Military production during World War II
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The mobilisation of funds, people, natural resources and matériel for the production and supply of military equipment and military forces during World War II was a critical component of the war effort. Over the course of the conflict, the Allies outpaced the Axis powers in most categories of production, but not all. Access to the funding and industrial resources necessary to sustain their war efforts were directly linked to the composition and integration of their respective economic and political alliances. As formerly neutral powers such as the United States joined the escalating conflict, territory changed hands and combatants were defeated, the balance of power shifted, eventually in favour of the Allies, as did the means to sustain the scale of military production required to finally win the war.
War production data includes the arms, munitions, natural resources, personnel and financing, mobilised to execute the war. War production is not a precisely defined term and for this article is taken to mean everything produced by the belligerents between the occupation of Austria in early 1938 to the surrender and occupation of Japan in late 1945.
- 1 Historic context
- 2 Production summaries 1938–1945
- 3 Production overview: service, power and type
- 4 Reference data for summary tables
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
In the 1930s, political forces within Germany increased financial investment in the military, to developed the armed forces required to support various near and long term political and territorial goals. Germany's economic, scientific, research and industrial capabilities were perhaps the most technically advanced, if not the largest nor most efficient, in the world at the time and were able to provide sustained support for a rapidly growing and innovative military. However, access to and control of the resources and production capacity required to entertain long-term goals such as direct and indirect control over Europe, the territorial expansion of Germany and the destruction of the USSR, were limited. Political demands necessitated the expansion of Germany's direct control over natural and human resources, industrial capacity and farm lands, outside of its current borders. Germany's military production was therefore directly tied to accessing resources largely located outside of its area of direct political control, a dynamic not found amongst the Allies.
In 1938 the British Empire and Commonwealth was a global superpower with direct political and economic control over 25% of the world's population, industry and resources, and effective power over much more. Their influence on the course of the war can not be overstated. From 1938 to mid-1942 the British coordinated the entire Allied effort in all global theatres. They fought the German, Italian, Japanese and Vichy armies, air forces and navies across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, India, the Mediterranean, and in the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Arctic oceans. Empire forces destroyed the Italian armies in North and East Africa, and pre-emptively occupied overseas colonies of occupied European nations, such as Iceland, Syria and Lebanon. In numerous successful engagements against Axis forces, British Empire troops invaded and occupied Libya, Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran and Iraq. The Empire funded and delivered critically needed supplies by Arctic convoys to the USSR at its most critical juncture, and supported Free French Forces to recapture French Equatorial Africa. They also established governments in exile, in London, to rally support within Occupied Europe for the allied effort. Using their pre-war strength the British Empire defeated, held back or slowed the Axis powers for 3 years while mobilizing its globally integrated economy and industrial infrastructure to build, what would become by 1942, the largest and most extensive military apparatus of the war. This allowed their later allies, such as the United States, to mobilise their own economies and develop the military forces required to play an instrumental role in the war effort, and for the British Empire itself to go on the offensive in its various theatres of operation.
The entry of the United States into the war in late 1941 delivered a massive injection of financial, human and industrial potential. As with the Commonwealth countries, the US was eventually able to produce far more than its own military forces required, and it armed both itself and its many allies. From nearly a standing start the US produced vast quantities of arms and munitions, for what was the most industrialized war in history. At the start of the war, the British and French started placing large orders for aircraft with American manufacturers. At the same time, the US Congress approved plans to increase the US air forces by 3,000 aircraft. In May 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt stunned his nation by calling for the production of 185,000 aeroplanes, 120,000 tanks, 55,000 anti-aircraft guns and 18 million tons of merchant shipping, within two years. Adolf Hitler was reassured by his top advisors that this was impossible, and just an example of American propaganda. In 1939, total aircraft production for the US military had been less than 3,000 planes annually. By the end of the war, US factories produced 300,000 planes. By 1944 the US had produced two-thirds of the Allied military equipment used in the war, and were bringing massive military forces into play in North and South America, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, Western Europe and the Pacific. The US continued to produce enormous quantities of military equipment right into late 1945, including nuclear weapons, at which point the United States became one of the strongest, and certainly the most technically advanced, military forces in the world.
The human and social cost of the war on the populations of the USSR were extraordinary. Military combat deaths alone numbered in the tens of millions. Recognising the fundamental importance of their population and industrial production to the war effort, the USSR evacuated the majority of its European territory, moving 2,500 factories, 17 million people and enormous quantities of resources to the east. Far out of the reach of Germany the USSR was able to produce the equipment and forces critical to the eventual defeat of the Axis in Europe. Fighting for their very existence over 1,000,000 women also served in the armed forces. The social, economic and military mobilisation of the USSR against the Axis is one of the most compelling stories of the period.
