Pots and Pans for Airplanes

January 1 1941

Pots and Pans for Airplanes

January 1 1941

Pots and Pans for Airplanes

ALUMINUM is a vital necessity in the building of airplanes. It is extracted from bauxite, and bauxite is found mostly in Southern France, now under Nazi domination; and that is why the women of Britain are turning in their aluminum pots and kettles. In the British magazine World Review, John Langdon-Davies tells us:

Aluminum is the third commonest element in the earth’s crust, only oxygen and silicon being more abundant. Clay, slate, granite, shale, are full of it; but it is also one of the most difficult to extract, and nearly all that is used commercially is found in the ore bauxite, first found in 1821 in Southern France. It is because of this that aluminum is not merely an excellent article of commerce, but a vital war necessity, since, although aluminum is to be found almost everywhere, bauxite is only to be found in a few places, most of w’hich are now' in German hands. The Nazis control the bauxite of Southern France, of Western Hungary, of Italy, of Barcelona. We now have to get from the U.S.A. what we once bought from these places. Indeed, aluminum is one of the rather few articles over which the Nazis have definitely a better control than ourselves—which explains what has happened to Mrs. Brown’s kettle.

The first quality to attract men to aluminum was its lightness; one cubic inch of brass or iron could be replaced by three cubic inches of aluminum w'ithout adding to the object’s weight.

It began its career of usefulness in a modest way: in 1894 you could buy collar buttons, salt and pepper sets, bookmarks, trays, picture frames, hairpins, penholders, match boxes, spoons and numbers for your houses.

In spite of setbacks, aluminum has become, especially in the last twenty-five years, the most important metal after iron, if we judge importance by growth of usefulness. In 1915 the world aluminum output was only nine per cent of that of copper and ten per cent of that of zinc. In 1938 it was more than a quarter that of copper and more than a third that of zinc. In 1915 the Germans started experimenting with a new aluminum alloy, “Duralumin,” for use in planes. In 1940 duralumin is already a thing of the past, and new alloys make modem speed and safety possible.

It may have been delightful to Hitler to possess himself of the famous armistice railway carriage; but a more lasting success from his destruction of France has been the control of the French supplies of aluminum, for that has forced us to do our best to import our growing needs of the metal. Unfortunately this is difficult in a world which is rearming. When the U. S. A. rearmament plans get under way it will be exceedingly difficult for her to supply us, since aluminum, unlike many other metals, tends to be produced in each country for consumption rather than for export. Except from Dutch Guiana, there is no hope of a big exportable surplus. It is true that in the U. S. A. production dropped to a third from 1930 to 1933, and that it can quickly be made up; but aluminum planes are going to be needed, not by hundreds, but by tens of thousands.

So it comes about that aluminum has become the most desirable of all metals. It may not be as valuable as gold, but it is far more necessary. Aluminum, the third commonest element in the earth’s crust, is so desirable that the possession of an aluminum kettle becomes almost an act of treason.