THE MOST PRODUCED
BY BUDD DAVISSON
Today, the world is populated by approxi- mately 7. 5 billion people of all races, colors, cultures, shapes, and sizes. In 1939, just as the curtains were going
up on World War II, the population was right at
2.3 billion. It was less than a third the size it is
today, yet the six-year period following 1939
saw probably the largest industrial growth
of any period before or since. During WW II,
the amount of “stuff” of all kinds that was
built (and much of it destroyed) staggers the
imagination. Nowhere is this more noticeable
than in the explosive growth (and subsequent
death) of the world’s airplane population.
Icons in Big Numbers
Airplanes by the ;ousands
In round numbers, it is estimated that today there are
approximately 450,000 airplanes of all kinds worldwide. This
is interesting, when one considers that the total worldwide
production of aircraft during WW II is estimated at 786,553,
which is 75 percent more than exist today, 75 years later!
The United States alone produced 300,557—more than 150
percent of the output of all the Axis nations combined. The
United Kingdom cranked out another 131,000, so the other
side really didn’t have a chance. Or did it?
The foregoing leaves the impression that the United States
led the world in combat aircraft production. If that’s true, why
were only three of the 10 most produced airplanes of WW II
American-made? Why is the highest U.S. score, the B- 24, only
the fifth most produced? In other words, the country known
for popping out goodies like Sherman tanks barely made the
most produced list.
America’s most produced airplane was the B- 24. Going into production in 1941, it benefited from Ford’s assembly-line experience, which
produced one bomber every 63 minutes. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia