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(A copyrighted publication of West Virginia Archives and History)

Volume 55 Senator Harley M. Kilgore and Japan's World War II Business Practices

By Robert F. Maddox

Volume 55 (1996), pp. 127-142

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has focused much attention on events surrounding December 7, 1941. However, even before that infamous day, Japan had been preparing for war with the United States. For some time, the Japanese had been gathering strategic information for their government by purchasing technical information, making expert observations of industrial facilities, and making detailed inquiries during the course of commercial visits. Yet the commercial relationships, which involved cartel-like arrangements, between the United States and Japan prior to the war have received little attention.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration manifested a great deal of concern about the way dictatorial and militaristic countries utilized business relationships to build their military and industrial machines.1 Thus, the monopolistic international cartel system created a great deal of concern among American liberals during World War II. These cartels "had exploited peoples in underdeveloped areas and gouged consumers in the industrial nations," and they had "fixed prices, restricted production, led to unemployment, and contained the seed of totalitarianism, and war." Liberals firmly believed that these cartels "had to be broken up."2 West Virginia's Senator Harley M. Kilgore, chair of the Subcommittee on War Mobilization of the Military Affairs Committee, labored in the forefront of the Senate's liberal forces to expose the menace of international cartels as a potential threat to world peace. Kilgore utilized investigations, public education, reports--anything to keep the question of the cartel menace before the American people--in his fight against cartels. Likewise, he exposed dangers in the business relationship between Japanese and American companies which had occurred in the period prior to World War II.

Born into the family of an oil-well driller and contractor at Brown, West Virginia, on January 11, 1893, Kilgore earned his law degree from West Virginia University by 1914 and worked as a high school principal before entering the practice of law at Beckley.3 Upon completing his service in World War I as an infantry officer, Kilgore returned to Beckley, married, and became active with others in reorganizing the state Democratic party along more progressive lines. The Roosevelt ascendancy of 1932 helped Kilgore acquire the judgeship of Raleigh County's criminal court, where he earned a reputation for being wise and merciful.4

Round-faced and with thinning gray hair, Kilgore stood five feet eleven inches tall, weighed around two hundred pounds, and looked like a judge.5 His waistline reflected a chronic weight problem, and he was deaf in one ear as the result of an automobile accident in 1927. Possessing an alert, acute mind, he owned the quality of almost total recall.6 He also possessed a friendly personality and a full line of stories and anecdotes, which served him well as a politician.7

A split in West Virginia's Democratic party in 1940 pulled Kilgore off the bench and thrust him into the United States Senate in 1941, with the backing of the party's liberal wing led by Senator Matthew M. Neely. When Neely resigned to become governor, Kilgore suddenly found himself the senior senator from West Virginia. His appointment to the Military Affairs Committee was timely, and he proved to be outspoken on military questions, offering several suggestions for the better mobilization of the defense effort.8 Kilgore also made friends with Harry Truman and was appointed to serve on the Truman Committee.9

In the middle of October1942, the Senate authorized Kilgore to investigate technological mobilization as chair of a special subcommittee of the Military Affairs Committee.10 This subcommittee evolved into the Subcommittee of War Mobilization of the Military Affairs Committee, which became known as the Kilgore Committee. In early 1943, the committee was charged with the responsibility of examining a Kilgore bill to establish an Office of War Mobilization. The pressure from the supporters of the proposed legislation forced the Roosevelt administration to establish the office in May 1943 before Congress could pass the bill.11 The committee's investigations into mobilization led to the examination of international cartels and World War II. Its hearings on scientific and technical mobilization produced by war's end a liberal proposal which provided for the establishment of a national science foundation.12

By early 1944, Kilgore was convinced that if international cartel agreements had been investigated before 1936, the United States would have had a more realistic view of the international situation.13 The committee devoted much attention to the impact of cartels in the development of the German military machine.14 However, it was the startling testimony on the use of business relationships by Japan to further its militaristic policies that was most revealing to the Kilgore Committee.