The statistics below reveal the extent to which Allied powers out produced the Axis. Production of machine tools tripled. Thousands of ships were constructed in shipyards that didn't exist before the war. As William S. Knudsen observed, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible." Military production ebbs and flows in line with politics, social beliefs, shifting alliances, territorial expansion and contraction, military victories and defeats. State propaganda sustained working people with visions of victory and scared them with nightmares of defeat. Access to more resources, the ability to build up arms in relative peace, political control over working populations, and access to large international labour pools were critical to the eventual victory of the Allies. The story of World War Two is very much the story of the production of victory.
Production summaries 1938–1945
Major weapons groups
|Tanks, SPGs, vehicles||4,358,649||670,288|
|Artillery, mortars, guns||6,792,696||1,363,491|
- Billions of international dollars, at 1990 prices
Vital commerce and raw materials
* Cargo and resources in metric tonnes
Production overview: service, power and type
|USA and territories||324,000||99,000||97,000||23,000||57,000||2,400,000|
|Germany and territories||133,387||57,653||8,991||28,577||5,025||8,396||14,311||11,361||3,402,200|
|Power||Tanks & SPGs||Armoured vehicles||Other vehicles||Artillery||Mortars||Machine guns||Personnel|
|USA and territories||102,410||2,382,311||257,390||105,055||2,679,840||10,000,000|
|Germany and territories||67,429||345,914||159,147||73,484||674,280||16,540,835|
|Power||Total large ships||Carriers||Battleships||Cruisers||Destroyers||Frigates||Corvettes||Sloops||Patrol boats||Submarines||De/ Mining||Landing craft||Personnel|
|British Empire||6,771||36(24)||6[note 1]||102||291||209||387||33||4,209||238||1,244||9,538||1,227,415|
|USA and territories||890||163(141)||8||48||349||245||35,000||x|
|Germany & territories||17||1,152||1,500,000|
|Country||Coal||Iron Ore||Crude Oil||Steel||Aluminium||Nickel||Zinc|
All figures in millions of tonnes
Reference data for summary tables
GDP provides insight into the relative strength of the belligerents in the run up to, and during the conflict.
|USSR||359||366[nb 2]||417[nb 3]||359||274||305||362||343|
|USA & Territories[nb 4]||800||869||943||1,094||1,235||1,399||1,499||1,474|
|Allied/Axis GDP ratio:[nb 5]||2.51||1.18||0.54||1.75||2.06||2.31||2.86||5.02|
- Billions of international dollars, at 1990 prices. Adjusted annually for changing compositions within each alliance.
- In 1939, the USSR invaded and took over Eastern Poland
- The USSR occupied the Baltic states in mid 1940
- Alaska and Hawaii did not become states of the US until post-war
- GDP ratio: A 2.06 ratio means combined Allied GDP was 2.06 times higher than Axis GDP.
- France to Axis: 1940:50% (light green), 1941-44:100% (brown)
- USSR to Allies: 1941:44% (light green), 1942-1945:100%.
- US direct support to the Allies begins with Lend Lease in March 1941, though the US made it possible for the Allies to purchase US-produced materiel from 1939
- Italy to Allies and Axis: 1938:0%, 1939-1943:100% Axis (brown), 1944-1945:100% Allies
- Japanese to Axis begins with Tripartite Pact in 1940
- The Allied and Axis totals are not the immediate sum of the table values; see the distribution rules[clarification needed] used above.
Personnel - Allied - British Empire
Including all non-British subjects in British services.
|Army||Army (female)||Navy||Navy (female)||Marines||Air Force||Air Force (female)||Auxiliary||Merchant marine||Partisans||Total combat||Other labour|
|Free Belgian Forces||42,300||1,200||1,900||45,770||370|
|B. Indian Ocean||6,500||6,500|
|Free French Forces||3,700||20||3,720|
- Auxiliary units include Home Guard, Reserves, Police regiments, etc.
Personnel - Axis - German Reich
Including all non-German subjects in German services.
|Army||Army (female)||Navy||Navy (female)||Marines||Air Force||Air Force (female)||Auxiliary||Merchant marine||Partisans||Total combat||Other labour|
|France & territories||8,000||4,500||5,080||17,580||348,500|
|Germany & territories||14,793200||1,500,000||3,400,000||19,693,200|
- Auxiliary units include Home Guard, Wehrmachtsgefolge, Reserves, Police regiments, etc.
