But, thanks to long-time FASF member and retired United Air Lines Captain, Nancy Aldrich, a loyal Texan, and regular aviation author, we have this fascinating and little-known story of how an East Texas refinery – and one of its sharper engineers, Tim Palucka – helped change the war’s outcome – in our favor – by his use of an obscure French patent on gasoline refining.
Without further ado, here’s the tale:
87 Octane Aviation Gasoline vs 100 130 Octane Aviation Gasoline in WWII
(This is a declassified article by the British Society of Chemists (Declassified in 2014) )
“It has always puzzled me as to why the German Luftwaffe kept on using 87 Octane Aviation Gasoline while the Americans and British used 100 Octane Gasoline in their Spitfire Fighters and Americans used 130 Octane in our P-51 and other fighters. (see both aircraft below)
P-51 Mustang leads Spitfire in close formation flight
This morning I discovered the reason!
It seems that the German and British aircraft both used 87 Octane Gasoline in the first two years of the war. While that was fairly satisfactory in the German Daimler-Benz V-12 engine, It was marginal in the British Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine in British aircraft. It fouled the spark-plugs, caused valves to stick, And made frequent engine repair problems.
P-51 Fighter in Flight
Then came lend-lease, and American aircraft began to enter British service in great numbers. If British engines hated 87 Octane gasoline, American, General Motors Built, Allison 1710 engines loathed and despised it.
ME 109 Messerschmitts escorting Nazi Heinkel Bombers
B-17E Flying Fortress
SUNOCO officials pour the billionth gallon of high octane aviation fuel produced during world war II
Something had to be done!
Along came an American named Tim Palucka, a chemist for Sun Oil (SUNOCO) in their South East Texas Refinery.
Never heard of him? Small wonder, very few people have. He took a French formula for enhancing the octane of Gasoline, and invented the “Cracking Tower” and produced 100 octane aviation Gasoline.
This discovery led to great joy among our English Cousins and great distress among the Germans. A Spitfire fueled with 100 Octane gasoline was 34 miles per hour faster at 10,000 feet.
The need to replace engines went from every 500 hours of operation to every 1,000 hours. Which reduced the cost of British aircraft by 300 Pounds Sterling. Even more, when used in 4 engine bombers.
The Germans couldn’t believe it when Spitfires that couldn’t catch them a year ago started shooting their ME-109 E and G models right out of the sky.
Of course, the matter had to be kept secret. If the Germans found out that it was a French Invention, They’d simply copy the original French patents. If any of you have ever wondered what they were doing in that 3 story white brick building in front of the Sun Oil Refinery on Old Highway 90, that was it.
They were re-inventing gasoline.
The American Allison engines improved remarkably with 100 Octane gasoline but did much better when 130 octane gasoline came along in 1944. The 130 Octane also improved the Radial Engined Bombers we produced.
The Germans and Japanese never snapped to the fact that we had re-invented gasoline. Neither did our “Friends” the Russians.
100,000 Americans died in the skies over Europe. Lord only knows what that number would have been without “Super-Gasoline”. And it all was invented just a few miles west of Beaumont, and we never knew a thing about it.”
Aha – – – but there’s much more to this story than just recited above. In 1935, 6 years before Pearl Harbor and his country’s entry into WWII, Jimmy Doolittle, had retired from the Army and was working for the Shell Oil Company. He saw the need for a higher octane fuel if we should enter another war. So, click here, for more on the important role he played in the fuel octane race, which is not mentioned in the opening story above.
The Following story is courtesy of the Air Force Times
A B-25 Mitchell takes off from the aircraft carrier Hornet for the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo April 18, 1942. (Courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio)
Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders who rallied the nation’s spirit during the darkest days of World War II, has passed away.
Tom Casey, president of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, confirmed to Air Force Times that Cole died Tuesday morning in San Antonio. His daughter, Cindy Cole Chal, and son, Richard Cole, were by his side, Casey said.
Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Casey said. Memorial services are also being scheduled at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas.
Cole,who was then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the No. 1 bomber during the daring 1942 raid to strike Japan, was 103.
The Doolittle Raid was the United States’ first counterattack on the Japanese mainland after Pearl Harbor.
Eighty U.S. Army Air Forces airmen in 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet, about 650 nautical miles east of Japan, to strike Tokyo. While it only caused minor damage, the mission boosted morale on the U.S. home front a little more than four months after Pearl Harbor, and sent a signal to the Japanese people not only that the U.S. was ready to fight back but also that it could strike the Japanese mainland.
Cole’s influence is still very apparent in today’s Air Force, and he remains a beloved figure among airmen. In 2016, he appeared on stage at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference to announce that the service’s next stealth bomber, the B-21, would be named the Raider. Hurlburt Field in Florida in 2017 renamed the building housing the 319th Special Operations Squadron the Richard E. Cole Building.
And when he turned 103 last Sept. 7, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, called him to wish him a happy birthday.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the April 18, 1942,Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, sits at the controls of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas, in September. (Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Air Force)
Colewas born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. In a 2016 interview with HistoryNet.com, Colesaid he first became interested in flying as a kid, when he would ride his bicycle to the Army Air Corps test base McCook Field and watch the pilots fly. He said he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1940 because “it was a good job,” especially in the midst of the Great Depression, and after finishing training went to the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon.
He was transferred to Columbia, South Carolina, in early February 1942, where he saw a bulletin board notice seeking volunteers for a mission. His entire group put in their names.
Cole,who was then 26 years old, trained at Eglin Air Field in Florida for the secret raid.
“We were confined to base, in isolated barracks, and told not to talk about our training,” Cole told HistoryNet. “We knew it would be dangerous, but that’s all.”
