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Military History/US Military R&D spending during WWII



I know that developing nuclear weaponry and B-29 bombers cost the US together five billion WWII era dollars.

So my question is how much in total did the USA spend on researching and developing technology during WWII?

Was the B-29 and Manhattan Project the majority of the spending? Or a small part of it?

It looks like the total cost was $3.3 trillion; with the Manhattan Project at around $20 billion.

Check out:

The Costs of the Manhattan Project

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages should be considered historical.

- All figures in constant 1996 dollars -
Expenditures through August 1945:*

*Includes costs from 1940-42 for the National Defense Research Council and the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Excludes $76 million spent by the Army Air Forces on Project SILVERPLATE from September 1943 through September 1945 (Project SILVERPLATE covered the modification of 46 B-29 bombers in support of the Manhattan Project, trained the personnel of the 509th composite bombing group, and provided logistical support for units based at Tinian Island, launching point for the attacks on Japan).

$20 billion

Comparison With Selected WWII Expenditures:


Statistical Review?World War II: A Summary of ASF Statistics, Statistics Branch, Control Division, Headquarters, Army Service Forces, U.S. War Department, 1946, pp. 75-6. Cost data are for 1942-1945. The total cost to the United States for World War II was approximately $3.3 trillion.)

All bombs, mines and grenades $31.5 billion

Small arms materiel (not incl. ammunition) $24 billion

All tanks $64 billion

Heavy field artillery $4 billion

All other artillery $33.6 billion

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Marc Leepson


I can answer most questions dealing with all aspects of U.S. military history. My expertise is the Vietnam War. I also have written extensively about the U.S. Civil War, World War II, World War I, The Philippine War, and the American Revolution. My books include a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, the history of the American Flag, and the post-Jefferson history of Monticello, and therefore know a great deal about those specific subjects. I specialize in writing about matters of strategy--not tactics. And I also am interested in personalities. I have very little knowledge about ordnance or the value of old military memorabilia. Nor do I know a lot about uniforms and insignia--except about the Vietnam War. To repeat: I have no expertise in assessing the value of ordnance or uniforms or any type of military equipment. And my knowledge about military uniforms is only limited to those of the Vietnam War era. If you have questions on these topics, I recommend contacting an antiques dealer in your area who specializes in military uniforms, ordnance, etc.


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BA, 1967, George Washington University, History MA, 1971, George Washington University, European History

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