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The War Surplus equipment of WW2


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I never ceased to be amazed at the staggering amount of War Surplus equipment left over at cessation of hostilities in late 1945.

 

Not only the vast amount of War equipment in actual use - but the vast amount of new War equipment that hadn't even been issued.

 

In 1945, the U.S. Administration estimated the amount of U.S. War equipment left in the Pacific region amounted to US$5B, in 1945 dollar values. 

 

One of the reasons this equipment was left in the Pacific was because there wasn't even enough shipping available to transport it back to the U.S. - let alone the logistics of trying to load the equipment from areas where it had been air-dropped or unloaded from landing craft. Every ship available was pressed into service to return troops back home, this was the major priority. Even at that, it was often several months before returning troops could be transported home.

 

The SF Chronicle has 24 photos of Surplus War equipment, pictured at bases in America, ready for disposal, in 1945. Just remember, this is only equipment located in America, there was probably 5 times the amount shown, spread around the world.

 

The picture of 7000 surplus aircraft, parked just on one field in Kingman, AZ, is mind-blowing, when you consider the amount of U.S. aircraft there would have been, located elsewhere in the world.

 

https://www.sfchronicle.com/thetake/article/100-for-a-jeep-World-War-II-surplus-frenzy-hits-11095104.php#photo-12680266

 

 

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The same thing happened in Australia. Masses of unwanted material was around the place after WWll.

 

It all comes down the the Lend Lease policy.

 

On 10 January 1941, Draft H.R. 1776 – the “Lend Lease Bill” was presented to the United States Congress. Under the proposed act, the President of the United States could authorise the production of weapons, munitions, aircraft and ships for export under special conditions to Allied nations fighting the Axis powers. the President was given the power to transfer weapons and tools as well as farming and industrial machines to any country whose defence he deemed to be “ essential to the defence of the United States. In return for Lend Lease aid, Allied nations were to provide goods or services to the United States under a program known as reverse or reciprocal lend lease.

 

As of late 1944, Australia had provided US troops with almost three million kilograms of food, as well as blankets, socks, shoes and specially manufactured articles of US issue military clothing. Australia’s Allied Works Council was established to help build US barracks, airfields, hospitals and recreational centres. Australian industry provided locally designed and built Landing Craft, motor transport, telephone and telegraph facilities, and numerous other goods and services to the United States under reciprocal Lend Lease. As of June 30 1944, Australia had spent approximately US$550 million on reciprocal lend lease. In all, the United States received from Australia more reciprocal lend lease supplies than it had supplied to Australia under lend lease.

 

Here's a good article on how the Lend Lease material was disposed of after the War.  The majority of motor vehicles and motorcycles already in use by the Defence forces were eventually sold off to used vehicle re-sellers. Not only trucks, bikes and cars, but field kitchens, water tankers, various low loaders. In the 1960's Army Disposal stores sold real army surplus stuff, not the imitation Chinese made stuff they sell now.

 

 

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There's quite a bit of BS in the story in the website you linked to. It makes out that all the Lend-Lease equipment was laid to waste. It wasn't. Yes, there was initial waste, as good equipment was immediately destroyed at Wars end.

 

A former farmer client (long dead, now) was a machine-gunner based in Darwin. He did mention that at the end of the war, they were given instructions to drive all the Lend Lease trucks and jeeps into the jungle, drain the oil, start the engine and leave them running with a brick on the accelerator.

 

Now, as you could imagine, any vehicles disposed of in this manner, were recovered as soon as possible, by the people who had orders to dispose of them! Even if it meant doing an engine rebuild!

 

But many vehicles, according to Ralph, were just driven deep into the bush and left, and the serviceman reported back that the vehicle had been destroyed. Naturally, these were fairly rapidly recovered, too.

 

There were instances of new equipment being taken from warehouses and placed on boats and pushed overboard. My own father told me how they did this, West of Rottnest Island, where the Continental Shelf drops away.

 

I have seen divers photos of dumped WW2 surplus equipment, perched on those steep underwater slopes off Rottnest.

 

But, when the Govt realised that there was an opportunity to do a deal with the Americans over the War Surplus equipment, Govt officials travelled to America to negotiate the purchase of all the U.S. equipment left in Australia.

