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World War II Fuel Shortages Spur Veteran into Action

December 16, 2011 - 3:19pm

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Dr. Green (top row, third from the right) with his B-29 crew members in Xian, China. | Image courtesy of Dr. Alex Green.

Dr. Green (top row, third from the right) with his B-29 crew members in Xian, China. | Image courtesy of Dr. Alex Green.

On March 12, 1945, the newly-minted U.S. Army Air Corps Operations Analyst Alex E. S. Green was 28,000 feet above Kure Anchorage and nearby Hiroshima Bay. The Brooklyn, New York, native was serving aboard a B-29 reconnaissance aircraft. The crew’s assigned mission was to find enemy ships before the planned U.S. invasion of Okinawa. During this time, now Dr. Green saw firsthand how important energy is to military operations when his crew spotted Japanese warships stuck in place from a shortage of fuel.

“We couldn’t figure out why they were sitting there next to each other, but later it came out that they didn’t have oil” and were unable to disperse as a result. Then there was the Japanese battleship Amato, which was dispatched to Okinawa, but was only given a one-way supply of oil because of their petroleum shortage.

Later, Operations Analyst Green’s B-29 was running low on gas and the crew almost had to bail out over China, making a “skin of the teeth” landing in Xian. “Our flight engineers were always worried about having enough aviation gas that came across the Pacific from Los Angeles and Oklahoma,” observed Green. The young analyst also invented many technologies important to the war effort such as the first instrument to measure fuel burn in the B-29. For his heroics, Dr. Green was awarded the Truman Medal of Freedom.

After World War II, Green received a Doctorate in Physics at the University of Cincinnati and began an academic career. However, “When we had our first oil crisis (1973),” said Dr. Green, “I changed my focus to look for alternatives to oil largely because my generation knows the importance of running out of fuel.”

Dr. Green got involved with Florida farmers who were interested in growing energy crops on non-food producing land. As a professor (now-emeritus) at the University of Florida, partly in the School of Forestry, he developed a program to convert Solid Waste to Energy by Advanced Thermal Technologies (SWEATT). Its purpose is to assist farmers to convert agricultural residues and energy crops. Since 1986, he has co-authored many technical articles and books on the use of agricultural residues and energy crops.

Dr. Green is convinced these biomass sources can be developed to provide some 25 percent of the national energy needs, rather than only three percent at present and help prevent the energy shortages he’s witnessed throughout his life. Those events over the Pacific continue to fuel his desire to advance and promote this renewable, domestic fuel source – even at the age of 92. His efforts strengthen our national security and help troops have access to the resources they need to do their job.

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