In the prewar years Allied and Axis expenditures on combat munitions production tilted slightly in the Axis favor. However, by 1942 Soviet spending by itself was equaling Japanese and German spending and the United States was outspending the Axis nations on a 1.7 to one basis. Both Germany and Japan would continue to expand their munition expenditure at a growing rate, but they would continue to fall further behind as the Allied nations expanded faster.
Table of Contents
Of the five major WW2 belligerents, Germany, Japan, UK, US, and USSR only the Soviets did not prioritize munitions spending on naval vessels and aircraft.
Japan, the UK and the US were all major sea powers prior to WW2 with the UK and the US projecting power worldwide and Japan more regionally in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Five-Power Treaty, signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy in 1922 mandated a set ratio of warship tonnage which allowed the United States and the United Kingdom 500,000 tons, Japan 300,000 tons, and France and Italy each 175,000 tons.
Several follow-on conferences were held between 1927 and 1935, and the results modified the original the Five-Power Treaty to address tonnage ratios, cruisers, submarines, and auxiliary ships. Cruisers became a sticking point as the original treaty limited the size but not how many could be built, and all raced to build as many as possible. The provisions in both the Five-Power Treaty of 1922 and the 1930 treaties were set to expire in 1936. Japan ended further participation upon the 1936 expiration date.
Germany post World War I was extremely bound by treaty to a small navy and was allowed to expand it to 45% of the UK’s naval tonnage by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935. Germany withdrew from the agreement in 1939 with intentions to expand their fleet. No matter how much Germany wanted to expand their naval capacity it wasn’t possible given all the competing demands from the other military branches. Germany made the strategic decision to concentrate on submarines as their naval vessel of choice.
The Royal Navy, still the largest in the world in September 1939, had 332 commissioned ships and would add 553 more prior to the end of the war. As the war progressed the Royal Navy expanded rapidly with large construction programs, particularly escort carriers, destroyers, corvettes, frigates, submarines, landing ships and craft.
The UK developed tactics and technologies to counter the rising German U-boat threat. Convoys were organized and provided escort defenses. As the war wore on and the merchant ships became faster as the older slower ships were culled out it became rarer that a convoyed ship was sank. With the advent of ASDIC, later called SONAR, and centimetric radar the escorts were able to electronically track submarines. To this the Royal Navy developed tactics, such as Raspberry to counter in a coordinated manner.
Like the United Kingdom the United States had large commercial and military shipbuilding facilities with long established capabilities. The US had forty-four shipbuilding facilities along their eastern, western and gulf coasts. The Great Lakes added eleven more bringing the grand total to fifty-five production facilities during the war years. Even beyond military vessels the US was building a fleet of merchant marines with Liberty and Victory ships. The US simplified merchant marine ship design and used mass production techniques to produce quantity.
Combat Munitions Production, Major Belligerents, 1935-44 Data
The above graph can be downloaded as an image.
To download the data shown below from which the graph was developed click on the icon below corresponding to you desired format. Note: to ensure all data is downloaded choose the ‘All’ selection in the Show Entries dropdown list. Otherwise only the data visible on the screen will download.
Note: * Figures for 1935-9 are given as cumulative expenditure in the source, annual average expenditure in this table. Source: Goldsmith, ‘Power of victory’, p. 75.
Source Harrison, Mark. “Resource mobilization for World War II: the U.S.A., U.K., U.S.S.R., and Germany, 1938‐1945.” Published in the Economic History Review, 41:2 (1988), pp. 172
Other Cost and Production Data
This website, ww2data.com, has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third party internet websites referenced. Nor does ww2data.com guarantee that any content on such websites are accurate or will remain accurate.