Appendices - Hirohito's War
APPENDIX N: THE ROLE OF OIL IN THE PACIFIC WAR
Oil’s Early History: When World War II started the modern oil industry was barely fifty years old. Although oil is referred to in Homer’s Iliad and had been drilled for as early as the 4th Century, and used by the Arabs and Persians in the 9th and 10th Centuries, its secrets did not reach Europe until the Arab enlightenment brought knowledge of the substance to Spain in the 13th Century. About the same time Marco Polo wrote about oil and described it being transported in shiploads. Around the same date Rumanians were using oil, which was known as pacura. The earliest record of oil in the Americas was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in Trinidad in 1595.
In 1795 during the reign of Empress Elizabeth of Russia, the first well and refinery was constructed at Ukta to the east of Archangel by Fiodor Priadunov. Oil was used to light lamps in Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries. In the same year Louis XIV of France authorized the first oil sands mine located in Alsace, the region that spawned Schlumberger, the now world renowned oil services company founded in 1926.
In modern times the Scottish chemist James Young, after observing seepage of a liquid in the shafts at Riddings Colliery in Derbyshire, developed a distillation process, which produced paraffin. However four year later, in 1854, it was Benjamin Silliman, a chemistry professor at Yale University, who was the first person to develop a process for the distillation of oil into various products. It was a discovery that spread rapidly to Baku in Azerbajan, an area where oil oozes from the ground, and where the first modern refinery was built in 1861. Refineries followed in Poland and Romania but it was the United States that led the world at the end of the 19th Century.