World war Two - Morphine supply and demand.

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by chippymick, Jan 4, 2011.

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  1. What was the go with Morphine in World War 2?

    As I understand it demand spiked, while supply, to some combatants, shrank markedly.

    By 1942 the Japanese completely controlled the ‘Golden Triangle’ the district, at that time, that produced the world’s supply of opium. The Japanese owned all the mountainous production districts: Southern China (Yunnan province) Burma, Indochina Laos and North Vietnam.

    The airstrip that would become the focus of the most intense battle since WW2 was Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The DBP airstrip was constructed during the war, by the Japanese, for the principle purpose of airlifting the opium crop out. The Japanese had cornered the market on the raw material for Morphine, even if they found it progressively more difficult to distribute it to the soldiers who needed it.

    The Germans had synthesised Morphine as Pethidine, prior to the war, so had no need to stockpile strategic quantities of battlefield analgesic.

    What was the allied response?

    When a Marine who was storming ashore at Okinawa in 1945, was violated by a piece of hot speedy metal, what was the provenance of the Morphine injected to ease his pain?

    I imagine that Opium was just as important as a strategic commodity as tin or rubber. Most of the worlds’ tin and rubber was lost to the Japanese with the fall of Malaya. Most histories readily acknowledge the loss of the tin and rubber but neglect mention of the Opium.

    Why is that?

    Were any of the UK campaigns in Burma directed towards winning control of the Poppy fields?

    Did the US and UK stockpile opium prior to the war?

    If not where did it come from?

    Thanks in advance

  2. Pethidine was produced by IG Farben in 1932 by a chemist called Otto Eislib. I think it likely that it was license produced worldwide soon after. As for stockpiles of opium we probably had a few via Hong Kong and Singapore before it fell. Didn't we once control the opium trade in that region in the 19th Century?

    Opium isn't just produced in Burma. China, India, Iran, Afghanistan and Mexico harvest the poppy too. I'm sure it wasn't beyond the wit of the allies to source the goods from there.

    But I would have thought by the latter stages of the war and US entry, they would be synthesing Pethidine for mass production and storage? Or was it deffo Moprhine in the syrettes issued?
  3. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    The British East India Company had been producing massive amounts of Opium in 1773 alone they smuggled 75 tons of the stuff into China, as most of this was grown in the Patna well away from area there was never a shortage and it was legally grown in many Middle Eastern country's right through the War, and still is
  4. WoW
    I'm interested in the economics.

    If a British firm was producing Pethidine under licence to I G Farben from '39 to '45 who did they pay the royalties to?

    A Swiss bank account, while all the while Lancasters were targeting the Farben factories? How total is total war?

    I'm also very focussed on the 39 to 45 timeframe. I know that poppy can be grown in Afghanistan, Turkey, Mexico etc; and I've seen broad acres of it grown in Tasmania; but to the best of my knowledge in the period 39 to 45 it was only grown in the Golden Triamgle.

    Where did it come from?


  5. Surrey and parts of Sussex were farmers of the Opium poppy during the 18th and 19th centuries not sure when this finished. Australia also produced large quantities of Morphine from home grown stock, and are currently the 2nd largest legal producers behind the USA I believe.
  6. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    There is still an Opium farm in Oxfordshire,
  7. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

  8. Tropper, I don't dispute that it could have been grown in the middle east.

    I want to know where, when and how it was done.

    If that was indeed the source.

    I don't even know what the quantities demanded might be.

    Is the 75 tons you cite (going the wrong way, in the wrong century) sufficient to provide for the UK's morphine requirements for all of WW2?



  9. I would assume that India would have provided quite a bit of our opium production?

    Edited as the OP asked about Morphine not opium extraction. Doh!
  10. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    The Golden Triangle only really came into major poppy production after WW2 when the defeated Kuomintang forces entered the area from China and found that they could finance themselves with opium production
    The history of opium
    Opium Timeline
  11. Well, thanks Greg.

    I wasn't after assumptions.

    What I want to know is, where the opium came from, that provided the morphine, that was provided to maimed US and UK servicemen between the period 1939 to 1945?

    Trust me, I've googled my heart out. I'm aware of the Gregory process that REQUIRES RAW OPIUM to produce morphine.

    I want to know where the actual opium stock for the morphine produced by the Gregory process, originated from.

    Additionally I'd like to know what was the amount of Opium stock required to produce the morphine required for the WW2 demand spike in men in pain.

    Specifically for the period 1939-1945.

    Surely someone wrote a pamphlett?


  12. No wrong

    What your link actually shows is the concentration of opium production completely within the Golden Triangle in the period 1939-1945.

    My question is:

    Where precisely did the US and UK supply of Morphine/Opium stock come from in the period 1939-45?
  13. Morphine Tartrate in those little tubes
    WW2 US Medical Research Centre :: Miscellaneous Medical Equipment - Morphine
  14. Yeah sorry about that , realised to late.

    Still thing it might be worth looking at India though - the UK government controlled the Indian drugs trade upto 1935(?) so I would have thought that they would have had enough influence there to get as much as needed only 4 years later?
  15. Slightly off topic, but from your original post, everyone needed rubber in World War 2, if the Japanese controlled the rubber supply from 1942, where did the allies get their rubber from? For that matter, the Germans had no access to rubber from the declaration of war in 1939, where did they get theirs from?