War II Rubber Supply Crisis
Franklin D. Roosevelt was well aware of U.S. vulnerability because
of its dependence on threatened supplies of natural rubber, and in
June 1940, he formed the Rubber Reserve Company (RRC). The RRC set
objectives for stockpiling rubber, conserving the use of rubber in
tires by setting speed limits, and collecting scrap rubber for reclamation.
onset of World War II cut off U.S. access to 90 percent of the natural
rubber supply. At this time, the United States had a stockpile of
about one million tons of natural rubber, a consumption rate of
about 600,000 tons per year, and no commercial process to produce
a general purpose synthetic rubber. Conserving, reclaiming, and
stockpiling activities could not fill the gap in rubber consumption.
the loss of the natural rubber supply, the RRC called for an annual
production of 400,000 tons of general purpose synthetic rubber to
be manufactured by the four large rubber companies. On December
19, 1941, Jersey Standard, Firestone, Goodrich, Goodyear, and United
States Rubber signed a patent-and-information-sharing agreement
under the auspices of the RRC.
situation became even more critical as the need for rubber for the
war effort increased. With stocks of rubber dwindling and conflicts
arising over the best technical direction to follow, Roosevelt appointed
a Rubber Survey Committee in August 1942 to investigate and make
recommendations to solve the crisis. The committee, headed by financier
Bernard M. Baruch, also included scientists James B. Conant, president
of Harvard University, and Karl T. Compton, president of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
the remarkably short time of one month, Baruch's committee made
its recommendations, two of which were critical to solving the rubber
crisis: the appointment of a rubber director who would have complete
authority on the supply and use of rubber, and the immediate construction
and operation of 51 plants to produce the monomers and polymers
needed for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. William M. Jeffers,
president of the Union Pacific Railroad, served as the first rubber
director, with Bradley Dewey, president of Dewey and Almey, as deputy,
and Lucius D. Tompkins, a vice president of United States Rubber
Company, as assistant deputy.