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View Full Version : A question [about Zippo cigarette lighters] for those who fought in WWII


luvrbcs
01-01-2009, 02:10 PM
I was watching Band of Brothers and noticed something odd.

It seemed that everyone lit their cigarettes with Zippo type lighters. Where did they get the lighter fluid for the lighters? They would be on the front lines and in battle for days on end. The lighters had to dry up. I can't imagine carrying the cans on their persons.

Anyone know the answer?

astro
01-01-2009, 02:19 PM
Where did you get the idea that the lighters ran out so quickly? My mother was a medium heavy smoker and only refilled her Zippo every few weeks.

Plus with so many soliders carry lighters there was at least some refill cans around. From wiki

Zippo lighters became popular in the United States military, especially during World War II when, as the company's website says, Zippo "ceased production of lighters for consumer markets and dedicated all manufacturing to the U.S. military." [2] The Zippo at that time was made of brass, but as this commodity was unobtainable due to the war effort, Zippo turned to using steel during the war years. While the Zippo Manufacturing Company never had an official contract with the military, soldiers and armed forces personnel insisted that PX stores carry this sought-after lighter. [3] [4]

yabob
01-01-2009, 02:56 PM
Plus, whatever the Zippo company might say, stuff other than lighter fluid would work in a pinch. Gasoline is not a good idea, it's dangerous for that use, and it stinks, but I'm sure some of them tried it. Alcohol actually works, and could probably be snitched from medical supplies. This guy gives a ranking which you can take or leave:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080308173800AA6sRwP

The actual packaged lighter fluid is naptha based, which is why Coleman fuel would work reasonably well.

Dog80
01-01-2009, 05:37 PM
Plus, whatever the Zippo company might say, stuff other than lighter fluid would work in a pinch. Gasoline is not a good idea, it's dangerous for that use, and it stinks, but I'm sure some of them tried it. Alcohol actually works, and could probably be snitched from medical supplies. This guy gives a ranking which you can take or leave:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080308173800AA6sRwP

The actual packaged lighter fluid is naptha based, which is why Coleman fuel would work reasonably well.

I've tried gasoline, it emmits lots of black smoke, but why do you think it is more dangerous than the standard lighter fluid?

Also, I don't think diesel would work well in a Zippo, unless it was mixed with a more volatile liquid. Diesel has negligible vapour pressure in room temp so it is impossible to ignite it without preheating.

luvrbcs
01-01-2009, 05:58 PM
Actually, I did smoke years ago, and I used Zippos. I don't fully recall how long they lasted, but I don't remember it lasting that long.

Still, what did they really use? Any vets?

Where did you get the idea that the lighters ran out so quickly? My mother was a medium heavy smoker and only refilled her Zippo every few weeks.

Plus with so many soliders carry lighters there was at least some refill cans around. From wiki

Colibri
01-01-2009, 06:18 PM
Edited title to indicate subject better.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Johnny L.A.
01-01-2009, 06:26 PM
Colibri, eh? I know that's 'hummingbird', but it's also a brand of lighter. There are posters named Zippo342 and zippo fuel. No Ronson or just plain Zippo though.

KlondikeGeoff
01-01-2009, 06:56 PM
I was a pipe smoker, and those need constant relighting, placing a big burden on any lighter. When I went in the army near the end of WWII, got a Zippo from the PX. It was the most reliable lighter I ever had, and it lasted for years and years, then got another, and then stopped smoking.

One filling did last for a very long time. Another amazing thing is that Zippo would replace any lighter that ever went wrong, broke, or otherwise failed, no questions asked. What other company would do that.

BJMoose
01-01-2009, 09:25 PM
Plus, whatever the Zippo company might say, stuff other than lighter fluid would work in a pinch. Gasoline is not a good idea, it's dangerous for that use, and it stinks, but I'm sure some of them tried it. Alcohol actually works, and could probably be snitched from medical supplies. This guy gives a ranking which you can take or leave:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080308173800AA6sRwP

The actual packaged lighter fluid is naptha based, which is why Coleman fuel would work reasonably well.

You may be onto something here. To this day the Coleman company likes to brag about how some of its products were used in WWII. Coleman fuel was probably readily available. Course, a can of lighter fluid is a small, light thing (think of a can of 3-in-1 oil, or Liquid Wrench). Your average GI could stuff one in his forty-pound backpack and not notice the extra burden a bit.


Flints may have been another matter. While a five-pack would easily fit in any pocket, they were rather easy to lose.

kunilou
01-01-2009, 09:30 PM
Flints may have been another matter. While a five-pack would easily fit in any pocket, they were rather easy to lose.

Yeah, but a flint could last a long, long time.

Mangetout
01-01-2009, 09:31 PM
Also, I don't think diesel would work well in a Zippo, unless it was mixed with a more volatile liquid. Diesel has negligible vapour pressure in room temp so it is impossible to ignite it without preheating.
I've never tried diesel in a Zippo, but it worked OK for me in a lamp made out of a jam jar with a piece of hairy string for a wick - but that was lit with a match. I guess it would be a question of whether the sparks from the flint were hot and long-lived enough to flash a little region of diesel into enough vapour to get the thing started. I'm tempted to experiment...

BJMoose
01-01-2009, 10:14 PM
Yeah, but a flint could last a long, long time.

True, but never long enough for my liking. . . .

