The U.S. Army and Congressional Hearings During World War II

September 1943 brought new challenges to my father, then-Brig. Gen. Howard L. Peckham, in his work as Director of the Fuels and Lubricants Division, a division in the Quartermaster General’s office. It would also take him inside the Senate Office Building and, hence, face-to-face with several of its august occupants.

The subject to be discussed at forthcoming Congressional hearings was a project in Canada known as Canol, for “Canadian oil.” It concerned an oil pipeline near the Yukon Territory in Canada. The project was supported by then-Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, Dad’s tough boss from his Works Progress Administration (WPA) days, who submitted a directive on its behalf in 1942. The contractor was Bechtel-Price-Callahan.

The U.S. Army and the War Department were in support of General Somervell’s position and were convinced that oil products from this resource, in addition to their importance for national security, were needed to facilitate construction of an Alaskan highway. On their side was Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who was in favor of the project right from the beginning. He expressed this favorable attitude in a letter he wrote in May 1942 to Standard Oil of California: “As a defense measure, our Government has decided to develop the oil resources at Norman, District of McKenzie, Canada, to construct and operate a pipe line between that point and Whitehorse, the Yukon, and to construct and operate a refinery to produce 100-oct… >>>

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