World War II witnessed a stark contrast in munitions expenditure per military personnel between the Allied nations (the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union) and Germany. This article explores the reasons behind the intensive munitions production built by the Allied nations from the beginning of the war, in contrast to Germany’s slow build-up process. The strategies, economic management, and utilization of captured territories’ industrial strengths played significant roles in shaping these divergent approaches.
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Table of Contents
WW2 Munitions Expenditure per Military Personnel: Allied Nations vs. Germany
Allied Nations: Intensive Munitions Production
The Allied nations adopted a long-term existential strategy, with a primary focus on defeating Germany first. They recognized the importance of resource sharing and collaboration to maximize their military capabilities. The United Kingdom and the United States emphasized mechanization and munitions expenditure to minimize casualties and strategic bombing to cripple enemy infrastructure. Technology sharing and improvement were encouraged, with close engagement with industrialists to ensure efficient production.
The Soviet Union, while also emphasizing mechanization and munitions expenditure, aimed to supplement its large frontline forces. They relocated factories to the Urals and implemented a scorched earth policy for those that couldn’t be transferred. The Soviet industries, although under a command-and-control economy, had more flexibility in managing resources and supplies compared to Nazi-controlled industries.
Germany Strategy and Economic Management
Germany’s strategy lacked clarity, particularly in terms of economic management. They consistently violated the Versailles Treaty without facing significant consequences, as they believed they would engage in a series of appeasements or short wars. The concept of blitzkrieg, a war of movement, was expected to rapidly crush opposing armies. The initial success of these diplomatic and military operations led Germany to believe that they did not need to fully mobilize their economy for long-term warfare.
The German economy was controlled by the state, with prices set by the Nazi bureaucracy favoring the Nazi state but leading conquered nations to the verge of collapse. Resources were directed towards political ends rather than economic efficiency. Additionally, Germany did not fully utilize the industrial strengths of the territories they occupied. Instead of having these factories continue producing defense products, Germany plundered and looted them, resulting in suboptimal use of acquired machine tools.
Challenges in German Industrial Adaptability and Labor Motivation
Germany’s industrial management faced challenges due to the Nazi hierarchy’s unfamiliarity with industrial requirements. The Nazi-managed industries were not as adaptable or nimble in responding to changing demands. Forced or slave labor, often working under fear and lacking motivation to produce quality products, became common. Sabotage efforts, such as notching dipsticks or deliberately withholding key components like ball bearings, further hindered production.
The contrasting approaches to munitions expenditure per military personnel between the Allied nations and Germany during World War II were influenced by strategic considerations, economic management, and industrial adaptability. The Allied nations prioritized intensive munitions production from the beginning, focusing on mechanization, technology sharing, and efficient resource allocation. In contrast, Germany’s strategy relied on short wars and the belief in highly trained troops, leading to a slower build-up process and challenges in managing captured territories’ industrial strengths. These divergent approaches played a significant role in shaping the outcomes of the war and the effectiveness of each nation’s military capabilities.
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Munition Expenditure per Military Personnel Data
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. 175
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