ChrisBooth12
01-01-2009, 10:38 PM
I have a zippo and i use offical zippo fuel. It seems to dry up and evaporate withing a couple weeks and i have to keep refilling it

hekk
01-01-2009, 11:05 PM
Flints may have been another matter. While a five-pack would easily fit in any pocket, they were rather easy to lose.

I solve this problem by putting the flints in the cotton pack inside the lighter itself. I fit quite a few in there, and I'm never left swearing when the flint runs out.

I would think that lantern oil would work well as a fuel. I used charcoal lighter fluid once in a pinch and that also seemed to do its thing nicely.

Bobotheoptimist
01-01-2009, 11:27 PM
My grandfather (who was on Guam during the war) also kept his flints under the felt on top of the cotton stuff. When he was still riding and working horses he carried nothing but Zippo.

I never asked what he did for fuel during WWII, sorry. He probably would have come up with a cock and bull story about stealing it from the Army.

Tuckerfan
01-01-2009, 11:38 PM
You may be onto something here. To this day the Coleman company likes to brag about how some of its products were used in WWII. Coleman fuel was probably readily available. Course, a can of lighter fluid is a small, light thing (think of a can of 3-in-1 oil, or Liquid Wrench). Your average GI could stuff one in his forty-pound backpack and not notice the extra burden a bit.Coleman stoves would have been handy for heating up things like c-rations.

Q.E.D.
01-01-2009, 11:41 PM
I solve this problem by putting the flints in the cotton pack inside the lighter itself. I fit quite a few in there, and I'm never left swearing when the flint runs out.

IIRC, the instruction sheet which comes with new Zippos suggests this very thing. I know when I smoked and had Zippos, this is what I did with flints, as well.

Spoons
01-02-2009, 10:33 AM
I solve this problem by putting the flints in the cotton pack inside the lighter itself. I fit quite a few in there, and I'm never left swearing when the flint runs out.I'm a pipe smoker who uses a Zippo, and I put spare flints in my lighter like this also.

Omegaman
01-02-2009, 11:29 AM
I believe the fluid these use is naptha, or cleaning fluid. Automotive bug and tar remover will work in a pinch, naptha being one of the main ingredients. Mopar part # 4886330aa.

Omegaman
01-02-2009, 11:30 AM
IIRC, the instruction sheet which comes with new Zippos suggests this very thing. I know when I smoked and had Zippos, this is what I did with flints, as well.

I always thought that's why they coated them with that red stuff. It keeps them from degrading.

slime
01-02-2009, 12:06 PM
I've noticed the same thing with zippo fluid. Ronson fluid on the other hand seems to last longer and that's all I will get. I have no idea why this might be but it seemed enough of a difference that I won't buy zippo fluid anymore.

yabob
01-02-2009, 12:27 PM
Diesel would probably be a better choice than gasoline, but hardly ideal. BTW, I didn't mean to suggest that WWII soldiers actually could have used Coleman fuel, or some other variety of "white gas", just that it was reasonable that the link I found said that it worked very well in the lighter. It's naptha, which is what the lighter fluid is. There's probably a difference in grade, and maybe there's some additives that are in one but not the other, but I believe many people have stuck Coleman fuel in their lighters on a regular basis, since it's a bunch cheaper per unit volume than the little can of lighter fluid, and had it work fine.

My point was that a WWII soldier could probably find something that would work in it if lighter fuel wasn't available.

Cluricaun
01-02-2009, 12:39 PM
Didn't Europeans of the time also use refuelable lighters? Why would lighter fluid be hard to come by?

T. Slothrop
01-03-2009, 02:54 AM
"This guy gives a ranking which you can take or leave:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...8173800AA6sRwP"

This guy lists JP-4 (jet fuel). It does work, but IIRC it was a little smokey. (but that was after WW2.)

maggenpye
01-03-2009, 03:25 AM
I loved my Zippo, but it was the little 'lady' version and never lasted a week on any lighter fluid. The company replaced the innards without question as advertised, because of this very question.

My flatmate (also a Zippo user) had grown up with the story that his granddad had been the hero of his battalion (WWII) for inventing a little wire cradle to dip the inner workings of the lighters into the truck's petrol tank after they'd run out of 'proper' lighter fluid. In an attempt to emulate this and advance the sum total of human knowledge, we tried all sorts of crap in it. Petrol, diesel and alcohol worked - vegetable oil killed it. We could not get it clean enough to work again. The other Zippo owners suddenly lost interest in the experiment and we didn't get to try any other suggestions.

Never thought of storing my flints inside the lighter, I honestly can't remember what I did with them, probably let them roam free in my handbag.

Sadly, having given up smoking, I only use lighters very occasionally and the Zippo has retired to a wardrobe somewhere in favour of a store bought cheapie that holds its gas for months of non-use.

Kobal2
01-03-2009, 04:42 AM
I was watching Band of Brothers and noticed something odd.

It seemed that everyone lit their cigarettes with Zippo type lighters. Where did they get the lighter fluid for the lighters? They would be on the front lines and in battle for days on end. The lighters had to dry up. I can't imagine carrying the cans on their persons.

Anyone know the answer?

Why wouldn't soldiers carry cans in their footlockers/rucksacks ?

Besides, I'm a somewhat heavy smoker (pack a day) myself. Back when I used a cheap imitation Zippo lighter, a 125mL can of lighter fuel lasted me two years. Math time : 125mL/(365*2) = 0.17 mL/day. Meaning a full strength platoon (26 men) could share a single can for a month before it runs out. And that's if all of them smoke, too. What's the longest time US soldiers have stayed on the front and cut off from their supply train ?

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