Historical Markers
Pittsburgh Grease Plant Historical Marker
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Pittsburgh Grease Plant

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
33rd and Smallman Streets, Pittsburgh

Dedication Date:
September 18, 2000

Behind the Marker

Color photograph of a LST landing with soldiers and a tank disembarking.
A Dravo built LST landing a tank on a beach during World War II
To liberate Europe from the Axis powers, Allied forces would have to launch massive amphibious assaults on beaches in Sicily, Italy, and France. The shores of Europe, however, were closely guarded by German and Italian solders dug in behind formidable defenses. Speed would be essential to the success of any Allied amphibian invasion. The Allies also would need to find a way to protect tanks, trucks, jeeps, and other equipment landing on the beaches from the water through which they would have to pass. The Allied landings would not have been possible without a special grease that was developed to waterproof motor equipment from seawater as landing craft unloaded their cargo near the beaches.

This grease was developed by Arnold J. Morway, a Standard Oil researcher in New Jersey. When Standard Oil of New Jersey's Baltimore plant proved incapable of handling its production, company executives quickly turned to their Pittsburgh Grease Plant, which had supplied lubricants for the steel industry and produced automotive oils. Pittsburgh Grease soon began to churn out what would eventually total close to five million pounds of the grease, which was essential to the success of Allied amphibious operations.

A 60-ton M-1 type tank crushing a truck.
A 60-ton M-1 type tank crushes a truck during a demonstration at the Eddystone,...
The production of this grease was just one example of Pennsylvania's industrial contributions to Allied success in World War II. The Commonwealth's innovations had started even before America entered the war. In 1940, for instance, a team of designers working for the American Bantam Car Company, located in Butler, invented the markerjeep, a mainstay of America's army for decades afterwards. The Baldwin Locomotive Works, just south of Philadelphia, had for almost a century built a superb reputation as builders of railroad locomotives and cars. Now, with war looming, the company eagerly entered the war effort by launching a number of new products, including ship propellers, semi-automatic molding presses to speed the manufacture of airplane parts, shell forgings, and the first heavy tank built in America. In Berwick, the American Car and Foundry Company switched to the manufacture of light tanks, including the M3A1 model, popularly called the Jeb Stuart. The United States exported many of these armored vehicles to England for use in the North African Desert by the British Eighth Army.

Two women pose with machinery for publicity photograph.
Mrs. Doris Cashmer and Mrs. Lucille Owens prepare high-speed X-ray apparatus...
Pennsylvania industries manufactured everything from tanks to aircraft to ships. The Hershey Company developed and issued the D Ration, a four-ounce bar that contained enough nutrients to keep its consumer going for hours, also developing a special bar for use in tropical jungles. The American Viscose Company was a lead developer in the use of rayon, making tens of thousands of parachutes out of this material as well as designing other uses for it, such as uniform linings and tire threads. Westinghouse developed a wakeless torpedo and produced more than 10,000 of them by war's end, while another Pittsburgh firm began making the army's 75mm recoilless rifle that saw action late in the war. Piper Cub of Lock Haven, a leading manufacturer of light aircraft, built planes for the army to use as artillery spotter aircraft, reconnaissance planes, emergency evacuation medical craft, and a variety of other such uses. West Chester chemist markerG. Raymond Rettew, already well known as a pioneer in the mass production of penicillin, worked in conjunction with Wyeth Laboratories to produce more of this vital antibiotic than any other lab in the world, savings countless lives on battlefields around the world.

During the war, the Commonwealth's factories churned out other vital supplies, such as the Gyro Flux Gate Compass, perhaps the first new compass in two thousand years; rearview mirrors for fighter planes, aircraft motors by the thousands; radio crystals; the VT-fuse, a miniature radio transmitting set that was placed in the nose of a shell, which would detonate the projectile when within 75 feet of its objective; wire cloth for use in the tropics; and the "bean soup" system used to extinguish fires on naval vessels. The list of military items is seemingly endless: eight-inch shells, anti-aircraft guns, 155mm firing mechanisms, Landing Ship Tank markerDravo Corporation, battleships, oil tankers (Sun Company), IFF radar sets, TNT, ball bearings, mobile repair shops, pressed steel hand trucks, armor plate, Colt automatic pistols, aircraft bombs, and more. Governor James" vow to become the "Arsenal of America" was a reality by war's end, when Pennsylvania alone outproduced the Axis powers in steel.
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