Chapter XIII
The Ammunition Depots

For ten years preceding the Second World War, nine ammunition depots had, with a fair degree of adequacy, met the Navy's modest peace-time needs for the storage and care of ammunition ashore. Eight of the depots were at coastal points, or near the coast, in close geographical relation to navy yards; the ninth was far inland. Although the coastal depots were congested, the great explosion at Lake Denmark in 1926 had demonstrated the hazards in concentrated storage, and progress was being made in the direction of dispersal. The inland depot, at Hawthorne, Neb., had ample room. The total amount of material to be stored and handled was not great, for its rate of expenditure in target practice and other training operations was, in comparison with subsequent war expenditures, almost negligible.

The programs of national defense and war construction beginning in 1940 brought about a gigantic expansion of this portion of the Navy's shore establishment. The old coastal depots had their facilities expanded to the limit of their safe capacity and twelve new major stations, more generously provided for in the matter of land area, were built at points inland and on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts. The Hawthorne inland depot was expanded tremendously, and three other major inland depots were added. To meet the prodigious demands for ammunition by a fleet actively engaged in a war in distant waters, four great new shipping facilities were provided; and five new coastal depots were developed to make possible the necessary ammunition service to important operating bases.

Under the Navy's peacetime practice, each combat unit of the fleet was provided at the time of its commissioning with enough ammunition to fill its magazines, and, in addition, a reserve supply was stored ashore. Periodically, much of this ammunition had to be overhauled, an operation involving the removal of all explosive material and the refilling with new, and the checking of all mechanical parts. The nature of the overhaul operation was such that it was feasible of accomplishment only at a well-equipped shore station. As safety considerations demanded that a combat ship have its magazines emptied before coming into a navy yard, convenience suggested that the ammunition depots, equipped to store the reserve supply and the magazine ammunition and to conduct the overhaul operations, be located in close proximity to the yards.

On the East Coast, the naval ammunition depot at Hingham, Mass., was only 12 miles away from the Boston Navy Yard, across Boston Harbor. The New York area had two depots, one at Iona Island, N.Y., 45 miles up the Hudson River, devoted primarily to industrial activities, and one at Lake Denmark, N.J., 50 miles northwest of the yard by rail, serving principally as a storage depot. For Philadelphia, there was the Fort Mifflin depot, across the Schuylkill River from the navy yard. The St. Juliens Creek depot, 3 miles up the Elizabeth River from the Norfolk Navy Yard, was part of the important Hampton Roads operating area. In addition, at Yorktown, Va., there was a large mine depot, which will be discussed in this chapter as roughly equivalent to an ammunition depot.

East of the Sierra Nevada, 375 miles by rail from the San Francisco Bay area, was the newest ammunition depot, at Hawthorne, Nev., well located to support the depots at Mare Island and Puget Sound. It was the only depot within the United States that was up to date in design, for its very existence could be attributed to a disastrous explosion at one of the older depots which had brought in its train a revolutionary change in ammunition stowage practices.


Loading Pier for Ammunition, Mare Island Ammunition Depot
Loading Pier for Ammunition, Mare Island Ammunition Depot
One of two such piers built during the war program to supplement an older one,
which had until that time been the only Navy-owned ammunition pier in the San Francisco Bay area.

The disaster had occurred at the Lake Denmark depot in 1926. During the First World War, that depot's capacity had been greatly expanded to what was even then considered the absolute limits of safety, and at the time of the catastrophe, it was fully loaded with ammunition left over from the war. One Saturday afternoon, while an electrical storm was raging, fire broke out in one of the magazines. It set off a series of explosions which destroyed or badly damaged all the buildings on the station. The explosions were followed by fires which raged for a week through smokeless-powder magazines, shell houses, service buildings, and woods.

A painstaking study of the disaster led to drastic revision of the prevailing practices in providing storage facilities for ammunition. Wide dispersal became the new key note. The amount of ammunition that could be stored as a unit was drastically curtailed, and the allowable distance between those units was sharply increased. For example, under the revised policy no more than 143,000 pounds of high-explosive could be stored in a single magazine, and magazines had to be at least 500 feet apart; at Lake Denmark there had been one building containing 1,691,000 pounds of TNT, and 80 feet away, another containing 789,400 pounds. New design specifications also were drawn up for magazines, ruling out the use of combustible materials and materials which had demonstrated a low resistance to explosion and a tendency to fragmentation.

Revision of all the ammunition storage facilities in accordance with the new criteria became an immediate objective, but it involved a large program of reconstruction of old stations and the building of new ones. It could not, in time of peace, be accomplished overnight. The construction of the Hawthorne depot in 1930 on a 327-square-mile tract was only the beginning of a large reconstruction program which was still under way when national defense construction overtook it in 1940.


Ammunition depot functions. -- Two categories of activities were carried on at these ammunition depots: storage and production. Within the production category came the overhaul activities already referred to and all the other operations involved in loading projectiles, mines, and bombs with explosive, the packaging of smokeless powder, and the assembly of the component parts into unfused ammunition. The Navy's principal reliance was on the depots rather than on private industry for the performance of these final steps in the preparation of its ammunition. Indeed, much of the Navy's need for smokeless powder was met by the production of the Navy's own powder factory at Indian Head, Md. Private industry was looked to primarily for the manufacture of shells, bomb cases, and other metal components, and of high explosives.

To support production operations much storage space was necessary for bulk explosives and propellants and for inert components. In addition, extensive facilities were necessary for the storage of assembled ammunition. Taking into account all the types of material to be accommodated, three classes of storage facilities were called for. First, there were facilities for storing the most hazardous materials, as exemplified by bulk high-explosive, high-explosive loaded in thin containers, such as aircraft bombs, and fuses and detonators. Second, there were storage structures for materials like smokeless powder, loaded but unfused projectiles and small-arms ammunition, which demand care in handling but are much more stable than the materials in the preceding group. Third, there had to be storage space provided for inert materials, such as unloaded shells, cartridge cases, empty powder cans, bag materials, and the like.

