At the beginning of the war Allied manpower was 70.6% that of the Axis manpower strength. However, at war’s end a huge reversal with Allied strength now almost double that of the Axis powers. But in 1940 it was far from clear what manpower levels would be needed and their respective responses to mobilizations corresponded to their unique visions.
Table of Contents
Axis and Allied Mobilization Responses
Axis War Visions
Germany foresaw a series of short wars or political takeovers of states in one-on-one actions. And the early days proved out Germany’s expectations, beginning in 1935 with Germany violating the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription on through to France signing an armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940.
During the 1930s Germany more so than any other European nation mobilized their military and industry for war. German self-sufficiency was a key principle in their war preparations which included construction of synthetic fuel and rubber plants, prioritizing military over civilian economic policy, and stockpiling raw materials.
Although Germany’s prewar vision required industrial and military mobilizations it did not envision that of total war. Accordingly, Germany’s early war manpower mobilization geared up for quick victories. For example, Operation Barbarossa launched against the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, and was expected to last between six and eight weeks. Operation Barbarossa goal was the establishment of ‘a line of defense against Asiatic Russia’, stretching from the Volga to Archangelsk.
Operation Barbarossa was a planned quick campaign. In any case the fight on the Eastern Front was not expected to last into winter. The Germans accepted that the Soviets would ally with the British once Operation Barbarossa began. However, Hitler and his military leaders saw this as inconsequential, believing that the Wehrmacht would crush the Soviet Union before Britain could provide any aid.
Outside of the ongoing war in China the Japanese saw a rapid expansion into the southwest Pacific followed by a negotiated peace. Japan believe they could expand their empire and control the much-needed resources that they lacked. “They planned to fight a war of limited objectives and having once secured these objectives to set up a defense in such depth that the United States would find a settlement favorable to Japan an attractive alternative to a long and costly war. To the Japanese leaders this seemed an entirely reasonable view.” (1)
(1) Morton, Louis, “Command Decisions Japan’s Decision for War, Center of Military History United States Army, Washington, DC 1990, Page 122, https://history.army.mil/books/70-7_04.htm, accessed on March 29, 2023
Allies War Visions
It is almost counterintuitive that the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan all fascist governments would act so independently of each other. Whereas the Allied nations of the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) three nations with a constitutional monarchy, a representative democratic republic, and a communist government would coordinate at a high level.
Both the UK and the Soviet Union envisioned a long haul and coordinated their mobilization of manpower and economies accordingly. The US was the last entry into the fray, but they also mobilized along the lines of their allied nation partners.
An Awkward Alliance
Despite their vastly different political systems, these nations worked towards a common goal of defeating their enemies. High level conferences at Tehran and Yalta with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in attendance. However, there were more than two dozen conferences with high-ranking Allied representatives coordinating intentions, materiel, and industries shaping their war effort. Teams implementing these conference decisions continued
The Axis powers, led by Germany, initially had a significant advantage in terms of training and experience. Both Germany and Japan had invested heavily in military training and had a highly trained and experienced military at the start of the war. However, as the war dragged on, both began to suffer from a shortage of manpower, and the quality of its troops began to decline. In response, they began to rely more heavily on conscription of both younger and older recruits and the use of poorly trained and inexperienced soldiers, leading to a decline in the overall quality of its forces.
In contrast, the Allied powers, led by the United States, took a different approach to training new recruits. The US military invested heavily in training and education, with a focus on developing highly skilled and well-trained soldiers. The US military also made use of modern technology and tactics to give its troops an edge in battle. As the war progressed, the Allies were able to draw on a larger pool of manpower and resources, allowing them to maintain a high level of training and experience among their troops.
Towards the end the Allies were providing better in depth and amount of training for their new troops. The Allies rotated experienced men into training roles to impart their hard gained knowledge. Axis new recruits heard very little from the experienced veterans as they continued in their fighting roles often until they became a casualty statistic.
Allied versus Axis Manpower 1939-1945 Data
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Note: German manpower was unknown for 1945. Post author used 7,000,000 as an estimate.
Source: Harrison, Mark. “The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison”, Cambridge University Press (1998) Page 29
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