*** war and social upheaval: World War II -- metals aluminum

World War II Raw Materials: Specific Metals--Aluminum

Canadian scrap drives
Figure 1.--At the time Hitler and Stalin launched the world War I, Germany had the world's largest aluminum industry. Aluminum would prove to be vital in a war in which air power would prove to be so imprtant. The Ameicans, British, and Canadians rapidly expanded their aluminum, but scarap drives were conducted while the new production was coming on-line. Here children at the Hopewell Avenue School in Ottawa are supporting the war effort by collecting scrap metal, especually aliminum. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in 1940. Allied production would greatly exceed Germany's production, some the NAZIs had not anticipated. This would be aa major factor in the air war that reduced German cities to enormous piles of rubble, destroying Germasny's ability to mke war.

The aluminum industry was an important factor in World war II, primrily because of the growing role of airpower. Allumunum has a large ranhe of uses, but aircraft construction was by far the most important. All metal construction became adopted in the 1930s by both civilan and military aviation. And of course that metal was primarily light-weight aluminum. The fall of France was a huge factor in World War II. One part of that was the loss of the French aluminium industry. Not only were the French processing plants lost to the NAZIS wehen France fell (1940), but the French buxite mines were lost. This was a potential threat to the British war effort which had been importing French bauxite and whose fate was being determined by the air war. America mined bauxite, but not near the quantities needed by the rapidly expanding American air forces. And the available domestic American ore grades were low. Both the Allies and the Germans attempted to expand aluminum production. For this America turned tn South America for the bauxite ore it needed. [Baptiste] Suriname and British Guiana (Guyana) had important bauxite resources. Surinamese bauxite was of especially high grade. With American support, production was rapidly expanded. Canada was imprtant in this process because of its bydro-power potential. America established Caribbean bases to safeguard trade routes from U-boat attacks. New technical advances significantly expanded American domestic production. With the advent of World War II, demand for aluminum nearky trippled. Aluminum production increased exceeding 1 million metric tons for the first time (1941). The limited Soviet aluminum production was augmnted by Amedrican Lend Lease. The Germans also attemoted to expanbd aluminum producion and despite ample bauxite resources in allied and and occccupied countres, wre unavle to match he Allies. The differebnce was primarily limited energy inputs.


The American aluminum industry was launched by chemistry student Charles Hall who in a shed attached to the family home (1886). The same process as discovered by chemist Paul T. Héroult of France, and came to be known as the Hall-Héroult Process. Hall found financial backing anf founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (1888). This would became Alcoa, the American aluminum giant--Alcoa. It developed all kinds of new aluminum products including aluminum foil, often called correctly tin foil. The Company developped alloys which made aluminum a strong, machinable substitute for heavier metals. Automotive companies began using them, although this did not become important until Henry Ford intriduced the Model T and began manufacturuing real numbers. And even before that, the Wright Brithers flew the first powered flight (1903). Weight was a real issue which is why their engine had aluminum parts. The Pittsburgh Reduction Company changes its name to The Aluminum Company of America--Alcoa (1907). The Germans in the inter-War era were a major producer of aluminum. And with the NAZI rearmament program, the Germans even increased their production and share of aluminum procuction by the time Hitler and Stalin launched the War (1939). The Germans assumed that this early lead in Europe would persist during what Hiler thought would be a short war. There was no inkling of the extent to which America could expand production, even though it was not difficult to predict. The basic limitation on aluminum poduction was the electrical power needed to produce it. And America had the power at at levels that Hermany could not hope to match. And even before the War major changes was underway. The Empire State building was the first major building extensively using aluminum (1931). The Dougls DC-3 made its first flight (1935) revolutionizing air trnsport, creating air transport and creating an industry that far outpacing Lufthansa. And in the same year the D-C 3 flew, the B-17 Flying Fortress appeared (1935). And with Hitler's aggresive moves in Europe America not only began to rearm, but orders began pouring in from Europe. The United States would become the world largest producer for its massive aircraft building effort, but had at first the Government had trouble with Alcoa. [Seldes, p. 261.] Alcoa seems at first reluctant to expand its production as needed by the war effort. transform its operationf from profitable consumer products to military projects. The U.S. Secretary of the Interir, Harold L. Ickes, warned "If America loses the war, it can thank the Aluminum Corporation of America". [Seldes, p. 261.] Before World War II, most of the bauxite processed in the United States was imported. Imports continued, but the threat of German U-boat attacks on shipping and the need for expanded production caused the United Stated to look for domestic sources. And this was found in Arkansas. Arkansas would provide almost all of the bauxite ore that was mined in the United States during the War. The Arkansas bauxite was, however, of lower grade than the bauxite being imported from South America. In times of war, commercial matters become less imprtant. So America got most of its bauxite from Arkansa for expaned war production. The United States had the substantial available electricity needed to produce aluminum in large quantities. As a result, the United States hugely expanded aluminum production during the War. Although aluminum production and usage grew almost continuously, the metal and the industry did not become really familiar to the general public until Pearl Harbor and World War II, when the critical need for aircraft generated a demand for aluminum far beyond the capacity existent at the time. By 1943 annual primary1 production was boosted to over 920,000 tons as compared with less than 164,000 tons in 1939. The United States built over 300,000 military planes during World War II. This required the production of more than 3 billion pounds of aluminum. American production alone exceeded that of all the Axis countries combined. The European Axis had access to bauxite. Their problem was the electrical energy needed to produce aluminum. The American production not only supplied American aircraft plants, but also plants in Britain and the Soviet Union. There were also home front recycling drives. Some 'Tin foil drives' (actually aluminum foil) offered free movie tickets as a prize, helping to motivate children. And in additiin to aluminum production for its own needs, the Soviets received some 330,000 metric tons of aluminum mostly from America (1941-45).


