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Armament Production in WW2

Posted August 31st, 2017 at 03:15 PM by Guaporense
Updated September 1st, 2017 at 10:18 AM by Guaporense

To construct relatively accurate estimates of the value of armaments produced in WW2 I searched for output of the major categories of armaments and related logistical equipment (trucks and locomotives).

Interestingly, the value for armament output in WW2 was very much like I expected beforehand given the respective sizes of each economy (taking into account the fact the USSR lost a lot of territory and so did not have full access to it's economic potential). Still the correlation between the value of armament production from 1941 to 1944 and GDP in 1937 was very high at 0.9986.

To estimate the relative total value of armament production I collected data on weights of different types of munitions and average prices of a ton of these munitions. For example, the price of a ton of a Ju-88 medium bomber was 32,000 RM in 1941 and the price of a ton of a Me-109 fighter was 38,000 RM in the same year. Usually bigger aircraft has a slightly lower price per ton than smaller aircraft but this estimate is crude so that level of imprecision can bias the estimate toward countries that produced heavier aircraft, I should also note that aircraft corresponded to be single biggest armament item in most countries, in Japan aircraft production was valued at 35% of armament production in 1944 while in Germany, sales of aircraft were 30% of all direct industrial sales to the armed forces from German metal working industry in 3rd quarter of 1943.

The second most important armament (in fact, the most important for Germany) was ammunition. According to my estimates, ammunition value produced was about 35% of German armament output.

So, here is the final index of aggregate armament production from 1941 to 1944 with Germany = 100, since I used German prices to compare value:

US ---------- 206.2
UK ---------- 72.3
USSR -------- 80.9
Japan ------- 26.3

So we have what we expected: Germany was the second largest armament producer in WW2 but far behind the US with the USSR slightly behind Germany and the UK slightly behind the USSR. Japan's output by comparison was only slightly more than a quarter of Germany's.

Here are tonnage figures for some armaments produced in WW2 from 1941-1944:

------------ Combat aircraft
US --------- 1,181,005 tons
UK --------- 462,803 tons
Germany --- 373,403 tons
USSR ------ 355,446 tons
Japan ------ 120,193 tons

Tonnage figures really put aircraft production into perspective: Japan's economic weakness contrasted with the Western countries is glaring. The US economic leadership is also very apparent.

Although in terms of ground combat munitions, USSR and Germany equaled or surpassed the US. It's just that their war efforts were directed at different sectors.

If we take a look at naval vessels, Japan is much closer to the rest though:

------------ Major naval vessels
US --------- 3,042,000 tons
UK --------- 1,208,000 tons
Germany ---- 810,000 tons
Japan ------- 797,200 tons

In terms of ammunition Germany lead the pack though, simply due to the massive demands placed on it's army (which killed and wounded about 25 million allied soldiers):

------------ Artillery, mortar and AA ammunition
Germany ---- 4,424,000 tons
US ---------- 2,931,600 tons
USSR -------- 2,481,300 tons
UK ----------- 1,016,000 tons

I lacked data for Japan but I had Japanese output of explosives and estimated Japan's ammo output at 12.2% of Germany's.

One interesting thing is the output of trucks measured by tonnage, German truck output was regarded as insignificant by historians but actually German trucks were 80% of the time 3-ton trucks or over hence much heavier on average than allied trucks: 60% of American trucks were 1.5 tons or less. In terms of truck "weight" converted output of trucks looked like this:

------ Heavy Truck output
USA ------2,283,600 tons
Germany -- 869,700 tons
Japan ----- 259,900 tons

----------- Tanks
USA ------ 88,184
USSR ----- 82,300
Germany -- 41,035
UK -------- 25,500
Japan ----- 3,400

More in line with each countries' industrial potential.

By the way GDPs in 1937 were:

US -------- 832 billion 1990 dollars
Germany -- 410 billion 1990 dollars*
USSR ----- 372 billion 1990 dollars
UK -------- 305 billion 1990 dollars
Japan ----- 134 billion 1990 dollars

*With Austria and Western Czechoslovakia which also produced armaments. These figures are estimated using the 1980 ICP data instead of the 1990 ICP that Maddison used for his estimates.
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  1. Old Comment
    Sun of Austerlitz's Avatar
    In terms of ammunition Germany lead the pack though, simply due to the massive demands placed on it's army (which killed and wounded about 25 million allied soldiers):
    "Viel Feind, viel Munition". Frundsberg revisited.
    Posted October 17th, 2017 at 06:16 PM by Sun of Austerlitz Sun of Austerlitz is offline

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