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Mark in Texas History: ‘Big Inch’ pipeline turns 78

Updated: Jan. 9, 2021 at 11:38 AM CST
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - This month marks the 78th anniversary of “the Big Inch,” a massive pipeline that stretches from Longview to the East Coast and is believed to have changed the course of World War 2. It’s the subject of Mark Scirto’s Mark in Texas History.

Before the United States entered World War 2, 95 percent of crude oil delivered to the East Coast was delivered by tanker ships. Ninety percent of that oil came from Texas oil fields. In 1942, many of those tankers were sunk by German submarines.

“It was one of the first interactions or cooperations between government and private industry,” a historian said in a previous East Texas News story. “In less than a year, they developed the technology. From here in Gregg County across 30 rivers, over 200 lakes and streams, most of it hand dug.”

The US then developed a plan for a massive overland oil pipeline, and construction began on the largest pipeline in history up to that time.

Measuring 24 inches in diameter, the Big Inch went from Longview to Illinois and eventually to refineries in the east. It allowed the safe and timely transport of oil products to the Allies. During the height of wartime, more than 300,000 barrels of oil were delivered each day over the Big Inch.

“Winston Churchill, at the end of the war, said that the war was won on a sea of East Texas oil,” the historian said in a previous East Texas news story. “Miraculous that we were able to get this built. That was the single largest contributing factor to the Allies winning World War 2.”

The Big Inch was honored with a historical marker in 1990. Part of it still exists today. It is used to deliver natural gas to Philadelphia.

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