The electrolytic process developed to produce aluminum required large amounts of cheap electricity (1880s). And in Britain this was only available in Scottish Highlands. The first British aluminum ingots were produced at Foyers in the Highlands (1895). The first first hydro-electric powered smelter opening (1896). It was followed by two more, at Kinlochleven (1909) and Lochaber (1929). They were all entirely dependent on bauxite imports, primarily from France. And the production was tiny. There was an unsuccessful attempt to mine bauxite in Northern Ireland. The British were in a worse situation than Germany which could simply have the Reichbahn deliver bauxite by rail from neighboring and World War I ally Hungary. The British acquired a controlling interest in Union des Bauxites of Southern France. the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (to become the Aluminum Company of America -- (Alcoa). Britain's lack of both domestic bauxite sources and abundant hydro-power was an uncomfortable position as aviation began to move into the all-metal role. Britain had access to bauxite deposits in France which was assumed would continue even in time of war as France had held up in World War I. The fall of France changed this unexpectedly (June 1940). The British could source bauxite within its Empire in Brutish Guiana (modern Guyana) and the Gold Coast (modern Ghana) as well as aluminum manufactures in America and Canada as long as the Royal Navy could keep the sea lanes open. Bauxite was discovered in Jamaica, another British colony at the time, but not mined during the War. Mass recycling programs were launched. The carcasses of Luftwaffe planes shot down were a welcomed bonus of the Battle of Britain providing some aluminum. Fortunately for Britain, the Hawker Hurricane which played such an important role in the Battle of Britain was not an all metal aircraft, unlike the more celebrated Spitfire. And it is no accident that one of the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) most successful planes of the War was the Mosquito--the 'plywood miracle'. Britain launched a crash effort to expand aircraft production which meant that important new supplies were needed. They and other countries collected household aluminum utensils. [Thorsheim, pp. 66–69.] The Minister of Aircraft Production directly appealed to the public to turn in household aluminum for the aircraft industry. Recycled aluminum was especially valuable because in required only about 5 percent of the electrical energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite. In many cases these collection drives were more public relations than all that valuable. The need for aluminum was very real. But shipping bauxite from Africa and South America to Britain was not the answer. For one it required large amounts of shipping which was the Allies primary constraint throughout the war. And shipping through the same dangerous waters he German U-boats came close to blocking in World War I. And two Britain did not have the unlimited electrical generating capacity needed to produce the aluminum.. The answer of course was America and Canada. The benefit g=here was that shipping refined aluminum requited a lot less shipping than the bauxite ore needed to produce it. . America would expand aluminum production on its own. Britain would help Canada. Britain wold not begin to act as quickly as NAZI Germany, but it did act. England decided to use Aluminium Ltd. of Canada as a major supplier and began placing orders requiring a substantial expansion. [Smith] Britain would need far more aluminum that what was used to build the limited number of small fighters and two-engine bombers used at the onset of the War. Britain decided to base its war effort on strategic bombing and half the British industrial economy was focused on the air war. And for that heavy bombers like the four-engine all-metal Avro Lancaster was needed and this would require enormous quantities of aluminum--far more than the world was producing in the 1930s.


