World War II

Army-Navy E Award poster

Army-Navy “E” Award poster created by the Office for Emergency Management circa 1942-1945. Courtesy of the National Archives. The Wood River Refinery was the first oil refinery to receive this wartime award.

The First World War had impeded construction and production at the Wood River Refinery, but World War II facilitated progress. About 95% of wartime production at the refinery involved products for the military.

The Wood River Refinery manufactured large amounts of toluene for Allied bombs. It also developed and pioneered production of a special anti-rust lubricating turbine oil for the U.S. Navy.

The refinery had implemented new polymerization and alkylation processes and catalytic cracking in the 1938-1940 expansion. These innovations equipped the refinery to meet the wartime demand for high-octane gasoline.

The 100-octane gas that Wood River produced for the U.S. Army Air Corps earned the employees special recognition. The Army-Navy “E” Award for manufacturing excellence went, for the first time, to one of the nation’s oil refineries.

You of the Wood River Refinery are coming through just as much as our soldiers, sailors, and marines. Every time you beat a production schedule, every time you devise a more efficient method of refining, every time you give your individual job that “extra something,” you are bringing the day of peace that much nearer.

—Navy Commander W.F. Veatch. Source: John Schroeder, The Wonder at Wood River (Shell Oil Company, 1993).

By the end of World War II, the refinery’s capacity had increased to 95,000 barrels daily.