Military production during World War II
Military production during World War II includes the arms, ammunitions, natural resources, personnel and financing which were mobilized for the war. Military production, in this article, means everything produced by the belligerents from the occupation of Austria in early 1938 to the surrender and occupation of Japan in late 1945.
The mobilization 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. During the conflict, the Allies outpaced the Axis powers in most production categories. Access to the funding and industrial resources necessary to sustain the war effort was linked to their respective economic and political alliances. As formerly neutral powers (such as the United States) joined the escalating conflict, territory changed hands, combatants were defeated, the balance of power shifted in favour of the Allies (as did the means to sustain the military production required to win the war).
During the 1930s, political forces in Germany increased their financial investment in the military to develop the armed forces required to support near- and long-term political and territorial goals. Germany's economic, scientific, research and industrial capabilities were one of the most technically advanced in the world at the time and supported a rapidly growing, innovative military. However, access to (and control of) the resources and production capacity required to entertain long-term goals (such as European control, German territorial expansion and the destruction of the USSR) were limited. Political demands necessitated the expansion of Germany's control of natural and human resources, industrial capacity and farmland beyond its borders. Germany's military production was tied to resources outside its area of control, a dynamic not found amongst the Allies.
In 1938 the British Commonwealth was a global superpower, with political and economic control of a quarter of the world's population, industry and resources. From 1938 to mid-1942, the British coordinated the 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. British forces destroyed Italian armies in North and East Africa and occupied overseas colonies of occupied European nations. Following engagements with Axis forces, British Empire troops occupied Libya, Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran and Iraq. The Empire funded and delivered needed supplies by Arctic convoys to the USSR, and supported Free French forces to recapture French Equatorial Africa. Britain also established governments in exile in London to rally support in occupied Europe for the Allied effort. The British defeated, held back or slowed the Axis powers for three years while mobilizing their globally integrated economy and industrial infrastructure to build what became, by 1942, the most extensive military apparatus of the war. This allowed their later allies (such as the United States) to mobilise their economies and develop the military forces required to play a role in the war effort, and for the British to go on the offensive in its theatres of operation.
The entry of the United States into the war in late 1941 injected financial, human and industrial resources into Allied operations. The US produced more than its own military forces required and armed itself and its allies for the most industrialized war in history. At the beginning of the war, the British and French placed large orders for aircraft with American manufacturers and the US Congress approved plans to increase its air forces by 3,000 planes. In May 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for the production of 185,000 aeroplanes, 120,000 tanks, 55,000 anti-aircraft guns and 18 million tons of merchant shipping in two years. Adolf Hitler was told by his advisors that this was American propaganda; in 1939, annual aircraft production for the US military was less than 3,000 planes. By the end of the war US factories had produced 300,000 planes, and by 1944 had produced two-thirds of the Allied military equipment used in the war—bringing military forces into play in North and South America, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, Western Europe and the Pacific.
The U.S. produced vast quantities of military equipment into late 1945, including nuclear weapons, and became the strongest, most technologically advanced military forces in the world. In addition to out-producing the Axis, the Allies produced technological innovations; through the Tizard Mission, British contributions included radar (instrumental in winning the Battle of Britain), sonar (improving their ability to sink U-boats), and the proximity fuze; the Americans led the Manhattan Project (which eliminated the need to invade Japan). The proximity fuze, for example, was five times as effective as contact or timed fuzes and was devastating in naval use against Japanese aircraft and so effective against German ground troops that General George S. Patton said it "won the Battle of the Bulge for us."
The human and social costs of the war on the population of the USSR were immense, with combat deaths alone in the millions. Recognising the 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 great quantities of resources to the east. Out of German reach, the USSR produced equipment and forces critical to the Axis defeat in Europe. Over one million women served in the Soviet armed forces.
The statistics below illustrate the extent to which the Allies outproduced the Axis. Production of machine tools tripled, and thousands of ships were built in shipyards which did not exist before the war. According to William S. Knudsen, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible."
Access to resources and large, controlled international labour pools and the ability to build arms in relative peace were critical to the eventual victory of the Allies. Donald Douglas (founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company) declared, "Here's proof that free men can out-produce slaves."
Production summaries 1939–1945
Major weapons groups
|Tanks, self-propelled artillery, vehicles||4,358,649||670,288|
|Artillery, mortars, guns||6,792,696||1,363,491|
|Missiles||(only for test)||45,458|
In thousands of international dollars, at 2014 prices.
Vital commerce and raw materials
- Cargo and resources in metric tonnes
Production overview: service, power and type
|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||1,000,730||16,540,835|
|USA and territories||324,000||99,000||97,000||23,900||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|
During the war, Romania built the minelayer Amiral Murgescu, the submarines Rechinul and Marsuinul, a class of four minesweepers, a class of two gunboats and completed six British Power Boat motor torpedo boats.
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.
Romanian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Albanian GDP calculated by multiplying the GDP per capita of the four countries in 1938 ($1,242 for Romania, $2,655 for Hungary, $1,595 for Bulgaria and over $900 for Albania) by their estimated populations in 1938: 19,750,000 for Romania, 9,082,400 for Hungary, 6,380,000 for Bulgaria and and 1,040,400 for Albania.
- Billions of international dollars, at 1990 prices. Adjusted annually for changing compositions within each alliance.
- 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 used above.
Personnel - Allied - British Empire
|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|
|Caribbean / Bermuda||10,000|
|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||14,793,200||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, initially aircraft production was very vulnerable to enemy bombing. 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.
Aircraft - Allies - France, Poland and minor powers
Production numbers until the time of the German occupation of the respective country. Some types listed were in production before the war, those listed were still in production at the time of or after the Munich crisis.
Aircraft - Axis - All
Occupied countries produced weapons for the Axis powers. Figures are for the period of occupation only.
- Allied technological cooperation during World War II
- Combined Food Board
- Combined Munitions Assignments Board
- Combined Raw Materials Board
- Combined Shipping Adjustment Board
- American armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
- British armoured fighting vehicle production during World War II
- German 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
- Technology 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. 165 additional to export customers. Sea Gladiator conversions and production listed in Sea Gladiator entry.
- 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 transport and Coastal Command reconnaissance versions
- Includes pre-war production
- Blenheim variant, includes 457 produced as trainers
- light bomber/transport used in Middle East and Mediterranean theatres
- assault gliders generally not reusable following use
- Initially used as light bomber e.g. 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), Hawker Henley (200), 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)
- Delivered to France.
- First prototype incomplete by German occupation.
- Only 1 (designated P.11g) used by Poland in 1939. The remaining ones were exported to various Balkan countries.
- Around 200 more airframes were in advanced production stage.
- not counting uncompleted PZL.50
- Production was started in Denmark, but not completed before the German invasion.
- Originally an advanced fighter-training aircraft, this type was later used as a light attack plane, in particular by the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia.
- not counting P.4/34
- According to some sources license production started in Denmark but not completed before the German invasion.
- All but 5 delivered to Bulgaria.
- Prototypes that were used in combat.
- Never entered service
- Number refers to production resumed after German occupation.
- Produced shortly before the war and mainly used for testing and propaganda purposes.
- Conversion from MS.406/410.
- Conversion from MS.406.
- Produced before the war and 2 used by Japanese for testing.
- All produced before the war, but used until 1944.
- 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
- Produced for Germany after German occupation.
- Only bomber versions listed here.
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Personnel -Allied - British Empire
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- South Africa 3
- South Africa 4
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- West Africa 3
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Personnel - Axis
This includes all German and non-German subjects serving within German Reich forces.
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Aircraft - Allied
Aircraft - Axis
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Military industrial production during World War II.|
- 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