Canadian raw materials played an important part on the Allied war effort. There were a range of infrastructure projects to open up remote areas to mining beginning in the early-20th century. Particularly important was aluminum. Canada had no bauxite, but launched a major aluminum imdustry during the unter-War era. The country's refinery and smelters use ore and refined alumina imported from other countries. Canada was getting its bauxite fron France which ended with the German Western offensive (May 1940). The French bauxite was replaced, primaikly with supplies from British Guiana--which had the advantage that it no longer had to cross the U-boat plagued North Atlantic. While Canada no bauxite, it did have hydro-electric power -- providing the vast anounts of cheap electrical power needed to refine aluminum. Quebec was particularly well situated. It had hydro-power which could be harnessed at low cost. Quebec rivers that run off the Canadian Shield into the St. Lawrence Lowland give the province its abundant hydroelectric potential. Quebec also had ports with access to the sea to deliver the bauxite. The Northern Aluminum Company started construction of the Arvida aluminium smelter (1925). The company remamed itself, Northern Aluminum Company Limited was renamed the Aluminum Company of Canada--ALCAN. One year later the first cells at Arvida plant began to produce aluminium. The British took an intetrest in the Canadian aluminum industry. As Britain began preparing for war, planners negan to include Alcan in their economic planning--especially the supply of aluminum. [Evenden, p. 73.] This increased after the outbreak of the War. The British Government provided Alcan with $40 million to expand production (1940) [Hall, p. 367.] This was quite a sum at the time. The Americans also played a role placing orders for aluminum in Canada. And Canada played an imprtant role in the expansion of the American aluminum industry selling needed wlectric power. These electrial geneatiin and transmissiin links were especuially important. [Massell] President Roosevelt even added aluminum to the Hyde Park Declaration signed wiyh Prime-Minister King to integrate their economies for the defense effort (1941). [Granaststein, p. 143.] Alcan was one of many aluminum priducers in the 1930s. The Germans as they were planning the War assessed British and French capabilities, but not the empoires, especially the Dominions. Canada woold not only build a huge navy, and played amjor role in mororizing the British Amny, but become the second most imprtant producer of aluminum--vital in the Air War. Canadian production of alumunum expanded fom 0.07 million t in 1939 to 1.55 million t (1945) -- an amazing 20 fold increase. This far surpassed German production. Only America exceeded Canadian production. Canada supplied 90 percent of British/Commonwealth aluminum needs and 35 percent of overall Allied requirements. [Campbell, p. 251] The key factor here was that Aluminum production uses large amounts of electricity anf Canada had the hydro-electric power. One source estimates that Canada provided the aluminum alunimum needed for 40 percent of Allied production. We suspect thar 35 percent may be a more accurate figure, but that does not include the aircraft built in the United States with Canadian power.


Denmark did not have bauxite deoosits ir a aluminum industry. Greeland was a Danish possession with a valuable cryolite mine at Ivigtut. It is an aluminium ore and can ne used in the priocessing of bauxite. The Germans invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940). There was concern the Germans might try to access the cryolite. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police surveyed the situation. The Germans made no attempt to seize Greenland, but did attempt to operate weatherv stratiions there. Authorities on Greeland eventually asked for Aerican protection (April 1941). More importnt than the cryolite was air bases established on Greenlsnd. The Germans made no attempt to use the Greenland cryolite, but did attempt to manufacture synthetic cryolite. at a plant siutated at the Nordische Aluminium Compay's aluminum smelter in Heroya, Norway. A sizeabke Anerucan air strike invlving 180 B-17s did sufficient danage to prevented full-scale production (July 1943).


