Doesn’t 2021 sound good? You were probably thinking that we would never finish 2020. But we did! Back in mid-1945, we were also thinking that 1945 would never end. We had been at war since December 1941. So how did we start WWII? In 1939, we had an Army of about 174,000. This was 19th in size compared to the world’s armies at the time. We were even smaller than Portugal’s Army.
From 1941-1945, we grew our military to about 16-17 million men and women. The U.S. military was made up of about 6,000,000 volunteers and about 11,000,000 draftees. Average duration of service was about 33 months. 73% of those service members served overseas with an average of about 16 months abroad.
We had about 91 Divisions that were formed with an average of about 15,000 soldiers each. Those divisions were Infantry, Armored, Mechanized, Cavalry, and Airborne. We also had 6 Marine Infantry Divisions.
At the peak of WWII our Navy was operating about 6,800 ships of all types. Unbelievable, but we had 28 Carriers, 23 Battleships, 71 Escort Carriers, 72 Cruisers, 232 Submarines, and 377 Destroyers, including the one that our former VFW Commander Shorty Barnett was on, the DD-851 / USS Rupertus. USS Rupertus’ keel was laid down on 2 May 1945. We also had thousands of other supply and amphibious ships of various types. Today we are just trying to reach a Navy of 355 ships total!
Now let’s talk about the U.S. Army Air Corps. At the start of the war, the Air Corps had about 3300 aircraft of various types and the Navy had about 3000 aircraft. Ready for an airpower eye opener? Here are the aircraft production figures from just six aircraft factories on the West Coast:
1. North American-California 9949 P-51 Mustangs, 3208 B-25 bombers, and 2163 AT-6 trainers
2. Lockheed-California 9423 P-38 Lighting Fighters, 2189 Hudson patrol bombers
3. Consolidated Vultee-California 11,537 BT-13 trainers and BT-15 basic trainers
4. Consolidated Vultee-California 6725 B-24 Liberator Hvy bombers, 2833 Navy patrol bombers
5. Douglas-California 4285 C-47 cargo planes, 3000 B-17 Flying Fortress Hvy bombers
6. Boeing-Washington 6942 B-17 Flying Fortress Hvy bombers, 398 other aircraft
The total production from just these six factories was 67,928 aircraft!
The German and the Japanese militaries were not only beaten by our fighting forces, but it was overwhelmed by the industrial strength of the United States. And thus ends another “war story” as we start the year 2021. I hope that all of our VFW members and families had a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!