Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

< Previous Document  |  Document List  |  Illinois at War Introduction  |  Next Document >


October 11, 1942


The United States faced a critical rubber shortage when it entered World War II. At that time American automobile tires and other rubber goods were made of natural raw rubber. And ninety percent of this raw material was imported from Malaysia and elsewhere in the Far East. When Singapore fell to the Japanese on February 15, 1942 this supply was cut off completely. Stockpiles in this country amounted to only some 660,000 tons, less than a year's supply for normal needs. Each Flying Fortress constructed consumed a half ton of rubber. Each medium or heavy tank required more than a ton. Each destroyer or large cargo ship used over fifty tons.

In Germany the I. G. Farben company had been manufacturing synthetic rubber for Nazi war industries since the early 1930s. America in the spring of 1942 had only one synthetic facility operating at full capacity. This Goodrich plant was producing synthetic rubber at the rate of 2,500 tons a year.

President Roosevelt named economic troubleshooter Bernard Baruch in August 1942 to make a swift study of the problem and to recommend solutions. The Baruch Committee issued its findings in September. In a nutshell it called for the conservation of existing rubber resources and the immediate construction of fifty mammoth synthetic rubber manufacturing plants. By midyear in 1944 the United States was manufacturing enough synthetic rubber to supply its own and the Allies' military needs with enough left over for civilian consumption.

The Office of Price Administration, the federal agency first charged with controlling inflation and preventing profiteering, also was made responsible for rationing scarce civilian consumer goods. Automobile tires were the first items so regulated but soon the list grew to include everything from sugar to shoes. Gasoline was rationed in the Midwest beginning December 1, 1942. This measure was taken more to conserve wear on rubber tires than it was to preserve fuel which in late 1942 was not in short supply.

Points to Consider

Was 5,000 miles a year an unreasonable restriction for essential driving?

What was the actual purpose of gasoline rationing?

What was the Baruch report?

Before 1943 where did most of America's rubber supply come from?

See Related Document:


< Previous Document  |  Document List  |  Illinois at War Introduction  |  Next Document >