Aircraft and naval vessels drove the United States (US) expenditures. These two US World War 2 war cost categories were just shy of two thirds of the US WWII spending in 1944 at 63%. Both aircraft and naval vessels played significantly into US and United Kingdom (UK) strategic planning and became overwhelming strengths as the war proceeded in all their respective theaters. So why did the US and UK prioitize air and sea?
Table of Contents
Both the US and the UK were separated from the land masses where armies faced off. In the Pacific it is was more apparent that the battles and movement would be decided by sea and air at least until the actual invasion of Japan. In Europe both the US and UK were physically separated from the continent, therefore the air and sea wars initially would take priority.
How the US and UK practiced total war in WWII was different from the other major belligerents. Both the US and UK armies, navies, and air forces would be involved worldwide and needed to allocate their resources accordingly including which weapons platforms got priority. The Soviet strategy focused on land battles with their air force mainly providing combat support. Germany’s naval forces focused on interdicting the flow of the Allies war materiel, but their strategic goals were seizing land in the east. Japan strategic intention was to quickly seize territories they desired and then holding on until a negotiated peace.
Soviet versus German and Japanese Mobilization
The Soviet Union along with its two Allied nations mobilized their industries quickly utilizing women and other nontraditional labor sources. Both Germany and Japan were slower to use nontraditional labor sources in their factories. Although the Allied nations had internal competition from the military branches for resources, they were much more effective through their coordinating committees to allocate resources and who got which weapons platforms or resources.
Both the US and UK began WWII as naval powerhouses. The UK was considered the strongest in the world followed closely by the US. The UK and US were alone in thinking that strategic bombing would be an effective use of their air forces. In part it was their traditional naval strength and belief in air warfare that led to their resource allocations. They believed that their navies could not only move men and materiel but also could constrict and pin down their enemies.
However, it is in the air that the UK and US practices would differ from the other combatants. For a successful D-Day the Allies required air superiority. And their air forces went after it in every way possible. They bombed and strafed the: natural resources needed by Germany’s aircraft factories, transportation facilities suppling those factories, aircraft factories, personnel building the aircraft, pilot training facilities, aircraft prior to deployment, airfields, maintenance facilities, ground personnel, and the German pilots themselves in one-on-one combat.
The desired outcome was costly to Allied airmen and aircraft and it was also slow in coming, but it was devastatingly effective against the Germans in the end. The Allies gained air superiority in western Europe which became air domination. This air strength limited German movement on the ground. Eventually, as demonstrated in Operation Cobra, it would lead to the most effective land air combined arms capability in the war.
US War Cost 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.
|wdt_ID||Category||Cost of Production (Billions US$)|
|1||Guns and fire control||3.4|
|2||Communications and electrical equipment||4.3|
|3||Combat and motor vehicles||5.3|
|5||Ships (including merchant)||14.1|
Source: O’Brien, Phillips Payson. “How The War Was Won Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II.”, New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2018. Page 55. ISBN 978–1–107–71689-5