At some of the stations, the production activities dominated, as at Iona Island. At others, storage was the principal function. All the depots, however, were equipped, in varying degrees, to carry on both functions.

Lake Denmark, at the time of its disaster, was not the only station crowded with ammunition left over from the First World War; all the depots were overloaded with explosive material, and how to take care of it became a vexing problem after the great explosion showed the terrific hazards of congested storage.1 Except for the mine depot at Yorktown, none of the old ammunition depots was to be considered capable of storing high explosives beyond the quantities immediately required by their processing schedules. Only at the mine depot could expansion of high-explosive storage space take place. Consequently, in 1928, under the same construction program that called for the establishment of Hawthorne, the Yorktown depot was enlarged by the construction of 77 high-explosive magazines. Hawthorne was begun that same year, and in 1930 the new depot in the Nevada desert was commissioned. Its principal features were 84 high-explosive magazines and a mine-filling plant.

The critical condition in connection with high explosive storage was thereby relieved. But facilities for the storage of smokeless powder, projectiles, and fixed ammunition were still highly unsatisfactory. Most of the 1917-1918 magazine construction had taken place at the Atlantic Coast depots. Removing the high explosives from those stations released adequate space for the storage of the Fleet's reserve ammunition, but the Pacific Coast depots were still in a bad way.

The demand for magazines on the West Coast rose gradually between 1930 and 1940 as the Fleet was built up to treaty strength, shifted to the Pacific Ocean, then, beginning in 1938, increased by an additional 20 percent. Construction of more than a hundred new magazines of all types at the three western depots met partially the enlarged requirements of this period.

The National Defense Program

The fall of France in the spring of 1940 was the signal for the inauguration of the nation's emergency program of national defense construction. Although the bulk of the Fleet remained in Pacific waters, the East Coast became a subject of concern because of war tension in the Atlantic. The correction of existing inadequacies in the ammunition depots on both coasts became imperative. Indeed, a survey had indicated that there was not enough storage space for high explosives, projectiles, fixed ammunition, and the like to permit the accumulation of an adequate reserve supply of ammunition to meet the needs of the new fleet units then under construction.

One of the most urgent needs was additional magazines for the storage of high-explosive items such as aircraft bombs and mines in the Puget Sound area. The Ostrich Bay depot, severely limited in its capacity for expansion, was already


cramped for space. A new site was required to accommodate the facilities called for in the vast new program then getting under way, and Indian Island was chosen, a 4-square-mile island in Puget Sound.

On July 11, 1940, a cost-plus-a-fixed-fee contract for the construction of the new depot's facilities was awarded. The plans called for 25 high-explosive magazines, a pier, and a seaplane ramp to permit the servicing of aircraft, as well as the administration, personnel, and service buildings and the roads and utilities needed to support the station's operations. The first structure was usable in late July 1941.

In October, the facilities at Hawthorne, where space was practically unlimited, were increased by the construction of 23 high-explosive, 22 smokeless powder, 7 fixed ammunition, and 26 projectile magazines. At the same time the station was further improved by the building of 15 miles of railroad within its boundaries.

For many years the Navy had cherished the idea of a great ammunition depot, secure behind the Appalachians, big enough to accommodate vast storage facilities of all types, and capable of producing as much ammunition as all the East Coast depots combined.2 Such a station would be indispensable if the depots on the coast should be subjected to bombing raids. It could be viewed as an eastern counterpart of Hawthorne, supporting the coastal depots.

Authority and funds for the new station were made available in June 1940. A 8-square-mile site was finally chosen, near Burns City in southwestern Indiana. In December, the construction of the first stage of the new establishment was undertaken. Facilities called for in this initial portion included 23 earth-covered magazines, personnel facilities, 7 miles of railroad, administration and shop buildings, roads and services, a case-ammunition filling house, a bag-charge filling house, and an Explosive-D loading house. Construction got under way in January 1941. The new station was named the Crane Naval Ammunition Depot in honor of Capt. W.M. Crane, first chief of the Bureau of Ordnance.

On July 19, 1940, Congress, responding to the president's call for a Navy large enough to meet any potential combination of hostile forces, authorized the "two-ocean" Navy. Just as the 1938 authorization of an enlarged fleet had invalidated naval base plans then being carried out, the new authorization immediately demanded an entirely new calculation of ammunition depot needs. It was clear that an enlarged fleet would require a corresponding increase in the supporting facilities ashore. The newly authorized depot in Indiana could be considered the keystone of the East Coast ammunition depot establishment.

The coastal stations were next to receive attention. North of Cape Hatteras the Navy was fairly well equipped to supply ammunition to fleet units operating out of its yards and bases, but to the south there was practically nothing. Ships from the Charleston Navy Yard had to go all the way to St. Juliens Creek, Va., for ammunition. The need for a new depot in the Charleston area was recognized by Congress when, in September, following the authorization of the "two-ocean" Navy, it took up the Navy's need for public works. Funds were appropriated to build a depot capable of arming and supplying ammunition to aircraft and destroyers of the South Atlantic coastal patrol.3

A small ammunition depot had been built in 1917-1918 across the Cooper River from the navy yard, but it had been decommissioned for several years and most of its buildings had been torn down. The site of the old depot, however, was adjudged inferior to a more accessible area about 5 miles up the river, on the same side as the yard. The contract for the new depot, let in December 1940, called for 21 high-explosive, 10 fixed ammunition, and 7 fuse and detonator magazines, a pier, and administration facilities. No production facilities were included.