In September 1944, James S. Martin, Chief of the Economic Warfare Section of the War Division of the Justice Department, testified, "in the decade before Pearl Harbor, a constant stream of information flowed to Japan as a result of Japanese Commercial transactions with American firms--technical information and economic data of the utmost importance to Japan's armed forces." Industries most involved included oil, aircraft, machine tools, and electronics.15 Kilgore pointed out that this occurred while American citizens were not even permitted to land on islands mandated to Japan by the League of Nations to determine whether or not they were being fortified.16

The Japanese utilized cartel-like arrangements, such as patent licensing, pooling arrangements, and exchange of technology. Likewise, they purchased technical information and observed American technical achievements or made detailed inquiries about them.17 The Japanese were able to acquire technical information and certain processes necessary to the production of 100-octane aviation gasoline before this information was widely available to firms in the United States. They were even able to gain knowledge about petroleum shipments to Pearl Harbor.18

Japan needed the processes for producing aviation gasoline in order to wage war and the knowledge was acquired to some degree from Universal Oil Products Company.19 This company, with its research center at Riverside, Illinois, had some six hundred technical specialists who were experts in oil refining. With its involvement in commercial applications, it had a worldwide clientele. The company had developed over eleven hundred U.S. patents, and this information was generally made available through the normal scientific methods of dissemination.20

In 1928, Osaka financial interests incorporated Japan Gasoline Company as the mechanism to acquire Universal technology for the Dobbs process, which involved a means of cracking petroleum utilizing heat and pressure.21 On July 19, 1928, Universal and Hisashi Sekiguchi signed a contract which gave Japan Gasoline access to the technology and its future advances. In return, Universal received one million dollars for the process.22 The technology proved to be unprofitable, ad only one Dobbs plant was built in Japan by 1938. However, Japan Gasoline manifested a new interest in Universal because of developments in iso-octane, a blending agent used in the production of high quality 100-octane aviation gasoline. Most major oil companies were engaged in research in this area at this time.23 Senator Kilgore pointed out that General Hap Arnold had stated the "limiting factor in air defense was not the ability to build planes or to train pilots, but the capacity to produce fuel for planes."24

Two phases existed in the production of aviation gasoline, the production of iso-octane and the production of a base stock which, when blended with lead and iso-octane, yielded 100-octane fuel. The Japanese were particularly interested in the base stock production process which, through catalytic cracking, required less processing and resulted in more gasoline. These processes were not in general usage in 1938.25 The alkylation process, which promised more gasoline at much less cost, drew the interest of the Japanese, as did the technology to produce the catalyst used in the process.26

The possibility that Japan Gasoline might acquire these processes piqued the interest of other Japanese entities.27 In March 1937, Masao Saneyoshi, president of Japan Gasoline, wrote Universal Oil that "owing to the urgent need to produce high octane gasoline for aviation, there is a strong tendency to develop the Polymerization Process in Japan, which would be reviewed by Professor Horie. . . ." Then he requested information concerning the new processes, including information on the catalysts.28 Fukio Horie, Japan Gasoline's chief engineer, also cited the demand for aviation gasoline: "Our Air Force requires keenly 100-octane fuel, therefore the quantity of iso-octane becomes the most essencial [sic] point in our client's plan."29 Likewise, Horie indicated in a letter in February that all of the refineries under discussion were basically under government supervision.30

The Japanese government was very interested in the deal with Universal Oil. Captain Yamagiware, who had visited the Riverside Laboratory of Universal Oil, was appointed to head up the fuel bureau. Believing that Universal was the best oil research institute in the world, he was willing to help Japan Gasoline become the vehicle to disseminate Universal's technology to Japan.31 Rokura Shinohara, a member of the Japanese Parliament, showed a great deal of interest in the processes. In fact, Universal attempted to use him to pressure Japan Gasoline to close a pending deal. Universal officials were aware they could be at cross purposes with the national interest when one of their executives wrote, "we are in a position where our Government could indicate some displeasure in our making these important processes of ours available to Japan."32

As a result of negotiations, which were begun in 1937, three draft memoranda between Japan Gasoline and Universal were worked out by August 1938. With the first agreement, Japan Gasoline obtained the processes for iso-octane. The second option permitted the Japanese "to acquire the rights under all of Universal's processes in the entire petroleum field (whether solid, liquid, vapor, or gas; specifically including but without limitation of the generality of the foregoing) dehydrogenation, iso-merization, cyclization, and alkylation." This would include all processes which might be developed up to December 31, 1946. The resultant formal agreement of October 31, 1938, revealed the extent of Japan Gasoline's rights. The agreement stated:

Patent rights shall mean all unpatented technical knowledge and experience, all applications for patents based on inventions made prior to the termination of this agreement, issued patents, reissues, renewals, extensions of patents in the entire petroleum field and transferable interest in any of the foregoing, of which the companies designated may now or hereafter have the ownership or control in the sense of having the pwer to dispose thereof or grant licenses thereunder. . . .33

