Depression and a range of social initiatives. As war cluds developecd in Europe, he began to begin fefense preparations within the limits set by an American public intent on staying out of any future war. Rooevelt while not overly interested in science, was astute to understand that it would be important in any future war. He thus sought out sscientific expertisev in a way that Hitler or Stalin never did. Most notablyb he took a letter from Albert Einstein about an atomic bomb very seriously. President Roosevelt aVannevar Bush to be his scientific adviser. Bush abnd the National Research Committee would play an important role in the War. Unlike Britain, America had not mobilized its scientific estabishment. Primeninister Churchill jumpstarted America's scientific war effort hen he turned the advabce British weapons research over to the Americans. America had what neither the British or Germans did not, the industrial capacity to produce weapons, including advanced weapons systems in great numbers. Josef Stalin was somewhat similar to Hitler as regards science. He was much more interested in industry than in science, especially theoretical science. And just as Hitler wanted science to prove his racial beliefs, Stalin wanted a science that conformed to his Marist ideology. Stalin was drawn to a politically correct scientific charlatan--Trotim Lysenko. Lysenko rejected Darwin and because of his peasant origins was just the kind of person Stalin needed. And the fact that Lysenko had no foreign contacts or admirers made him even more accecptable to Stalin. Lysenko would set back Sovieet science, especially biology a generation. And the Sovuiet Union would not, unlike Anerica, Britain, abnd Germany, introduce innovative, high-tech weaonry duing the War. They did build a range of rugged, higly effective weapons. The most prominent of the Soviet weapns was the T-34 tank.

Individual Scientists

All of the major World War II figures are the national leaders (Chuchill, Hitkler, Rooseveit, Stalin, and others) and noted military commanders (Arnold, D÷enitz, Eisenhower, Harris, Montgomery, Nimitz, Patton, Yamamoto, Zukov, and others). A largely unsung, obscure group of individuals may have a greater impact on the outcome of the War than many of the better known militrary luninaries. These were the biologits, chemists, mathenmeticuabns, metalargists, physicists, and others whio not not only created new weapons and equioment as well as helped commanders improve tactics. Albert Einstein alerted President Roosevelt to the possibility that the Germabs may develop abn atomic bomb. Rober Ooenheimer led the team of scientists who developed the atomic bomb Werner von Brawn beought a whole new class of weapon, a largeky futuistic one into the war--the balistis missle.

Major Inventions


Tactics

The greatest attention to science in World War II histories, to the extent it is addressed at all i gicen to inventions like radar, sonar, balistic missles, atomic bombs, proximity fuses, jet engines, and other devices. That is, however, only a part of the story. The other part is the scientists who enabled military ciommanders to effectively us the limited resources available to them. Huge numbers of bombs, depth cgharges, shells, and other munitions were fropped or fired to absolutely no affect. Scientists emensely aided their countries war effort by forcing, often unreceptive miliary commanders, hard questiions to challenge accepted military wisdom. [Budiansky] Here the British scientits were given the support to ask these questions and in the process signicantly aided the war effort.

Science and the Military

The military and science dio not easily mix. Militaries are very traditional institutiions that dio not take easy to change, espcially from outside the military. This is why weapobs are often devekloped before tactics. Changes in tactics are often forced on military establishments by new weapons. This is whu the American Civil War abnd World ar I orived so deadly. Mikitary establishments clung to outdated tactics even when they resulted in deadly losses. The British disaster at the Somme (1916) is a classic example of this. It was only the intervention of political leaders apauled by the casualties that forced military establishments to change.