- USSR includes Armenia 4k SS,14k Wehr, 7k Aux; Azerbaijan 55k SS, 70k Wehr; Belarus 12k Wehr, 20k Aux; Cossack 200k Wehr; Estonia 20k SS, 50k Wehr, 7k Aux; Georgia 10k SS; 30k Wehr; Kalmyk 5k Wehr; Latvia 55k SS; 87k Wehr, 300 Air, 23k Aux; Lithuania 50k Wehr, 10 Aux; North Caucuses 4k SS; Russia 60k SS, 26k Wehr; Turkestan 16k Wehr; Ukrainian 300k Wehr; 2k Aux; Tatar/Urals 12k Wehr
Aircraft - Allied - British Empire
Within the UK, aircraft production was vulnerable to enemy attack. To expand and diversify the production base the British setup "Shadow factories". These brought other manufacturing companies - such as vehicle manufacturers - into aircraft production, or aircraft parts production. These inexperienced companies were set up in groups under the guidance or control of the aircraft manufacturers. New factory buildings were provided with government money.
|2||13[note 15]||400[note 16]||415|
Aircraft - Axis - All
Occupied countries produced weapons for the Axis powers. Figures are for the period of occupation only.
|Me 163 Komet||370||7||377|
|Me 210[note 17]||400||272||672|
|Me 410[note 18]||1,189|
- Combined Food Board
- Combined Munitions Assignments Board
- Combined Raw Materials Board
- Combined Shipping Adjustment Board
- British armoured fighting vehicle production during World War II
- German armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
- American armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
- Soviet armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
- United States aircraft production during World War II
- Forced labour under German rule during World War II
- the five King George V class were started prior to war, a further four battleships were cancelled to make resources available for construction of other ships (Gazarke & Dulin)
- Two battlecruisers of Kronshtadt-class laid down but never progressed
- The majority of Blenheims were built as light bombers
- Total includes 140 unarmed Defiants produced as target tugs
- Pre-war production
- includes post-war production
- Includes some post-war production and conversions of Spitfires
- changed to ground attack role during war
- up to 1942 the Hurricane was chiefly used as a fighter aircraft
- Includes pre-war production
- a variant of the Blenheim, 457 of the total were produced as trainer aircraft
- used as light bomber and transport aircraft in Middle East and Mediterranean theatre
- Initially used as light bomber eg during Battle of France
- Including: Arpin A-1 (1) , Airspeed Cambridge (2), Airspeed Fleet Shadower (1), Avro Tudor (2), Blackburn B-20 (1), Boulton Paul P.92 (1), Burnelli CBY-3 (2), CAC Woomera, Australia (2), Chrislea Airguard (1) , de Havilland Dove (1), de Havilland T.K.5 (1) , Fairey Spearfish (5), Fane F.1/40 (1), General Aircraft Cagnet (1), General Aircraft Owlet (1), General Aircraft Fleet Shadower (1), General Aircraft GAL.47 (1), General Aircraft GAL.55 (2), General Aircraft GAL.56 (4), Canadian Car and Foundry FDB-1, Canada (1), Gloster F.5/34 (2) , Gloster F.9/37 (2) , Handley Page Manx (1), Hawker Hotspur (1), Hawker Tornado (4), Miles M.20 (2), Miles X Minor (1), Miles M.35 (1), Miles M.39 (1), Miles LR 5 (1), Parnall 382 (1), Reid and Sigrist R.S.1/2 (2), Saro A33 (1), Saro Shrimp (1), Short Shetland (2), Supermarine Type 322 (2), Vickers Type 432 (1), Vickers VC.1 Viking (1), Vickers Windsor (3)
- includes: CCF Maple Leaf Trainer II (2 plus 10 built in Mexico )
- includes: Folland Fo.108 engine test bed (12), General Aircraft Cygnet (10), General Aircraft Monospar ST-25 (30)[clarification needed], Hawker Henley (200)[clarification needed], Hawker Sea Fury (10), Miles M.15 (2), Miles M.18 (3) , Miles Mercury (6), Percival Petrel (27), Percival Vega Gull (~20), Supermarine Spiteful fighter (19)
- Only 90 German-built Me 210 were completed and delivered, about 100 Hungarian-built were supplied to Germany
- Also used as a fighter and for reconnaissance
- History of the Second World War (104 volumes), Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London 1949 to 1993
- Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, p. IX, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
- Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 7, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
- Wrynn, V. Dennis. Forge of Freedom: American Aircraft Production in World War II, pp. 4-5, Motorbooks International, Osceola, WI, 1995. ISBN 0-7603-0143-3.
