I have wondered if there are any estimates on the number of bullets used in World War 2. I have thought about the question but cannot even get a plausible attack strategy.
The following article describes in great detail the production and deployment of munitions by the Army Ordnance Dept. (AOD).
Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., Chief of Ordnance from 1942 to 1946, proudly had this to say:
From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day the Industry-Ordnance team furnished to the Army and 43 foreign nations 47 billion rounds of small arms ammunition, approximately 11 million tons of artillery ammunition, more than 12 million rifles and carbines, approximately 750,000 artillery pieces and 3/2 million military vehicles.
The Great Arsenal of Democracy Posted on May 20, 2003 (nraila.org)
This is the US production, given the size of the US industry I would have thought it was more than the production of the Axis side, so if you ignore local UK/USSR amounts I would guess it represents more than 50% of the total.
Considered by many to be World War II’s greatest weapons designer and producer, he gained fame by heading the Ordnance Department through the days when the Industry-Ordnance Team began producing overwhelming firepower for World War II.
Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr. authored The Industry-Ordnance Team. The book contained his recounting of the Allied effort to produce and deliver weapons, vehicles and munitions for World War II.
(A slightly better than pure guess answer) From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II, the total number of military causalities was 24,000,000.
The number of bullets fired per kill varies based on the source from 5k to 50k. Assuming 10k the number of bullets fired would be 24 x 10^10.
It has long been noted that:
Killing a man on the field of battle requires firing a mass of lead almost equal to his weight; wounding him requires somewhat less.
Calculating from figures in mgb's answer we get
(assuming 110 grains/round & 7000 grains/pound to yield 0.016 lb./round):
- 24,000,000 dead * 170 lb./man = about 4.1 billion pounds of man-flesh; and
- 47 billion small-arms rounds * 0.016 lb./round = 0.75 billion pounds of lead
That is certainly in the ball park, given that artillery rounds have been omitted, and only bullets made in the US counted.
It is worth noting that most shots on the field of battle (probably above 90%) are fired simply to provide the enemy with an excuse to keep his head down, and not with intent to kill, nor to wound, nor even particularly aimed at the enemy but simply fired in his general vicinity.
I have heard that the US forces fired 20,000 rounds for every casualty they produced. An example of this: Before the Americans entered the European conflict, snipers had been employed by both the Germans and the Russians to stop advances. Typically, snipers could stop an advance while efforts to locate and kill the sniper proceeded. The American forces changed the scenario. When a sniper fired at an American column, the soldiers sprayed the trees with bullets as if they were spraying for insects. Snipers did not slow down American troop movements. The American supply line won World War II.