The notion of military time – the seemingly secretive measure of timekeeping reserved for the armed forces – is actually quite unique to folks in the United States in Canada. Military time is simply a variation of the 24 hour clock that is used by nearly all other countries across the globe. The civilian world in the US and Canada uses the 12 hour clock, which means that the same time comes up twice a day. At the end of the day, what most of us call military time, is actually the real 24 hour time. Aren’t we funny?
History of Military Time
The origins of military time trace back to ancient Egyptian society. The Egyptians used a sundial system that split an entire day into 10 equal pieces plus an additional two parts called “twilight hours” in the morning and later in the evening. The Greek astronomer Andronicus would later go on to improve this system by incorporating a mechanical hour indicator creating what would now be called the 24 hour clock. Thanks a lot Andronicus!
Why Does the Military Use a 24 Hour Time Clock?
The military uses a modified 24 hour time keeping system out of necessity. With military operations spanning the entire globe, it is very important that there is no confusion when it comes to time. The traditional 12 hour clock using the AM and PM suffix is far to ambiguous when considering the confusion that can come with time zone changes and operations thousands of miles away from each other.
How It Works
Military time is divided into 24 hours instead of the more familiar 12. This clock begins with 0000 at midnight or what is otherwise known as 12:00AM. An hour later at 1:00AM it will be 0100 military time. At 1:35AM it will be 0135 military time. The trickery comes when you get past 12:00PM. If you are referring to 3:30PM in military time it would read 1530. After noon, you need to add the current PM time to 1200 to have the appropriate military time.
Essentially, this conversion is very easy for the morning hours and requires some quick math in the afternoon and evening. See this military time chart for easy conversion. Military time can get a little confusing when you start to consider how time zones affect the notation of military time. You can find more about military time zones here.
How to Read It
Reading military time, however, is fairly straightforward. If time is noted as 1300, it should read “thirteen hundred hours.” If it is notated as 0100, then it should read “oh one hundred hours.” If the military time is more specific to minutes such as 1755 then it should read “seventeen five five hundred hours.” There are so many variations to military time that it is hard to list them all. If you can remember to add “hundred hours” after you say the numbers, pronounce the zeros as “oh”, and refer to the hours in stacks of 100, you should be able to pass yourself off as military personnel with a little luck!