France was not one of the two major aluminum producers, but was important producing about 35,000 t of aluminum during the 1930s. The French aluminum industry began with Pechiney SA, an aluminum producer established (1855), This was followed by the first industrial operation -- electrolytic production facilities (1880s). Société Ugine Kuhlmann, an aluminum maker and chemical company was established (1889. The St-Jean-de-Maurienne aluminum works was constructed by PCAC on the Arc River in the Maurienne Valley (1907). The French unlike America, Germany, and Britain had bauxite deposit to mine for domestic industry and to export. Germany for strategic reasons did not import its bauxite needs from France. Something like 90 percent of Frances's aluminum was controlled by the Cie. De Produits Chimiques et Electrometallurgiques Alais Froges et Camarque (Pechiney). The only other producer was Ste. d’Electrochimie, d’Electrometallurgie et des Acieries Electriques d’Ugine (Ugine). It was Pechiney that had entered into the cartel agreements with IG Farben (1927). Most of France's bauxite resource was mined in the south of the country long the Mediterranean coast. Fluorspar, pyrites and a small amount of bauxite was mined in France's central plateau region. Most of France’s aluminum production was also located in the south of France. Pechineyc was a vertically integrated operator. and mined bauxite and coal near the Mediterranean coast It produced aluminum and magnesium metal as well as a range of aluminum products. It operated two of its three large alumina refineries along the Mediterranean coast close to the bauxite mines. Here they benefited from the hydro-electric power generated in France's the Alpine region to the north. This area became the center of the French aluminum aluminum smelting industry. Smaller smelting operations took place near the Pyrenees further west for the same reason. Unfortunately unlike World War I, France fell to the Germans (June 1940). This deprived the British war effort of both French bauxite and aluminum production and Britain had o make major adjustments. With the fall of France, the Germans essentially looted the country and the pickings were rich indeed. One bonanza was the French strategic reserve of industrial metals. And what they found could be easily shipped back to German on the French rail system, now in German hands. The Germans exploited both French industry and raw materials. Hitler's, war plan was to run the German war economy on the vast resources to be obtained by seizing the Soviet Union in the East. When that did not go to plan, he had four years to exploit the occupied countries and France was by far the most important. And one of those resources was the French bauxite mines as well as the aluminum industry. Göring plan to massively increase aluminum German production was a total failure, but he did successfully exploit the French aluminum industry, both bauxite and refined aluminum. German plans to integrate French industry into its war economy generally failed, but the aluminum industry was an exception, in large part because of the collaboration of Pechiney.


