“In NY, drivers sometimes tail a gasoline tank truck until, like a pied piper, the truck had collected a string of cars following it to its destined delivery point. Cars would line up for blocks- as many as 350 of them- when word spread that a filling station had received a gasoline shipment”
Sound like a description of the awful gasoline shortage that is was gripping New York and New Jersey post Hurricane Sandy?
Nope, its excerpted from the book “Don’t you Know There’s a War On” by Richard Lingeman , describing life on the home front during WWII when gas was seriously rationed.
War Time Rationing
When WWII broke out, Americans had been told that each of us was a vital part of the war effort. Each day we were helping the final victory by giving and conserving.
Rubber, fuel, metals? Fuhhgeddaboutit! As a way to conserve rubber and gasoline, in December 1942 Franklin Roosevelt ordered nationwide gas rationing.
Along with gas rationing there was a ban on pleasure driving. The roads of tomorrow envisioned at The 1939 NY Worlds Fair were all but closed. That short window of sustained speed was shut down as the speed limit was reduced to 35 mph.
In the beginning, gasoline rationing was based on a true shortage.
German submarines had been sinking an inordinate number of tankers in the Atlantic and the pipeline from Texas and Oklahoma oil fields to the Northeast could not be completed until 1943. Railroads could not help to ship fuel because they were already over burdened with troop trains, hospital trains, and war materials.
There was eventually enough gasoline to meet the demands of the country but there was still another shortage connected with automobiles: rubber. Since the Japanese had cut off supplies from the Pacific, it would not have been helpful to drop the gasoline rationing; people would have worn out their pre-war tires without these mandatory restraints.
So gasoline remained on the ration list for the duration of the war.
Rationing EZ as ABC
Gas was divided into 3 main classifications. An A sticker owner received the lowest gas allocation,4 later 3 gallons a week. The B holder had essential driving to do such as a war worker who drove his car in a carpool. The C card holder, the luckiest of all, needed his car for essential activities such as a doctor or clergy and was given additional allocations.
The ABC’s of Saving Gas were A) Don’t Drive over 35 miles per hour (B) Don’t make jack-rabbit starts. (C) Don’t let your car become a “smoker”!
Take Good Care of Your Car
Besides gas rationing, folks had to get along on pre-war tires and take good care of your pre-war car since there were no new automobiles to buy.
The last automobile manufactured in the US for civilian use rolled off the assembly line in Feb. 1942.
It was your patriotic duty to take good care of your car. “Your automobile is a weapon of war-it is your duty to keep it constantly in shape to serve your country’s wartime transportation system”
Citizens were constantly warned not to let their precious coupons go up in smoke. Smoke from your car exhaust meant you were in trouble of becoming a gasoline hog.
A Doctor was a bearer of a precious C coupon needing his car for essential driving.
Everyone tried to convince his local OPA board that he deserved better of them.
Gas and tire rationing inevitably gave rise to a black market of counterfeit ration coupons. Despite the OPA’s efforts estimates of illegally purchased gasoline ranged from 1,000,000 gallons a week to as high 2,500,000 gallons a day.
Black markets were the subject of this 1943 ad for Ethyl Gasoline- Black Markets Raises Prices -Rationing Keeps ’em Down.
“Dexter” the service man pictured in the ad says: “My name means right and I say that when our country is fighting the greatest war in its history no man has the right to disregard government regulations- even when they hurt. I run my station strictly on the up and up “no tickee-no gasee”
War Needs Come First
More and more gasoline was going overseas. Which would win the war quicker Mr. Civilian? A gallon of gas in the tank of your Ford or in an army tank.
“He must have gasoline to fight”, proclaimed this Ethyl gasoline ad from 1944.
“What’s more, the gasoline needed to power a plane, tank, truck or jeep must be top quality gasoline. That’s why the anti-knock quality o nearly every gallon of fighting gasoline-aviation and motor-is improved with Ethyl fluid. And that’s why government agencies have placed limits on the quantities and quality of gasoline for civilian use.”
“Remember- “gasoline powers the attack – don’t waste a drop.”
How did you cope with the recent gas crisis?
Copyright (©) 2012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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