The Charlotte News

Tuesday, September 23, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Today's primary topic on the page is oil for the waging of war. "End Run" questions whether Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes had it right when he asserted the existence of an oil shortage on the west coast resulting from the use of tankers to transport oil to Valdivostok to aid the Russian cause--much as he had declared a couple of months earlier a shortage on the east coast because of the transfer of tankers to Britain.

The Hugh Johnson piece tells us of the dire straits of the Russian army, the prospect of its being flanked, surrounded and trapped by winter in Moscow, that Nazi panzer divisions would not suffer the same fate as Napoleon's cavalry and infantry of 1812 with the onset of winter, that the ice plane would now serve as an expanded road for the tanks and personnel carriers, not a freezing barrier to further advance. He further warns that stepping up aid now to Russia would still be problematic as it would take thirty days to reach the front lines once it arrived in Vladivostok, while use of the northern route to Murmansk was fast becoming a moot issue with the onset of winter.

Dorothy Thompson lays out the whole picture of the war at that juncture with respect to oil: that the Nazi Wehrmacht needed for sustenance 2.5 million tons per month during a blitz, only one-fifth of which could be supplied by German synthetic oil, and about eight million tons, i.e., a four-month net supply, from Rumania and Poland; that with the Russian and Iranian oil reserves after a defeat of Russia, there would be no limit to the oil available to the Nazis for both an invasion of England and finally even the United States; that without it, the Nazis were extremely limited in both the type and duration of war they could wage--explaining why in the first two years of the war, Hitler had initiated engagements only in the spring, that is until 1941 when he waited until June 22 to begin the Russian invasion, a fatal error with early winter weather omens already apparent in mid-June as the earliest snows witnessed in a generation fell around Moscow and Arkhangelsk. Hitler's generals had relied too strongly on their own optimism of a quick campaign accomplished in three to six weeks.

Estimates by late November, as transmitted to FDR by Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, were that Nazi oil reserves stood somewhere between a three and six month supply. The Russian campaign was chewing up reserve apace, leaving nothing for the western front. Thus, Hitler's great gamble in attacking Russia had either to pay off or confront a long defensive campaign in Central Europe.

So, as Ms. Thompson sets forth, Britain had to make a decision instanter whether to land a force in France to draw off troops from Russia and thus force the expenditure of that much more Nazi fuel, or to ship most of its oil reserve to aid Russia.

She counsels an immediate declaration of war on Germany by the United States.

Factored into all of this analysis then, not mentioned in Ms. Thompson's piece, was the Japanese need for oil, not only for itself but to supply the Reich as well. And, as we have stressed many times, that is where the move into the south Pacific to the Dutch East Indies became essential, and with it the need to take the American Fleet out of commission at Pearl Harbor so that the move could be accomplished with the least resistance possible and hopefully even force a quick peace negotiated by the U.S., leaving Germany the conqueror of Europe and Japan, emperor of the Pacific.

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