Germany led the world in chemistry and had the world's largest and most advamced chemical industry at the turn-of the 20th century. German chemists imroived on the French/American processes that developed the industrial processes to poroduce aluminum from bauxite. Germany did not develop a large aluminum industry before World War I and despite efforts to expand the industry, could not match the Allies. The German Government in the inter-War era attempted to brakn out of the isolation instituted by the Allies. The Germans when the NAZIs seized power (1933), Hitler begasn preparatuins for another War. The German military was already doing this, but Hitler gave them the resources needed to sigificatly begin prepartions. He also began to prepare Germany econmically. And part of those preparations were to expand the aluminum industry with an eye on building the most modern and powerful air force in the wiorld. NAZI Germany developed the largest aluminum industry in world, exceeding that of the United States. The country, however, had no bauxite resource. Germany had access to Hungarian bauxite mining. Before Hitler launched his massive rearmament program, Germany was getting about half of its bauxite from France. The French cut off that suopoly (1935). e notice reports of German bauxite ships stranded in Trieste when the War began, but do not yet know where the buxite was coming from--possiblt Dutch Guiana (1939). Of course with the fall of France, the Germans had access to the French bauxite. We do not yet have information to the extent to which they were used. Germany launched the War as the world's leading producer of aluminum (1939). Germany's output of aluminium was 33,000 metric tons out of a world total of 282,000 tons--over 10 percent (1929). ["Germany's ... ] After the NAZI seizure of power, given the importance to aircraft production, a enphasis was palced on aluminum production. Reich-Marshal Göring was invoved in this. German production before the War had risen to 163,600 t out of a world output of 579,900 tons -- nearly 30 percent (1938). The NAZIs saw this as an important advantage and it was. More than 70 per cent of Germany's light alloy manufacturing capacity by the time the War began was Government owned. This is an important point. Too often the NAZIs and Fasicism in general is seen as a form of extreme capitalism. It was not. Steadily during the NAZI era, the Government expanded conntrol and even ownership of industry. The aluninum insustry is just one example. The Government strove to extend the use of light alloys and to manufacture them from domestic raw materials. ["Germany's ... ] A British source describes aluminum mills widely dispersed throughout their country, "... large works at Lauta, to the north-west of Dresden, at Bitterfeld in the Leipzig district and at Rheinfelden in the extreme south-west of Germany. The last is the oldest works, having been started in 1898, while the other two were planned in 1915-17 to meet the needs of the time. Each of the works consist of three main sections ; an electric generating and transforming station, factories housing the groups of electrolytic baths or furnaces and foundries in which the metal is cast into ingots and bars and rolled into sections and sheets." ["Germany's ... ] Göring after Germnany seized Norway launched an effort to utilize that country's hydro-electric power. This was part of a major expansion of aluminum production needed for the War. Göring in 1940 invisioned Aluminum production expanding over 218,000 t, more than 40 percent from existen German capacity. This was to be done primarily in Norway (240,000 t), Italy (100,000 t), and France 95,000 t). [Neukirch, p. 93.] This was to be done outsude the Reich because of the need to utilize available electrical power in these countries. The Germans did not have ebough spare electrrical generating capacity for greatically expnded asluminum production in tyhe Reich. Another iss ue was the over srssed Reichbahn and the need to reduce the strain on the rail system that importing the ore would have involved. The Göring plan failed miserably. As the Wwar continued, Göring raised his goal to 1 million tins of aluminum, using facilities and resources in the Soviet Uniom. The Göring plan in Norway failed miserably. [Frøland and Kobberrød.] And was no more successful than in other countries. Germany needed to expand bauxite imports for its own industry. This increased pressure on the already hard-pressed rail system. As the NAZI Grossraum expanded beyond Hungary, new sources were opened up in Yugoslavia, and Romania. Importing buxite as opposed to alluminum put more strain on the German rail system. The fall of France opened up the now Vichy mines. There was also aluminum to be recycled from Allied aurcraft shot down, but this did not become significant until 1943 by which time the outcome of the War had been largely decided.


Hungary had a small alluminum industry. The industry consisted of an alumina refinery at Magyarovar with a capacity of 10,000 tons per year. It provided alumina to a smelter on the island of Csepel, and another smelter at Felsogalla that began operating (1940). Its aluminum plants were largely independent of German control. Hungary's major importance, however, was as German industry's primary source of the bauxite ore needed to produce aluminum. Hungary became the fourth member to join the Axis (November 1940). Ee are not sure giow that affected the financial arrangemenrs between the two countries. Up until that time, German aluminum prioducers were paying for the bauxite being imported from Hungary.


Italy at the time of World War II had bauxite resrves totaling about 40 million tons. [Collier, p. 75.] And it had developed an aluminum industry. The Italian peninsula is geologically a relatively young land formation. This means that the country possess few mineral resources, especially metallic ones. The ore resources are generally poor in quality, with limitd quantity, and dispersed across the peninsula, although most active mines are in the north. This is one reason that Italy lagged behind northern Europe in the industrial revolution. This was especially true for iron and coal, the key components of the Industrial Revolution. Interestngly aluminum was an exception. This waa not a factor in the Industrial Revolution because metalic aluminum was not isolated until the 19th century and could not be produced economically until the 20th century. It was not economically important until the 20th century, especially when countries began to use aluminum in aircraft construction and klight metals had an obvious afvatage. Aluminum is found along the southern coast of Europe. Actually alum was imporant even in ancient times and was mined in Italy. Before the modern invention of chemical dyes, it was used in textile production. There was of course no knowledge of metalic aluminum at the time. A Germnan operation was confiscated by the Government during World War I and turned over to the French. Italy's aluminuminum industry was essentially founded by an international cartel which included the Aluminium Industrie Aktiengesellschaft, European companies formed the cartel--the Aluminium Association» (AA). The purpose was to compete with Alcoa. Italy bcame one of the battle-fields of this ecinomic struggle. The situation changed when as a result of the Depression Alcoa and AA reached an accomodation (1931). The cartel contunued to dominate the Italian industry until the Government intervened. Fascist Itay was expanding its military and aluminum was needed for aircraft construction. In addition, the Government sought to substutute Italian produced aluminum for metals that Italy was having to import. [Bertilorenzi] Italy produced some excellent fighter aircraft during World War II. You do not here much about them because they had little impact on the War. Italy did not have the industrial capacity to produce thenm in any significant numbers. A major problem with Italian fighters was that they that they were designed so as gto be suitable for mass production. American enginers probably could have made the needed design changes, as they did Britain;s Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, the German engineers who looked at them could not.