Ultimately, the parties failed to sign the agreement because the Japanese wanted to extend it into 1953. However, the first option was executed with the payment by Japan Gasoline of six hundred thousand dollars as stipulated in the agreement.34

In line with these agreements, Universal began to design iso-octane units to be used by Mitsubishi Oil Company and Nippon Oil, which had agreements with Japan Gasoline. Not only were the designs delivered to Japan in 1939 but Universal engineers were dispatched to help build these plants. Universal, prior to the signing of the agreements, informed the War and State departments of the pending transactions. Universal felt the Japanese could "secure practically identical results from the knowledge they have and will obtain through technical publications and by the issuance of our patents and inspection of other plants and those other groups that are competitive to us outside the United States." The War Department expressed no objection, even though the agreement was signed before the department's position was rendered.35

On July 5, 1939, Japan Gasoline Company exercised option two of its agreement with a payment of one hundred thousand dollars. This agreement allowed the company's technical staff to visit Universal's laboratories and other research facilities to obtain "all necessary technical know-how." Two months after the option was activated, a force of Japanese technical representatives arrived to spend four months in Universal's facilities. The technologists included petroleum, mining, and chemical representatives, and technical staff from the Japanese army and navy. Other Japanese scientists apparently had no contractual relationships with Japan Gasoline. In reality, Kilgore pointed out, the contract was "with the Japanese nation as a whole so that anybody in Japan could utilize it." Thus, it functioned as a Japanese government monopoly. The technical staff of Universal Oil "cooperated fully with them on their problem which was mainly the production of aviation fuel." In fact, Universal "carried out a very extensive program of research in catalytic cracking and hydrotransforming in order to arrive at a type of process which would satisfactorily meet the Japanese requirements." Eleven of the thirty-five people who attended were army and navy personnel.36

Universal provided the Japanese with research and written test results from pilot plants. Likewise, all information concerning other Universal catalysts was given to the Japanese. Universal scientists conducted lectures on a variety of subjects and the lecturers even reviewed the notes of the Japanese to make sure they understood the material. Then they proceeded to design a plant for the Japanese. In other words, Universal was functioning in a treaty-like way with the Japanese government. This work continued until restrictions were imposed by the United States government. Even then, Universal representatives were convinced that due to the thoroughness of the technology-transfer activities, the Japanese were capable of proceeding on their own. In fact, Universal believed "that the information given to the Japanese representatives was as complete if not more complete than any information on these processes which we supplied to anyone."37

In response to aggressive activities by the Japanese government in the Far East, the United States government by the summer of 1938 had gradually applied economic sanctions against Japan with a "moral embargo" of "aircraft, engines, parts, armaments, aerial bombs, and torpedoes." This embargo did not carry legal restrictions, yet these items were not sent to Japan after the summer of 1938. By December 1939, the restrictions were expanded to include molybdenum, aluminum, and information on the production of high quality aviation gasoline." Therefore, when on December 20, 1939, the State Department declared that "there should be no future delivery to certain countries of plans, plants, manufacturing rights, or technical information" involving production of aviation gasoline, Universal terminated the Japanese "school" immediately and duly informed Japan Gasoline Company that its 1938 agreements would have to be suspended. In June 1940, Japan Gasoline filed suit against Universal, seeking "specific performance of contracts, or the payment of $10,000,000.00." The case was postponed due to the advent of the war. This apparently did not deter the Japanese, who through appropriate internal agreements were able to plan and construct five catalytic cracking plants with a total daily capacity of fifteen thousand barrels. Each plant included units to manufacture iso-octane for blending as well as five independent units with a 650 barrel daily capacity. Apparently, the second option, which included the latest technical information, had not been approved by the State Department.38 Ironically, Japan Gasoline could "enter the American courts after the war and demand, under the 1938 agreement, not only information on all Universal's processes developed up to 1940 but also on all those developed since that date."39

However, American firms had difficulty securing the same kind of information which was made available to the Japanese. For example, Shell Oil Company, which owned 50 percent of Universal's voting stock and was a licensee for all Universal patents up through 1947, complained that information provided to them in 1938 concerning cracking and catalytic reforming was incomplete. D. Pyzel, a Shell vice president, asked Universal "to divulge . . . the full details of your research work and fundamental data relating to the design and operation of these processes." Universal responded on December 19, 1941, that Shell was not "entitled to our service or our technique, unless we are properly protected and compensated for our efforts. . . . We cannot agree with your views that Shell, as a paid-up licensee under all our patents, is entitled to all of our technique." Kilgore concluded Universal "wouldn't conduct a school for Shell, but they did for the Japanese."40

