Oil in War
“Now, it cannot be stated too forcefully, American oil, which amounted in all to 6 billion barrels, out of a total of 7 billion barrels consumed by the Allies for the period of World War Two, brought victory! Without the prodigious delivery of oil from the U. S. this global war, quite frankly, could never have been won.” Keith Miller on the role of oil in war, History News Network, 2002.
In perhaps the first raid on oil in war, in the spring of 1863 a regiment of Confederate cavalry attacked production and storage facilities at the prospering Union oil town of Burning Springs in what would soon become West Virginia. The rebel raiders destroyed equipment and thousands of barrels of oil.
As England fought for its survival during World Way II, a team of American oil drillers, derrickmen, roustabouts and motormen secretly boarded the converted troopship HMS Queen Elizabeth in March 1943. Once their story was revealed years later, they would become known as the roughnecks of Sherwood Forest.
In 2001, an archaeological survey of the seafloor prior to construction of a natural gas pipeline led to the discovery of U-166 about 45 miles off the Louisiana coast. BP and Shell sponsored additional fieldwork to record detailed images.
To provide vital oil across the English Channel after the D-Day landings, within months secret pipelines were unwound from massive spools to reach French ports.
Two 1943 oil pipelines from Texas to the East Coast helped win World War II. “Big Inch” carried oil from East Texas oil fields. “Little Big Inch” carried gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and kerosene.
Soon after the start of World War II, a Japanese submarine attacked a refinery and oilfield near Los Angeles. The shelling caused little damage – but led to the largest mass sighting of UFOs in American history. It also was the first attack of the war on the continental United States.
The change from coal to oil-fired boilers at sea is another chapter in petroleum history. The U.S.S. Texas, commissioned in 1914, was the last American battleship built with coal-fired boilers. It converted to burn fuel oil in 1925 – resulting in a dramatic improvement in efficiency.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a donation today. For membership information, contact email@example.com. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.