75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: 13 Stats Then vs Now

A day that will live in infamy was now 75 years ago. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor launched the United States into World War II, with a formal war declaration the following day. The reality is that the world order has never been the same since that time.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to evaluate some basic statistics from Pearl Harbor and for the United States from the war years of 1941 to 1945 versus modern times. Other statistics about society and war have been compiled as well, and they have been given a comparison to modern day figures if possible.

Much of this will have a U.S.-centric focus, and the reality is that statistics and references like this could almost go on endlessly. There is also no way to express the horror and trauma of World War II. Hopefully this may even act as yet one more reminder about why a World War III would be merely too costly and painful when considering the raw figures here on the more serious topics.

Figures have been tallied up regarding population, deaths, economics and other topics. No specific order has been assigned to these figures. There is some frustration among the statistics of World War II itself and of the outside sources where numbers have changed through time. The National World War II Museum admits on its own site:

Statistics are notoriously tricky things. The more you try to find exact numbers, the more they change. Different sources will report different numbers. Different sources may use different definitions for the same subjects. Some numbers come from well-kept government records; others are best estimates based on a variety of reports and sources.

Here are 13 broad or pointed issues that aim to capture some topics from Pearl Harbor, World War II as a whole, economic and social issues, and how some of them compare to today.

1. United States Versus Japan (and World) in Total Population Base

Data was taken from the Census of each nation, noting that the United States makes its Census estimates annually and Japan’s formal count is each five years. The world population is from the ECOLOGY Global Network for 1940 and the Census estimate was live for December 6, 2016. These were shown as follows:

  • United States 133.4 million (1941) versus 322.7 million (2015) — some 142% growth
  • Japan 73.0 million (1940) versus 127.1 million (2015) — some 74% growth
  • World population 2.3 billion (1940) versus 7.35 billion (2016) — some 220% growth

2. Deaths from Pearl Harbor versus 9/11 Terror Attacks

The morning attack on Pearl Harbor has been the subject of many movies, books and even conspiracies. More than 2,400 people in total died, some 2,335 of which were military personnel and over half from the USS Arizona alone. According to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau:

  • The total number of military personnel killed was 2,335. Of those, there were 2,008 Navy deaths, along with 109 Marines and 218 Army. Adding in 68 civilian deaths took the total to 2,403 people dead.
  • The number of wounded came to 1,143 (710 Navy, 69 Marines, 364 Army and 103 civilians).
  • Total Japanese personnel losses were listed as only 55 men.

CNN’s 9/11 anniversary fast facts showed that a total of 2,977 people were killed, when deaths in New York City and in Washington, D.C., were added to those who died in the plane crash outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Some 2,753 of those people were at the World Trade Center site.

3. The Death Toll of World War II

Of the 16.11 million total U.S. service members who served in World War II, the VA (May 2016) showed that there were 291,557 battle deaths and 113,842 other deaths in service (non-theater). As of May 2016, there were also just 696,000 living World War II veterans.

The National World War II Museum website shows the following number of deaths from World War II:

  • United States, 416,800 (military); 418,500 (military+civilian)
  • Japan, 2.1 million (military); 2.6 million to 3.1 million (military+civilian)
  • Germany, 5,533,000 (military); 6.6 million to 8.8 million (military+civilian)
  • Soviet Union, 8.8 million to 10.7 million (military); 24 million (military+civilian)

4. U.S. Gross Domestic Product (Gross National Product)

There have been many changes in how the United States measures its economy. Prior to the 1990s, it was gross national product (GNP), and then it became gross domestic product (GDP). The U.S. was a manufacturing and goods-producing economy before, during and after World War II. That has changed through time, and now roughly two-thirds of GDP is based on and around consumer spending.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP in 1941 was $126.7 billion. That did not hit $1 trillion until 1970. That was $15 trillion nominal by 2011, and the World Bank figure for 2015 was more than $17.9 trillion.

5. Dow Jones Industrial Average, Then Versus Now

Prior to World War II’s outbreak in Europe, the United States had suffered through the Great Depression. That wrecked the value of stocks and asset prices for more than a decade. The Dow was valued at only about 100 in the week after the December attack in Pearl Harbor. By December of 2015, the Dow had surpassed the 19,000 hurdle. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, stock prices fell by about 5% (CRS Report for Congress) and had already discounted much of the U.S. entrance into World War II.

While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has undergone many changes over the years, there are now just a handful of companies in the index today that were there during World War II. Those include DuPont, General Electric and Procter & Gamble. Many other companies have since come in and gone from the Dow, some via mergers, but some have since ceased to exist entirely.