7 Incredible Wartime Advancements From World War I

Published: 8 March 2024

By Kassandre Dwyer
via the TheCollector website


From improved machine guns to air traffic control, World War I was the font of many innovations that are normal parts of modern life.

World War I left its mark on history, including in the ways wartime ingenuity made an impact on its events and those of future warfare.

World War I, which consumed Europe from 1914-1918, left lasting results on the people of the world. Millions died, millions more were wounded, and lives around the globe were changed forever. As the world struggled to rebuild, it was left with more than just death and destruction. War requires quick battlefield thinking and innovation. The results of that contrivance persisted as the world moved forward. War would come again, and these advancements would come into play again, some in everyday life.

1. Blood Banks

Today, blood banks are common in many areas of the world. Source: Stanford Blood Center

Prior to the Great War, blood transfusions had to be completed immediately from donor to patient. There was no way to store blood long-term. In 1914, Dr. Albert Hustin of Belgium discovered that adding sodium citrate to blood stopped it from clotting. This allowed for an extended time between blood donation and transfusion. The window of time was still narrow, as the blood cells would begin to deteriorate as minutes passed, but this method allowed for many more transfusions to happen than otherwise would have during the war.

In the years following, Dr. Francis Peyton Rous and his assistant Dr. James Turner experimented with varying animal bloods, hoping to use Hustin’s work to create a solution that would preserve blood for longer-term donation. They convinced Captain Oswald Robertson of the Army Medical Corps to put their test solution in a battlefield setting. It was successful, and Robertson’s ice chest of Rous-Turner preserved blood, though it only held 12 units, is considered the world’s first blood bank and, at the same time, the first mobile one. The first large-scale bank was created by the British in late 1917 in preparation for the Battle of Cambrai.

2. The Tank

Mark I Prototype, 1916. Source: Militär Wissen

The trench warfare of World War I made typical vehicles of warfare practically useless. Trucks would get bogged down in the muddy areas between the trenches and could not cross the trenches themselves. Both sides of the war were in need of bigger, more capable vehicles, and tanks were the answer. The first tank that saw battle was the Mark I, released by the British in 1916 at the First Battle of the Somme. Five soldiers could ride inside the vehicle, with tracks running all the way around its body. It was able to move over trenches, and soldiers could use it as cover.

The French began to produce tanks around the same time, debuting the Schneider tank and the Renault F.T., which was a lighter machine. The United States’ model was essentially the same as the Renault, as was Italy’s. Germany also produced tanks. The Mark VIII was the result of the US, France, and Britain working together and was the most efficient model. However, only a few were put into action before the end of the war. Tank technology was on its way to improving dramatically in the years after World War I, but the Great War era tanks had some major flaws.

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