Amanda Macias

The impressive way bourbon was used to help win WWII

Amanda Macias
The impressive way bourbon was used to help win WWII

America's native spirit just got a little bit more American in my book.

While on a delightful trek of Kentucky's Bourbon Trail I heard several vague anecdotes of bourbon's role in America's wars.

According to various distillery tour guides, the spirit was used to anesthetize casualties, preserve body parts and inevitably intoxicate top brass during the Civil War.

Tack on another 70 years and America turned to the bourbon industry again.

In "Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit," Dane Huckelbridge explains how distillers converted their liquor operations in order to "devote themselves solely to the manufacture of industrial alcohol for the war effort."

"Over the course of World War II, distillers contributed 650 million gallons of alcohol for synthetic rubber, 126 million gallons for antifreeze, 102 million gallons for explosives, 75 million gallons for plastics, 70 million gallons for textiles, 66 million gallons for fuel, and an additional 115 million gallons for the assorted chemicals that kept the American war machine in motion," Huckelbridge writes.

Here's what some of that looks like:

  • 19 ¾ gallons for every 16-inch battleship shell
  • 23 gallons went into the production of one Jeep
  • 1 gallon for every two 155mm howitzer shells
  • 1 gallon required for 64 hand grenades

What's more, the U.S. legislative mandate was hardly necessary since "American whiskey makers were happy to do their part in what they considered to be a patriotic duty," Huckelbridge notes.

(Source: Dane Huckelbridge's excellent book "Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit.")