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Rubber Rationing

The Coruba team will be observing the 2-minute silence to honour the brave men and women who lost their lives during World War II and other conflicts. We will remember them.

During World War II, rationing played a major part in the lives of people on the Home Front in both Britain and the United States. While food was one of the main commodities rationed in Britain, the American public was subject to the rationing of rubber tyres.

Rubber was the first item to be rationed by the US Office of Price Administration. The shortages occurred because the Japanese conquered the main rubber-producing nations of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya between January and March 1942, wiping out 91% of the United States' rubber supply.

The problem was compounded because the cargo ships were being requisitioned for military use, reducing the nation's ability to import rubber from South America. A synthetic rubber programme had been launched but it didn't produce enough to meet military and civilian needs.

Rubber tyres

© Public Domain


Rubber shortages

Although America had stockpiled crude rubber before the war, there was only enough to last for one year in peacetime. Desperate measures were needed to ensure the rubber required by the military didn't run out.

In the 1940s, 75% of rubber was used to manufacture automobile tyres, but it was also used for raincoats, gloves, boots, babies' pants, waterproof sheets, corsets, bathing caps, hot water bottles, toys and garden hoses.

The armed forces needed rubber for many purposes including vehicle and aircraft tyres, gas masks, oxygen masks, pontoon bridges, medical equipment and military wear, such as raincoats, boots and shoes.


Rationing launch

The rationing of tyres and other rubber goods began on 5th January 1942 and continued until 31st December 1945. A number of Local Tyre Rationing Boards were set up to monitor local use. A certificate was required to have new tyres fitted and they were reserved for public health and safety vehicles including ambulances, fire engines, police vehicles, bin lorries and mail vans. Vehicles that were deemed essential (such as trucks that transported food and fuel) were also permitted to have new tyres, as were public transport vehicles.

Occasionally, defence workers who shared rides and taxi drivers were allowed to have new tyres. Any civilians who had extra tyres stored on their property had to surrender them for military use, as they were allowed to keep only five tyres per vehicle.


Military demand

The rubber was put to good use - a heavy bomber aircraft required 1,825 lbs of rubber and a military scout vehicle needed 306 lbs, while a gas mask needed 1.11 lbs, so nothing went to waste.

Rationing of men's rubber work shoes and boots began on 30th September 1942, while most other rubber products for civilians ceased production for the duration of the war. Everyone had to make do and mend.

The business world also supported the move, with the luxury department store Macy’s cancelling its traditional Thanksgiving Day parade between 1942 and 1944 to conserve rubber. It normally featured hundreds of helium-filled rubber balloons in the parade, but in November 1942, store bosses handed over all of the balloons to help the war effort.


Public campaigns

The government also ran public service campaigns to educate civilians on how to care for their existing rubber products to make them last longer. They were encouraged to protect rubber items from moisture and heat, to clean them properly and to avoid folding them. Holes and tears must be repaired quickly and elastic must not be over-stretched.

A nationwide rubber drive was held between 15th and 30th June 1942. Everyone was encouraged to donate any rubber items they had so they could be recycled for the war effort. The campaign was a big success and people brought in tyres, raincoats, boots, hot water bottles and floor mats. They were paid one penny per lb of rubber that they donated. A total of 450,000 tons of scrap rubber was collected.


Making tyres last

It was difficult for civilians to make five tyres last for the duration of the war. They had to drive very carefully and at a speed limit of 35 mph - known as the Victory Speed. Tyres wore out 50% quicker at speeds of 60 mph than they did at 30 mph.

Nationwide petrol rationing was brought in to make people drive less. Motorists were encouraged to execute slow and steady starts, stops and turns to make the tyres' tread last longer.

People were advised to use public transport, to avoid rough roads and to car-share. Having your car properly maintained became more important than ever before. Jobs such as adjusting the brakes, aligning the wheels, inflating the tyres to the correct pressure and repairing punctures promptly all helped to prolong the tyres' life. All motor racing was banned for the duration of the war.


Make it do!

During the war, in the same way as Brits adopted the "make do and mend" attitude, the American public embraced the "make it do" ethos in relation to tyres and other rubber items. As World War II drew to a close in 1945, so did the government's rubber rationing programme.

On Remembrance Sunday, 10th November, special services will be taking place at churches and cenotaphs across the world to commemorate everyone who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of future generations. Lest we forget.

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