The great World War was more than two-thirds over when America entered the struggle, and yet in a sense this country was in the war from its very beginning. Three great inventions controlled the character of the fighting and made it different from any other the world has ever seen. These three inventions were American. The submarine was our invention; it carried the war into the sea. The airplane was an American invention; it carried the war into the sky. We invented the machine-gun; it drove the war into the ground.
It is not my purpose to boast of American genius but, rather, to show that we entered the war with heavy responsibilities. The inven-tions we had given to the world had been developed marvelously in other lands. Furthermore they were in the hands of a determined and unscrupulous foe, and we found before us the task of overcoming the very machines that we had created. Yankee ingenuity was faced with a real test.
The only way of overcoming the airplane was to build more and better machines than the enemy possessed. This we tried to do, but first we had to be taught by our allies the latest refinements of this machine, and the war was over before we had more than started our aërial program. The machine-gun and its accessory, barbed wire (also an American invention), were overcome by the tank; and we may find what little comfort we can in the fact that its invention was inspired by the sight of an American farm tractor. But the tank was a British creation and was undoubtedly the most important invention of the war. On the sea we were faced with a most baffling problem. The U-boat could not be coped with by the building of swarms of submarines.
The essential here was a means of locating the enemy and destroying him even while he lurked under the surface. Two American inventions, the hydrophone and the depth bomb, made the lot of the U-boat decidedly unenviable and they hastened if they did not actually end German frightfulness on the sea.
But these were by no means the only inventions of the war. Great Britain showed wonderful ingenuity and resourcefulness in many di-rections; France did marvels with the airplane and showed great clev-erness in her development of the tank and there was a host of minor inventions to her credit; while Italy showed marked skill in the crea-tion of large airplanes and small seacraft.