Likewise in 1936, Standard Oil Company of Indiana had requested fifteen reports and other information similar to that widely distributed to the Japanese. Standard held over three million dollars of Universal paper and was a paid-up licensee through December 1947. Universal refused to provide the requested information and its board of directors supported this position. Under their agreements, an American firm would have to purchase the catalyst, while the Japanese firms would not. The Japanese, however, did buy a year's supply of the catalyst from Universal and thus received the rights to the technology.41 Fearing that this kind of information would find its way into the hands of the Kilgore Committee, J. G. Alther, vice president and general manager of Universal, "begged" a Justice Department official not to release this material.42

Mitsubishi Oil Company, another Japanese concern, developed some interesting relationships with companies in the United States. It was formed in 1930 with five million yen as a partnership involving Mitsubishi Trading Company and Associated Oil Company. Ultimately, Associated became Tide Water Associated Company. All but five hundred of the fifty thousand shares given to Tide Water were placed under the control of the company's president, William F. Humphrey. The companies maintained a positive relationship and they planned a joint venture in occupied China, which "would doubtless call for genuine cooperation on both sides."43

However, difficulties existed when Japanese firms attempted to do business with the United States. In a January 3, 1941, letter, Hokichi Inouye of the Mitsubishi San Francisco office wrote S. Takeuchi of the Tokyo office to inform him of some of these potential difficulties as well as to provide a barometer on American sentiment at the time. He reported on a meeting he had with William Humphrey. Recently back from a trip to the eastern United States, Humphrey sensed strong antagonistic feeling toward the Japanese. In fact, this feeling seemed to be stronger in the East than in the West. On a trip to Washington, D. C., he discovered the views of high government officials to be "more adverse toward Japanese activities in China and some quite 'head strong.'" Humphrey attempted to improve sentiment toward Japan by indicating to these government officials and businessmen that his relationship with Mitsubishi had been "more pleasant than any other association with accounts in any other country in the world. . . ." The Japanese firm had even contributed 875,000 yen toward a loss of 1,875,000 yen Tide Water had suffered due to a drop in the exchange rate, which was the result of various crises in the Orient. Humphrey felt that in these circumstances and others, Mitsubishi would "not fail to take care of him even in the worst case." Inouye felt that the Tide Water board of directors had been "severely" critical of the president and that Mitsubishi should continue to maintain their cooperative relationship. Humphrey also opined that the appointment of Admiral Nomura to Washington would improve relationships with the United States. Yet Inouye felt that "even a superman cannot expect to improve and correct the deep-rooted adverse American sentiment and understanding of the real situation in the Far East overnight."44

Recognizing Humphrey's efforts to improve relationships between the United States and Japan, F. Funada, Mitsubishi's chairman of the board, wrote in a January 1940 missive to Humphrey that he wanted to render his

heartfelt thanks for the sincere efforts you have been making of late months for a betterment of political relationships between your country and mine. Indeed, it gives me a feeling of security to know that in these cristical [sic] hours when the American-Japanese relationships have become rather complex, over in America, one gentleman influential in both political and business circles is doing everything possible on our account by allotting some of his valuable time and energies in an effort to combat passage of any political measures that might be fatal to our petroleum business.45

He also indicated that he was sending a Mr. Mitani to the United States in early February 1940 to study the international petroleum situation "so that we may be fully prepared at all times to be assured of petroleum supplies in this country." He hoped that Humphrey would assist Mitani's efforts.46

On July 26 and September 12, 1940, President Roosevelt issued proclamations which forbade "the export of plans, designs, and information that could be used in the production of high octane aviation gasoline." Thus, Tide Water found itself in the position of having to deny Mitsubishi's request for reference fuel, which was utilized in the measurement of octane ratings.47

