How 3D Glasses Helped Win World War II

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3D glasses may not be the most obvious warfare tool. But that’s exactly what it took for the Allies of WWII to outwit Hitler.

A BBC documentary reveals how they used three-dimensional photos to stop Nazi weapons of mass destruction before they could bomb Britain. Dubbed Operation Crossbow, the mission entailed Spitfire pilots photographing battlefield Europe. The photos were then sent to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Medmenham in  Buckinghamshire to make sense of the hidden clues. Hitler was heavily investing in his new V weapons in the hope they could win him the war. Fortunately, Medmenham had a secret weapon of its own, a simple stereoscope which brought to life a detailed picture of the enemy landscape based on the tens of million photos taken by pilots from Britain’s RAF Photographic Reconnaissance unit, generating 36 million prints.

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To make the 3D effect work, images had to be captured in carefully-plotted sequences which would overlap one other by 60%, so everything would stand up when viewed through the stereoscope. It made the job of the pilots an especially difficult one as they had to avoid enemy fire while flying unarmed at 30,000ft, because of the weight of the five cameras carried on each Spitfire. Working on the same principles as modern-day 3D glasses, it allowed the photographic interpreters to measure height of unidentified new structures, including rockets and their launch sites.

By the time they were finally halted, the V-weapons had claimed some 9,000 lives — but historians believe it could have been many more. The Germans planned to launch up to 2,000 V-1s every day and, had they been successful, the path of the war could have been altered. If Nazi-Germany had graduated from 2-D to 3-D, who knows what Hitler could have accomplished. (via BBC)

(LIST: A brief history of WWII films)

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