Thursday, February 21, 2008

Learning from our Past: J.R. Parten

First, I must comment that the Bullock oil exhibit was a let down. After reading Daniel Yergin's The Prize, the coverage on Texas's oil history in the museum exhibit read like a kid's book.

If you happened to sit and watch the short film--narrated by UT Austin's own Walter Cronkite--you may have noticed the very quick reference to Texas's prominent role in the War (WWII) effort. Cronkite said something like, "... Texas was thrust to the forefront of global politics during the war....". If you happened to stroll through the neighboring exhibit, you may have notced a small placard discussing "Big Inch" and "Little Big Inch", the War Emergency Pipelines constructed during WWII that delivered 350 MMB of petroleum to the Allied war effort. The exhibit gives credit to Jubal R. Parten for managing the construction of the War Emergency Pipelines.

The Prize provides an amazing perspective on the history of WWII and the importance of oil in determining the strategies and outcome of the war. This book, and the museum exhibit, discuss how German submarines threatened shipments of oil moving from Texas to the East Coast, inspiring the construction of "Big Inch" and "Little Big Inch". Without the secure supply of oil from Texas--the world's largest producer of oil at that time--the US and Allies would not have been capable of defeating the Germans and Axis powers.

J. R. Parten's life is quite fasicnating and I recommend browsing the brief bibliography provided by The Center for American History. The most intersting aspect of his life came in his later, wiser years: after serving in the Army and playing instrumental roles in both WWII and the Korean War, Mr. Parten became a peace advocate. The following is an excerpt from The Center for American History's A Guide to the J.R. Parten Papers:
Parten spent much time and effort in his last years encouraging and supporting work aimed at fostering world peace, serving as an advisor and financial contributor to the American Committee on East-West Accord and the Center for Defense Information.

I believe that Mr. Parten was well aware of the fragile postion that the U.S. is in when reflecting on his life's work. He constructed the vein that fueled the Allies' victory, and realized that should the US be in such a position again, the nation will not be so fortunate. We should learn from men like Mr. Parten, and work to "foster world peace", rather than work to secure oil supplies with military power.

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