Aluminum was a metal entirely new to the Japanse. It was entirelyn was unknown in Japan until the Meiji Restoration (1868). The Meji Restoration in Japan (1868) eventually led to the country decision to industrialize and bild a modern army and navy. This meant a need for a range of metals including aluminum. The new Government sent a mission to France which was received by Napoleon II (1867). They examined the new metal. The Hall-Heroult Process finally had made an aluminum industry possible (1886). The Japanese Army imported equipment using aluminum from Germny (1894). They began importing aluminum, initially from Canada (1890s). The aluminum was used for to make army mess kits, buckles and saber clasps. Production of aluminum kitchen utensins began using imported aluninum. Nasu Aluminium Instrument Factory, an aluminum instrument manufacturer was founded (1899). It is now known as Nikkei Aluminium. Duralumin involving alloys appeared in Germany which would become important for aircraft production in Germany (1906). There Western countris developed alloy technology. Japanese production of cast-aluminum began (1910). Die cast aluminum productiin begn (1917) and aluminum wire production bagan (1920). Osaka Aluminium Factory, an aluminum instrument manufacturer was founded (1918). It is now known as Nikkei Aluminium. We begin to see aluminum foil (1930). Western companies developed anodizing method (1929). Based on the new technologies, 7000 series (zinc) alloys began to be used in Japan's new aircraft industry, primarily based on military orders. Japan continued to iiport aluminum, much of it from Canasda. Japan faced many hurdles in building its own aluminum industry. Japan had no bauxite and only deposits only limited energy resources. And energy is a key requisite for any aluminum industry. As air power developed as vital in military operations in the 20th century, the Japanese realised that they had to have an aluminum industry. All of Japan's aluminum was imported, mostly from the expanding Canadian aluminum insdustry (througout the 1920s). Smelting and production technology was estblished (1930). Sumitomo Aluminium Co., Ltd. was founded as a joint venture with Canada's Aluminium Ltd. which was exporting aluminum to Japan (1931). [Holroyd and Coates] It is currently Toyo Aluminium K.K. Many other new aluminum companies opened (1930s). Alcoa also dealt with Japan. Alumina from Alcoa’s Mobile, Alabama refinery was sold to Japan until President Roosevelt seized Japanese assetts (July 1941). There were no bauxite resource in Japan or Japanese occupied Manchuko and Korea. Japan during World War I had seized the Palau Islands from Germany, givng it a domestic source of bauxite. Japan had imported 5,000-10,000 tons of aluminum per year prior to 1934. Primarily pushed by the military, the Government promoted domestic production. Hydroelectric projects providing cheap power helped the development of the aluminum smelting industry. Japan invaded China (1937). They achieved great victories, but bogged down as they attemoted to move intio the interior. They used their airforce to bomb unportected Nationalist cities in the iterior, but could not complete the conquest. Aluminium Ltd. continued sell of aluminum to Japan. Sales increased from over 2,500 tons in 1935 to more than 14,000 tons in 1937, on the eve of World War II, and were supplying about half of Japanese needs. America and Britain supported the Nationlist Government and gradually ecalatee that support. The Japanese Government reached the conclusion that the only way to defeat China was the incredable decvision to go to war with America and Britain. Japan imported over 2102,000 tons of bauxite from the Dutch East Indies (DEI) in the final year before the War (1940). At the time Japan launched the Pacific War, the country had stockpiled 254,740 tons of bauxite (1941). Japan seized Malaya and the DEI after Pearl Harbor (early-1942). This gave it needed access to bauxite. Getting it to the war factories in the Home Islands became a problem. The Japanese merchant (maru) fleet was adequate in peace time, but totally inadequare for war needs. The Amercan naval blockade (especilly the submarines) began to cut off Japan from the Southern Resource Zone (1943). Japanese production of aluminum totaled at 71,740 tons (1941) and peaked at 151,000 tons (1944). The 1944 production involved drawing down stockpiled bauxite. Put in perspective, the United states produced 309,100 tons of aluminum (1941) and production peaked at 920,200 tons (1943). Japan attemted to use aluminiferous shale from Manchuko, but this did not prove very productive and production plummeted even before Japan surrendered (1945).