- Kumanev, G.A., "War and the evacuation of the USSR: 1941-1942", New Age, 2006
- Sawyer, L. A. and Mitchell, W. H. The Liberty Ships: The History of the "Emergency" Type Cargo Ships Constructed in the United States During the Second World War, Second Edition, pp. vii, 1-8, Lloyd's of London Press Ltd., London, England, 1985. ISBN 1-85044-049-2.
- Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 5, 7, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
- Mitchell, B.R. British Historical Statistics, 1988
- Dialogue on Aluminium 110 years of history in Canada approximation
- Baker The New Zealand People at War: War Economy 1965
- Lend Lease as a Function of the Soviet war Economy
- Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment and the Defense Burden, 1940-1945 Mark Harrison, 1996
- Including 23.4 synthetic.
- Volume 3 -The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy 1940-1944 only, retrieved June 8, 2014
- "Comparison of GDP adjusted for actual yearly shared contribution to war efforts after Zuljan, Ralph, Allied and Axis GDP", "Articles On War" (OnWar.com), 2003, retrieved June 8, 2014
- Harrison, 1998
- General Article: Foreign Affairs, pbs.org
- Baugher "Hawk 75A-5 for China" 1999
- Ethell, Jeffrey L. and Steve Pace. Spitfire. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1997. ISBN 0-7603-0300-2. p117
Personnel -Allied - British Empire
- The Anglo-Argentine Society in conjuction with the Argentine Embassy (April 6). "Wings of Thunder - Wartime RAF Veterans Flying in From Argentina" (Press release). London: PRNewswire.
- Second World War Official Histories
- Australia 2
- "Facts & Information" Canada at War July 4, 2009
- Colonel C.P. Stacey, Chapter XIX Conclusion, "Repatriation and Demoblization", The Canadian Army 1939-1945: An Official Historical Summary
- Daniel Owen Spence, Cayman Islands Imperial Loyalties, 'Imagined Communities' and 'Britishness': The Royal Navy and the Cayman Islands
- Marika Sherwood (30 March 2011), Colonies, Colonials and World War Two, BBC History
- Gillespie, Oliver A. "I: New Zealand's Responsibility" The Pacific Historical Publications Branch, 1952, Wellington (The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945)
- "Officers Database FAQ" bharat-rakshak.com
- India 3 idsa.in
- India Pioneers defencejournal.com
- India RIAF
- Malay 2
- Merchant Navy
- Netherlands 2
- New Zealand
- Saunders, Hilary St. George (1954), "Volume III The Fight Is Won", Royal Air Force 1939-1945 (London: HMSO)
- South Africa 2
- South Africa 3
- South Africa 4
- Martin Plaut (11 March 2014), African troops who fought in World War Two, Martin Plaut
- West Africa 2
- West Africa 3
- "Fact File : Commonwealth and Allied Forces", WWII Peoples War (BBC)
Personnel - Axis
This includes all German and non-German subjects serving within German Reich forces.
- Croatia 2, Munoz 1996
- Croatia 3, Tomasevich 2001
- Croatia, feldgrau.com
- Daniel Laurent, French Volunteers in the Wehrmacht in WWII, feldgrau.com
- Germany, feldgrau.com
- Poland 2
- Lt. Gen Wladyslaw Anders and Antonio Munoz, Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII, feldgrau.com
- The Latvian Squadrons in the Luftwaffe, Latvianaviation.com
- Volunteers, Ailsby 2004
- Volunteers 2
- Volunteer Pilots
Aircraft - Allied
- Bristol Brigand
- Free Dutch
- New Zealand
- Barnes 1989
- Bishop 2002
- Bowyer 1980
- Butler 2004
- Flint 2006
- Green 1967
- Jackson 1987
- Jane's 1989
- Mason 1994
- Morgan ?
- Otway 1990
- Swanborough 1997
- Tapper 1988
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, 1985
Aircraft - Axis
- Dressel and Griehl 1994
- Encyclopedia of weapons of World War Two
- Francillon 1970
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, 1985
- Jane's 1989
- Mondey 1996
- Smith and Anthony ?