The loading and handling of mines was the next subject to be given attention, for mine defense was an important item in the Navy's program. Only two stations were involved in this problem, Yorktown and Hawthorne. With funds made available by Congress in September 1940, the new facilities were put under way.4

At Yorktown, the erection of a TNT reclamation plant and a mine assembly building sufficed. West Coast needs, however, were more extensive. An enlargement of the mine filling facilities at Hawthorne was required, and, to balance the inland depot's increased capacity, mine handling accommodations on the coast had to be augmented, for existing facilities there were deemed inadequate to permit handling the mobilization supply of mines at the scheduled rate. In March 1941, a two-unit


TNT-reclamation Building, Hawthorne, Nevada
TNT-reclamation Building, Hawthorne, Nevada
Note the barricade built between the reclamation building (left) and its auxiliary buildings.

mine filling plant, consisting of six barricaded concrete buildings, was put under contract at Hawthorne, and a mine assembly building, and a mine handling wharf were undertaken at Mare Island.

At about the same time as the extension to the mine handling facilities was put under way, less extensive improvements and additions to the production facilities at several other depots were undertaken, including St. Juliens Creek, Puget Sound, and Iona Island.

Facilities at Yorktown were expanded by the addition of two storage buildings for inert materials and improved by the construction of a new pier and the dredging of the channel leading to the stations. Attention was then directed to the conditions on the West Coast.

Naval activities on the southern California coast had expanded prodigiously during the past several years, but there was no ammunition depot in the area to give them the support furnished San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound activities.

The distances separating Hawthorne from San Diego and San Pedro were too great to permit those two great centers of activity to function properly according to mobilization plans. It would be necessary to have much nearer at hand an adequate supply of bombs for the air stations, ammunition for the Fleet Marine Force, ammunition for local defense forces, and initial fills for merchant ships to be armed on mobilization.

Authority and funds to build a new station in the area were provided by Congress in early April.5 A rugged 141/2-square-mile tract of land at Fallbrook, Calif., was selected, 53 miles north of San Diego and 20 miles inland. Construction was undertaken on May 26. A total of 78 magazines was specified, together with 5 storehouses and the necessary complement of service buildings, quarters for resident personnel, and utilities.

When the summer of 1941 arrived, the country's manufacturing facilities were deeply committed to producing the tools for national defense. The building of the "two-ocean" Navy authorized a year earlier was well under way, as was the recently authorized 10,000-plane program. The progress being made on these basic programs was the controlling factor in determining the needs of the ammunition depot establishment; the Naval Appropriation Act for 1942 recognized those needs


and provided funds for enlargements and additions at most of the depots.

In June, the remaining portion of the facilities that had been planned for Crane were let to contract, comprising 25 more high-explosive magazines, 6 inert material storehouses, an illuminating and flare-loading plant, a mine and bomb filling plant, minor industrial buildings, 14 additional miles of railroad trackage, and additional roads and utilities. Illuminating projectiles, or "star shells," had theretofore been produced only at the Naval Ordnance Plant at Baldwin, N.Y., but cramped quarters precluded the expansion of that station's capacity to the extent necessary to meet the production requirements.

An extensive enlargement of Hawthorne's storage capacity was also provided in the appropriation act, and the construction of 103 more magazines was initiated early in August. The storage capacities of four of the older coastal depots also were somewhat increased at the same time; 11 magazines and an inert storehouse were added at St. Juliens Creek, 4 magazines at Hingham, 14 at Mare Island, and 2 magazines and an inert storehouse at Puget Sound.

The Fort Mifflin depot, although its capacity was not enhanced under the 1941 summer program, was the object of some highly important improvements. Situated on the mud flats between the Delaware and the Schuylkill rivers, the station was poorly protected from flooding at high tide, for the dike that was its reliance was old and defective. Moreover, the station's pier was short, and frequent dredging of the channel leading to it was required. In order to improve this situation, contracts were let in August and September for repairs to the dike, for the filling of low land, and for a pier extension which would allow the direct loading of cruisers or smaller vessels.

Operation of the North Atlantic neutrality patrol had by this time disclosed a serious deficiency in the facilities on the northeast coast for the storage and trans-shipment of ammunition, particularly high explosives. The depot at Hingham could support the patrol operations without undue difficulty as far as gun ammunition was concerned, but its capacity to store depth charges, bombs, and other high explosives was too small. Funds for the construction of additional storage facilities in that area were made available in July.6

A new tract of land was acquired at Cohasset, 2 miles from Hingham, to accommodate the storage facilities planned, and an area adjacent to the main station was selected as the site for a new pier. In August, construction was begun on the new four-barge-berth wharf at Hingham, 32 high-explosive magazines, and incidental structures at Cohasset, and a railroad to connect the two locations. Access from the new pier to the anchorage in Hingham Bay was improved by dredging the connecting channel.

By the end of the summer, the production of ammunition by American industry was approaching full tide and was outrunning the capacity of the Navy's depots to receive and store. New magazines at all the stations were no sooner built than they were loaded to capacity, but still more ammunition was on the way and would have to be cared for. The First Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Act approved on August 25, took this critical situation into account and provided funds for further expansion of the already hug Crane and Hawthorne installations. For the Indiana depot, 197 more magazines were put under construction together with 36 inert storehouses, an ordnance storage building, and extensions to its production facilities.

Hawthorne's storage facilities were augmented by the building of 55 high-explosive magazines, 36 inert storehouses, a torpedo storehouse, 50 projectile and smokeless powder magazines, plus extensions to the roads and utilities. Indian Island was also expanded by 33 high-explosive magazines, 6 fuse and detonator magazines, and additions to the station's production facilities.

