I'm wondering about the total megatonnage of all munitions expended during World War Two in all theaters.

I've seen estimates of 2, 3 and 5, but no concrete cited sources for a specific number.

  • Within an order of magnitude, and perhaps closer, you could estimate it at the weight of all those killed in battle or bombing. Through at least the Vietnam War the military long joked, only half tongue in cheek, that to kill a man on the battlefield required expending roughly his weight in lead, brass, wadding and powder. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 17:21
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    It depends on when you decide that WW2 begins. People debate it started in 1914 as a continuation of the First World War, others say it started in 1931 with the Japanese invasion of China, or the 1937 Nanking Massacre, or more commonly German invasion of Poland in 1939. Which years are we talking?
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1 Answer 1


3 megatons. The Source I've seen quoted in several places is the one calculated by the Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation given below.


Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The total blast power of World War II has been calculated as three megatons by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.


TNT Equivelents
The total energy of all explosives used in World War II, including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs, is estimated to have been three megatons of TNT.


set off in World War II into one huge blast, it would merely be equal to three megatons and would be even less powerful than one of today's nuclear bombs.


In World War II, the equivalent of 3 million tons of TNT - three megatons - were exploded. The world's nuclear arsenal today is estimated at 15,000 megatons.


Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation: Fact Sheet: The Nuclear Triad
all explosives dropped during the six years of World War II, including the two nuclear weapons, equaled three megatons.

  • Dividing 3 megatonnes by 180 lbs yields 3,000,000 * 2,000 / 180 =~ 33 million. Not far off of the old adage of requiring roughly a man's weight in munitions to kill him on the battlefield. However I believe OP desired weight of all shot, powder, and brass as well, not just bombs and such. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:11

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