The Japanese also used business contacts to pass on strategic information. The Mitsubishi San Francisco branch manager wrote to the fuel department in Tokyo that "you may be interested to know that some of the 100-octane aviation gasoline produced from the alkylation plant at Avon, built mainly to meet Mitsubishi requiements, will supply the naval air station at Tongue Point, near Astoria, Oregon." Likewise, "[Tide Water] is also supplying 100-octane gasoline to United States Army airfields in the Pacific Northwest at Mc Chord Field near Tacoma, Washington, and Pearson Field, Vancouver, Washington." Moreover, Mitsubishi prepared a list of "Competitive Bulk Oil Shipments from Los Angeles Harbor." The focus of their attention seemed to be on shipments going to Pearl Harbor. They noted that in "less than a month from April 28th to May 23rd, 771,500 bbls. fuel oil, 132,299 bbls. diesel fuel oil and 22,682 bbls. gasoline have been shipped from Los Angeles Harbor to Pearl Harbor." They speculated that similar shipments had gone out of San Francisco and Estero bays to Pearl during the same period.48 Kilgore pointed out that Tide Water's export department "prepared and furnished to Mitsubishi a study which indicated our shipments of vital fuel oils" to Pearl Harbor.49

The Japanese apparently attempted to stimulate competition between American companies. A New York Mitsubishi representative cabled Tokyo on May 15, 1941, that in spite of "government policy and national tendency," Tide Water's president was "doing his best to convey friendship policy to Japan to the high officials in Washington through his petroleum business. . . ." He was unhappy that Mitsubishi dealt with his competitors. He wanted Mitsubishi to go through Tide Water or get the company's permission to acquire products which they did not produce. In fact, Tide Water was threatening breach of contract because Mitsubishi was dealing with Gulf Oil Corporation. Conceivably, this competition may have caused Tide Water to supply information in order to acquire business. Moreover, Cooper Oil Company, months after the moral embargo, supplied Mitsubishi with technical information concerning neohexane and alkylate, which were being developed as substitutes for iso-octane. Three months after the moral embargo, Cooper supplied Mitsubishi with confidential information on 92-octane gasoline from Maritime Oil Company. This provided "conclusive proof that our material will run up to 93 . . . and consequently there should be no doubt that we will meet any octane requirements your principals might require." The Cooper official wrote that the report "is sent you in complete confidence, and be very careful to whom you disclose it, as it would get me in a terrific jam if it ever leaked out that I sent you this data." Kilgore was forced to conclude that American companies would give information for business, and he wondered why, with the kind of pressure brought in Washington by companies like Tide Water, the United States was surprised at Pearl Harbor.50 Investigations by the Justice Department revealed that Mitsubishi was the "real spy outfit." As the largest Japanese company operating in the United States as an agent of the Japanese government, it is no wonder that company officials destroyed sensitive files after December 7, 1941.51

In another case, the Ocon Petroleum Processes Corporation, in September 1940, indicated that discussions between its technical people and the technical people of Okura Company, resulted in the conclusion that the Japanese company needed the "catalytic naphtha re-forming process." A unit with a 3,000-barrel-per-stream-day capacity was capable of producing 1,650 barrels of aviation gasoline. The Japanese wanted to see a test plant in operation, and Ocon was willing to demonstrate this process in Mexico, which obviously indicated the company was afraid to demonstrate it in the United States.52 Since the moral embargo had been proclaimed three months earlier, Ocon was willing to go south of the border to help the Japanese.

Furthermore, four months after Roosevelt had forbidden sending abroad information regarding high-octane gasoline and other items, Orchard Liske, a consulting petroleum technologist from New York City, wrote to Mr. Sawada of Mitsubishi concerning the production of toluene, an ingredient in explosives: "It would still be possible . . . to make a report on the potentialities of producing this solvent from Japanese and imported and crudepetroleum without incurring any infringement of the Embargo Act. . . ." He believed that "valuable basic data as to these potentialities does not seem to be specified in this law--so long as actual refinery and process designs are not given." He offered to provide the "physical and chemical characteristics of toluene; its differentiation from the benzine with which it occurs; and some notes on the pyrolitic treatment of petroleum hydrocarbons and the tendency of pyrolysis to yield toluene." In addition, he would analyze foreign and domestic sources the Japanese could use and unpublished technical information on the extractive process. This information would allow Japanese engineers to replicate the process.53 This was an obvious attempt to get around the embargo and to provide the Japanese with strategic information of military value.

