Did you know that armies today have more than just soldiers and tanks?
It may come as a surprise, but today they offer some of the most eyebrow-raising and unconventional jobs. Take Instrument Repair Technicians, for example. These people cater and take care of musical instruments used by military bands. Not a role you may think of when you think of soldiers.
Can’t go wrong with a little bit of music, right?
But, of course, that is nothing compared to what the military offered back in World War Two. So here is a list of 10 odd jobs that militaries hired for during World War II
- Meat Cutter
- Horse Breaker
- Artist and Animation Artist
- Crystal Grinder
- Field Artillery Sound Recorder
- Airplane Woodworker
Blacksmiths played a significant role in repairing equipment and machinery in World War II. They would craft metal tools and parts using coal or coke forges. They also prepared shoes for a significant number of horses and mules that were in service during the war. All these items were handmade with great precision and skill. In fact soldiers, especially cavalrymen, held these tradesmen in high esteem.
Who knew that in a time of guns and bombs, blacksmiths would be in such high demand?
The job description lies in its name itself – to cut meat. There were troops responsible for preparing entire carcasses of animals. For example, beef and lamb for distribution to different units across the globe. These troops ensured the meat was cut correctly and prepared. All for consumption by military personnel. In fact meat cutter was a separate trade to a butcher!
Can’t go to war with an empty stomach!
Horse breakers played a significant role in preparing horses and mules for use in mounted units. They trained these animals to carry packs and be hitched to wagons and carts. Other than that, they also trained the animals for riding purposes.
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A Horse breakers’ expertise and training helped ensure the animals were well-prepared for whatever came their way. Moreover, they also confirmed they would contribute to the war effort.
For instance, the 5332nd Brigade – a long-range patrol group – was explicitly established to operate in the challenging mountains of Burma. The group relied heavily on the assistance of the 3,000 mules, shipped all the way back from the United States.
Artist and Animation Artist
Modern-day military organizations offer positions for skilled multimedia illustrators. But in World War II, the military relied heavily on artists. They created paintings, illustrations, films, charts, and maps by hand!
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The job involved the production of patriotic films for the public. And instructional or training films were for service members.
Many skilled artists, including Bill Maudlin and Bill Keane, served in World War II. Maudin became famous for creating Willie and Joe – archetypes for infantrymen on the front line. Meanwhile, Keane went on to create the comic strip Family Circus following his military service.
The Army even stationed soldiers at Walt Disney’s studios for the entire duration of the war. These artists created films and animations that helped inform and educate soldiers. And, of course, they also provided much-needed entertainment for maintaining war efforts.
In World War II, many radios relied on crystals, usually galena, to operate. That is where crystal grinders came into play. To ensure proper radio operation, grinders would grind and calibrate crystals. It was done by picking up specific frequencies.
Personal radios were prohibited on the front lines during the war. Crystal radio sets lacked external power sources, making them undetectable to the enemy. As a result, troops often improvised crystal radios using various materials.
For instance, pencils and razor blades to listen to news and music. These contraband radio sets became known as “foxhole radios’.’ Despite the restriction, they provided soldiers with means to stay connected with the world beyond the battlefield.
Coopers among the troops were responsible for constructing and maintaining wooden containers. Be it buckets, barrels, and casks for transportation or kegs for storage – coopers had it all covered. Their expertise ensured that everything stayed safe and secure, even in the middle of the chaos.
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Wood was commonly used for packaging various goods for transportation back then. It was a commodity. Coopers utilised hand tools to fix holes in the wood and recover damaged barrels. With the advancement in the packaging industry, the job became obsolete.
Troops with expertise in military model-making were responsible for producing scaled-down replicas – usually for military equipment, landscapes, and other objects. It included movie production, training, and operational planning. These models proved crucial to Operation Fortitude, a notable instance of wartime deception.
And the goal of Operation Fortitude? Deceiving the Germans into thinking Allied forces were heading to the Pas de Calais in July for the D-Day invasion instead of Normandy in June.
Model makers constructed false buildings, aircraft, and landing crafts to execute this plan. They stationed them near Dover, England, in a fictitious camp named the First U.S. Army Group. The deception was so convincing that Hitler held back troops for a period of two weeks after D-Day.
He even anticipated another attack via the Dover Strait!
From breeding and training to overall care, pigeoneers had complete responsibility for a messenger pigeons’ well-being. While some birds were trained to fly at night, others were trained to locate food and water.
Remarkably, the Army Communications Electronics Museum reported that more than 90% of messages conveyed by these pigeons were delivered successfully.
Field Artillery Sound Recorder
Although not musicians, these troops were responsible for some impressive auditory feats. Sound ranging was one of the most successful methods of locating enemy artillery, mortars, and rockets. Developed during World War I, this method continued to be utilised throughout the Korean War and beyond.
Operating from a forward post, a field artillery sound recorder would monitor an oscillograph and a recorder – both connected to multiple microphones. The sound of enemy artillery was detected by one of the microphones and recorded onto sound film.
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The data from microphones could then be analysed to pinpoint the location of the enemy gun. Modern technology has primarily supplanted sound ranging with radar. But many countries continue to use this technique in conjunction with radar to achieve optimal results.
Tubular steel had replaced wood in aircraft construction by the start of World War II. But airplane woodworkers were still essential for repairing and maintaining existing aircraft.
The Waco CG-4A wooden glider was an unsung hero of World War II, playing a critical role in the war effort. It was the most widely used American troop and cargo military glider that first saw action in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Later, it was deployed in the D-Day invasion in June 1944 and Operation Market Garden in September 1944.
They were also used in the China-Burma-India Theatre. Steel aircraft soon took over. But wooden gliders remained an essential part of military operations, and so did the woodworkers.