Welders Who Won The War
See, we know the men who won World War II. The men with the guns, the pilots in the war-torn sky, the president and generals carefully crafting their brilliant plans. The men with the welders often go forgotten. And yet we owe our freedom to them as much as the president, the pilots and generals. In World War II, armies didn’t depend on the blood pumping through the veins of their soldiers alone, but the oil that fueled their war machines.
The success of D-Day wouldn’t matter if the tanks, trucks, jeeps and artillery had nowhere to refuel. Welders to the rescue. It was named Operation PLUTO: Pipe Line Under The Ocean. In complete secrecy, welders and machinists connected over 4,200 miles of mild-steel pipe. Because laying the pipes and welding them together underwater would take too much valuable time, the pipeline was created on land. Every bead was laid with quick yet incredibly skilled precision as even the smallest leak could leave men in the battlefield stranded without fuel.
With enough finished pipeline to span the English Channel, the challenge of laying it under the ocean began. The mild-steel was discovered to be flexible enough to wrap around huge spools, over 30 feet in diameter. Once the pipe was completely wrapped around one of these massive spools, it was pulled behind a large ship. The pipeline was slowly let out as the spool unraveled, like letting out a spool of thread behind you as you walk.
When the pumps first started to push the oil through, no one knew if the pipes had completely held together. Literally, the fate of the war depended on the efforts of the brave welders who’d worked in darkness and complete secrecy to make this rushed and desperate mission work. As the entire allied forces held their breath, oil rushed out onto the beaches of Normandy all the way from England. Until the end of the war, Operation PLUTO would continue to expand its pipeline network, pushing over 172 million gallons of gasoline.
Next time you’re welding, be proud. You’re part of a brotherhood that helped topple the Nazi Empire and bring freedom back to the world, one bead at a time.
Discover more about welding in history with our post on the Welding Way Back Machine here.