From Ohio History Central
During World War II, the United States experienced a rubber shortage. While the United States had access to naturally occurring rubber in Africa and Central and South America, most rubber imported to the United States came from Asia. Japan, one of America's enemies in World War II, controlled much of Asia and prohibited rubber exports to the United States. The United States military needed rubber for numerous reasons during the war, especially for truck, airplane, and jeep tires.
During World War I, Germany had manufactured synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber required no natural occurring rubber, and it proved to be more durable than its natural equivalent. Manufacturers created synthetic rubber by mixing oil, acetylene, coal, natural gas, and other items together. Germany manufactured synthetic rubber during the war because the country's enemies succeeded in cutting off German access to natural rubber. Upon World War I's conclusion, synthetic rubber remained too costly to justify its continued production.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, scientists made tremendous advances in synthetic rubber's production. By the start of World War II, synthetic rubber's manufacturing cost had declined dramatically, but it still proved to be more expensive than natural rubber. With the shortage of rubber in the United States during World War II, American businesses still had to switch to synthetic rubber to meet the country's needs. Akron, Ohio, tire companies, including Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, took the lead in developing synthetic rubber products, ending the United States' dependence on foreign rubber. Upon World War II's conclusion, these same companies began to produce synthetic rubber items for peacetime use as well.