Countries

Americans interested in science often went to Europe to study. Many studied in Germany because of the prestige of German universities. One of those individuls was Franklin Roosevelt's half brother who was studying engineering. France, England, and Germany were the leading countries, but smaller countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerlnd also made important contributions. Italy was a large country, but had a smaller scientic establishment and industrial base than the other large countries. And America's expanding university system and demand from growing industries stedily expanded its scientific establishment. The Soviet Union inherited a substantial Tsarist scientific establishment, but Stalinist interfearence and restructions on free exchanges limited its effectiveness. A major development begun after the NAZI take over. The persecution of Jews and anti-NAZIS caused large numbers of scientists to flee the country. Many found refuge in the United States. America at the time was developing an important scienific establishment and the influx of refugee scientists, in some cases leaders in their field, significantly aided this process. At the same time, NAZI dilution of academic standards undermined the future of science in the country. These trends can be observed in Nobel Prize awards. Science played a greater role in World War II than in any other previou war. This was because of the tremendous advances in scientific disciplines and the proliferation of combat applications for electronics. Several countries had important scientific established at the time of the War, but as it transpired only three countries (America, Britain, and Germany) made full use use of their scientific communities to play critical roles in the War. It was primarily Britain and Germaby that mobilized their scientific communities as World War II approached. Here the Germans had a lead because because Hitler even befor becoming Chancellor was planning the War. The British responsed only when it became clear that Hitler was going to launch another War. Here Winson Churchill while still a back bencher out of power played a crucial role. The Americans were ar first far behind, but Primeminister Churchill's decesion to turn over Britain's work on advanced weaponry quickly revolutionjized American arms production. And America had what both Britain and Germany lacked, the resources and industrial base to manufacture weapons in unpreceded quantities.

America

American made considerable industrial progress during the 19th century without a major scientific establishment. Americans proved very inventive and like inventions in Britain during the early years of the Indudtrial Revolution, major innovations were conceived by individuals with limited or no scientific backgrounds. The National Accadmy of Sciences was founded during the Civil War, but was primarily concerbed with academic matters nd not public policy issues. Americans interested in science often went to Europe to study at prestigious universities. Many studied in Germany because of the prestig of German universities. One of those individuals was Franklin Roosevelt's half brother who was studying engineering. America's expanding university system and demand from growing industries stedily fueled the growth of its scientific establishment. The first limited government involvement with science was The New Deal's Science Advisory Board (1933), It was primarily interestd in social policy and got caught up in the debates over the New Deal and expanding role of government as well as conflicts with the NAS. It was as a result disolved. A major development began immediately after the NAZI take overin Germany (1933). The NAZI persecution of Jews and anti-NAZIS caused large numbers of scientists to flee the country. Many found refuge in the United States. America at the time was developing an important scienific establishment and the influx of refugee scientists, in some cases leaders in their field, significantly aided this process. The foundation for modern American system of science policy was begun informally largely through the work of Vannevar Bush. Bush was a noted American scientist and was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) (1938). Bus had become aware of the lack of coordination between scientists and the military while working on submarine detection systems. NACA efforts to imprive American military aircraft ran into problems with a budget mindd Congress. Bus appealed for help from President Roosevlt who had already concluded that the United States needed to build a powerful airforce. The President made him his informal science advisor, the beginning of a relationship which continued throughout the War. Bush had contacts with the NAS which after Pearl Harbor was mobilized for the war effort. When President Roosevelt received a letter about German nuclear research, he turned to Bush. The result was the Manhattan Project. As a result, of America's growing scientific capabilities, unlike World War I, American science played a major role in World War II. American science stronly supported the war effort and a collaboration began with Britain, which had already mobilized its science establishment for the war effiort. The Anglo-America science establishment proved to be a fearsome factor in the War. American scientists achieved a wide range of notable accomplishments. Many were joint projects with the British who had many secret projects already underway giving American science and industry a jump start. The crowing chievement was the Manhattan Project which unlike many of the German secret weapons prgrams had a major impact on the War. The United States after the War began formulating a national science policy. Bush was a key player here and obtained the support of President Truman. This would play an important role in the Cold war. After the war we begin to see America increasingly dominating Nobel scientific awards

Britain

British science was one of the country's greatest assetts during World War II. Britain had one of the world's most advanced scientific and industrial establishment at the time of World War II. German scientists are generally credited with creating the most advanced weapons of the War, especially jet and rocket weapons. British scientists made major contributions to the War and unlike the well known German wepons probably had a greater impact on the War. A fctor here was that the Germans were primarily interested in weaoons of an offensive nature. And Germany had two disadvantages. First Hitler interfered and made some decisions that seriously compromised the German war effort. And Germany had a limited industrial capacity to actually manufacture the weapons created by its scientists. The British scientists had one great asset the Germans did not have--the United States. Early in the War, Primeminister Churchill decided to collborate fully with with the United States and share Britains secret weapon programs. This meant that not only could British and Anerican scientists collaborate, but that the British had access to American industry which had the capacity io actually manufacure the weapons developed--and manufacture them in vast quantuties Some of the weapons developed by British scientists included radar, the hedge hogs, the promimity fuse, and many other important devices. Interestingly, much of the advances achieved by Blethcly Park was the work of amaturs and not precisly scientists, but amateurs with scientific and msthematics educations from the country' major universities. The British in many instances did not have the industrial capacity to actually manufacture the devices conceived by its scientists. British scientist played an important role in the Manhattan Project. Other weapons that came out of Brirish industry was the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine that was at the heart of the P-51 Mustang.

France

France after Germay and Britain had Europe's most prestigious scientific establishment. They played a role in France;s weaponms industry, but the German invasion and fall of France mean that French scientits played no significant role in the war. As far as we know, the Gernans made no attempt to tap France's scientific establishment to support their war effort. They did not, j=however, as in Poland procd to arrest abd execute leading French scientists and academicians.

Germany

Germany developed perhaps the leading scientific establishment in Europe. Germany proved to be a leader in the chemical industry as dyes were an importat part of the developing textile industry in early years. Germany from an early point in the industrial revolution emerged as a leader in chemistry. German cientiss becamecimportantbin mny other areas. Prussia was not particularly noted for its scientific excellence, but the various German states that united to form the German Empire (1871) created an industrial and scientific powerhouse. Imperil Germany in the early-20th century had the strongest scientific establishment in Europe. German scientists rotinely received the largest number of Nobel prices in scientific fields. The Versailles Peace Treaty ending Workd war I (299( put limits on the German armaments industry, but these coukd be evaded by working on related areas (like civil avition) or in neuigb=hboring countries. This scientific dominance did not change until the NAZI's seized power (1933). The persecution of Jews and anti-NAZIS caused large numbers of scientists to flee the country including leading scientists like Albert Einstein. Many found refuge in the United States. The German scientific establish was so large and deep, however, the NAZI weapons industry had access to some of the best scientific minds in Europe. At the same time, NAZI persecution of the Jews abd disidebts as well as the dilution of academic standards undermined the future of science in the country.

Italy

Italy was a large countryin term of population, but had a more limited scirntific establishment than the other karger European counties. A factor here was the relatively limited size of Italian industry. .

Japan

Japan had the only scientific establishment in Asia of any size. It included some first class minds, but was small in comparison to the major European powers. We do not yet know much about Japan's academic establishment except for some details on its weapons of mass destruction programs. The fact that the weapons Japan used to launch the Pacific war with were still being used 4 years later at the end of the War reflected the limited capabilities of the country's industrial and scientific communities.

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union inherited a substantial Tsarist scientific establishment. The Soviet Union expended huge resources in constructing modern education system. Mathemtics and science were given a string emphasis. Stalinist interfearence and restrictions on free exchanges limited its effectiveness. Soviet scientisys could not exchange ideas with foreign scientists. The Lyshenko affair epitomized the problems faced by Soviet scentists. The Soviet Union produced a range of excellent weapons during the War and were esoecially noted for their reliability. The best known is the T-34 tank which msy have saved the Soviet Union. ThecSioviets wee not known, however, for their innovation. After the war, captured German scientists played a major role in the Soviet Cold war weaoons programs, especially jet aircraft and balistic missles. The sane was true of the United States. The NKVD also aided Soviet weapons program through a intelligence effort stealing scientific work in Western countries. This appears to have been more of a Cold War activity than a pre-World War II effort. The Soviets did penetrate the American Manhattan Project. The Soviets had a very active international intelligence operation before and during the War, but industrial espionage was not a high priority with the exception of the Manhattan Project. (It should be remembered that German weapons were available in large quantities on the battlefied and both America and Btitain were shipping large quantities of wapons to the Soviets.)

