7 Small Inventions that Led to Big Military Victories

Sometimes small inventions bring about big change, either in our everyday lives, or in times of war. Wartime brings about innovation, born out of necessity. That innovation doesn’t just take the form of large weapons of war, but also of smaller inventions and efforts to assist the war effort. In some cases, these small changes led to the significant victories, ranging from single battles to the Allied victory in World War II.


In the early 17th century, French hunters hunting boar began attaching knives, called bayonets, to their muskets. The French army first adopted the bayonet in 1671, and by the end of the 17th century, bayonets were a standard part of military issue equipment. The bayonet eliminated the need for pikemen in the military. Previously, pikemen had served as a guard for the musketeers as they reloaded; however, the guard was no longer needed once the muskets included a bayonet.


The introduction of the bayonet changed the role of the musketeer and led, overall, to a period of reduced specification of tasks. Since pikemen were no longer needed, musketeers took on an increasingly important role in the armies of the 18th century. As gun technology advanced, the bayonet became less important. By the Civil War, only one percent of fatalities could be attributed to the bayonet.

Bayonets could fit in, on or over the muzzle of the musket. The knife served a range of roles in warfare, from all-purpose cutting implement to close combat.  The earliest bayonets fit into the muzzle of the musket, but adaptations soon offered alternatives. These allowed the bayonet to remain in place while the musket was shot. Bayonets ranged from saw-bladed tools to short swords.

The bayonet played a key military role for quite some time, even as guns took less time to reload; however, by the beginning of the 20th century, the impact of the bayonet was largely psychological, causing the enemy to retreat.  In World War I, specially crafted bayonets served as digging tools and bayonets became shorter. Many modern assault rifles retain the ability to attach a bayonet.

Pikemen had, throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period, been an essential part of the fighting force. After the introduction of the bayonet, pikemen were gradually removed from the armed forces, although still occasionally played a ceremonial role.


  • George Erdner

    There was another problem with DDT that lead to its ban. DDT was effective at killing the majority of any insect pest species it was used on. Only a tiny percentage of the pests killed by DDT had a genetic immunity to it. But, when all the members of a species except those with immunity were killed off, the survivors bred and past on their immunity. The resistant individuals, though few in number, had little competition for survival so they thrived, and in a few generations, the pest insect population was back to its normal level, though almost all were resistant or immune to DDT.

    • James Reich

      While true, the same thing applies to any pesticide, not just DDT. And while it didn’t eliminate pest insects in the U.S., it did eliminate malaria. You don’t have to kill off all of an insect to eliminate a disease it carries, just a large enough portion that it can’t effectively spread. Same way that vaccines work really.

      • Michael Hudson

        This same principle applies to antibiotics. It is becoming more and more difficult for antibiotics to be effective anymore since overuse has led to pathogens that are immune to many all of those in current use.

  • rhjunior

    turns out pretty much all the claims made about DDT by its detractors were bogus.They knew that even then the “research” was fudged…. they banned it anyway. Politics.

    • louis

      I’m not believing that. Educate me. What’s your source?

      • Chuck Jones

        You can start with Wikipedia

    • canuck

      You are correct….it was a combination of junk science and politics on the part of the first EPA Administrator, William Ruckelhouse. The banning of DDT by white liberals via the Stockholm Convention has been directly responsible for over 34 million deaths, mostly poor in Africa and Asia. Liberals could care less about poor blacks and Asians, but want to self congratulate and “feel good”. The WHO refers to Malaria as “preventable” now and where DDT has been reintroduced the infant mortality from Malaria has dropped over 90% with Zero effect on bird’s eggs.

    • TBorNot

      “In 1992, San Jose State University entomologist J. Gordon Edwards, a long-time member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and a fellow of the California
      Academy of Sciences, offered a persuasive and comprehensive rebuttal of
      “Silent Spring.” As he explained in “The Lies of Rachel Carson,”
      a stunning, point by point refutation, “it simply dawned on me that that
      Rachel Carson was not interested in the truth about [pesticides] and
      that I was being duped along with millions of other Americans.”

      • Philbert McNutt

        Yuh, well that doesn’t fit the narrative, so it – and all material related to it – will be dropped down the memory hole.

        So there.

  • jyearsley

    This article should have included M&Ms 🙂

    • Philbert McNutt

      ……or donuts.

      • Paul Duca

        Donuts were developed independently of war.

        • Philbert McNutt

          True, but they are much more enjoyable than atomic weaponry.

    • Ed Hoffman

      And Duck/Duct Tape!

  • Philbert McNutt

    Had a great uncle killed by gas in WWI.
    Horrible way to die. Like napalm for your innards.

    • Eli Goldsmith

      Was friends with an old WW I veteran. At 73 that ol’ Irish hard-ass still wheezed from being gassed. Almost got bayoneted as well. Still POed about both incidents! Said he bayoneted the “SOB” (his words) and had to chamber a round and discharge his `03 Springfield because the suction was too great!

      • Tinsley Grey Sammons

        That is a very common story.

  • Chris Frink

    Forgot a small but important invention: the stirrup

  • disqus_C67ZJ9pNj6

    Banning DDT has caused millions of deaths due to malaria in Africa.

  • Zombie John Gotti

    Bayonets: Everyone knows that blood makes the grass grow.