12 February, 2012

12 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
12 February, 1945      0945

Dearest darling, Wilma –

Shall we chalk up Lincoln’s Birthday as another Holiday we owe each other – or shall we just let it ride? You know what? – I’m going to let you decide that all by yourself – and don’t let me ever hear you say I’m not fair and square about things! I don’t suppose it’s much of a Holiday in Boston either – and boy! Oh boy! Are you ever getting the snow! I guess about the one nice thing the Army has done for me has been to keep me out of three tough New England winters. We had a b–h of a January here but it started raining about the 31st and in 3 days of February the snow and cold disappeared – and fingers crossed – it’s been mild, though rainy, ever since. If it would only dry up a bit!

And what do you think – Yesterday I got a letter from you written on the 30th of January. That’s wonderful and entirely unusual. But you chided me for the type of letter I wrote or had written to you recently because they were cheery and you thought I was fooling you. Well, sweetheart – I’ve still got you fooled. You wrote – “Now that I know” – and I’d like to know dear, what do you know now? I’m sure you haven’t yet grasped the difference between being very lonely for home, fed-up with the Army, being utterly blue – and – being uncomfortable, being cold, being shelled, being raided. The two sets of reactions don’t necessarily go together, sweetheart – and very often don’t, because when the latter of the two conditions exist – you just don’t have the time to be lonesome. I write you blue letters, dear – not often, I’ll admit – but often enough. The fact is I am not a mope by nature and I don’t stay that way long. I force myself to be cheerful – and after a half hour or so goes by – I do actually feel better. It may be that at such times – I’m writing to you – and my cheeriness doesn’t seem real – but it isn’t, darling, because I’m trying to impress you – but rather that I’m trying to impress myself. Is that confusing? Anyway, dear – I’ll be hard to change –

Hello again – darling!

Sorry I had to leave you so abruptly this morning – but I was called away because of some developments in that civilian trial. When the case was referred to a higher court – the defendant was returned to jail. It was my contention that the wrong person was being tried and that the defendant should at least be released until the next trial. Well today I was notified that she was released – so I’ve won a partial victory. I’ve been told that the civilians who were at the trial couldn’t understand how the lawyer for the accused was wearing a Red Cross on his arm. That had them all mixed up, dear – but I had some fun anyway.

I couldn’t for the life of me think of any Jewish girl I knew in Salem who is now a Wave – but I didn’t know a heck of a lot of them. I know a couple of Ensigns – but they’re not Jewish. And what do you mean – “Never can tell – I may live there some day”. We certainly will, dear unless something much better turns up for us before then. Right now I’d say Salem was our best bet.

You must really feel tough with all these married couples chasing around from city to city having good times – Irv and Verna, Nancy and Abbot, Betty and Stan – and a few others you mention from time to time. All I can say, darling, is that married to you or not – I’d have sweated out the war harder at home than I am here – and I know what I’m writing. I could never have been thoroughly happy in the realization of what some are putting up with and my taking it easy. Or maybe it’s lack of realization that allows some of these people to live with themselves. I excuse artists or talented people. All others, it seems to me, could be doing something towards helping this war. No, darling, don’t be envious of the trips and the parties that some of your friends are having. We’ll have ours too – and we’ll really enjoy them and be able to hold our heads high. Because I’ll bet that secretly – these same couples – have just a slight enough amount of conscience to detract from a full enjoyment of what they’re doing. I may be wrong, of course, but I think not. I know only that I love you and want to be with you as soon as possible. But when that time comes – we want to feel that we did our part when there was a part to do – and I honestly think we are.

Well – so much for the flag waving, sweetheart, which I don’t do too often – I hope. I’ll have to do a little work now – so I’ll be with you again tomorrow. All my love to you, sweetheart – and remember always that I love you more than anyone else in the world.
Yours for always,


about The Fuel Crisis

In May 1941, even while the US was not yet in the war, Roosevelt appointed Interior Secretary Harold Ickes to the additional position of Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense. Becoming once again the nation’s top oil man, or Oil Czar, Ickes had to turn around an industry that was coping with surplus to one that would maximize output and avert shortage. He had a huge liability as the oil industry detested him from previous encounters. While he had come to their aid in 1933, he subsequently had become very critical of the industry. Mobilizing the oil industry into one giant organization under government direction had been done quickly and efficiently in Britain but turned out to be different and difficult in the United States. Ickes however managed to work closely and pragmatically with the industry and succeeded in disarming the hostility and ensuring effective cooperation.