In their negotiations to purchase aircraft, the Japanese managed to acquire important technical information. In 1937, the Japanese were planning to acquire a Boeing bomber which the United States army forbade the sale of for a one-year period. Boeing offered to sell them a "similar model." Boeing advised the Japanese that "they would be able to design and build a similar type of bombing plane, either independently or in conjunction with Japanese engineers and would manufacture a certain specified number per year, or make one model plane selling the manufacturing rights for the style so designed. . . ."54

On June 13, 1938, Secretary of State Cordell Hull imposed a moral embargo on the shipment of airplanes and aircraft parts to any nation using them to bomb civilians. On October 28, Fairchild Aviation invited Okura's Vice Admiral Maehara and his entourage to visit a factory at Farmingdale, Long Island, which was operated by Ranger Engineering Company. Maehara would be shown how Ranger manufactured engines for the Fairchild "24" and the new trainer which was being developed for the United States. Earlier, Ranger had provided the Japanese with complete technical information on the trainer. The Japanese were aware that most companies in the aircraft industry were hesitant to accept their orders, fearing negative publicity and potential labor difficulties because the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations both opposed shipment of these materials to Japan. If American companies accepted orders, "stringent conditions are imposed."55

Some aircraft parts manufacturers cooperated with the Japanese and offered ways around the embargo. Bethlehem Steel Export Corporation accepted orders on the basis of part numbers with no reference to the fact they were airplane parts. The American Hammered Piston Ring Company, which could not conceal the fact the parts were for aircraft, accepted orders made directly through its export manager. Only part numbers were ordered and all other specifications were provided in a separate confidential letter. The Aluminum Company of America refused to accept orders, but it sold the dies and shipped them to another factory where the parts could be produced. Canton Prop Forgings & Manufacturing Company shipped to the Japanese if they ordered part numbers and Thompson Products, Inc. shipped valve forgings utilizing the same process. After the president's embargo of military equipment and parts, which became effective on July 5, 1940, Douglas Aircraft Company offered to deliver ordered parts to the Mitsui office with the suggestion that the Japanese label them as automotive parts.56

Three companies, Ohio Seamless Tube Company, Air Associated, and Dzus Fasteners Company, agreed to continue production and shipment without reservation. Ironically, Dzus had refused to expand to meet the needs of the military build-up in the United States and it would not license patents to another manufacturer. Some companies, concerned with the presence of U.S. inspectors while U.S. parts were being fabricated, would not produce Japanese parts during inspection. As the U.S. build-up increased, U.S. parts increasingly received the top priority.57

In early 1940, the Japanese were able to acquire information concerning he Boeing 307 Stratoliner. Lieutenant Y. Terai of the Japanese navy was invited to the Boeing factory in Seattle, where he was shown blueprints, diagrams, and other critical information concerning the plane. However, he was not allowed to see the plane because it was housed in the same hanger with the Flying Fortress B-17 bomber. On the way to the airport, he saw the Flying Fortresses engaged in test flights and observed some new features incorporated in the machine-gun housing. According to Kilgore, the features of the Stratoliner and the B-17 were combined in the B-29, which became a key weapon in the war against Japan.58

The Kilgore Committee's exposure of Japanese-American business relationships, which led to strategic technical information flowing to Japan, revealed some significant dynamics. It showed that a Senate committee could work closely with an executive agency to expose prewar economic relationships that worked to the detriment of the United States. In fact, the committee and the Justice Department's Board of Economic Warfare cooperated fully, and the possibility that information gleaned through Justice Department investigations might get to Kilgore struck fear in the hearts of business executives who did not want their questionable activities exposed.

The committee's activities influenced postwar policy toward Japan. On an NBC radio broadcast in October 1945, Major General John H. Hilldring, Director of Civil Affairs for the War Department, stated, "as a matter of policy we are going to destroy Japan's war-making power. That means the big combines must be broken up. There's no other way to accomplish it."59 Likewise, the United States government believed in 1945 that Japanese business was "more highly concentrated" than "any industrialized nation." These combines had "participated in fomenting and shaping the Japanese program of sustained totalitarian aggression and on the economic side have been the principal beneficiaries of this program." Thus, government officials believed such organizations had to be dissolved, Japan's war potential eliminated, and cartel-like and monopolistic practices prohibited.60 During the postwar occupation of Japan by American military personnel, measures were taken to restrict Japan's war potential by the "dissolution of the Zaibatsu, elimination of the control associations, segregation of industry and banking, reorganization of the so-called national policy companies and restrictions on the use of subsidies."61 Ultimately, General Douglas MacArthur called for the abolition of domestic and international cartels in Japan and their prohibition was included in the Japanese Antimonopoly Law of 1947.62 Despite this effort, cartels and combines were not completely eliminated after World War II, but James S. Martin wrote Kilgore that his committee's efforts had at least "made the attempt possible."63