Norway had a small alluminum industry consisting mostly of foreign companies using abundabnt Norwegian hydro power to process imported bauxuite. Norway had a six smelters with a combined capacity of some 37,000 t of aluminium and 12 000 t of alumina. Germany invaded Norway (April 1940) and after a prolonged fight with the Allies in the North occupied the entire country. The King and his government escaped to Britain and set up a Government in exile. There was some guerrilla resistance. Norway did not have bauxite, but it did have plentiful hydro power needed ton profuce akuminum. Power was a limitation on production in the Reich. There was little support for NAZI ideology in Norway, but some Norwegioan businessmen were willing to colaborate with the Germans on a commercial basis. And Norway became an importabnt part of the grandiose Göring plan to increase alluminum production. A Norwegian historian reports, "This is a case where Norwegian companies worked for the Germans as collaborators, without ideologically having a NAZI orientation." [Froland] While fighting was still going in in the north, Norwegian Aluminum Co. (NACO) authorities developed a plan to build an aluminum plant . It would be a joint venture between Norsk Hydro and the Norwegian Aluminum Co. (NACO). NACO was an anomally as it was the only fully Norwegian operation. Both these companies decided to cooperate with the Germans. NACO wantd to maintain and hopefully expand its production. Norsk Hydro after a failed attempt wanted to get into the business. (Norsk Hydro is today a major alluminum producer.) According to a Norwegian historian, "There were no NAZIs in the management of these companies. This was pure economic strategy. Both wanted to position themselves for the future. They didn’t know how long the war would last, and it was quite possible that it would result in a new Europe, with Germany in the driver’s seat once the war ended." [Froland] Individuals and companies throughout occupied Europe faced the same difficult decuisions--cooperate wuth the Germans or starve. This deal could have produced important quantities of aluminum. The problen for the Germans was that even to maintain production, bauxite had to be shipoed into Norway. And this required both rail and sea born transport. And as Germany's war efort began to bog down, this prived increasingly problematic. In the end, no additional aluminum was ever produced.


We do not yet have much information on Romania. Romania jiined the Axis (November 1940). It was largely because of the Soviet seizure of northeasrern Romania. We believe that there were Romanian bauxite shipments to Germany during the War. We do not yet have any details. The British attempted to stop these bauxite shipments. Undercover operatives devised a plan to blastthe Iron Gate--a narrow gorge thriough which the Danube River passes through the Carpathian Mountains. The plan as to flioat a feet of barges laden with dynamite down the river. The plan was foiled by the Romanian police acting on information from the Fascist Iron Guard.

Soviet Union

The Soviets were a rare country that both mined bauxite and produced aluminum. We do not yet have data on the quantities. Tsarist Russia was rapidly industrializing at the time World War broke out, but there was noy yet any production of aluminum. Nikolai Pushin, a Russian chemist, wrote "Russia consumes 80,000 pounds of aluminium annually, but does not produce a single gram of this metal and buys all aluminium abroad." Bolshevik leaders as the Civil War was tapering off were beginning to understand the vast quantities of electrical power that would be required to meet industrial demand and develop th econonmy. The new Soviet Government created the State Committee for Electrification of Russia (GOELRO) which involved the construction of hydro-electric power stations (HPS) on Russian rivers. It was decided to build aluminium smelters next to water cascades to both use some of the power and begin aluminum production. The first Volkhovskaya HPS was commissioned in the Leningrad region (1926). The Volkhovsky aluminium smelter that produced its first metal was built next to it (1932). At the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union had two aluminium smelters and one alumina refinery. Another two aluminium smelters were built during the war. Much of the new industry was located in the Western Soviet Union and thus lost when the Germans invaded (June 1941). One author estimates that '... German forces occupied or isolated territory which prior to WWII accounted for over 60 percent of total coal, pig iron, and aluminum production'. [Linz, p. 4.] The quantities even before Barbarossa were no where near what was required for the war effort. Stalin in one of his letters to president Roosevelt wrote, 'Give me 30 thousand tonnes of aluminium, and I will win the war' (1941). The United States did much more, the Soviets received 328,000 metric tons of aluminium , mostly from America, after the NAZI invasion (1941-45). [Sokolov] The aluminumn was primarily used to build aircraft, but some was used in tank engines. [Chandonnet, p. 338.] One source estimates that weithout these shipments the Soviet output of aircraft would have been less than half of what was actually produced. [Weeks, p. 135.]


