What is Military Time and Why it’s Used

military time clock

Unlike the 12-hour system that starts at midnight and resets mid-day at noon, military time begins at zero-hundred hours (0000) and ends at 2359 hours. Both zero-hundred and 24-hundred hours are equivalent to midnight. Each hour counts from zero-hundred to 0100 hours, 0200 hours, until resetting after 2359.  

Although the standard 12-hours system is the most adopted method to tell time, military time has its purpose. This article will explain the history behind military time, who uses it, and why. 

History of Military Time

According to resources, military time dates back to the early Egyptians during the 11th dynasty - 2100 BC. The findings of a coffin lid, which is known as the Diagonal Star Table, is thought to be the first discovery of military time. Constellations that passed through the sky were used to synchronize time during early Egyptian culture. These patterns were used to identify time and eventually defined 365 days in a year. 

The Egyptian 24-hour schedule, unlike today's, used temporal hours. The varying quantities of light intensity that were present in different seasons defined these hours. The duration of an hour was not fixed and may be changed at any time to ensure night and day had equal hours. 

Hipparchus, an astronomer, came up with a set amount of time regardless of the season, around 147 to 127 BC. The hours were called equinoctial hours because they were calculated using the equinox. An hour in this arrangement lasted 60 minutes, with the night and day periods being equal. As a result, the 60-minute time limit has become more popular.

What is Military Time

Military time is a technique of tracking hours in which the day runs from midnight to midnight and is broken into 24-hour increments. This is not the same as the 12-hour clock commonly used worldwide. For example, a military clock that reads 1930 hours is the same as 7:30 PM when using the 12-hour clock. Since military time reflects the counting up to 24 hours, AM and PM is not required.

Like the 12-hour clock, the first two digits are the hours, and the last two represent the minutes. Military time ranging from 0000 to 1159 is considered AM, and military time ranging from 1200 to 2359 is PM. 

Convert military hours with our free tool

How to Read and Say Military Time

Military time is quite simple to read and say once you get the hang of it. Below are some examples to help:

  • 0800 = zero-eight-hundred hours or zero-eight-hundred
  • 1300 = 13-hundred hours or 13-hundred
  • 2359 = 23-hundred and fifty-nine hours or twenty-three fifty-nine

Who Uses Military Time and Why

According to Lisbdnet, military time is a 24-hour time frame used by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Pakistan, and Malaysia for military and crisis management. The United States regularly uses the original formatting without using a colon to separate hours and minutes, whereas the rest typically uses a colon. 

Many countries adopted the 24-hour clock to improve their military's safety and avoid confusion between morning and evening. Ranging from strategic planning and clear communication, military personnel can prevent confusion between AM and PM hours. Due to its ease of comprehension, military time eliminates the challenges of the 12-hour clock. 

The 24-hour clock is embraced by other areas where mistakes can be made with time. Scientists, medical workers, and pilots are examples of professionals who use military time. The 24-hour system eliminates errors and is crucial for documentation and communication. 

Fun fact: The U.S. Navy adopted the 24-hour clock in 1920, however, the U.S. Army did not officially adopt military time until 1942. 

Military Time Wrap Up

Whether you’re traveling countries or in a line of work that requires the usage of the 24-hour clock, it’s a great asset to understand military time. We have provided a tool previously in this article that will easily convert military time for you. If you are looking to track hours worked in the 24-hour format, then OnTheClock is a great resource to accomplish this. 

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