Children in War - GAS RATIONS

In February of 1943, the Office for Emergency Management (part of the Office of War Information) released this photo. It was accompanied by these words: “An eager school boy gets his first experience in using War Ration Book Two. With many parents engaged in war work, children are being taught the facts of point rationing for helping out in family marketing.” Online via the U.S. National Archives.


To allow its military enough fuel to fight the war, the United States rationed gas, starting with the East Coast. The restrictions began in May of 1942. By that time, Great Britain had been rationing "petrol" for three years.

On the last day before strict rationing took effect in America, car owners everywhere lined up empty vehicles at their local stations. They returned after the gas stations opened.

Later, in 1942, even less fuel was available for civilians.  Rationing gas wasn't enough, though.  Many car owners stripped and recycled their metal bumpers and replaced them with wooden ones.

Each American car had to display an appropriate sticker in the window which would dictate the amount of fuel one could purchase. The restrictions caused all kinds of difficulties for people.

  • By the end of 1942, about 50% of Americans were issued an "A" sticker. With it, people were able to buy four gallons of gasoline a week.
  • The other 50% of car owners could purchase supplementary allowances. A "B" sticker was issued to war workers; a "C" sticker was awarded to doctors and others working in vital occupations.
  • Commercial freight haulers were given "T" stickers, allowing truckers to buy unlimited amounts of gasoline.
  • Gas rations were also a way of life in Canada during the war.

Even car tires were rationed. In fact, gas rationing was intended as much to conserve rubber (since Japanese conquests in Asia had cut off Allied access to natural rubber supplies) as it was to save fuel. Violators, in the U.S., could be punished by up to ten years in prison.

People in non-vital professions, who required more gasoline than they were allotted, resorted to a 19th century method of delivery: horse and carriage.

Not surprisingly, a U.S. black market developed in stolen or counterfeit gas stickers. Between 5-30% of gasoline sales involved such illicit purchases. By the end of the war, about 32,500 arrests of motorists using false stickers resulted in 1,300 convictions and 4,000 shut-down gas stations.

Children, of course, were impacted by the rationing of daily staples. But they were affected by the war in countless other ways, including their own considerable efforts to help and to endure.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2003

Updated Last Revision: Jul 06, 2019

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"GAS RATIONS" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2003. Feb 21, 2020.
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