Yugoslavia had important bauxite deposits in Croatia abd was exportuing bauxite to Germany before the War. Hermany invaded and occuoied Yugoslavia (Aopril 1941). Partisan activities affected mining operations and shipping. Yugoslav bauxite production in Croatia fell from 400,000 t (1938) to only 70,000 t after the Germans invaded (1941). And Croatia was well disposed toward tghe NAZIs. A new company was organized to mine bauxite in Herzegovina. It had business links with Göring's Reichswerke. [[U.S. Senate] There were also several small alumina refineries in Yugoslavia. One was owned by Jews which the Germans seized after they invaded.


Austin, Kenneth L. "Yugoslav bauxite found war factor," New York Times (March 30, 1941).

Bertilorenzi, Marco. "The Italian aluminium industry: Cartels, multinationals and the autarkic phase, 1917-1943," Cahiers d'histoire de l'aluminium (2008/1) N° 41, pp. 42- 71.

Chandonnet, Fern (2007). Alaska at War, 1941–1945: The Forgotten War Remembered (University of Alaska Press: 2007).

Collier, James E. "Aluminum industry of Europe," Economic Geography Vol. 22, No. 2 (April 1946), pp. 75-108.

Evenden, Matthew. "Aluminum, commodity chains, and the environmental history of the Second World War," Environmental History Vol. 16, No. 1 (2011), pp. 69-93. .

Frøland, Hans Otto and Jan Thomas Kobberrød. "Norwegian Contribution to Göring's Megalomania. Norway's Aluminium Industry during World War II," Dans Cahiers d'histoire de l'aluminium (2009) Vol. 1-2. (N° 42-43), pp. 130-47.

Frøland, Hans Otto. quoted in Hanne Jakobsen, “Norwegian industry complied with German war eforts,” Science Nordic online, (April 11, 2013). Froland, an historian at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Granastein, J.L. Canada's War: The Politics of the Mackenzie King Givernment, 1939-1945 (Toranto: Oxford University Press, 1979).

Hall, H. Duncan. North AmericanSupply (London: HM Stationaru Office: 1955).

Holroyd, Carin and Ken S. Coates. "Pacific Partners: The Japanese presence in Canadian business, society and culture: The evolution of Canada-Japan trade, Aluminum,' (1996).

Linz, Susan J. "World War II and Soviet Economic Growth," Faculty Working Paper No. 1038 (College of Commerce and Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: May, 1984).

Massell, David. As Though There Was No Boundry.

Neukirch, Eberhard. "Die Entwicklung des Leichtmetalausbaues im Vierjahresplan mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Zeit des grossdeutschen Freiheitskampfes ab 1939," (unpublished manuscript: 1943). Bundesarchiv, Berlin, under Reichsamt für Wirtschaftsausbau R112-150.

Patternson, Sam H. "Bauxite reserves and potential resources of the world," Geological Survey Bulletin No. 1228 (U.S. Department of the Interior: 1967).

Seldes, George (1943). Facts and Fascism 5 ed. (In Fact, Inc.: 1943).

Smith, George David. "From Monopoly to Competition, The Transformations of Alcoa, 1888-1986," (1988).

Sokolov, Boris V. "The role of lend‐lease in Soviet military efforts, 1941–1945". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies Vol. 7, No. 3 (2007), pp. 567–86.

Thorsheim, Peter. Waste into Weapons: Recycling in Britain during the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2015). 

Weeks, Albert Loren. Russia's Life-saver: Lend-lease Aid to the U.S.S.R. in World War II (Lexington Books: 2004).

"Germany's aluminium industry," Nature Vol. 46, (November 30, 1940), p. 713.


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