Monday, March 10, 2014

`The Prize (4) "War and Oil"

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin's history of the global oil industry from the 1850s through 1990. The Prize became a bestseller owing to its release date: it was published in October 1990, two months after the invasion of Kuwait ordered by Saddam Hussein and three months before the U.S.-led coalition began the Gulf War to oust Iraqi troops from that country.  It eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. 
The Prize has been called the "definitive" history of the oil industry, even a "bible".
My notes

Oil is the untold story of World War Two, especially for Germany and Japan. 

A Germany on wheels was Adolf Hitler’s vision of national supremacy.  He marveled at his country’s technology prowess, but it didn’t have oil.  The country was poor on natural resources, and its Nobel Prize-winning synthetic oil was too expensive to produce. 

The aim of blitzkrieg was to end war quickly, as Germany could not afford to engage in a long war.  This worked on Poland and France. 

But not with Great Britain.  The US had refined oil (Octane 100) that allowed British warplanes greater lift and maneuverability, which eventually defeated German air attack. 

Meanwhile, Isoroku Yamamoto, who engineered the attack on Pearl Harbor, spent years studying US and American culture. 

Japan sought to gain autonomy, so it worked to conquer all of Asia and its resources.  But because the US saw the atrocity Japan was inflicting on China, it cut off its oil supply. 

The December 7th 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor crippled the Pacific fleet.

In real life, that is, outside of Japanese internal propaganda, the oil tanks were left untouched.  This was a strategic fatal flaw.  Japan was thinking more about its growing oil needs and less about truly crippling US military might. 

Hitler, too, was dreaming about oil, that of the Soviet Union.  So Germany invaded Russia.  Operation Barbarosa was expected to be another blitzkrieg, but the landscape it attacked was more like a continent than a country.  From rain to snow, weather became a formidable enemy.   

Back in Germany, Hitler saw his generals’ military strategy to be outdated, because they didn’t consider the economics of war.  Rommel was the exception, and devised a strategy to win the oil-rich Caucasus, that is, to attack it from the north and the south.

But in June 1942, short on oil, Rommel’s bold campaign ground to a halt.  The British, on the other hand, were swimming in oil.  Rommel was ultimately defeated in Northern Africa. 

On the northern portion of Rommel’s strategy, Germany faced stiff Russian resistance.  Hitler’s dream of controlling Baku was fading.

Meanwhile, a remobilized US managed to cut off Japanese oil supply in the Pacific. 

Patton, like Rommel, had an instinctive feel for the battlefield, such as where the enemy was vulnerable.  Plus, he knew how crucial oil (gasoline) was.  So when President Eisenhower ordered just half of the supply he requested, he didn’t quite discourage his men from underhanded means of securing more. 

He finally got his gasoline, but the unforgiving minute had passed.  If he had had what he needed, WWII would’ve ended nine months earlier.

In the meantime, Germany used concentration camp slaves to help produce more synthetic oil. The US therefore aimed to cripple such supply. So while Germany built the first jet fighter, it was rendered absolutely useless without oil.

In Japan, boys and girls were engaged in war efforts, which were to eke out as much oil from everything, including crops and trees.

At the time of the dropping of the atomic bombs, the Japanese war machine was almost paralyzed, because it had run out of oil. It cost Japan 50 million lives, and oil was implicated to the very tragic end.

Hitler himself committed suicide, as the Russians neared Berlin. Then his soldiers doused his body in gasoline, and set it aflame.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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