Germany, estranged from the United States, had not yet reached the high-water mark of her conquests, and it was feared that her armies might reach the west coast of Africa and then break out of the Old World entirely in a move upon South America. Under the circumstances, adequate defense of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico areas became of critical importance. Moreover, American ship-building had become an inland as well as a coastal industry. The Mississippi was the road most inland-built craft took to reach the sea. Ships built in such places as Manitowoc, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis were brought, without ammunition for their guns, down the river to its mouth. To send them still defenseless, to such distant points as Charleston or the Canal Zone for arming was a risk too


High Explosive Magazine, New Orleans Ammunition Depot
High Explosive Magazine, New Orleans Ammunition Depot

great to take. These two factors, taken together, argued convincingly for an ammunition depot at New Orleans.

Authorization and funds to build the new station were provided in the act that authorized the expansions at Crane, Hawthorne, and Iona Island, in August. A site on the river a few miles below New Orleans was chosen, and, in early December, the construction of the first facilities for the new station were let to contract. Those facilities included 13 magazines, a wharf, and the railroad trackage, roads, services, and administration structures necessary to put the depot in operation.

Nearly all the ammunition depots had their facilities expanded in large or small degree, and most of the work was well under way when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor.

Expansion of the Navy's ammunition depot facilities had been under way for a year and a half when war became an actuality. Older stations had been expanded, in most instances modestly, to the practical limits of their sites, and new stations had been added. At the beginning, the effort had been centered on bringing the shore facilities for handling ammunition into line with the fleet expansion program; in the later months of 1941, the problem had become one of trying to keep ahead of the flood of shells, bombs, mines, and similar items coming out of war factories.

Construction in 1942

By the beginning of 1942, the Navy was provided with two gigantic inland depots, Hawthorne and Crane, both still undergoing apparently unending


Mine Assembly Building, Hawthorne Ammunition Depot
Mine Assembly Building, Hawthorne Ammunition Depot
Safety regulations allowed buildings protected by earth barricades to be located at half the spaces permitted between unbarricaded structures.

expansion. Two new depots had been established on the West Coast, at Indian Island in the north and at Fallbrook in the south; the East Coast facilities had also been augmented by the two new stations, at Charleston and at Cohasset; on the Gulf Coast a new facility at New Orleans had just been put under construction when the war opened. The period that lay ahead would call for further construction programs of such magnitude that the earlier work, vast as it was, in comparison would seem almost of minor magnitude.

As far back as 1927, the Navy had considered the establishment of an ammunition shipping facility somewhere in San Francisco Bay. In that year, the Bureau of Yards and Docks had recommended to the Board for the Development of Navy Yard Plans, in connection with the proposed construction of the Hawthorne depot, that provision should be made somewhere on the bay for the in-transit storage of high-explosive, including appropriate rail facilities and a deep-water pier. When war in the Pacific became a reality, the inadequacy of the West Coast shipping facilities for the transshipment of large quantities of ammunition was quickly evident; only a small part of the ammunition out of Hawthorne could be shipped from Mare Island, and commercial ports on the Bay would have to be relied upon, an unduly hazardous situation.

Three days after the Pearl Harbor attack, a board of officers of the Twelfth Naval District recommended the construction of the needed shipping facility at Port Chicago, on the south shore of Suisun Bay, on the site of an old disused shipyard. While the immediate need was for a shipping depot for high explosives, the board's recommendations included the eventual transfer of all ammunition activities from Mare Island to the new station. Under the circumstances, the Secretary of the Navy, acting under his new authority to approve construction projects to be financed by the $300,000,000 public works fund in the Third Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Act, in the middle of January approved the undertaking, and the initial construction contract was let. It involved the dredging of a channel and an approach basin, the rehabilitation of some buildings existing on the site, the construction of a pier and approach trestle, and rail trackage and utilities.

When Port Chicago's facilities were put into operation, it became the Navy's only war-scale ammunition


shipping point on the West Coast so located as to minimize explosion hazard to surrounding property. In the Puget Sound area, commercial piers in Seattle had to be used for the purpose, for neither the Puget Sound nor the Indian Island depot was directly connected with the nation's railroad system. Commercial piers were used also in the San Diego-San Pedro area. On the East Coast, there was modest space for loading ammunition ships at St. Juliens Creek, and at most of the other depots, lighters could be loaded to carry ammunition to specially designated anchorages for transfer.

The start of the war was the signal for drastic upward revisions in all programs for the procurement of tools and the materials of war. The Navy's construction program felt the resultant impact immediately. Hastily, probable shore station needs were estimated, approximate plans for construction were laid out, and contracts were let. For the ammunition depots this new burst of activity was directed mainly toward accomplishing a great increase in storage facilities to keep ahead of the stepped-up ammunition production.

By March 1942, another new storage program was under construction at the western depots. Hawthorne was increased by 147 high-explosive magazines and 4 inert storehouses. A modest enlargement at Indian Island added 6 magazines. Fallbrook, at the south end of the coast, was increased by 22 new magazines and 4 new inert storehouses. Several inert storehouses were started at Mare Island. On the East Coast, facilities at Lake Denmark were augmented by the construction of a new heavy ordnance storehouse.

In April, the eastern ammunition facilities became the subject of expansion. At Crane, the new storage facilities put under construction, 601 magazines and 53 storehouses, outstripped in magnitude any ammunition project undertaken theretofore, and more than tripled the huge inland depot's storage capacity. The new magazines and storage buildings required a corresponding extension of the railroad and utilities systems serving the station.

The enlargement of Crane was followed immediately by smaller increases of the eastern coastal depots. Hingham's Cohasset annex was enlarged by the construction of 75 magazines, needed to support the operations of the North Atlantic patrol. Minor enlargements of storage capacities were also begun at St. Juliens Creek and at Fort Mifflin.