 

I have seen and read the complete story of these negotiations (on the 'net), but I can't find it again, now. It's in the official, National archives. It's a lengthy article.

 

In essence, the military equipment left in Australia by the Americans was divided into 3 groups. One was, the abandoned Lend Lease equipment. Two, was the equipment fully owned by the U.S. Forces, and left behind by them.

 

Third, was the U.S. military equipment, owned by U.S. Forces, but effectively given to the Australian Forces, and which was in the AMF's possession and current use. A lot of this AMF equipment was deemed necessary, and not sold.

 

The Australian Govt negotiators asked the Americans what they wanted for all the equipment (in $$ terms). The Americans came up with an initial, laughable figure, that equated to about new pricing for every item.

 

The Australians kept up the negotiating pressure, using lots of arguments that persuaded the Americans, that they'd be well-advised to sell it all at a reasonable figure - or they could come and pick it all up! - or just dump it!

 

Eventually, after several months of hard bargaining and to-ing and fro-ing, the Americans finally agreed to a massive reduction in their asking figure.

 

The figure to be paid by Australia was US$27,000,0000 - estimated by the Australians to be about 5% of the true value of the Lend-Lease, and other military goods and equipment.

 

In addition, the Australian Govt delivered title to Australian real property, and improvements to those properties, to America, to the value of another US$2,000,000.

 

In return, the Americans were to deliver U.S. properties to Australian ownership (properties selected by mutual agreement, and located both within Australia, and outside it) that were deemed surplus to U.S. requirements, to the tune of another US$6,500,000.

 

U.S. Navy Lend Lease ships that were in Australia's possession, were not included in the deal, and these were returned to U.S. Navy possession.

 

Reciprocal Aid provided by Australia was to be written off if it could not be recovered, otherwise any Reciprocal Aid that was supplied by Australia, between Sept 2 and Dec 31, 1945, and still in American possession, was to be be returned to Australia.

 

Not mentioned anywhere, is that three new Australian Hospitals had been turned over totally, to exclusive American military use. These three new Hospitals were immediately returned to the Australian Public use, at the end of the War.

 

As part of the Lend Lease, War Surplus purchase settlement, America included the following aircraft, parts and equipment in the deal;

 

NUMBER & TYPE: (109) C47 (Dakota), (11) PBY (Catalina), (41) PB2B(Catalina)

 

Spares: 164 engines for Dakota C47 aircraft.

 

127 Dakota propellers. Spare parts of 382 Dakota engines. Airframe spares for 48 Dakota aircraft.

 

136 Catalina engines. 68 Catalina propellers and spare parts for 272 Catalina engines. Airframes spares for 21 Catalina aircraft.

 

United States Lend Lease content of 29 PB2B aircraft obtained from Canada.

 

Here is the link to the official cablegram advising Chifley of the Lend Lease equipment purchase deal, and the terms;

 

https://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/historical-documents/Pages/volume-09/294-evatt-to-chifley.aspx

 

Before even the acquisition of this massive amount of Lend Lease equipment, the Govt set about selling off as much of the War Surplus it already owned - by Auction, and by Public Tender.

 

The Commonwealth Disposals Commission was formed in Oct 1945, to handle the sales of the War Surplus.

 

When the Lend Lease deal was concluded, the Lend Lease equipment purchased, merely boosted the available War Surplus, by about a factor of 10.

 

The CDC ran Auctions and Tenders for around 3 years, from early 1946, to up until early 1949. They sold a mind-boggling amount of stuff, it covered everything you could imagine.

 

Here is a CDC handbook, detailing the disposal methods, and a list of available War Surplus items. State Govt Depts, Instrumentalities, and Corporate Bodies, were offered the War Surplus first, before it was offered to the General Public.

 

The only War Surplus equipment that was not available for sale was Earthmoving and Road-making machinery. This equipment was deemed as "being required for high-priority Govt use".

 

https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-981241406/view?partId=nla.obj-981262410

 

Naturally, trucks, vehicles, jeeps, tyres and fencing materials, were in high demand at the CDC sales and auctions. Not so much in demand were things like Bren Carriers and Tanks.

