World War 2 in Numbers

Channel 5

8 x 60 mins

Just a generation after the bloody slaughter of the Great “War to end all wars”, the world was once again plunged into conflict. This new global war would bring death and destruction to every part of the world: Europe and Asia, Africa and Australasia, North and even to some extent South America. 690 million people would serve - ten times the number who fought in World War I. Something like 100 million would lose their lives: between 50-70 million soldiers, sailors and airmen, and more than 30 million civilians - that’s more than ten times the death toll of the September 11 attacks being killed every single day for over five years. Infantrymen will have a 50% chance of being killed during the war, for allied bomber crews and German U-boat personnel the chances of death were over 70%. The numbers are so staggering, and the chaos inflicted by the war so traumatic, that it’s hard to keep track of the figures.

Yet it’s only by digging into the numbers that we can start to understand what caused this war in the first place, and why it was fought the way it was.  Numbers can help explain the rise of Adolf Hitler and the military junta that took control of Japan.  They make sense of Appeasement in the runup to the invasion of Poland.  They account for Hitler’s obsession with Stalingrad and the Caucasus; Japan’s decision to bomb Pearl Harbor; how the RAF won the Battle of Britain; why Stalin was allowed to take Berlin; and why the Americans dropped the Atomic Bomb.

The war would cost over a trillion dollars. The USA would produce 2.5 million vehicles and 283,000 aircraft during the course of the war, whilst US troops would fire over a thousand tons of ammunition a day.

In this series, we take these numbers and more to present a new history of World War Two.  Because only by looking at the conflict through these and other statistics can you truly understand The Second World War.  

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