Over time, the US military has spent a significant amount of money to upgrade the gear soldiers used in the 20s to be better and better. The United States military is one of the largest and most advanced military forces in the entire world as a result of this.
The iteration of the gear soldiers are equipped with keeps them above the competition and safer from natural elements. The strategies of U.S. armies have been supported by much more informed information available from spy satellites, the GPS, and televisions and hidden by stealth technologies. The equipment normal soldiers wore and fought with were upgraded to deal with cold weather and to be more efficient in combat. Since the 1920s to the present day, the military’s use of technology has been improved with more efficient and powerful weapons, vehicles, and other equipment as well as more informed strategies thanks to inventions like the GPS.
Stealth continued to be used, although enhanced to deal with other advancements. Some examples of changes brought upon by technology in the United States military since the 1920s are GPS and stealth technologies. Strategy was bolstered thanks to these technologies. The Global Positioning System(GPS) uses a system of satellites to display very precise data about timing, velocity, and three-dimensional positioning. Some of the first applications of the GPS were in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Access to the GPS enabled soldiers to gain more knowledge of threats in their deployment areas and increased the accuracy of launches. In the Gulf War, 16 GPS satellites provided navigation data, positioning data, launch coordinates, and fixed navigational positions that could be used for previously dangerous mine-clearing missions(Griggs).
Stealth technologies varied in appearance as well as in application, but they were generally used to hide troops and vehicles from enemy radar. The benefits of that feature are astronomical so it was put into fighter jets like the F-117 Nighthawk during the Iraq War. This gave pilots the ability to mount stealth attacks on unsuspecting Iraqi forces in 1991. The Lockheed Martin Staff reported on its performance in Iraq, “During the early-morning hours of January 17, 1991, in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, a fleet of Nighthawks slipped in unseen by Iraqi radar and neutralized 37 targets across Baghdad”(Lockheed Martin Staff). This strike showcases the importance of stealth technology in combat and how the F-117s excelled with it. Other technological innovations of the United States military from between the 1920-2017 include the television and spy satellites which were vital to the improvement of the information provided through reconnaissance and education in the military. Television enabled the few teachers in the military to provide knowledge of manual skills to multiple classes of soldiers simultaneously.
Writers for Britannica, George Back and George Thompson explained, “A single instructor could teach many small classes simultaneously, each grouped before a TV set where they could watch demonstrations closely”(Back/Thompson). Students could still interact with the instructor with questions and answers using two-way communication. This system increased the efficiency of United States trooper martial education.
The Cold War saw the United States utilize satellites to monitor activity of suspicious nations such as the Soviet Union and North Korea. One such satellite, the KH-9 HEXAGON, provided the United States military with high quality images of Russian military equipment and bases. Roger Guillemette, a SPACE.com contributor, discussed the contents of one film return capsule.
“The film inside the protective bucket reported contained high resolution photographs of the Soviet Union’s submarine bases and missile silos”(Guillemette). Another great thing about reconnaissance in relation to education is that through spying, American forces could discover vulnerabilities of the enemy and teach new soldiers how to target them. On the flip side, if through spying they found particular strengths or advantages the enemy has, the troops could learn how to avoid or nullify them. Technological advancements have also occurred in the United States military arsenal since the 1920s partially due to user feedback and general breakthroughs in technology.
One landmark in the history of American military rifles is the M1 or Garand Rifle of World War II and the Korean War. The M1 Rifle was important because it was the first semi-automatic rifle that was generally distributed to United States soldiers. “The M1 was a gas-operated, semi-automatic rifle that utilized an eight-round clip which gave United States forces a significant advantage in firepower and shot-to-shot response time over enemy infantrymen in battle”(Military.com team). American troops were able to fire at a faster rate than their opposition by using new semi-automatic guns.
Another interesting rifle was the M16A4 which featured four picatinny rails which allow users to add attachments to the weapon. Military.com lists such attachments, “The M16A4 incorporated a flattop receiver unit and a hand guard with four Picatinny rails for mounting optical sights, lasers, night vision devices, forward handgrips, removable carry handle, and flashlights”(Military.com team). Having attachments can provide numerous benefits like improved visibility at night, improved accuracy, and an easier way to carry larger guns. At the end of 1961, soldiers got their hands on a grenade launcher called the M79 designed to be more portable than a mortar while also having more range and greater accuracy than a rifle grenade.
“Owing to its ease of use, reliability, and firepower, the M79 almost immediately became popular with infantry soldiers”(Military.com team). Military.com reported that soldiers favored the M79 and attributes this popularity to its explosive firepower, ease of use, and reliability. The most influential United States military invention since the 1920s would have to be the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb and its older brother, the hydrogen bomb, were at the center of the Cold War. The United States and Russia rapidly stockpiled these nuclear weapons after seeing their power at the end of World War II in which the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely obliterated.
In an article from the Winter 1997 edition of Newsweek, Richard Rhodes wrote, “Of the 76,000 buildings in the Japanese port city of Hiroshima, bombed on Aug. 6, Little Boy damaged or destroyed 70,000-48,000 of them totally. Ninety percent of all Hiroshima’s medical personnel were disabled or killed. At least 70,000 people died by the end of the month; more died later of the effects of fire, blast and radiation”(Rhodes).
Little Boy, the first nuclear bomb used on people, ravaged at least half of Hiroshima’s buildings, killed and disabled almost all of its doctors and nurses, and generally killed over 70,000 people within the month. The outfits and helmets of soldiers have improved from the 1920s to today to be more defensive and suitable in different situations. In the Korean War, for example, troops were given overcoats to deal with the cold winter. “Adjustments had to be quickly made for the frigid Korean winter, and Soldiers needed heavy overcoats”(Collins).
Alternatively in the Vietnam War, the climate was much more humid and warm requiring army personnel to wear clothes with wind resistance and fast-drying capabilities.”…the Army tried to solve the special problems encountered in hot and humid Vietnam. The updated, wind-resistant fatigue jackets and pants brought back the use of cargo pockets and other utilitarian features. Fast-drying boots with nylon uppers accompanied the uniform”(Collins).
America’s first use of helmets was in World War I with the Brodie/Mark One helmet which was identical to the British Army helmets. “Shallow with a wide, hat-like brim, the Mark One was mostly to keep artillery debris out of a soldier’s face and protect against flying debris”(Mizokami). The first bullet proof helmet, the PAGST helmet, was introduced in the early 1980s and was capable of stopping pistol-calibre rounds. “The PAGST was made of a new ballistic material, Dupont’s Kevlar, and could reliably stop pistol-caliber bullets”(Mizokami).
The most recent helmet(as of May 2017) is the Advanced Combat Helmet(ACH). “The ACH is lighter than the PAGST and more bullet resistant, and under certain conditions can stop rifle rounds…”(Mizokami). Compared to the PAGST, the ACH is more bullet resistant and more lightweight.
The United States military has made great strides in technology since the 1920s. Military fatigues have been adapted to handle different climates and helmets have gradually become more and more bullet resistance. The atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rushing the conclusion of World War II and caused a nuclear arms race. Rifles have seen quicker fire rates and implementation of modular attachments while grenade launchers have become very accurate and reliable.
Technology has revolutionized the process in which recruits are taught to fight and the reconnaissance capabilities of the military. Strategies like stealth drastically improved and countered other technological advances like radar while the GPS has increased the accuracy of launch coordinates and boosted the situational awareness of American soldiers. In order to stay ahead of the competition, the United States military must continue to place emphasis on technological innovation in many aspects. Works CitedBack, George I., and George Raynor Thompson.
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