 

Here is a 1947 news article where M3 General Grant Tanks (powered by Continental R-975's) were sold at a CDC auction in QLD for between £10 and £25 ($20 - $50) each.

 

Unfortunately, the tanks were too high-geared, and too thirsty, to be much value in civilian use.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/63011999

 

 

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There's quite a bit of BS in the story in the website you linked to

 

Can you quote the BS?

 

What you wrote in your post #6 seems to confirm and indeed expand on what was contained in the link I posted.  Thanks for posting the link to the CDC information booklet. It certainly supports the contention that for every front line soldier there are at least nine people in support.

 

 

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OME - When I said there was "quite a bit of BS" in the story you linked to, I simply meant that the tone of the story on that website, is that every single item of Lend Lease or War Surplus equipment was destroyed or buried - it simply wasn't.

 

A lot of the surplus fighting aircraft, for which there was little civilian use, were actually sold to scrap dealers, and pulled apart for vital scrap metals, such as aluminium, magnesium, and duralumin. Wooden fighting aircraft were often burnt.

 

The sentence, "most of the U.S. equipment in Australia was never used", I believe, is not correct. A percentage was not used, but the largest percentage certainly was used.

 

We still find a lot of WW2 Caterpillar tractors and Le Tourneau earthmoving equipment, with a "US7" stamp on their ID/Serial Number plate.

 

This stamp indicates the tractor was part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and was most certainly used in the War.

 

All of this equipment was sold in used condition, as building airstrips and bases was a constant job. 

 

On some airstrip projects, the equipment was worked around the clock. The U.S. built 300 airstrips in Australia during the War.

 

For the US$27M we paid for the Lend Lease equipment, the Govt realised a total of A£135,000,000 (US$441,450,000). The USD/AU£ exchange rate in 1946 was US$3.27 to A£1.00.

 

A "nice lil' earner", as Arfur would say, and money that went a long way towards offsetting the enormous cost of the War.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/222883538

 

I'm sure the amount of Lend Lease equipment actually destroyed, buried, or dumped in Australia or Australian waters, wasn't any more than a low percentage of the total War Surplus - because the Govt acted fairly swiftly, to try and save as much as possible, once it was realised the Americans were prepared to destroy the whole lot. I'll wager a lot of buried equipment was dug up again, once things quietened down.

 

Australian Companies set about recovering Lend Lease tractors and earthmoving equipment dumped in PNG from 1946 to the early 1950's, and these companies made good profits from doing so, as there was a substantial amount of it.

 

This equipment was transported back to Australia and sold to contractors, at a period of exceptionally high demand for it, due to intense agricultural and industrial development in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

 

Spacey - Yes, Britain did bear a large brunt of the cost of the War - but the Americans didn't demand a high price for War equipment supplied. I don't know what happened to the Lend Lease equipment left in the U.K.?

 

I do recall that the U.K. only paid the last instalment on their War Reconstruction Loan debt to the U.S., in 2006. But this was a loan for rebuilding Britain after the War, not for Lend Lease, or for other War equipment.

 

I do recall that in Sept 1940, the U.K. gave free 99 year leases in the Bahamas, Jamaica, St Lucia, Trinidad, Antigua, and British Guiana, to the U.S., in exchange for 50 destroyers.

 

But the 50 destroyers supplied by the U.S. were deemed obsolete, when they were handed over.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/98654761

 

I did make a dating error with the setting up date of the CDC, I wrote "Oct 1945" from memory without checking. Upon checking, I find that the setting up date for the CDC, was actually Sept 1944.

 

 

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There never was any WW2 action in Tahiti. You're thinking of Vanuatu, specifically "Million Dollar Point" on Efate. Here's a link to a good article on the U.S. military waste in the Pacific region.

 

The only WW2 action in French Polynesia happened on Bora Bora, where the Americans established an important base.

 

But there wasn't the large-scale destruction of equipment on Bora Bora when the Americans left, as happened on Efate - it was either largely shipped out of Bora Bora, or handed over to the French.

