What Is the History of Military Time?


Quick Answer

The history of military time starts in the Egyptian times, specifically the 11th Egyptian dynasty (est. 2100 B.C.). It was the Egyptians who first used the 24-hour clock, and proof was found on a coffin lid known as the Diagonal Star Table. Later on, as warfare progressed, various military forces had to improve their strategy and communications. Hence, military or 24-hour time was adopted to improve accuracy, as the slightest mistake in exchanging information could lead to the wrong move.

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Full Answer

The early Egyptian culture was the first to use the 24-hour clock and synchronized the time system with patterns of constellations that passed through the sky. As a result, the year had 360 days, and the hours were temporal, meaning that their length was not fixed but depended on the light intensity of different seasons. It was not until around 127 B.C. that astronomer Hipparchus suggested a fixed length of time, regardless of season. Scientists, navigators and horologists found the 24-hour system very effective.

The 24-hour system is now known as military time, as it has been adopted for military purposes mainly due to its accuracy compared to the 12-hour clock. In the latter, it is very easy to misinterpret information, such as confusing 12 o'clock midnight with 12 o'clock noon. Communication is key when it comes to military action; therefore, the 24-hour clock is more appropriate for this application. Nevertheless, there are many other situations when military time is used, and there are even some countries where it is more common than the traditional 12-hour system.

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