The two Allied nations, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), far outproduced their Axis counterparts in warships. Strategically, both the US and the UK believed in two ocean navies as well as worldwide trade. Japan to a lesser degree depended upon trade but it was limited in scope to the Pacific and their navy reflected that fact. Additionally, the US and UK had or could develop resources and infrastructure to produce naval vessels. Germany sea strategy was one of denying the Allies of shipping capability versus the Allies blue water strategy of owning shipping lanes as well as military force projection.
In 1940 and 1941 the UK was the leading warship producer by tonnage. In 1942 the US took over that role. 1941 was the year that the Axis nation had their largest share of the production pie at 36.2%. By 1943 the axis percentage stood at 11.9% and would fall to 7.5% by 1945.
Historically not only were the UK and the US leading worldwide naval forces they were leading shipbuilders as well. The UK and the US could and would convert commercial shipbuilding facilities into military shipbuilding facilities. For example, prior to the war years Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland was famous for building ocean liners. However, during the war years Harland & Wolff transitioned to building built Abercrombie-class monitors and cruisers. Similar stories could be told of other British and American shipbuilders.
The production story of the Liberty ships is well known as the Kaiser shipbuilding facilities were able to reduce production time from more than a year to less than 90 days. Lesser known is Kaiser’s production of the Casablanca-class escort carrier. Kaiser’s bid to produce fifty escort carriers in two years was rejected as the Navy believed this was impossible. It took President Roosevelt’s advisers to intercede and award the contract. Kaiser delivered the fifty escort carriers on time.
The US was simplifying the design and using mass production techniques to produce quantity. The Axis nations were trying to streamline their production processes but overall, they were using traditional one at a time techniques. 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.
For the most part the UK and US shipbuilding facilities were not attacked by their enemies whereas the Axis facilities found themselves under Allied bombardment. Freedom from enemy harassment allowed their facilities to be set up with emphasis on production first and foremost.
Warships Produced by Nation by Total Tonnage 1940 to 1945 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.
*submarines only. Germany produced very few surface vessels between 1940 and 1945.
Trueman, C. N. “Weapons And Manpower.” https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/weapons-and-manpower/, Data accessed on July 22, 2022
Other Naval Vessel Data Links
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.