Early World War II Rationing

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the United States was not prepared to go to war. Consequently, we got our nose bloodied for the first six months of the war. Preparation and planning, however, began on December 8, 1941.

One of the first non-combat tasks was to identify critical raw materials needed and somehow go about securing them. Rubber for tires was quickly flagged for attention since rubber was imported from the Japanese-occupied East Indies, then petroleum for vehicles. Since the United States would have to supply all the allies' needs, there was no margin for error and no allowance for luxury.

Tires were the first item to be rationed, beginning on January 1, 1942. Rubber for recaps and tubes for tires was also rationed. During that January, everyone was required to have their tires inspected and the tire serial numbers recorded. All wear was indicated for each tire and all cars were required to be checked for alignment to prevent excess wear. On January 19, price controls were established on recapped tires and used tires. On February 1 all latex was banned in the manufacturing of ladies foundation garments and hundreds of other household items.

A benefit from the rubber import problem was the push to develop a usable synthetic rubber in quantity for tires and hoses. By the end of the war sixty per cent of rubber used was synthetic. This was the driving force to expand the petrochemical industry in the United States.

On January 1, 1942 all domestic automobile manufacturing was changed over to military production for the duration of the war. The 600,000 remaining unsold vehicles were allocated by county over the course of 1942 and 1943 by the Office of Price Administration. Robeson County's first month allocation was eight vehicles for the entire county including government agencies. Almost overnight, auto dealers were impacted. Some became horse and mule traders; others emphasized the service and repair end of their business.

Gas rationing was announced in November, 1942 to begin December 1. This was done primarily to limit tire usage rather than save gasoline. Speed limits were reduced to 35 mph for the same reason. Pleasure driving was outlawed January 6, 1943 for holders of all "A", "B", and "C" stickers and sticker value was reduced from 4 gallons to 3 gallons.

By the end of the war there was pent-up demand for new vehicles and new places to go. There was also money to do it, leading to the post-war economic boom.


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