The Sinews of War:

Economics, Production and Logistics during the Second World War

There's a saying that amateurs study strategy while professionals study logistics. This is certainly true of the historiography of World War 2 in which the economic underpinnings that supported the war effort have generally received short shrift. There are certainly notable exceptions, more so in recent years, but logistics and economics are topics far less 'sexy' than the Benghazi Stakes or the Battle of Guadalcanal. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but suffice it to say that these subjects, crucial to the understanding of why the war was waged in the way it was, are definitely neglected. I aim to change some of that.

I've worked up some pieces on various topics that I've found of interest. You'll have to decide for yourself if the conventional wisdom is correct.

Battlefield and Strategic Logistics

German Ammunition Expenditure during the Polish Campaign
One of the minor myths about German actions after the conquest of Poland is that Hitler was dissuaded from attacking France in November by his generals who pleaded that the existing stocks of ammo needed to be replenished lest they be exhausted during the invasion of France which was bound to be expensive in blood and ammunition, implying that stocks had been largely expended during the Polish Campaign. This wasn't quite the case and methinks that the generals were exaggerating to dissuade Hitler from attacking. There were a number of good and sound reasons not to attack France in 1939, but low ammunition stocks wasn't one of them.

German Logistics and the Normandy Breakout

Italian Priorities in 1940-1941: Africa or Greece First?
It's often assumed that Italian support for the early stages war in North Africa was as much as it could muster at the time. This is not correct as the campaigns in Greece and Yugoslavia consumed much more than did that in North Africa. It's often forgotten that this campaign was waged at the same time as the initial battles in North Africa and that all supplies for the Greek front had to be delivered by sea to an area that possed virtually no infrastructure at all. For reasons of national and personal pride Mussolini placed the weight of the Italian effort on conquering Greece rather than Egypt. Italian resources were limited and thus neither campaign could be prosecuted to the fullest and Greece won out.

Weapons Production



Soviet Union

Soviet Arms Factories
The story of the Soviet evacuation of their factories in wake of the German invasion is well known. But what isn't common knowledge are the details about the factories' production when they had to pack up and how that impacted Soviet arms production since only some of the factories needed to be evacuated. Comparative totals for Germany and the USSR for artillery production are also provided and the significance of Lend-Lease analyzed for a comprehensive overview of Soviet wartime armaments production. Updated 8 Dec 01 with better data on British AT gun and tank deliveries provided by Alan Philson.

Economics and Raw Materials

World Strategic Raw Materials and Foodstuffs
1937 data on world production. Useful for evaluating the economic potential of each alliance.

Steel, Coal and the German War Economy
A preliminary look at German production of these essential materials, with data on their import and export. Mostly tables with a minimum of commentary.

Workforce Structure in the Electrical Industry, May 1944
One data point on the employment of women in the Nazi economy.
The Aircraft Industry Report includes data for that industry for October, 1944.

Lend-Lease as a Function of the Soviet War Effort
Another draft that is mostly tabular. Weapons deliveries are covered in the page on Soviet arms factories.

The Economic Geography of Soviet Coal and Oil and Their Means of Distribution
Yet another preliminary investigation of the distribution of Soviet oil production to see just how critical Baku was to the Soviet war effort. Also presents some information on coal production. Includes 1940 data for railroad and sea transport by commodity.

Soviet Industrial Production 1940-1945
A table that shows Soviet production in the metals, fuels, and electricity sectors during the war on a yearly basis.

Soviet Raw Material Deliveries as a Function of the German War Economy
Tables that present the importance of the USSR in supporting the Germans before Barbarossa.

Sweden as Part of the Axis Economy
A look at the relative importance of Swedish ballbearings to the Axis war effort. Iron ore is covered in Steel, Coal and the German War Economy

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey

I've digitized the interesting portions of the Strategic Bombing Survey. These include the Aircraft Division Industry Report as well as the Oil Division Final Report and the Munitions Division Report.

Return to Panzerkeil

Return to Sturmvogel