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

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October 5, 1945

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The world's petroleum producers were stunned in March of 1938 when it was announced that a vast quantity of oil had been tapped at 4,727 feet underground in Saudi Arabia. Germany, Italy, and Japan all lacked substantial domestic sources of petroleum and each made a bid to tap into the newly discovered Saudi supply. Fortunately for what were to become the Allied nations of WWII, each of these soon to be Axis aligned powers was unsuccessful in this regard. Socal (Standard Oil of California) geologists had recognized the potential for oil in this region early on and in 1933 had negotiated a secret agreement with Saudi King Ibn Saud for preferential drilling rights.

Socal shut down its operation in the Saudi Kingdom at the war's onset and sent most of its American employees home. Only a skeleton crew was left to maintain its facilities. President Roosevelt authorized lend-lease aid to Saudi Arabia on February 18, 1943 on the advice of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. Military planners were projecting an acute oil shortage for 1944 and were anxious to obtain a secure foreign supply. These projections proved to be exaggerated for the short-term but not for the long. On his return from the Yalta meeting in mid-February 1945 Roosevelt stopped off in the Middle East specifically to meet with King Ibn Saud. The two discussed oil, the Palestine question, and the postwar political makeup of the Middle East for five intense hours. No written record of their discussions exists and Roosevelt failed to share the thrust of their conversations with subordinates prior to his death on April 12.

Gasoline rationing was lifted in this country within twenty-four hours of the Japanese announcement of surrender in August 1945. Americans rushed to fill their tanks for the first time for most since November 30, 1942. From 1945 through 1970 the domestic demand for oil tripled. For the same period domestic crude production only doubled. After 1948 the United States was a net oil importer. This fact was to impact American foreign policy significantly.

Points to Consider

Locate Dharan, Saudi Arabia on a map.

What did the initials "M.P." refer to?

Why did the U.S. maintain a military presence in Saudi Arabia immediately after the war?

Was Private Rudolph Cornacchia being taken unfair advantage of?

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