Fill ’er up: refueling in Helmand province, Afghanistan, February 2011.
Dmitry Kostyukov / Getty

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the U.S. naval aviator Thomas Moorer questioned Takeo Kurita, a former vice admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy, as part of the U.S. military’s postwar interrogation of Japanese commanders. Kurita told Moorer that one of the most significant reversals of fortune Japan had suffered during the war was the loss of fuel supplies. “We ran out of oil,” Kurita said, and by the end of the war, the Japanese military had grown so desperate, it was operating its equipment on fuel distilled from old tires, rice, and even pine

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