75th Anniversary of the 'Big Inch' pipeline - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

75th Anniversary of the 'Big Inch' pipeline

Workers on the Big Inch site (Source: Gregg Co. Historical Museum) Workers on the Big Inch site (Source: Gregg Co. Historical Museum)

In a little known piece of WWII history, one East Texas city did as much to help win the war as any military operation. 

January is the 75th anniversary of 'the Big Inch,' a massive pipeline that stretches from Longview to the east coast that carried a the vital resource of oil. Construction began in 1942 on an oil pipeline that was to change the course of World War II.

"It was one of the first interactions or cooperations between government and private industry. In less than a year they developed the technology. From here in Gregg County across 30 rivers, over 200 lakes and streams, most of it hand dug," says Larry Currington of the Gregg County Historical Museum.

Financed by the government, it was the largest operation of its type ever undertaken, requiring over 16,000 workers, and nearly 700,000 tons of materials.
German submarines had attacked American oil tankers, threatening the U.S. oil supply.

"Within 22 days they had sunk or heavily damaged 73 of the 74 tankers left to transport oil. We had more oil here than the Axis powers had at the height of their conquest," Currington says.

It was a 24-inch pipeline that took Texas crude through the Midwest and on to the east coast. It was 1254 miles long.

A historic plaque marks the spot on Martin Luther King Boulevard where the lines from the Kilgore oilfields linked up with the Big Inch. At its peak production, it was sending more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day to the east coast. The effort was monumental

"Winston Churchill at the end of the war said that the war was won on a sea of East Texas oil. Miraculous that we were able to get this built. That was the single largest contributing factor to the Allies winning World War 2," says Currington.

Part of the Big Inch still exists and is functional today. It is used to deliver natural gas to the city of Philadelphia.
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