20TH CENTURY DRAMA
August 13, 1944
On the 8th of August, the American Invasion Forces took the French city of Le Mans. This city is of great interest to Americans because 36 years ago another important event occurred there on the 8th of August. Then an American inventor, Wilbur Wright, played the leading role. Nearly five years after the famous flight at Kitty Hawk, Wilbur went to France to give a demonstration of the plane to a group that had taken an option on their European patents.
Through the help of the French automobile manufacturer, Leon Bollee, Wilbur obtained the use of the Le Mans race course as a flying field, and on August 8, 1908, a large crowd gathered to witness the flight. In this crowd were many skeptics, one in particular was Ernest Archdeacon of the Aero Club of France. While Wright was adjusting his machine, Archdeacon was explaining to the people seated in the grand stand what was wrong with the airplane and why it could never work. He said that Wright knew this and was just bluffing, but the Frenchman was suddenly interrupted by the loud applause and cheering of those in front of him as they shouted, “This man has conquered the air! He’s no bluffer.” As Archdeacon turned around, he was just in time to see Wright’s plane clearing the tops of some trees in the distance.
The many flights which Wilbur Wright made at Le Mans had much to do with the rapid development of the airplane by completely answering all the critics. If the original crowd could have been there on this 8th of August, they would have witnessed an exciting climax to these historic flights. Instead of Wilbur Wright’s frail machine circling thirty-five feet above the ground, they would have seen thousands of huge bombers flying miles high, and hundreds of dive bombers and fighters traveling at a speed of over 6 miles a minutes. The airplane was again visiting Le Mans, not as an invention on trial, but as a full grown champion of Liberation and Freedom.
Much has happened to the Airplane in those 36 years. The small, awkward looking craft of the Wrights has become the huge, stream-lined ship of the skies. The little four cylinder, 40 horsepower engine has grown into several thousand horsepower. The ordinary fuel Wilbur Wright poured into his tank 36 years ago has gradually changed to our modern high octane aviation gasoline.
The several hundred per cent increase in power made possible by our modern fuel is still not understood. It is easy to see the tremendous changes that have taken place in the outward appearance of the airplane, and we are conscious of the difference between the powerful engines of today and the Wrights’ original motor. But when it comes to gasoline, the high octane fuel of today looks much like the material Wilbur Wright poured into his tank in 1908.
We all owe a great vote of thanks to the research, development and production ability of the American Petroleum Industry as it celebrates its 85th birthday for supplying these fuels in ever increasing quantities. In addition, other organizations, such as our Ethyl Corporation, have further increased the power of fuels by contributing their special product, tetra ethyl lead. The oil industry and its associates have given our armed forces through these fuels a fighting edge over our enemies in every part of the world.
With this in mind, it should not be so difficult to appreciate the necessity of maintaining adequate supplies on every front. When the American forces broke out of Normandy, hundreds of tanks and trucks began to roll -- the bombers and fighters went into action by the thousands and our reserves of gasoline and oil began to shrink. This increased demand is reflected at home. `
As our armed forces continue to increase their consumption of fuels, the quality of our civilian gasoline will go down. Even with our refineries and chemical plants working at maximum capacity there will not be enough anti-knock materials to supply both the needs of our armed forces and civilians. So, your motors will knock more in the future -- but think of that knocking as applause for your contribution to the world’s greatest mechanized army and air forces.
As we make our post war plans, it might be well to keep in mind how airplanes and fuels were developed. It took 40 years to go from the Wrights’ airplane to our present great fleet of transport and war planes. It has taken 85 years for the Petroleum Industry to perfect an adequate and efficient gasoline refining process. It is also important to remember that an idea must grow, like anything else -- and that takes time. We must never stop trying to make new inventions -- for a shortage of ideas in one generation may mean the loss of our freedom in the next.