In the latter part of May, Hawthorne was again enlarged. More magazines, 230 this time, and 30 more storehouses were made the subject of a new construction contract. Indian Island's storage was increased by nine magazines and four storehouses. The new Gulf Coast depot at New Orleans was next on the list for enlargement, by 35 new magazines and two storehouses.

Expansion of industrial facilities at the ammunition depots during this early 1942 period was of minor magnitude. New shell loading facilities were undertaken at Fort Mifflin, and a temporary mine assembly plant was put under way at Indian Island.

Even while the depots at Hawthorne and Crane were being expanded so prodigiously in the early summer of 1942, it became apparent that the need for inland production and storage of naval ammunition would still not be met. Enlargements under way would, when completed, tax the capacities of their rail connections, however, and further expansion, it was decided, would have to take place at new points. Plans were laid, therefore, for the building of two additional inland depots, on transcontinental railroads, and the choice of location fell on Hastings, Nebr., and McAlester, Okla. On the first of July, letters of intent were forwarded to contracting firms authorizing them to begin construction.

The two new stations were designed as twins, as nearly identical as the sites permitted; the contract for each depot called for the construction of 707 magazines, 70 storage buildings, 2 large-caliber loading plants, 2 medium-caliber loading plants, and a two-line bomb and mine filling plant.

Operation of an ammunition depot requires a large organization. Until the summer of 1942, all depot labor had been civilian, but, under the circumstances that had come about, it became impossible to maintain operations on that basis. The new depots had been deliberately located in thinly populated areas, areas incapable of supplying the wartime labor force for the huge operations necessary. To relive the condition of inadequate forces, civilian housing projects had been developed near several of the depots, but it was finally decided that civilian labor would have to be supplemented by enlisted personnel, a decision resulting in the formation of Ordnance Battalions.

To accommodate these men, the Bureau or Ordnance initiated a $2,340,000 program of barracks construction at various depots. The first station to benefit from the program was the Yorktown Mine Depot, where the building of four 228-man barracks


was begun on July 23. The next day, construction was started on eight 100-man barracks at Hawthorne. Other barracks groups were built that summer at Fallbrook, Mare Island, Lake denmark, Port Chicago, Hingham, Cohasset, St. Juliens Creek, Indian Island, and New Orleans. The largest of these installations, at Mare Island and at St. Juliens Creek, were for 1,200 men each. The Mare Island project was constructed across the strait, in Vallejo; all the others were built within station boundaries.

Within its first few months, the war had demonstrated that huge quantities of anti-aircraft ammunition would be consumed, and to support its fighting units, the Navy, in mid-1942, went in for a program of producing its own 20-mm. ammunition. On 25 July, one of the buildings at St. Juliens Creek was converted to serve as a 20-mm. cartridge filling house. A month later, a new building for that purpose was built at Mare Island. Toward the end of the year, a similar building was put under construction at Hingham, and two each were begun at Hastings and McAlester.

The great program of magazine construction that had been put under way during early 1942 was by the fall of that year seen to be still inadequate to care for the ammunition produced by American industry. The task of building more magazines seemed endless. In a letter to the Bureau of Ordnance, the inspector of ordnance in charge at Hawthorne wrote in September that the magazines available and under construction there would all be full in a year, and his recommendation was for undertaking "all possible magazine constructions," as he foresaw an ever-increasing demand for storage space.

In October, another increase in the capacity of the Nevada depot, by 601 more magazines and 45 more inert storehouses, was undertaken, and a roughly equivalent enlargement of Crane, 595 magazines and 55 storehouses, was begun.

Aside from the ammunition loading facilities included in the new depots at McAlester and Hastings, and the comparatively modest 20-mm. antiaircraft ammunition program, the accent during 1942 had been on storage, and more storage. Little expansion of production plant had taken place. However, toward the close of the year, the development of a new explosive was the occasion for starting a new program of building new production facilities. The new material was "torpex," a super-explosive to which the Bureau of Ordnance had been giving increasing attention for some time. Some torpex loading of mines and depth charges had taken place in converted TNT plants, but it had been found that those plants were rather unsuitable for the equipment and pouring rates necessary in handling the new material. Following the recommendation of the Bureau of Ordnance, a loading plant specifically designed for torpex was put under construction at Yorktown in December.

Just before the end of the year, significant additions were also made to the industrial facilities at the two mid-continent depots. At Hastings, two 40-mm. shell plants, two 20-mm. plants, and two medium-caliber case filling houses were built. At McAlester, similar facilities were provided.

Increased activity at Hingham, involving much water-borne traffic on the Weymouth Back River, had necessitated such frequent openings of the drawbridge carrying a main road over the river that the flow of highway traffic between Boston and other Massachusetts Bay points, including the ammunition depot, was seriously impeded. To remedy the situation, a new fixed bridge with clear height adequate to pass tugs and ammunition barges was constructed to replace the draw span, thereby facilitating access to the depot.

Construction in 1943

Three new ammunition depots had been established during the war's first year -- the shipping facility at Port Chicago and the twin inland stations at Hastings and McAlester -- and total storage capacity had been expanded prodigiously. During 1943, the inland depots were further strengthened, a new shipping facility was constructed for the East Coast, and new structures were built to provide for the production of new types of ammunition.

The opening months of the new year saw only scattered projects for new construction at the depots, most of them for the purpose of rounding out major facilities. Additional barracks were built at Hastings and McAlester, extensions of utilities and auxiliary facilities were begun at a number of other stations, and minor production improvements were made. Foreshadowing the great construction program to come a year later, modest facilities were put under construction at Crane and at Hawthorne for the assembly of rocket motors. At Crane, also, extensions were made to its 20-mm. and 40-mm. cartridge filling capacity.