 

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/10/million_point.php

 

https://www.docdroid.net/7ny9Am2/bora-bora-ww2-after-the-battle-109.pdf

 

The U.S. military commanders at the "Buttons" base on Efate, tried to sell all the U.S. equipment at Efate to the Ni-Vanuatu - but the asking price was US$100,000 - an enormous sum then, and a sum the Ni-Vanuatu couldn't find, anyway.

 

In addition, the Ni-Vanuatu chiefs thought if they rejected the sale offer, the Americans would just leave the equipment, and they'd end up with it, anyway. They had no idea the Americans would actually destroy and dump it all.

 

But the British were worse!! The British destroyed everything they could lay their hands on, probably on the basis that a few thousand tribespeople who might end up with all this equipment and military supplies, could become dangerous.

 

 

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OME - When I said there was "quite a bit of BS" in the story you linked to, I simply meant that the tone of the story on that website, is that every single item of Lend Lease or War Surplus equipment was destroyed or buried - it simply wasn't

 

I hope we have been reading the same article. Either we are not, or you are taking stuff out of context.

 

"most of the U.S. equipment in Australia was never used",

 

The sentence, I believe, is not quite correct. It should have said "was never used in operations"

 

The following sentences expand on that comment by saying that  An issue closely related to lend lease is that of US equipment stockpiled in Australia for use by US forces in the Pacific. The steady stream of US equipment continued right up until the very end of the war. Most of the US equipment in Australia was never used. This phenomenon was related to US economic interests. Despite the equipment stockpiled in Australia and throughout the Pacific, US industry continued to produce and ship new products.

 

After the cessation of hostilities, the bulk of the United States Equipment in Australia was transferred to Australian control so as to speed up the disposal process for the United States Command in the Southwest Pacific Area under “ Operation Roll-Up ”. The transfer of the US stocks to Australia caused additional headaches and dramatically slowed up Australia’s efforts to dispose of the US material that we had received under Lend Lease. In 1949 the Australian and United States governments came to an agreement on the settling of accounts of the wartime lend lease program. At this time, there were hundreds of thousands of tonnes of US and lend-lease equipment and facilities in Australia still awaiting disposal. The agreement determined that apart from the return of US Navy vessels, a one-off payment of around US$500,000, some deals involving real estate in Australia and the establishment of an educational exchange program (known as the Fullbright Program), Australia’s lend lease debt had been paid in full. Likewise, any money owed to Australia for reverse lend lease aid was also written off.

 

As of late 1944, Australia had provided US troops with almost three million kilograms of food, as well as blankets, socks, shoes and specially manufactured articles of US issue military clothing. Australia’s Allied Works Council was established to help build US barracks, airfields, hospitals and recreational centres. Australian industry provided locally designed and built Landing Craft, motor transport, telephone and telegraph facilities, and numerous other goods and services to the United States under reciprocal Lend Lease. As of June 30 1944, Australia had spent approximately US$550 million on reciprocal lend lease. In all, the United States received from Australia more reciprocal lend lease supplies than it had supplied to Australia under lend lease.

 

 

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I am reading the same article. The entire tone of the article is, "a mate saw a mate doing incredible stuff, and told a mate". There's no official references quoted in the article, as all good articles should offer.

 

The writer states there was no agreement between America and Australia until 1949. That's pure BS, the agreement for the purchase of Lend Lease stocks in Australia (and areas under Australian control) is dated June 1946, and I have supplied the reference to the official cablegram, which outlines the entirety of the deal.

 

"A one-off payment of $500,000".

 

More unreliable BS, not backed by any reference. The actual amount is as specified in the June 1946 agreement - US$27,000,000. 

 

In all, the United States received from Australia more reciprocal lend lease supplies than it had supplied to Australia under lend lease.

 

 

 

 

This is total BS. Australia did supply a lot of war material under the Lend Lease arrangement. But it was only in the final 12-14 mths of the War that Australian Reverse Lend Lease, exceeded the value of the Lend Lease we were receiving from America.

 

This was due to the American Forces being largely supplied from Australia in that period, with food, clothing, tyres and tubes, medical supplies, and other logistics support, as they island-hopped through the islands N of Australia.