Seizing Advanced Axis Military Technology

The Soviets and the Allies in the final year of the War after D-Day in the West and Bagration in the East,formed technical teams with military and industrial expertise to follow in the wake of their advancing armies. The two most importnt countries involved were the Soviets and Americans, but the British were also active. Their objective was to seize advanvanced weapons systems, associated documents and research records, and important scientists. The Germans and to a lesser extent the Japanese had produced not only some of the most effective weapons of the war, but wepons employing innovative high technology (jet aircraft, guided and balistic missles, rockets, nerve gas, advanced submarines, and many more). Most of this was German scintific work. The Japanese weapons were mostly based on the German work. The high-tech weapns were not among the most effective, but did have enormous potential for future military technology. This effort was given substantial priority. There were several reaons for this. First, was the fact that the Cold War was already under way. The Soviets had begun the Cold war from an early phase and stalkin had expanded it. The Americans were less aware of it, but the American military was already very concerned. The British because of Churchillwere more aware of the Soviet threat. Second, the Allies were on the receiving end of the advanced German weapons. They wanted details on these weapons and what oter projects the Germans were developing. Third, from an early point of the war there was concern that the Germans were building a nuclear weapon. Thus there was a desire to find how far the Germans got. Only with the capture of Heisenberg, could the allies be sure that the Germans were far from eveloping bomb. The Soviets were especially interested in the German atomic program because they were so far behind the Americans. One historian suggests that Stalin's obsssion with beating the americans tp Berlin was at least in part because the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was located there. Four, there was only limited intelligence information. The allies just did not know what else the Germans may have. Five, Japan had not yet surendered and most believed that the war might drag on anotgervyea, perhps two. . There was hope that some of th e German technonolgy mightproved useful in the Pacific.

Patents

An often overlooked aspect of the War was reshuffling of high-tech patents, much of it benefitting the United States and American industry. There was no legal constraints involved in seizing Axis military equipmet and research records. The patents involved in the hands of corpoerations were a little different. Before the War, Germany and Britain were leaders in high technology with America abd Frnce also important. After the wr, he United States became the preminent leader in high technology with the Soviet Union becoming important. The Soviets, however, fis not allow the high technology their research institutes develop bleed over into consumer industries. And today, Russia has a Third World economy based primarily on exporting raw material.

Germany

Some German patents were turned over to the allies as repartions after world war I. The NAZIs Aryanized the the German patent system along with the rest of German affairs before the War. Only Germans of appropriate political and racial purity could apply for patents. The Allies after the war took control of all of the patents, including secret ones for war-related inventions and used them freely. They didn't allow the Germans to regain control of the Paten Oddice for about a decase (early 1950s).

Japan

'While the Unitd ttes was nterested in Germn high tech, there was relatively little intrest in Japanese research and patents. An exception was the Japanese reserch on poisin gas and biological agfents developed at Unit 731. The Australians took over the Japanese Patent Office and handled IP-related issues. The Japanese were infringing foreign patents. A number of foreign companies wanted reparations. The Australians sent copies of all 'secret' Japanese patents tothe U.S. Government. American authorities did not find anything special and allowed them to make the secret patents public. The Japanese estanlished new IP laws (1950s). [Dees]

Britain

A related aspect is Britain. The British developed a lot of high technology, but with their industry fully committed to the desperate war effort in 1940, did not have the industrial capacity to develop and manufacture them. Churchill after becoming Prime-minister reversed the Chamberlain attitude and focused on developing a vital relationship with America. Part of that effort was to turn over Britain's most closely held high tech secrets, holding back only Ultra for a time. There was no concern with parents either during or after the War as regards what was turned over. American industry took the British technology and both refined it and manufactured a range of new weapons. This led to important new industries after the War. Few British industries effectively utilized this technology after the War. American electronics and aerospace industries eclipsed the British. The British Labour Government was more concerned with nationalizing industry, increasing taxes, and expanding welfare benefits than supporting private industry. And while the original technology was British. American companies that refined the technology were free to patent their work.

France

The Germans occupied France for 4 years. They exploited French agricukture and industry ruthlessy. Frnce became a major support for theGerman war effort. As best we can tell, hiwever, there was no organized effort to utilize French high technology and reserch institues, even concernng nuclear power. And there was little need to be concerned with French patents as German companies could simply ignore them at will.

United States


Science and Ideology


Soureces

Budiansky, Stephen. Blackett's War (2013), 306p.

Dees, Bowen C. The Allied Occupation and Japan's Economic Miracle: Building the Foundations of Japanese Science and Technology.







CIH -- WW II







Navigate the CIG World war II Website:
[Return to Main World War II industry and science page]
[Return to Main World War II technology and tactics page]
[Return to Main World War II economics page]
[Return to Main Holocaust page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to the Main World War II page]




Created: 10:44 PM 7/19/2013
Last updated: 1:08 AM 12/31/2015