How was gas rationing handled during World War II?

Dear Cecil:

How was gas rationing handled during World War II?

Cecil replies:

Poorly. Actually, gas wasn’t what they were rationing at all. The main purpose of the restrictions on gas purchasing was to conserve tires. (And you thought those bureaucrats were stupid.) Japanese armies in the Far East, you see, had cut the U.S. off from its chief supply of rubber.

There were four rationing classifications. An “A” classification, which could be had by almost anyone, entitled the holder to four gallons a week. A “B” classification was worth about eight gallons a week. “C” was reserved for important folk, like doctors, and the magic “X” went to people whose very survival required that they be able to purchase gasoline in unlimited quantities–rich people and politicians, for example.

Rationing was handled through the federal Office of Price Administration. To get a classification and rationing stamps, citizens appeared at the OPA office in person and swore to the high heavens that they (1) needed gas desperately and (2) owned no more than five automobile tires (any in excess of five were confiscated by the government). Each driver was given a windshield sticker that proclaimed his classification for all the world to see. Theoretically, each gallon of gasoline sold was accounted for. The buyer surrendered his stamp at the point of purchase, and the vendor forwarded the records to the OPA.

Gas rationing began on a nationwide basis on December 1, 1942. It ended on August 15, 1945. Speed limits were 35 MPH for the duration. For a short time in 1943, rations were reduced further and all pleasure driving was outlawed.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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