Post by Rich
Yep, just a few, 10,035-million (yes, that number is ten-thousand and
thirty-five ***million*** or 10,035,000,000) rounds during the
"war" (1 July 1940 - 31 August 1945).
Cite?? I'm sure you have a good source, but that seems
The bullets alone are over 40 grams each. 10 billion
such bullets would mass over 400 billion grams, or
400,000 tonnes of lead. The total U.S. lead supply
for 1941-1945 was 5,683,097 short tons (Bureau of
Mines stats), which is 2,580,126 tonnes.
Did 15% of all lead production go into .50 cal bullets alone?
Looking at it from the other side:
A bit over 1M .50 cal guns were mounted in US aircraft of
all types. (Number calculated by noting total production
and .50 cal MGs carried by major a/c types: B-17, B-24,
B-29, B-26, B-25. DB-7, TBF, SBD, P-38, P-40, P-39,
P-63, P-51, P-47, F6F, F4F, F4U. The four types with
the most .50s were the B-24, P-47, B-17, and P-51, which
had over half.)
There was a .50 on every Sherman, every Chaffee, every
M10, M18, M3 scout car, M3 halftrack, M7 Priest. Tens
of thousands of Jeeps carried a .50 cal. Thousands of
halftracks carried quad .50 Maxon Mounts.
Making a WAG, about 350,000 vehicle-mounted .50s.
Infantry use may have been more limited - one to each
heavy weapons company in a battalion or regiment.
A typical US division had about 240 .50s for AA and 90
"heavy machine guns". There were 54 infantry divisions
in Europe in 1945, and 21 in the Pacific (including airborne
and cavalry). Let's say 100 divisions all up, including troops
in the U.S., attached battalions, unattached battalions, etc.
So only about 33,000 with the ground troops.
(That's a surprise. But the .50 was really too heavy for
The Navy had .50s too, but it's harder to tell. By WW II,
any weapon that small was often omitted from ship
descriptions. Larger warships carried them only for AA,
and as the war went one the Navy dropped smaller
caliber weapons for 20mm and 40mm cannon, though I
have heard that a lot of light weapons including .50s
were added informally in response to the kamikaze threat.
Now, some of these weapons were fired a lot. For instance,
the B-25 was adapted as a ground support plane, with up
to 14 .50s firing forward. Such a plane would fire as much
of its ammo as possible on every mission. OTOH, the
defensive armament on heavy bombers would only be
fired if the plane was attacked by interceptors - not all
the time. (One could probably dig out figures for ammo
consumption by the heavy bomber groups - it could be
interesting, as it would give a pretty good insight into
the strength of enemy fighter opposition.)
Ground-based AA weapons fired a lot when engaged, though
in the last stages of the war that wasn't very often, I'd think.
The .50s on halftracks were mostly intended for defense,
rather than combat support, I think, but Idunno.
Gun-armed Jeeps did a lot of patrolling, skirmishing, and
recon including recon by fire.
Ammo usage by armored forces is another possible source
of insight. One could compare MG usage and main gun
However - it doesn't seem likely that there were more than 1.5M
.50s in service of all types; and 10B rounds would be 6,000
per gun. That's a lot. If a P-47 carried 200 rounds for each gun,
it would have to fly 30 missions, and use all ammo on each of
them to get to that amount. Strafing missions, maybe, not
air superiority missions.
Well, food for thought, I hope.