Of greater magnitude than these varied undertakings was a further expansion of ammunition


Major-caliber Bag-loading Plant, McAlester, Okla.
Major Caliber Bag-loading Plant, McAlester, Okla.

storage facilities. A relatively small addition was first made at Hawthorne, providing 166 more magazines and 12 more storehouses. Much larger expansion was then undertaken at Hastings and McAlester. Authorized facilities at the mid-continent depots were approaching usable completion by the spring of 1943. Since their original authorization the Bureau of Ordnance had had time to restudy the needs at those stations and had recommended some sizeable adjustments. In addition to increasing the accommodations for station personnel, the recommended program included an important expansion of the quota of magazines and storehouses. At both stations, the additional structures were put under way in April, including 333 magazines and 30 inert materials storehouses each. Also, each station was further improved by the construction of ignition filling and quilting houses, bag-sewing buildings, and auxiliary service buildings. So far, all construction at the two stations had remained consistent with the original concept of twin depots; their capacities were still equal.

War always begets an acceleration of technical developments in weapons and ammunition. Germany had been using influence mines sowed by U-boats in American harbor entrances; the United States Navy had developed its own influence mines. Moreover, the Navy had applied these technical principles to depth charges. The new development called for additional production by the shore establishment, and installations to provide for the new items were put under construction in the early summer of 1943.

At Yorktown, two projects were put under way, one a plant for assembling the Mark 29 mine; the other a building for testing the assembled mine. Operational testing had previously taken place at the mine-assembly plants, but as production had increased in volume, testing had interfered with production. The new facility avoided this interference and was designed to permit 100 tests daily. At Hawthorne, where mine production had also been carried on before the war, another new mine assembly plant was begun.

By mid-1943, American participation in the European war was taking shape. Fighting was going on in Africa, and preparations were being made for the Africa-Sicily-Italy hop. It was becoming increasingly


Inert Storage Buildings, McAlester Ammunition Depot
Inert Storage Buildings, McAlester Ammunition Depot
These reinforced-concrete buildings served major caliber loading operations.

clear, however, that the major action would have to take place somewhere on Europe's Atlantic coast and that the first act would be an amphibious operation. Already, it was obvious that naval support of modern amphibious assault consumed tremendous quantities of ammunition.

Ammunition for the Mediterranean action was being loaded by the Navy not only at its ammunition depots but also at commercial piers in congested East Coast ports. To increase the rate of transfer through existing installations to the level necessary to supply an invasion on the scale contemplated for western Europe was a risk too great to take.

As matters stood, St. Juliens Creek was the only East Coast depot having wharf space available for loading ammunition into Liberty ships, and only one berth was available there. In June, the Navy estimated it would have to ship 40,000 tons of ammunition monthly from the East Coast, which would require at least two berths. It was possible to add a berth at St. Juliens Creek, but that would have entailed taking all East Coast naval ammunition ships down the Elizabeth River between crowded Norfolk and busy Portsmouth. The preferable alternative, recommended by the Navy, was establishment of a trans-shipment depot, similar to Port Chicago, in the New York area. Such a depot, to cost $20,000,000, was included as a memorandum item in the 1944 Naval Appropriation Act, approved June 26, 1943.

For the piers, a location on Sandy Hook Bay was selected, but the nearest practicable area suitable for the necessary magazines was an 8,419-acre wooded swampy tract about 12 miles inland.

An architect-engineer contract was let late in the spring, and by the end of July, plans were ready for bids on two lumps-sum construction contracts. The station was named Earle, in honor of Rear Admiral Ralph Earle, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance during World War I.

On August 2, work was begun on a barge pier and a trestle approach, railroads, barricaded sidings, and a temporary administration building. Later in the month, personnel and service buildings were begun. This first group of contracts was followed in September with the award of a contact for 249 magazines and storehouses and then by one for laying railroad trackage between the pier and the storage area.

Money had not yet been provided for an ammunition ship pier. Such a pier would have to be located at an adequate safety distance from existing shore installations, in this case 2 miles. The Secretary of the Navy on December 21, 1943, approved funds for a two-berth ship pier to be built at the


required safety distance. On February 2, 1944, a lump-sum contract was signed for the pier's construction.

Except for the work at Earle, relatively little new ammunition depot construction was started during the second half of 1943. The was mainly attributable to a stabilization of construction volume. The lump-sum form of contract had been re-established and with it the time-lag between design and construction. Although tactical changes and the development of new weapons were beginning to make their demands, and plans for necessary new facilities were under way. the plans had to be complete before construction work could start.

A set of four, barricaded, transfer buildings for Yorktown's assembled mines was started in October. In December, construction began on a booster loading building and TNT reclamation building at Hawthorne. New barracks at Yorktown, Port Chicago, and Mare Island, and small magazine projects at Indian Island and Lake Denmark were also begun during this period of relatively low activity.

Construction in 1944

In 1944, the Allies gained the initiative on all fronts. Since the high tide of Axis aggression in the summer and fall of 1942, defensive strategy had given way to open attack on front after front, and an all-out offensive to break the military power of Germany and Japan clearly lay ahead. Experience gained at the points where the Allies had already waged offensive war dictated the tactics that were to be used.

Experience also dictated the kind and amount of weapons needed, and ammunition depot construction reflected strategic decisions. In the main, those decision called for a much greater ability to supply ammunition to ships of the train so that the magazines of fleet units participating in amphibious operations could be well supplied with the preponderance of metal and high-explosive needed for softening shore objectives. Although the provisions of storage facilities had at last caught up with ammunition production, as a consequence of the huge construction programs begun during 1943, trans-shipment capacity was not great enough on either coast to permit accomplishment of the logistic task ahead. On the Atlantic side, it would be necessary to expand facilities at Earle so that the establishment could also serve the Army's ammunition shipment needs. On the West Coast, a new shipping depot would have to be built at Bangor, Wash., in the Puget Sound area, and a third new depot capable of lighter-loading would need to be established at Seal Beach, near San Pedro, Calif.

