|The gross tonnage of the merchant fleets of the leading nations in 1939 reflected the overwhelming advantage that Great Britain and its subsequent allies enjoyed on the sea. The ships of Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium, most of which escaped when these countries were overrun by the Germans in 1940, took service with the British and helped to build up the pool of United Nations shipping. |
In 1939 the world tonnage for merchant ships of 100 tons or over was 68,509,432. More than half of this was destroyed, largely by submarine or air attack, in the course of the next five years. Yet, so energetic was the shipbuilding program, carried out largely in American yards immune to air attack, that by May 1945, Britain and the U.S., through the war shipping administration, disposed of over 4,000 ships with a deadweight tonnage of 43 million. The Germans, Italians, and Japanese, on the other hand, found it increasingly difficult to make good their losses, and by 1945 their fleets, merchant and naval, had been almost completely eliminated.
|Merchant tonnage, 1939|
|Great Britain||21,001,925|| ||Japan||5,629,845|
|United States||11,470,177|| ||Germany||4,482,662|
|Total||43,617,844|| ||13,537,311|| 1|