Gruber's Nazi connections haunted him for decades to come, but his invention of the View-Master in 1938 gave him a good in with the U.S. government. A few years after the toy's debut at the New York World's Fair, the military realized it could be a useful tool to train the influx of new recruits brought on to fight Gruber's former hero.
The problem was that these fresh-faced kids barely knew which end of the rifle went "bang," let alone what the silhouette of a German JU-87 bomber looked like. Needing a quick, cheap way of teaching servicemen which vague shapes on the horizon were okay to shoot at and which weren't, the government purchased tens of thousands of View-Masters, along with millions of accompanying reels.
Giuseppe Porzani/Abode Stock
That huge initial investment catapulted the toy to overnight fame, and it soon became America's top choice for looking at blurry slideshow images.
Thanks again, Nazis!
The sarcasm came through there, right? Oh god, never quote us on that.