 

The Americans deemed rightly, that it was much easier and cheaper to supply their troops with a lot of their daily needs from Australian-supplied goods, rather than ship it the long distance from America.

 

America supplied substantial amounts of raw materials for Australian factories to turn into finished products for use of the troops.

 

59% of the total value supplied under Lend Lease was munitions, 37% industrial products and petroleum, and the remainder was agricultural products.

 

In essence, the value of Lend Lease materials and equipment supplied by America for the duration of the War, was approximately 3 times the value of Reverse Lend Lease from Australia, NZ and India, combined.

 

Below is the link to the Americans statement on Lend Lease and Reverse Lend Lease values and arrangements, dated 6th July 1945.

 

The figures are difficult to reconcile precisely, due to different dates in 1945 used to measure volumes and values, but the general trend is quite evident.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/167785065/19711024

 

 

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The agreement for the disposal of Lend Lease material immediately following cessation of hostilities had already been included in the initial Lend Lease legislation.  

 

Reverse Lend-Lease was the term for materials, goods and services supplied by recipient countries to the United States forces. Of course the figures for 1944 were higher than previous years. It does take time to produce products, which for Australia consisted very much of food, which takes time to grow if it is grain, legumes and fruit and time to raise if the initial herds and flocks need to be increased in size to provide meat, eggs and other animal products. Don't forget that the USA did not enter the War until, virtually 1st January 1942, and the figures Truman quoted in July 1945 would have been collated in the last quarter of 1944, or first quarter of 1945. 

 

Don't just read the first part of the article, read what is on Page 2 as well.

 

 

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I did read page 2, and the information given there, makes me even more annoyed, for its lack of accuracy and lack of references.

 

Most people who were living near major military areas in Australia immediately following the Second World War will relate stories of seeing masses of partially stripped aircraft and vehicles waiting for the smelters or the scrap merchants. This was only part of the story.

 

Prior to 1949, the Lend Lease equipment had to be disposed of without turning a profit, which meant that components could not be sold, even for scrap. Other ways had to be found to dispose of this material.

 

 

 

This sentence in bold is simply wrong. The Lend Lease surplus sale settlement deal between America and Australia was done in June 1946.

 

The writer does not distinguish between purely military Lend Lease equipment and stores, and Lend Lease military equipment and stores, that could be used in civilian operations.

 

Between the official cessation of War on V-P Day, Sept 2, 1945, and mid-1946, there was a substantial amount of purely military equipment and stores dumped or buried. These comprised mostly aircraft, guns, and excess ammunition.

 

But even at that, this equipment that was dumped or buried, had useable engines and instruments removed for sale or for AMF use - and even .303 ammo was sold in large amounts to farmers, pro shooters, and other licenced firearms owners.

 

This article describes British Navy aircraft that were dumped, not part of any Lend Lease deal struck between Australia and America - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68958570

 

Same British Navy aircraft here - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/188434117

 

Same British Navy aircraft again, with a deck photo - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/188449075

 

Same again, with more photos - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/62866177

 

The arguments raged in Jan 1946, about what could be preserved from the War Surplus equipment, as the RN started dumping Hellcats, Avengers and Corsairs - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/248473775

 

The Wharfies started up rumours of entire American ships full of new equipment being sunk - all of which were pure BS -  and while the Australian-American Lend Lease sale deal was being hammered out, in Jan 1946, the policy of unfettered War Surplus equipment dumping was dropped, and the Americans re-took possession of the more valuable new items - https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/188449508

 

In Sept 1946, the CDC sold 523 military aircraft as scrap, thus disproving the "total scrapping, dumping, burying and burning" story on WarOnline, as regards Lend Lease aircraft.

 

These 523 aircraft were Liberators, Kittyhawks, Venturas, Mitchells, and Martin Mariners. These were all Lend Lease aircraft, purchased in the June 1946 deal with the Americans.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17996314

 

In the Nov 1946 article below, 773 aircraft, ex-RAAF, are "going to the wreckers" - not being dumped, buried, or burnt wholesale, in complete form. At the bottom of the article, it states that, "At Townsville 1500 tons of wrecked aircraft are being offered for sale by tender." - thus proving that aircraft were not dumped wholesale in the sea off Townsville (for which reputed dumping I can find no news references, despite the WarOnline writer stating it was widely reported in the media).

