An American expert summarized the importance of coal at the enbd if World War II, "No single item mire significantly marks the industrial greatness of a nation than coal." [Potter, p. 28.] That may sound strange to modern ears wers col is seen as a threat to the very existence of mankind, but that was not how cial was seen at the time of World War II.
Coal was not used directly for weaponry, but it was necesary for the production of steel which of course was. Thus coal was vital for the World War II effort. It was not as imprtant as in World War I, but was still vital. And coal was imprtant in many Another ways. It was still the primary fuel used in transportation. Even in the United States where cars using oil were important, coal was still more important because trains were still largely powered by coal. And coal around the world was used for home heating and cooking. The importance of coal is sometimes loss in the discussion of oil. It was the primary industrial fuel. It powered industry that built the weapons and was the primary fuel for land transport which was primarily conducted by rail. Trucks were important for short-range transport, but rail transport was by far the major transport system. As with oil, the Axis was not as well endowed as the Allies, but the defecit was not as severe as for oil and had significantly changed since World War I.
The United States was the leading producer. Germany and Britain were the next most important. Germany was the largest producer (2.4 million tos including lignite). The Germans had significntly increaded coal production since World War I. German coal production is a little complicated to calculate because of German expansion (1938-42). The NAZIs allowed the Reichsbaun (German rail system) to deterioirate which was resulting in coal shortages even before the War. America was a close second (2.1 billion ton) and with Britain (1.4 billion t) exceeded German production. The only other major producer was the Soviet Union (0.5 billion t). The Soviet had significantly increased production since World War, but was still a small portion of German production. Ironically the energy problem increased for Germany as their military aggressions expanded the Reich and occupied territory. Germany had domestic coal resources in the Ruhr to meet peace-time domestic demand. The War, however, significantly increased demand for coal. In addition, much of Europe was importing coal, primarily from Wales in Britain. America was the oil giant during the War. British coal was crucial for the proper functioning of European economies, meaning the German occupied countries the NAZI used to create their NAZI Großraum. Britain before the War was exporting 50 million t of coal, nearly 70 percent was going to Europe. [Potter, p. 29.] Germany agression cut off British shipments and if Germny wanted to utilize the productive poweer of the occupied counttries, it needed to replsce the British coal imports. The Germans provided some coal to keep priority industries operating. Otherwise the occupied economies could not function and be exploited. The coal shortages, however, meant economic productivity declined sinificantly during the German occupation. Coal shortages as not the onmly reason, but it was a major reason. All of this significantly limited the NAZI war economy.
Potter, Charles J. Deputy Solid Fuels Administrator for War, Department of Interioir, "Europe's coal problem," Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science Vol. 21, No. 4, European Recovery (January 1946), pp. 28-40.
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