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Jeudi, 01 Décembre 2011 12:30

Dec. 1, 1942: Mandatory Gas Rationing, Lots of Whining

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1942: Nearly a year after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States fully into World War II, the Americans get around to imposing nationwide gasoline rationing.

A fuel shortage was not the problem. America had plenty of that. What it lacked was rubber. Both the Army and Navy were in desperate need of rubber for the war effort.

Imports had fallen off to a trickle, because many of the traditional sources were now in Japanese hands. The construction of synthetic-rubber factories was just beginning.

Mandatory gasoline rationing had been in effect in the eastern United States since May 1942, but a voluntary program in other parts of the country had proven unsuccessful.

The Baruch Rubber Report, presented to President Franklin Roosevelt on Sept. 1, 1942, concluded that the United States was “a have-not nation” when it came to rubber. Meeting the military’s enormous needs would be nearly impossible if the civilians at home didn’t cut out nonessential driving to conserve on tire wear.

The best way to achieve that was to make it more difficult for people to use their cars. And the best way to do that was to limit the amount of gasoline an individual could purchase.

Proving it could remain obstinate even in the face of a national crisis, Congress balked at imposing nationwide gas rationing. Forcing Americans to curtail their driving would be bad for business, many legislators argued. They evidently feared voter backlash more than they did Hitler or Hirohito.

They pushed for a delay at the very least, but FDR would have none of it. Backed by government procurement agencies and military leaders, the president ordered gasoline rationing to begin on Dec. 1 and to last “the duration.”

Americans were presented with FDR’s fait accompli on Nov. 26, giving them less than a week to prepare. The story shared the top of Page 1 in The New York Times, alongside a report of the developing Soviet offensive at Stalingrad.

Thus, Americans soon became acquainted with the ration card, which had to be presented on every trip to the filling station. To be out of ration stamps was to be out of luck.

Drivers who used their cars for work that was deemed essential to the war effort were classified differently and received additional stamps. There were five classifications:

  • Class A drivers were allowed only 3 gallons of gasoline per week.
  • Class B drivers (factory workers, traveling salesmen) received 8 gallons per week.
  • Class C drivers included essential war workers, police, doctors and letter carriers.
  • Class T included all truck drivers.
  • Class X was reserved for politicians and other “important people.”

The last three classifications were not subject to the restrictions.

The griping didn’t stop, not in Congress and not on Main Street, USA, despite assurances from William Jeffers, the War Production Board’s rubber director. He said, “[T]he worker can obtain enough gasoline for his necessary driving. The farmer can obtain enough for getting his produce to market. Every citizen can get enough gasoline for essential driving.”

The whining was loudest in the western states, where gasoline was especially plentiful, rationing had come late, and the distances were great.

Source: Various

Image: This set of Basic Mileage Ration class A coupons covered a 1934 Plymouth. (Wikipedia)

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