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/82788144

 

 

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The photo of RN aircraft dumping in the WarOnline page is captioned "Royal Navy warplanes being “heaved” from the deck of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier off the Queensland Sunshine Coast in 1946".

 

But the photo is taken from the AWM archives, where it clearly states the RN aircraft dumping is the reported dumping I linked to, above - which was off Sydney. I guess geography wasn't a strong subject for the writer.

 

With accuracy like that, and a lack of photo credits, the WarOnline writer has little reputational standing.

 

AWM aircraft dumping photo - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C336293

 

The "Fulbright Agreement" mentioned, in the below quote, is just plain made-up BS, and outright illogical.

 

Perhaps forewarned of the 1949 “Fullbright” agreement, the Australian government held off on the disposal of the bulk of the RAAF and USAAC C47/DC3 and PBY Catalina aircraft.

 

 

 

The Fullbright Agreement was a scholarship exchange programme between Australia and America. This agreement was part of the Jun 1946 Lend Lease sale agreement - Australia didn't have to "hold off" on the disposal of anything.

 

The Fulbright Scholarship was funded by a US$5.8M payment by Australia to America for Lend Lease War materials, in the Jun 1946 agreement.

 

The fact that the Fulbright Agreement took until Nov 1949 to finalise in detail, had nothing to do with any delay by Australia in selling Lend Lease equipment - it merely took 3 1/2 yrs of negotiation, politicking, and bill-passing, to finalise the details of the Agreement, between the two countries Govts.

 

https://www.fulbright.org.au/about/history/

 

https://www.fulbright.org.au/about/history/establishment/

 

 

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Talk about using the wrong photo. The photo in this https://www.fulbright.org.au/about/history/ shows JFK signing something in 1964, supposedly when the Program was reviewed in 1964 when the original ‘Lend-Lease’ funds ran out. Not bad effort for a bloke who died in November 1963.

 

Fleet Air Arm aircraft in this photo? AWM aircraft dumping photo - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C336293. When did the Royal Navy roundels change to the Star and Bar?

 

I never ceased to be amazed at the staggering amount of War Surplus equipment left over at cessation of hostilities in late 1945. Not only the vast amount of War equipment in actual use - but the vast amount of new War equipment that hadn't even been issued.

 

Getting back to this original comment, it does indeed stagger the mind when one looks into the amount of equipment that all combatant countries produced in that short 5-year period. Not only the amount of  completed equipment, but the amount of spares for every manufactured weapon and vehicle. It seems as if the manufacturers went into a production frenzy the like of which Mankind had never seen. 

 

William S. Knudsen, an automotive industry executive who was made Chairman of the Office of Production Management by the Roosevelt administration to organize war production, said, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible."

 

 

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I don't believe that's a star and bar at all - it's the Fleet Air Arm markings of the aircraft of the SWPA - i.e., a blue roundel on a white background with a white bar through the roundel.

 

http://warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57704

 

I agree about the poor choice of a photo for the Fulbright webpage.

 

The production capabilities of the U.S. during WW2 were most certainly staggering. I remember one set of figures that says it all.

 

Japan produced 30,000 aircraft during WW2 - America produced 90,000 aircraft - and many of those U.S. aircraft were huge bombers, the likes of which the Japanese never even planned to build.

 

 

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I don't believe that's a star and bar at all - it's the Fleet Air Arm markings of the aircraft of the SWPA - i.e., a blue roundel on a white background with a white bar through the roundel.

 

I didn't even know that the Royal Navy got back to the Pacific after the fall of Singapore and the loss of its battle ships in the early part of the Pacific war. This is HMS Illustrious who was in the Far East from January 1944 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Illustrious_(87)#Service_in_the_Pacific_Ocean. Her base was Sydney from January 1945.

 

If Lithgow Small Arms was making Lee-Enfields, wouldn't they be doing it using drawings provided by the Royal Small Arms Factory? If so, they would be making the real thing.

 

 

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