The Cost of WWII Aircraft
Contributed by Elizabeth Piper (Reuters). Author
The cost of doing
business -- Given the
odds shown by the following numbers,
those of us who survived in these planes can now appreciate just how
'lucky' we were!
who were not adults during
WWII have no understanding of the magnitude of it.
listing of some of the aircraft facts gives a bit of insight to
aircraft manufactured in the
43,000 planes lost overseas, including 23,000 in combat.
14,000 lost in the continental U.S.
The US civilian
a dedicated effort for four years,
many working long hours seven days
per week and often also volunteering for other work.
WWII was the largest human effort in history.
from Flight Journal
THE COST of DOING
cost of war.
THE PRICE OF EACH VICTORY PLANE
During WWII, ON
AN AVERAGE; 6600 American
service men died per MONTH, (about 220 a day)
A DAY WORLDWIDE --- 2,433 days.
invasion of Poland Sept 1, 1939 to ending with Japan's surrender Sept
Planes lost each day - Average.
Many is a 1,000
B-17 production (12,731) wingtip to wingtip would extend 250
1,000 B-17s carried 2.5 million gallons of high octane
Lifting 10,000 airmen to deliver 2,000 tons of bombs.
billion gallons of gasoline consumed, 1942-1945.
hours flown, 1943-1945.
rounds of aircraft ammo fired overseas,
bombs dropped overseas, 1943-1945.
combat sorties, 1941-1945 (one sortie = one
engines accepted, 1940-1945.
propellers accepted, 1940-1945.
MOST-PRODUCED COMBAT AIRCRAFT
Yak 1, 3, 7, 9
B-24 / PB4Y
Other Interesting Facts
Inside the continental United States.
less than four years (December 1941- August 1945), the US Army Air
Forces lost 14,903 pilots, aircrew and assorted personnel plus 13,873
airplanes --- They were the result of 52,651 aircraft
accidents (6,039 involving
fatalities) in 45 months. According to the AAF Statistical Digest.
Think about those
numbers. They average
1,170 aircraft accidents per month---- nearly 40 a day. (Less
than one accident in four resulted in totaled aircraft, however.)
Those colossal losses cost the Axis powers nothing;
not as much as one 7.7 mm bullet. It gets worse..... Almost
1,000 Army planes
disappeared en route from the US to foreign climes. But an
eye-watering 43,581 aircraft were lost overseas including 22,948 on
combat missions (18,418 against the Western Axis) and 20,633 attributed
to non-combat causes overseas.
60 B-17s were shot down
among 376 losses, in August 1943. That was a 16 percent loss rate and
meant 600 empty
bunks in England. In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for
bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe. Pacific theatre
losses were far less (4,530 in
combat) owing to smaller forces committed. The worst B-29
mission, against Tokyo on May 25, 1945, cost 26 Superfortress, 5.6
percent of the 464 dispatched from the Marianas.
died per month during
WWII,on average, about 220 a day. By the end of the war,
over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theatres and another 18,000
wounded. Some 12,000 missing men were declared dead, including a
number "liberated" by the Soviets but never returned. More than
41,000 were captured, half of the 5,400 held by the Japanese died in
captivity, compared with one-tenth in German hands. Total combat
casualties were pegged at 121,867. US manpower made up the
deficit. The AAF's peak
strength was reached in 1944 with 2,372,000 personnel, nearly twice the
previous year's figure.
The losses were huge---but so were
production totals. From 1941 through 1945, American industry
delivered more than 276,000 military aircraft. That number was enough
not only for US Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but for allies as diverse
as Britain, Australia, China and Russia. In fact, from 1943
onward, America produced more planes than Britain and Russia
combined. And more than Germany and Japan together 1941-45.
Our enemies took
losses however. Through much of 1944, the
uncontrolled hemorrhaging, reaching 25 percent of aircrews and 40
planes a month. And in late 1944 into 1945, nearly half the
pilots in Japanese squadrons had flown fewer than 200 hours. The
disparity of two years before had been completely reversed.
Uncle Sam sent many of
to war with absolute minimums of training. Some
fighter pilots entered combat in 1942 with less than one
hour in their assigned aircraft. The 357th Fighter Group
(often known as The Yoxford Boys) went to
England in late 1943 having trained on P-39s. The group never saw
a Mustang until shortly before its first
combat mission. A high-time P-51 pilot had 30 hours in
type. Many had fewer
than five hours. Some had one hour.