The notoriety, which resulted from the committee's work in exposing cartel and questionable business relationships involving Japanese and German companies, thrust Kilgore into the national spotlight and helped him demonstrate his effectiveness as a wartime senator to West Virginia voters. When Kilgore came up for re-election in 1946, his staff put together a "Speaker's Handbook" to be utilized in his campaign. Entitled "The Record of Harley Kilgore," the work placed a heavy emphasis on the accomplishments of the Kilgore Committee.64

The committee's activities attracted positive national press which also helped Kilgore in his successful 1946 campaign. A New York Times article stated, "few investigative bdies have emerged from the war with so commendable a history as that of the Senate subcommittee of which Senator Kilgore is the chairman. . . ." An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch declared, "next to the War Investigating Committee, it is safe to say that the Kilgore group has performed the war period's outstanding service to the American people so far as committees are concerned."65 A Life magazine evaluation of a number of senators who were up for re-election revealed that Kilgore had done "hard work" on the committee and that he stood as "one of the able senators on the Democratic side.66 In April 1946, the Washington Post editorialized that the Kilgore Committee "has proved to be one of the most effective congressional goads to executive action. And it has made available to Congress and the public a wealth of illuminating material on the technological aspects of war mobilization."67

A special West Virginia edition of Labor devoted two full pages to Kilgore's record in the Senate. One of the headlines claimed, "Kilgore smashed Cartels Crippling America for War," carrying the senator's warning that international combines may cause third world conflict. The article pointed out "Kilgore revealed that monopolies and cartels sabotaged Uncle Sam's preparations for war, and strengthened his enemies [and] products vital for war and peace were being strangled by . . . cartel agreements between American, German and Japanese 'big business.'" In the view of this publication, Kilgore's work on cartels "helped to win the war, and set up warning signals" for the future.68 "Senator Harley M. Kilgore: A 1946 Estimate" claimed the senator "shocked the Nation when he exposed the gasoline cartel which enabled Japan, an enemy to get technological secrets unavailable even to our own Government."69

Ironically, Kilgore's national prominence was "a major reason why his political enemies in the state" found "fault with him." His critics contended that he was "too absorbed in the world and national affairs to bother about the little senatorial chores which keep constituencies happy."70 The senator responded that he gave "too much" attention to national and international affairs, declaring, "I think that this is the highest of compliments. During these crucial years the Congress of the United States has often been a post of duty of comparable importance to the battlefront. I should have indeed been unfaithful in my duty if I had not devoted a very large share of my attention to world and national affairs."71 His supporters pointed out that Kilgore's national prominence helped West Virginia obtain its fair share of war industries. They proclaimed that because of his work with the War and Navy departments, the Kanawha Valley "got its full share of expansion." He managed to get the idle Charleston Naval Ordnance Plant re-opened and modernized and secured several large radar and electronics facilities for the state, such as the Sylvania plant in Huntington.72

In its 1946 endorsement of Senator Kilgore, the Roane County Reporter summed up his impact:

Since the election of Mr. Kilgore in 1940, a startling change has been noted in the position of West Virginia. The efforts of West Virginia's senior senator has placed the Mountaineer State 'on the map.' We know of no past Representative who has brought more favorable consideration to his home state than Mr. Kilgore. He has been quoted the breadth of the land. His name has appeared in publications that only a few years ago made laughing mention of the Mountaineer State. He has earned a reputation as a worker, statesman, and leader that cannot be touched by any predecessor. As an investigator, he is without a peer.73


1. Thurman W. Arnold, The Bottlenecks of Business (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1940).

2. Alonzo L. Hamby, "Sixty Million Jobs and the People's Revolution: Th Liberals, the New Deal, and World War II," The Historian 30(August 1968): 581.

3. Francis Coleman Rosenberger, "A Biographical Note on Senator Harley M. Kilgore," Memorial Services Held in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, Together with Remarks Presented in Eulogy of Harley Martin Kilgore, Late a Senator from West Virginia (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1956), 7.

4. Alfred Steinberg, "Harley M. Kilgore: Uncommon Senator with a Common Touch," in ibid., 135-36.

5. "Personalities in your Government, Harley M. Kilgore," broadcast over WLW, Cincinnati, OH, 17 August 1952, text in ibid., 130.

