How Many Tanks?

  • Richard L. Scheaffer
  • Ann Watkins
  • Mrudulla Gnanadesikan
  • Jeffrey A. Witmer
Part of the Textbooks in mathematical sciences book series (TIMS)


During World War ll, Allied intelligence reports on German production of tanks and other war materials varied widely and were somewhat contradictory. Statisticians set to work on improving the estimates. In 1943 the developed a method that used the information contained in the serial number stamped on captured equipment. One particularly successful venture was the estimation of the number of Make V tanks, whose serial numbers, they discovered, were consevutive.That is, the tanks were numbered in a manner equivalent to 1,2,3,..., N.Capturing a tank was like randomly drawing a ran dom integer from this sequence.


Serial Number Unknown Quantity Good Estimator Good Esti German Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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    James M. Landwehr, Jim Swift, and Ann Watkins (1987), Exploring Surveys and Information from Samples,Palo Alto, CA: Dale Seymour Publications, pp. 75-83.Google Scholar
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    R. Ruggles and H. Brodie (1947), “An empirical approach to economic intelligence in World War II,” J. American Statistical Assoc., 42:72-91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard L. Scheaffer
    • 1
  • Ann Watkins
    • 2
  • Mrudulla Gnanadesikan
    • 3
  • Jeffrey A. Witmer
    • 4
  1. 1.University of FloridaUSA
  2. 2.California State UniversityNorthridgeUSA
  3. 3.Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityUSA
  4. 4.Oberlin CollegeUSA

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