The Army's interest in Earle as a point for loading its overseas ammunition was based on the fact that the Army's shipments were taking place at points within the Port of New York, where activities of the scale contemplated to support European action would be too hazardous. In proposing that the installation at Earle be enlarged, with Army funds, the Army cited the need for four deep-water berths, a holding yard for 250 cars, and classification and receiving yards. The Secretary of the Navy agreed to the proposal on February 5, 1944. Design, cost estimates, and construction were handled by the Bureau of Yards and Docks. On February 10, 1944, Navy contracts were let for the construction as outlined, including double-tracking the railroad between the main station and the pier area, building an adjacent road, erecting barracks for additional personnel, and other necessary facilities. The four-berth pier was built as a branch to the Navy pier, joining the main structure at a point where deep water began.

East Coast trans-shipment capacity was given another boost with the award on March 15 of a contract for a new deep-water marginal wharf at St. Juliens Creek. This project had been under scrutiny since May 1943, when it had been considered as an alternative for the proposed installation at Earle. Although the Bureau of Ordnance reduced its estimate of the St. Juliens Creek probable monthly trans-shipment load from 40,000 to 25,000 tons, following the approval of Earle, the commandant at St. Juliens Creek stated that the additional pier would be needed to handle even the reduced tonnage. The Secretary of the Navy approved the enlargement on November 19, 1943.

Technical developments in ordnance items during the war's progress had by this time matured to the manufacturing stage, straining existing production facilities and requiring considerable new construction.

One of the most significant of these developments was in the field of rockets. In November of 1943, the Secretary of the Navy had approved plans to proceed with the construction of additional rocket motor loading facilities, even though full plans and specifications were not yet ready. It was decided


to build two plants each at Hastings and McAlester for the purpose, and one at Cohasset. Contracts for the Cohasset work were let in March, and for the mid-continent plants in April and May.

When the Navy began to load some of its high explosive projectiles with amatol, another situation was created calling for new construction. Secretarial approval for the conversion of the TNT loading plants to amatol loading at five depots was given in July 1943, but higher priorities of other jobs kept the conversions from the construction stage until the spring of 1944. In March, the first conversion work was started at Hawthorne. It was followed by conversions at McAlester, Crane, Hastings, and Yorktown. In general, the conversions consisted of the construction of nitrate-preparation and storage buildings, powdered metal storehouses, and additions to the existing TNT plants.

Explosive "D," in bulk, before it can be loaded must be screened or sifted to rid it of foreign matter. The extent of this operations at many of the depots necessitated the erection of special buildings for the purpose. The first buildings for sifting high explosive "D" were begun at McAlester in February. They were followed by others at St. Juliens Creek, Crane, Mare Island, Iona Island, and Hingham.

When Fallbrook was established in the San Diego-San Pedro area a great gap in West Coast ammunition storage facilities was filled. No longer was it necessary for cars of ammunition to be brought all the way from Hawthorne to supply ships loading at the southern California ports. However, as the tempo of the war rose and shipments out of San Diego and San Pedro mounted, the hazard to nearby naval and commercial installations became excessive. What was needed was a waterside facility that could at least load ships by means of lighters.

Congressional authorization for the project was obtained in January,7 and Seal Beach, a few miles down the coast from San Pedro, was selected as the site of the new establishment. On April 22, the first construction contract, for relocation of the coastal highway and railroad, was let. There quickly followed contracts for dredging a new entrance channel and deepening and widening the existing basin of Anaheim Bay, the construction of jetties, revetments, and dikes, 80 magazines and 18 storehouses, an ammunition wharf, and the necessary utilities and supporting structures.

The act of Congress which established Seal Beach also authorized "ammunition storage and trans-shipment facilities for the Puget Sound area." The new establishment was to relieve the hazards to commercial and industrial establishments in the Puget Sound region as Port Chicago and Earle did in their respective areas.8 A railroad was built to a point on the Hood Canal near Bangor, where a two-berth pier, 38 magazines, 9 storehouses, barricaded sidings, sorting buildings, administration and personnel facilities, and utilities were built. The railroad also served Puget Sound ammunition depot and navy yard, two stations which had not previously been connected with the continent's railroad system. Construction began May 10. In September, a project which included general buildings and an ammunition overhaul building was added to round out the station's first stage of development.

Plans for the development of shipping facilities at Port Chicago called for wharfage space for six Liberty ship berths. Two berths had already been provided by the pier that had been constructed early in 1942. The second stage of the station's development was put under way in February of 1944, when construction was started on an additional two-berth pier, together with approach trestles and a utility building. The construction work was doomed to disaster, however, for in July a commercial ammunition ship berthed at the first pier blew up, destroying all wharfage, existing or under construction.

A new contract was quickly negotiated, calling for the station's rehabilitation. The older pier was abandoned; the partly built pier was reconstructed and completed; and a third pier, also to provide two berths, was begun, supported by approach trestles, loading platforms, auxiliary buildings, and utilities. Later, the function of the destroyed pier was replaced by another pier in a new location.

