SFC Arnold S. Scales of Richmond, Va., serves steak at the 43rd Transportation Truck Company, 8th U.S. Army, near Uijongbu, Korea, on 18 June 1951. (Photo: Army Quartermaster Museum)
From the archive: Sept. 2, 1950
Cost of Defense Items
The marked increase in the cost of defense items which has occurred since 1939 was pointed up in a report to the House by Representative [Harry R.] Sheppard (D-Calif.).
He noted that where it cost $0.41 per day or $150 a year to feed a serviceman in 1939, present cost is put at $1 per day or $365 annually. Clothing and individual equipment per soldier rose from $122 to $377. [Editor’s note: $1 in 1950 had about the same buying power as $9.69 today.]
With regard to aircraft costs, it was stated that a B-17 bomber cost $330,000 in 1939; F-51, $67,000; and F-47, $113,000. By contrast, the price of a B-50 today is placed at between $1.2 million and $1.4 million; B-47, $2.75 million to $3 million; B-36, $3.25 million to $3.5 million, with the F-84 listed at $175,000 to $200,000; and F-86, $250,000 to $275,000.
Where a 1,630-ton destroyer, including ordnance, cost $7 million in 1939, present requirement for a destroyer of 3,650 tons is placed at $40 million.
The cost of a light tank increased stupendously, according to the report, from $27,000 to $225,000.
Representative Sheppard’s report emphasized, of course, that the increased current costs reflect both higher prices and qualitative superiority of current equipment compared to pre-World War II material.