The quiet role East Texas played in the Allies’ victory in World War II is the focus of a lecture and panel discussion Saturday at Red Oak Baptist Church in Longview.
“Oil for Victory: Big Inch Pipeline Lecture and Panel” will feature keynote speaker and local historian Larry Courington, as well as a panel discussion with Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas; Kimberly Fish, local author; Mickey Smith, former Gregg County judge; and Luke Legate, director of G. Fox Consulting. The Gregg County Historical Museum in Longvew and East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College organized the event in recognition of Longview’s sesquicentennial anniversary and the Big Inch Pipeline.
The Big Inch Pipeline actually was 24 inches in diameter, and it carried Texas crude oil 1,254 miles from Longview to the East Coast. Olivia Moore, manager of the oil museum, said 73 of 74 oil tankers that had operated in the Gulf of Mexico, carrying oil to the East Coast, were sunk by the Germans within a month after Pearl Harbor.
The Big Inch Pipeline was the answer to the problem of getting crude oil to the East Coast. Construction began in 1942 and was completed in 13 months. It ultimately carried more than 350 million barrels of crude oil for the war effort. Red Oak Baptist Church, at 2717 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., is located within a couple of blocks of a state historical marker for the Big Inch Pipeline.
“ ‘The Allies floated to victory on a sea of East Texas oil,’ ” Moore said, reciting a famous quote about the Big Inch Pipeline by one of the original East Texas oil giants, H.L. Hunt. Without it, World War II could have ended quite differently, she said.
There wasn’t a lot of talk about the pipeline during World War II, since it was part of the war effort, Moore said. Longview’s sesquicentennial celebration seemed like a good time to highlight the pipeline, considering that it started in Longview and 80 percent of the crude oil it delivered flowed through Kilgore to Longview, she said.
“It’s an important piece of local history,” Moore said.
Courington will tell the story of the Big Inch Pipeline at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by the panel discussion at 1:30 p.m. A question and answer session will follow at 2 p.m., followed by light refreshments and photo opportunities.