- The Mineral Industry of the British Empire and Foreign Countries, Statistical Summary 1938-1944, The Imperial Institute, HMSO, 1948
- The Mineral Industry of the British Empire and Foreign Countries, Statistical Summary 1941-1947, The Imperial Institute, HMSO, 1949
- History of the Second World War (104 volumes), Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 1949 to 1993
- Official History of Australia in the War of 1939–1945 (22 volumes), Australian Government Printing Service, 1952 to 1977
- Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Vol I Six Years of War, Stacey, C P., Queen's Printer, Ottawa, 1955
- Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45 (24 volumes), Combined Inter-Services Historical Section, India & Pakistan, New Delhi, 1956-1966
- Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington, New Zealand, 1965
- Ailsby, Christopher, Hitler's Renegades: Foreign Nationals in the Service of the Third Reich (Photographic Histories), Potomac Books, 2004
- Barnett, Correlli, The audit of war : the illusion & reality of Britain as a great nation, Macmillan, 1986
- Barnes, C.H.; James D.N. Shorts Aircraft since 1900, London, Putnam, 1989
- Bishop, Chris, The Encyclopaedia of Weapons of World War II, Sterling Publishing, 2002
- Bowyer, Michael J.F. Aircraft for the Royal Air Force: The "Griffon" Spitfire, The Albemarle Bomber and the Shetland Flying-Boat, London, Faber & Faber, 1980
- Boyd, David, (2009) "Wartime Production by the Commonwealth during WWII" British Equipment of the Second World War
- Boyd, David (2009), "British Production of Aircraft By Year During The Second World War", British Equipment of the Second World War
- Butler, Tony. British Secret Projects: Fighters and Bombers 1935–1950. Hinckley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2004
- Canada at War, "The Canadian War Industry"
- Dressel, Joachim and Manfred Griehl. Bombers of the Luftwaffe. London: DAG Publications, 1994
- Flint, Keith, Airborne Armour: Tetrarch, Locust, Hamilcar and the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment 1938-1950. Helion & Company Ltd., 2006
- Francillon, René J., Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, London, Putnam, 1970
- Gregg, W.A ed., Canada’s Fighting Vehicles Europe 1943-1945, Canadian Military Historical Society, 1980
- Green, William. War Planes of The Second World War:Volume Seven - Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft. London: Macdonald, 1967
- Harrison, Mark, "The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison", Cambridge University Press, 1998 (Author's overview)
- Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, Random House, New York, 2012
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985
- Jackson, A.J., De Havilland Aircraft since 1909 (Third ed.), London, Putnam, 1987
- Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, London, Studio Editions Ltd, 1989
- "Les luxembourgeois de la Brigade Piron". (in French) Armee.lu. Retrieved 29 June 2013
- Long, Jason, Lend Lease as a Function of the Soviet war Economy, http://www.sturmvogel.orbat.com/SovLendLease.html/ Retrieved June 12, 2014
- Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber since 1914, London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994
- Milward, Alan S., War, economy, and society, 1939-1945, University of California Press, 1979
- Morgan, Eric B. "Albemarle" in Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 1, No. 11. New Milton, Hants, UK: 21st Profile Ltd.
- Munoz, A.J., For Croatia and Christ: The Croatian Army in World War II 1941–1945, Axis Europa Books,NY, 1996
- Mondey, David. The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. New York: Bounty Books, 1996
- Ness, Leland, Jane's World War II Tanks and Fighting Vehicles, The Complete Guide, Harper Collins, 2002
- Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H. The Second World War 1939-1945 Army: Airborne Forces. London: Imperial War Museum, 1990
- Overy, Richard, Why the Allies Won (Paperback), W. W. Norton & Company, 1997
- Scientia Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies, http://scientiamilitaria.journals.ac.za
- Smith, J.R. and Anthony L. Kay. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam and Company Ltd.,
- Swanborough, Gordon. British Aircraft at War, 1939-1945. East Sussex, UK: HPC Publishing, 1997
- Tapper, Oliver. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft since 1913. London: Putnam, 1988
- Tomasevich, Jozo, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. San Francisco: Stanford University Press, 2001
- Veterans Affairs Canada, "Canadian Production of War Materials"
- Wilson, Stewart, Aircraft of WWII, 1998
- Wrynn, V. Dennis. Forge of Freedom: American Aircraft Production in World War II, Motorbooks International, Osceola, WI, 1995
- Zuljan, Ralph, "Allied and Axis GDP" Articles On War OnWar.com (2003)
- Allies and Lend-Lease Museum, Russia
- Australia War Memorial official war history online archive
- Canada at War
- National War Museum, United States
- New Zealand in the Second World War, official war history online
- South Africa Journal of Military Studies