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Full Access “One Drop of Oil, One Drop of Blood”: The United States and the Petroleum Problem in Wartime China, 1937-1945

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“One Drop of Oil, One Drop of Blood”: The United States and the Petroleum Problem in Wartime China, 1937-1945

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In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria and seemed intent on conquering China. Because Japan was devoid of petroleum, planners turned to exploration in the Western Pacific. In China, mobilization for a military invasion and preparations for economic survival made control of petroleum supplies more urgent than ever. As Irvine H. Anderson reminds us in The Standard-Vacuum Oil Company and United States East Asian Policy, 1933-1941, Standard-Vacuum, Shell, and the Anglo-American diplomatic corps accelerated their close cooperation especially after Japan created monopolies of the economies of Manchuria and North China, which violated the traditional principles of American Open Door Policy. However, the American de facto embargo policy and the Japanese resolve to seize the necessary supplies in the Dutch Indies made it inevitable that American companies would become involved in the formulation and execution of American policy both before and after Pearl Harbor. Building on Anderson’s extraordinary research, this article focuses on the petroleum problem in China and the American response, especially of the State Department and Foreign Service officers, during 1937-45.

Affiliations: 1: National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan, Email:, URL:


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