Shortly after our entry into World War II our citizens and soldiers were told that the War was being fought to "stop Nazi aggression" and to "stop the monster Adolf Hitler." Over sixty years later we are still being told the same thing.
As the historians who dissected the root cause of World War I proved, wars are not fought over ideology. Wars are fought over money.
What if World War II was fought to preserve oil company profits? Sound far-fetched? Let’s look at some of the evidence.
The Rockefeller-controlled Standard Oil
John D. Rockefeller got his start selling crude oil as a cure for constipation. Out of that humble "snake oil" beginning evolved our modern pharmaceutical industry.
The cotton gin had been invented in 1791. Up until that time a lot of clothing had been made from the hemp or marijuana plant. Hemp was and is 26 times more durable than cotton. The cotton could be processed by machine. Hemp couldn’t. Then, in the early 1930s, International Harvester built a machine that would process hemp. It was in the early 1930s that the petroleum industry introduced synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and rayon. Then, in 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Stamp Tax Act. If you wanted hemp, even for clothing, you had to pay a $100 a pound tax. This was in the days when a brand new car cost $900.
Prior to World War II petroleum had competition for use as a fuel. Chrysler was shipping cars to New Zealand equipped to run on alcohol. In the Philippines everything up to and including locomotives ran on alcohol made from sugar cane. Europeans ran a tank full of alcohol through their automobiles on a semi-annual basis in order to clean the carbon off their cylinder heads.
The Chinese were running their diesels on tung (vegetable) oil. Every farm in America had a steam engine. The fuel for the boiler was wood, corn stover, or the like.
On December 7, 1941 we were dragged into World War II. Supposedly the Japanese had previously invaded Manchuria, a program we allegedly interfered with, in a search for oil. At least, that’s what we’re told.
However, when our Marines opened drums marked "Aviation Fuel" written in Japanese at Guadalcanal, what they found was alcohol. The Japanese Zero, a wooden airplane with a nine-cylinder radial copied from our Pratt & Whitney engines, ran on alcohol. The Zero could outrun and out climb anything we had at the beginning of the War. Alcohol allows the use of a higher compression in the engine, runs cooler, and permits higher RPMs.
During the War the government sent people around to collect steam engines from farms in order to melt them down into planes, ships, tanks, and guns. Whether this was actually necessary was a dubious proposition. Henry Ford, for example, unloaded iron ore in one end of his factory and spit completed machines out the other. Ford’s Willow Run plant alone produced 1,000 B-29 bombers a month. It is unlikely that an occasional melted-down steam engine would have provided that much extra iron for the war effort.
The War ended in 1945. By 1946 a steam locomotive had reached such a level of efficiency that it took only a cup of water and a pound of coal to move one ton one mile on the rails.
That same year the rest of the world was using petroleum products for fuel exclusively. The last steam locomotive was built in the United States in 1947. The conversion to diesel, a petroleum product, was in progress.
Today steam is used only in large municipal power plants. A handful of people run their diesel cars on vegetable oil or their spark-ignition car engines on alcohol.
Was World War II fought to make the world safe for petroleum? And is the interest in alternative fuels partially responsible for the planned invasion of Iraq?
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This page was updated on 5 November 2011