6. Robert M. Kilgore, interview with the author, 24 August 1973, Washington, D.C.

7. Harold Miller, interview with the author, 24 August 1973, Washington, D.C.

8. Robert F. Maddox, The Senatorial Career of Harley Martin Kilgore (New York: Garland Publishing Company, 1981), 3-49.

9. Ibid., 111-13.

10. Congressional Record, 77th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1941. Vol. 87, pt. 8, 8170.

11. Steinberg, "Uncommon Senator with a Common Touch," 136.

12. Maddox, Kilgore, 165-73.

13. Kilgore to Howard K. Ambruster, 29 February 1944, Harley M. Kilgore Papers, West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University, Morgantown, hereafter referred to as Kilgore Papers, WVRHC.

14. Joseph Borkin, The Crime and Punishment of I. G. Farben (New York: The Free Press, 1978) and Maddox, Kilgore, 174-82.

15. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Military Affairs, Cartel Practices and National Security, Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Military Affairs, 78th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1944. Vol. 16, 2011, hereafter referred to as Hearings.

16. Ibid., 2012.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., 2013.

19. Ibid.

20. "Universal Inventions, United States Patents owned by Universal Oil Products Company as of September 1, 1938," in ibid., 2167.

21. Ibid., 2013.

22. "Contract between Universal Oil Products Sekiguchi," in ibid., 2168.

23. Ibid., 2014.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid., 2014-15.

26. Ibid., 2015.

27. Ibid., 2016.

28. Masao Saneyoshi to Universal Oil Products, 17 March 1937, in ibid., 2172-74.

29. Fukio Horie to Universal Oil Products Company, 14 January 1938, in ibid., 2174.

30. Horie to Universal Oil Company, 15 February 1938, in ibid., 2175.

31. Masao Saneyoshi to H. J. Halle, 5 July 1937, in ibid., 2175-77.

32. Joseph G. Alther to Hiram J. Halle, 13 October 1938, in ibid., 2177.

33. Ibid., 2017-18.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid., 2018-19.

36. Ibid., 2020-21.

37. Ibid., 2021-22.

38. Ibid., 2022-23; New York Times, 21 December 1939; and Nobuo Kawabe, "Japanese Business in the United States before World War II: The Case of Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha, The San Francisco and Seattle Branches" (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1980), 213-14. The United States government could not legally embargo shipments to Japan because such action would violate a 1911 treaty. However, this restriction vanished when the United States abrogated the treaty on 26 January 1940.

39. "The Japan Gasoline Company Report," 24 February 1944, Record Group 60, Justice Department, National Archives, Washington, D.C., hereafter referred to as RG 60, NA.

40. Hearings, 2023-24.

41. Ibid., 2024-25.

42. W. B. Watson Snyder, "Memorandum For the Files, Re: Universal Oil Products Company, December 20, 1943," RG 60, NA.

43. Hearings, 2026.

44. Hokichi Inouye to S. Takeuchi, 3 January 1941, in ibid., 2198-200.

45. F. Funada to William F. Humphreys, 25 January 1940, in ibid., 2200.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid., 2028.

48. Ibid., 220-03.

49. Ibid., 2029.

50. Ibid., 2029-30.

51. John Williams, "Report on the Files of Mitsubishi & Mitsui," 4 March 1943, RG 60, NA.

52. Hearings, 2031.

53. Ibid., 2031-32.

54. Ibid., 2032.

55. Ibid., 2033-35.

56. Ibid., 2034.

57. Ibid., 2035.

58. Ibid., 2036.

59. Snyder, "Memorandum For the Files, Re: Universal Oil Products Company," RG 60, NA.

60. "Our Occupation Policy for Japan," 6 October 1945, Record Group 107, Modern Military Branch, NA, hereafter referred to as RG 107, NA.

61. "Control of Corporate Organization: Japan," 15 November 1945, RG 60, NA.

62. "Industrial Disarmament and Economic Control of Japan," January 1947, RG 107, NA and Eleanor M. Hadley, Antitrust In Japan (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970), 370-71.

63. James S. Martin to Kilgore, note, n. d., Kilgore Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

64. "The Record of Harley Kilgore" (October 1946), Kilgore Papers, WVRHC.

65. Fairmont Times, 20 October 1946 and Maddox, Kilgore, 217-32.

66. Life 20(11 March 1946): 98.

67. Washington Post, 2 April 1946.

68. Labor, 12 October 1946.

69. "Senator Harley M. Kilgore: A 1946 Estimate," Memorial Services, 121.

70. Raleigh Register, 19 July 1946.

71. "Address by Senator Harley M. Kilgore," 16 March 1946, Wheeling, Kilgore Papers, WVRHC.

72. Labor, 12 October 1946.

73. Roane County Reporter, 11 July 1946.

Volume 55Volume 55

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