Visualizing US vs IJN Aircraft Carrier Numbers During WW2

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Figure 1: Deployed Carrier Numbers Versus Time During WW2.

Figure 1: Deployed Carrier Numbers Versus Time During WW2.

I watched an interesting lecture on American History TV this weekend called Japanese Perspective on the Battle of Midway by Anthony Tully. The most interesting part of the discussion occurred when Tully began showing how the US production of aircraft carriers eventually overwhelmed the Japanese ability to build carriers. He used some simple graphs to show the relative carrier strength of the US Navy versus the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) over time. In this post, I will come up with my own graphics to visualize this information.

It happens that I am taking a course in Excel dashboards right now, and I thought I would try to create my own graphic for this data using some of the techniques shown in this class. To generate the graphic, I needed data. I quickly checked the Wikipedia and it turns out it has a list of WW2 carriers, their date of commission, and date of demise. This data allowed me to generate Figure 1, which I find a bit easier to digest than the graphics shown in the lecture.

Figure 1 shows how US carrier production swamped the ability of the IJN to replace their losses. There are some definitions that are useful in understanding Figure 1.

Aircraft Carrier
Also called a fleet carrier, this was the largest and most capable aircraft carrier type during WW2. (Link)
Light Aircraft Carrier
A carrier design based on cruiser hulls, which resulted in a high-speed design with a complement of aircraft only one-half to two-thirds the size of a full-sized fleet carrier. These carriers filled a gap in fleet protection that existed until more fleet carriers were built. (Link)
Escort Carrier>
A carrier design focused on protecting merchant convoys from submarine attack and provide support to amphibious forces during landings. Escort carriers are generally smaller and slower than fleet or light carriers (Link).

For those who are interested in the details, here is the spreadsheet.

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