The B-25 typically needed about 3,000 feet to take off, Cole said, but they trained to get airborne in 500 feet. And when future Navy Admiral Henry Miller started teaching them how to take off from a carrier, they guessed they were headed to the Pacific to take the fight to Japan.
Then 2nd. Lt. Colebecame Doolittle’s co-pilot by chance, when the pilot he had been training with fell ill. Doolittle’s intended co-pilot also became unable to fly.
The B-25s were stripped of all excess equipment, including their bombsights and lower turrets, and loaded up with extra fuel tanks that doubled capacity to about 1,100 gallons. They left port from Alameda, California, on April 2, 1942, and two days later were told they would strike Tokyo.
“We were pretty excited — above all, happy to know what we were going to do,” Cole said. “Things quieted down as people began to realize what they were getting into.”
After the Navy ran into a Japanese picket ship, Navy Adm. William “Bull” Halsey decided to launch the mission earlier than planned. Conditions were rough, Cole told HistoryNet — water came over the bow, and the planes started to slip around the deck. But the wind about doubled the carrier speed of 20 to 35 knots, which helped the planes get airborne.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell similar to the aircraft he co-piloted. (Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Air Force)
They reached Japan after a little more than four hours, flying at an altitude averaging roughly 200 feet, Cole said. When Doolittle and Cole neared Tokyo, it was bright and sunny. Doolittle pulled up to 1,500 feet, and bombardier Fred Braemer — then a staff sergeant — dropped the bombs. Cole said they “got jostled around a bit by anti-aircraft” fire, but didn’t think they got hit.
Doolittle’s crew intended to land in Chuchow, China, fuel up, and continue to Western China, but they hit a snag. They ran into a severe rainstorm with lightning. Cole said the Chinese also heard their engines and thought they were Japanese, so they turned off the electric power to the lights. The crew had no choice but to fly until they ran out of gas and then bail out, he said.
Cole’s parachute got stuck on a pine tree, 12 feet above the ground. After freeing himself, he walked west to a Chinese village. Cole rejoined the rest of the crew, who also bailed out successfully, and they were picked up by Chinese troops.
He continued serving in the China-Burma-India Theater until June 1943, and then volunteered for Project 9, which led to the creation of the 1st Air Commando Group.
Cole said that Doolittle feared his audacious mission had failed, because all planes and some of his airmen were lost. Three airmen died bailing out, and eight others were captured by the Japanese.
Airmen with Crew No. 1 (Plane 40-2344), 34th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces, were among those who conducted the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942. They are, from left: Lt. Henry A. Potter,navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Staff Sgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot; and Staff Sgt. Paul J. Leonard, engineer-gunner. (Air Force Photo)
But in 2016, Cole said the raid was “a turning point in the war.” Though the 16 bombers didn’t cause much damage, their actions prompted the Japanese to pull back its forces from Australia and India to shore up the Central Pacific, he said, and they transferred two carriers to Alaska, where they thought the raid had originated, which evened the odds for the Navy at Midway.
“Japanese naval forces were at a disadvantage from then on,” Colesaid.
The raid also had two other goals, Colesaid: First, to show the Japanese people who despite what their leaders told them, Japan could be bombed from the air. And second, “to give the Allies, and particularly the United States, a morale shot in the arm.”
Cole and the other Raiders received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and Doolittle received the Medal of Honor.
“He deserved a lot more,” Cole said of Doolittle. When asked what he thought of his commander, Colesaid, “the highest order of respect from one human being to another.”
When Coleretired, his list of decorations included the DFC with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 2014, President Obama presented Cole and three other Raiders the Congressional Gold Medal at the White House.
But Cole said the Raiders didn’t feel like heroes.
“We were just doing our job, part of the big picture, and happy that what we did was helpful,” Cole said.
David Lauterborn of HistoryNet.com contributed to this story.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James recently announced that the B-21 bomber will be called the B-21 Raider. The name represents the historically important role the new long-range stealth bomber will lead for the next 50 years.
The name is a tribute to the sheer bravery and grit displayed by Jimmy Doolittle and the Doolittle Raiders during World War II; and the legacy will now be carried on by future Airmen. Assisting Secretary James on stage to announce the name was one of the original Doolittle Raiders, the last living Doolittle Raider, and Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot, 101-year-old Air Force Lt. Col. (Retired) Richard Cole.
If one accepts the premise that the B-21 will be powered by twin unaugmented F135 engines, one can then assume that the new bomber will be larger than a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle or General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark,” but smaller than the B-1Lanceror B-2 Spirit.
Given the types of threats from low frequency radars that are projected to be out there in the future and the limitations of current low observables materials, B-21’s subsonic flying wing design will be large enough to counter low frequency radars.
A tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft must be optimized to defeat higher-frequency bands such the C, X and Ku bands as a simple matter of physics, but a strategic bomber like the B-2 or LRS-B can be larger to counter lower frequency radars. There is a “step change” in a stealth aircraft’s signature once the frequency wavelength exceeds a certain threshold and causes a resonant effect. Typically, that resonance occurs when a feature on an aircraft—such as a tail-fin—is less than eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. That means a bomber like the B-21 has to have allowances for two feet or more of radar absorbent material coatings on every surface or the designers are forced to make trades as to which frequency bands they optimize the aircraft to operate in. As such, to defeat low frequency radars operating in the L, UHF and potentially the VHF bands (this is easier said than done—and could in fact be impossible), a flying wing design is in effect, mandatory.
The above video is 10:57 long. The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained. It if’s arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will like have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO – (Long Range Stand Off) weapon. It is also conceivable, although at this point it is speculation, that one day the B-21 will probably be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology. This information is courtesy of “USMilitary Technology.”