With arrival of new
aircraft, many combat
units transitioned in combat. The attitude was, "They
all have a stick and a
throttle. Go fly `em." When the famed 4th
Fighter Group converted from P-47s to P-51s in February 1944,
there was no time to stand down for an orderly transition. The Group
commander, Col. Donald Blakeslee, said, "You can
learn to fly `51s on the way to the target.
Gone West HNL QB Brewster
(Morgan's Corner up in Nuuanu off of Old Pali Road),
boy and a member of the 4th Fighter Group,
told me that they actually
did stand down one day to
transition from the P47 to the P51.
They were pissed that
the old groups still
had the P47 [Brewster was with the Eagle Squadron in the
Spitfire......later in the P47 when the US got into it in '42] and the
newer groups coming over from the US all had P-51s. Blakeslee finally convinced AF to let
them convert by standing down
just one day. An
interesting side note...Brewster was shot down over France in '44
and became a POW...his roommate?...Douglas Bader...top English ace with
two wooden legs...Bader lost one of his legs when he bailed out and was
asked the Brits to send him another
leg......which they did).
A future P-47 ace said, "I was sent to England to
die." He was not
alone. Some fighter pilots
tucked their wheels in the well on their
first combat mission with one previous flight in the
aircraft. Meanwhile, many bomber crews were still
learning their trade: of Jimmy Doolittle's 15 pilots on the April
1942 Tokyo raid, only
five had won their wings before 1941. All but one of the 16 copilots were less
than a year out of
In WWII flying safety
took a back seat to combat. The AAF's worst
accident rate was recorded by the A-36 Invader
version of the P-51: a staggering 274 accidents per 100,000
flying hours. Next worst were the P-39 at 245, the P-40 at 188,
and the P-38 at
139. All were Allison powered.
Bomber wrecks were
fewer but more expensive. The B-17 and B-24
averaged 30 and 35 accidents per 100,000 flight
hours, respectively- a horrific figure considering that from 1980
to 2000 the Air Force's major mishap rate
was less than 2. The B-29 was even worse at 40; the world's most
most capable and most expensive bomber was too urgently needed to stand
down for mere safety reasons. The AAF set a reasonably high standard
for B-29 pilots, but the desired figures were seldom
The original cadre
of the 58th Bomb Wing was
to have 400 hours of multi-engine time, but there were not enough
experienced pilots to meet the criterion. Only ten percent
had overseas experience. Conversely, when a $2.1 billion B-2
crashed in 2008, the Air Force
initiated a two-month "safety pause" rather than declare a "stand
down", let alone grounding.
was no better
for maintenance. Though the R3350 was known as a
complicated, troublesome power-plant,
no more than half the mechanics had previous experience with the Duplex
Cyclone. But they made it work.
Perhaps the greatest
unsung success story of AAF
training was Navigators. The Army graduated some 50,000 during
the War. And many had never flown out of sight of land before
leaving "Uncle Sugar" for a war zone. Yet the huge majority found
their way across oceans and continents without getting lost or running
out of fuel --- a stirring tribute to the AAF's educational
possible for a flying
cadet at the time of Pearl Harbor to finish the war with eagles on his
shoulders. That was the record of John D. Landers, a 21-year-old Texan,
commissioned a second lieutenant on December 12, 1941. He joined
his combat squadron with 209 hours total flight time,
including 2 ½ in P-40s. He finished the war as a full
colonel, commanding an 8th Air Force
Group --- at age 24. As the training pipeline filled up, however
those low figures became
exceptions. By early 1944, the average AAF fighter pilot entering
combat had logged
at least 450 hours, usually including 250 hours in training. At
the same time, many captains and first lieutenants claimed over 600
height in mid-1944, the Army Air Forces had 2.6 million
people and nearly 80,000 aircraft of all types. Today the US Air
Force employs 327,000 active personnel (plus
170,000 civilians) with 5,500+ manned and perhaps 200 unmanned
aircraft. The 2009 figures represent about 12 percent of the manpower
percent of the airplanes of the WWII peak.
Whether there will ever be another war is doubtful, as fighters and
bombers have given way to helicopters and remotely-controlled drones
over Afghanistan and Iraq. But within living memory, men left the
earth in 1,000-plane formations and
fought major battles five miles high, leaving a legacy that remains
Rene Francillon, Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific war;
Bekker, The Luftwaffe Diaries;
Ray Wagner, American Combat
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