Event Title

3A1: Electrical Communications Impacts During the Great War and Impacts on the Interwar Period

Start Date

29-9-2018 1:15 PM

End Date

29-9-2018 2:15 PM

Description

Technologies often change more rapidly during wars than during peacetime, as evidenced in the first half of the twentieth century. While the nineteenth century had seen major developments in mechanical engineering with the steam engine and its impact on industries and transportation, the twentieth century became the electrical century, notably for improved communications. Telephone and telegraph, established in the nineteenth century, were effective in WWI, a static war in which fixed lines and telegraph sufficed for connections between trenches, and telephones and telegraph for status reports or orders among military organizations. As the role of aviation changed from spotting to fighting and bombing, communications had to change. Other technologies, such as radar and sonar, with more direct military impacts blossomed during the war for both offensive and defensive purposes. These affected both aviation and submarines as war changed from a surface phenomenon to three different spheres—below sea, ground or sea, and the sky.

This paper looks at communication technologies developed by the three major combatants in both world wars—the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States of America as they grew during WWI, languished during the early interwar years, accelerated in the late interwar period, and exploded during WWII. Developments by the three countries varied according to their scientific strengths and weaknesses, and their military strategies (especially during the interwar years), and the degree of coordination between military units and researchers. Germans planned offensive uses of technology; they focused on communications (and submarine) technology nearly continuously from WWI through the interwar period because they planned war despite sanctions from the Versailles treaty; they planned a speedy and successful war. The UK focused on defensive technologies. The British had learned during the Great War that the English channel was no longer nearly impenetrable; they’d experienced the damage of submarines and could see that airplanes threatened invasion. Hence they focused on defense with strong interconnections of their defensive units, such as the network of their radar stations (and later planes.) The USA, for most of the period, displayed strategic indifference. Americans had learned different military and political lessons and famously preferred to ignore both German and Japanese efforts that threatened the end of their previous oceanic isolation.

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Sep 29th, 1:15 PM Sep 29th, 2:15 PM

3A1: Electrical Communications Impacts During the Great War and Impacts on the Interwar Period

Technologies often change more rapidly during wars than during peacetime, as evidenced in the first half of the twentieth century. While the nineteenth century had seen major developments in mechanical engineering with the steam engine and its impact on industries and transportation, the twentieth century became the electrical century, notably for improved communications. Telephone and telegraph, established in the nineteenth century, were effective in WWI, a static war in which fixed lines and telegraph sufficed for connections between trenches, and telephones and telegraph for status reports or orders among military organizations. As the role of aviation changed from spotting to fighting and bombing, communications had to change. Other technologies, such as radar and sonar, with more direct military impacts blossomed during the war for both offensive and defensive purposes. These affected both aviation and submarines as war changed from a surface phenomenon to three different spheres—below sea, ground or sea, and the sky.

This paper looks at communication technologies developed by the three major combatants in both world wars—the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States of America as they grew during WWI, languished during the early interwar years, accelerated in the late interwar period, and exploded during WWII. Developments by the three countries varied according to their scientific strengths and weaknesses, and their military strategies (especially during the interwar years), and the degree of coordination between military units and researchers. Germans planned offensive uses of technology; they focused on communications (and submarine) technology nearly continuously from WWI through the interwar period because they planned war despite sanctions from the Versailles treaty; they planned a speedy and successful war. The UK focused on defensive technologies. The British had learned during the Great War that the English channel was no longer nearly impenetrable; they’d experienced the damage of submarines and could see that airplanes threatened invasion. Hence they focused on defense with strong interconnections of their defensive units, such as the network of their radar stations (and later planes.) The USA, for most of the period, displayed strategic indifference. Americans had learned different military and political lessons and famously preferred to ignore both German and Japanese efforts that threatened the end of their previous oceanic isolation.