Harold L. Ickes

Harold Ickes’ hand was strengthened when he was promoted to Petroleum Administrator for War (PAW) from Petroleum Coordinator, while still Secretary of the Interior. Even as PAW, Ickes realized that unlike the case in Britain, coordinating unity among the many competing US forces (Congress, the Administration, the companies, the press etc.) in the United States was very difficult. He managed to gradually establish an effective government-industry partnership and sought antitrust exemption from the Justice Department. The U.S. was producing 514,000 barrels per day of 100 octane fuel by 1945 compared to 40,000 barrels per day in 1940. In fact, between December 1941 and August 1945, the Allies consumed 7 billion barrels of oil, 6 billion of which came from the United States.

Although there were temporary shortages, there was never a serious oil supply crisis in the United States. One such temporary shortage was described by TIME magazine, (February 12, 1945, Vol. XLV, No. 7), in this article titled "Cold Facts":
To Middle Western cities which have gone through the war in a nighttime blaze of neon lights, the brownout that went on last week was a shock. In Chicago, the usually bustling Loop was deserted; there were no long queues at theaters. In Detroit, late shopping housewives complained that they could not find stores. In Denver, barnyard lanterns blossomed on store fronts.

But no one had to be told why the lights had to go out: as civilians shivered in the coldest, snowiest, blowiest winter in years, the U.S. was smack up against a first-rate crisis in fuel.

The trouble had been on its way ever since December, when zero weather and blizzards and a manpower shortage first snarled up the overloaded railroads and disrupted fuel deliveries. The three-day embargo, clamped on all non-Government freight in the East, had helped (TIME, Feb. 5). But it was not enough. Last week, the Office of Defense Transportation clamped on another, this time for four days. Coal was the only civilian freight that could be moved.

In a wide belt from Ohio to New England, many schools were closed and offices went on shortened weeks. This did not always help. Workers celebrated their holiday by trips on already overloaded trains.

After a plea from Solid Fuels Administrator Ickes, some 65,000 miners labored underground an extra day, getting out the coal. But production dropped anyhow, mainly because there were no rail cars to haul the coal to the freezing cities. On top of this, a temporary food shortage was on the way in many an Eastern city. Freight trains as far west as California were shunted on to sidings to wait till the snarl untangled. While they waited, many a grocer cleaned out his shelves.

Trouble in the Tub. War plants were hard hit. In Pittsburgh, 200 were shut down (see BUSINESS). There was not enough heating gas for both plants and householders, so the householders got what there was.

In Detroit all plants sent workers home on an extended weekend after WPB curtailed their fuel. Then by newspaper and radio pleas they frantically tried to get them back after WPB changed its mind. Householders in Columbus, Ohio were told to cut down on their baths, flush their toilets only once a day per person so that the huge Curtiss-Wright plant would have enough water. Reason: the severe cold had kept snow from melting normally, lowered water in reservoirs.

Trouble on the Way. In New York, the rail jam was the worst. Huge drifts stalled trains in the open country. Passengers had to wade through drifts to nearby farmhouses to spend the night. State troopers went along the highway dynamiting 14-ft. drifts, clearing the roads so that emergency auto caravans could get through with feed for livestock and food for isolated villages and farms. Improvised or ancient sledges turned up in the streets.

Fuel oil was so near exhaustion in Manhattan that the Navy released 400,000 barrels to help tide civilians over. The Army chipped in with 5,000 tons of coal. Nightclubs, theaters got ready to close their doors. One theater, its coal burnt, was kept warm with loads of cordwood. But even wood was scarce.

This week there was more trouble to be met. Much of the East was lashed by a new sleet storm. There were gloomy predictions that the railroads had got so far behind that the crisis might not be completely over until April.

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