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Tire Blowouts And Tire Rationing in Bismarck, 1942

7/28/2017:

The shock of exploding bombs on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 brought the U.S. into the conflagrations of World War II. The subsequent fall of Asia’s rubber plantations “cut America’s rubber lifeline and brought the word’s most motorized nation face-to-face with catastrophe as its rubber reserve dwindled.”

The U.S. crude rubber supply for civilians had to be rationed to keep the war machine running. Each county established a rationing board to decide who would get vital materials and who would not.

On this date, in 1942, the Bismarck Tribune told of the hassles and turmoils endured by the Burleigh County Rationing Board, as they struggled to manage the scarce resources to help win the war.

The federal government had instituted sugar rationing, food rationing, gasoline rationing, and eventually, even automobile, bicycle and typewriter rationing. But the source of most headaches for the Burleigh County Rationing Board involved tire rationing. It was difficult to ration tires because the pre-war tires on cars and trucks were rapidly wearing out, and the supply of new tires was diminishing month-by-month. There simply were not enough tires to go around. Farmers and truckers, were essential, and doctors and preachers also got preferential treatment.

It was a numbers problem because Burleigh County had 5,238 automobiles and 1,167 trucks, along with 589 buses and other vehicles. In July, 1942, the county could allocate only 39 new tires and 46 recapped tires for those 6,000 vehicles.

Applications far-outnumbered tires – there were 49 requests for new truck tires and 9 new car tires; along with 10 truck recaps and 14 automobile recaps, so not everyone got what they needed.

Emergencies got priority. A doctor got a tire when his old one was blown to ribbons west of Mandan. A preacher got an emergency tire when he suffered a blowout in St. Cloud. Otherwise, he would have had to abandon his car. A farmer received a fresh tire and inner-tube when a tire on his fully-loaded grain truck went flat six miles east of Bismarck.

Eventually, more tires, made of synthetic or recycled rubber became available for a population that had definitely gotten “tired” of blowouts and rationing. Nonetheless, the Burleigh County Rationing Board had done everything they could to “stretch” the rubber supply as far a possible in those challenging days of World War II.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “Work of County Rationing Board Has Grown Much Since Inception,” Bismarck Tribune, July 28, 1942, p. 2.

“Moving Picture of the Best Tire Built Today,” Life Magazine, July 3, 1944, p. 32.

“Rubber War In Pacific Ends Tire Sales to U.S. Civilians,” Life Magazine, January 19, 1942, p. 49.