To expand the berthing capacity of Port Chicago to the extent planned demanded a corresponding increase in the yard trackage, which in a station of that character meant multiplying by several times the mileage of barricaded siding and the number of magazines at the station's disposal. The necessary extension of the barricaded sidings and the addition of magazines, however, was not practicable


Rocket Motor Loading Assembly Buildings, McAlester
Rocket Motor Loading Assembly Buildings, McAlester
Cells of the wing where actual loading took place (left) were provided with individual outside doors
for quick escape of personnel in case of mishap.

in the waterside area where the initial facilities had been built, for that site was restricted and foundation conditions were unsatisfactory. To meet this situation, it was decided that the new depot facilities should be constructed on a new inland site. A 5,000-acre tract, 21/2 miles inland from the ammunition wharves, was acquired, and in August, work was begun on the new structures. In addition to the new barricaded sidings, 168 magazines, 10 inert storehouses, and a number of auxiliary buildings were put under construction. Three highway overpasses and one railroad overpass had to be built to facilitate the operation of the new establishment.

Ammunition storage facilities were augmented slightly in late 1944.A 39-magazine Fallbrook project, which had been recommended by the commandant of the depot a year and a half earlier, was begun in September. The need for the enlargement could be traced to slow delivery (10 to 21 days) from Hawthorne, which had forced Fallbrook to keep a greater supply of ready ammunition that had been planned. In March 1944, the Bureau of Ordnance passed the station commandant's request to the Bureau of Yards and Docks.

By the end of 1944, rocket motor loading was proceeding in a modest manner at the four inland depots and at Cohasset. In December, work began on a large-caliber motor loading plant at Hawthorne, one of the two depots where experimental loading had been carried on at the beginning of the rocket program.

Construction in 1945

As 1945 opened, American materials of war were being rushed to the Pacific fronts in an ever-increasing torrent. Feverishly the Bureau of Yards and Docks was building the shore facilities necessary to accommodate the flow. Work was well under way on the new ammunition trans-shipment depots at Bangor and Seal Beach, and Port Chicago was being expanded far beyond its original plans. New ammunition depot projects in 1945 did not bulk large in comparison to that of earlier war years, but they were well pointed toward the uppermost objective -- moving ammunition to the Pacific.


Gun-Ammunition Area, Seal Beach, Calif.
Gun Ammunition Area, Seal Beach, Calif.

Each of the four great inland depots was provided with more storage capacity. On the West Coast, shipping piers under construction at Port Chicago and Bangor were provided with additional magazines, barricaded sidings, and other supporting facilities. On the production side, the rocket facilities program, initiated primarily in 1944, was making good progress at most stations and little new work was necessary. In some of the new buildings, finished rockets were turned out before the painters and plumbers had left.

In March, work was begun at Bangor on site clearing preparatory to undertaking that station's second stage of development. This was followed in May by a main construction contract which called for 68 magazines, including 54 gun ammunition magazines.

Further development of Port Chicago's new inland storage area was begun in July. Additional barricaded sidings were constructed, sufficient to provide for the 550 ammunition cars needed to bring shore storage facilities into suitable balance with the six Liberty ship berths at waterside. Part of the land for the expansion was already Navy-owned, and the remainder was a 604-acre tract taken by condemnation.

New storage construction at the inland depots began at Hawthorne in March. Work were included 105 magazines and 40 storehouses. In the same month, work was started at Hastings on 126 magazines and 54 storehouses. Next, in May, 127 magazines and 52 storehouses were begun at McAlester, and at Crane two contracts were let to provide 86 magazines and 40 storehouses.

Two small projects initiated in May at eastern coastal depots completed the picture. Twenty earth-covered gun-ammunition magazines and two inert storehouses were included in a Charleston contract. Seven earth-covered gun-ammunition magazines were started at Cohasset.

Most construction initiated during 1945 was still underway when Japan surrendered in August. The only large project to be stopped immediately was Port Chicago's barricaded sidings job. The flow of new ammunition was halted practically at the moment hostilities ceased, so there was no longer any need for a high rate of car-ship transfers.

Construction Problems at the New Depots

Huge projects featured by large numbers of standard structures typified the program of constructing new ammunition depots, and enlarging the older ones too, for that matter. Magazines of several different types, depending upon the character of the material to be stored, storehouses, barricaded sidings, barracks, and relatively simple


production buildings made up much of the construction task. Several unusual structures, such as the 2-mile-long pier at earle, of course, departed from the standard pattern, but in large measure such variety as the program as a whole could show derived principally from differences in location and site conditions.

As in all the Navy's war construction program, temporary facilities were built wherever feasible, except where the station and the facility in question were specifically designated as part of the permanent naval establishment. Magazines, of course,. were necessarily built of masonry, irrespective of the duration of their probable usefulness. High explosive magazines for bulk explosives and high-explosive loaded in thin containers, fuses and detonators, were reinforced-concrete earth-covered arch structures, 256 feet wide and 20, 50, or 80 feet long. For less hazardous but still highly inflammable materials, like smokeless powder, fixed and semi-fixed ammunition, small arms ammunition and loaded projectiles, magazines were of two general types: above-ground and earth-covered. Magazines of the above-ground type, illustrating earlier practice, were built with masonry walls, either of reinforced concrete or brick, with light steel roof trusses supporting a pitched roof of corrugated cement-asbestos. The light roofs were designed to be blown off in the event of an explosion. The earth-covered magazines were built either as three-span multiple arches or as vertical-walled, flat-roofed, reinforced-concrete structures. A large number of experimental triple-beehive magazines was built at McAlester, but not repeated elsewhere. Irrespective of structural type, these magazines provided about 5,000 square feet of useful storage space.

Storehouses for inert materials and buildings to house industrial operations were of masonry when permanent construction was called for; otherwise, of timber frame and composition-board siding. All building design was dictated by the function to be served.

Lighting protection was an important feature of construction at all stations. All metal, including concrete reinforcing, had to be thoroughly grounded in buildings where explosive or inflammable materials were to be stored or handled. Buildings not earth-covered were provided with a primary lightning protection system composed of a number of grounded steel masts interconnected under ground by a heavy wire girdle. The line of masts, typically surrounded the structure to be protected, a few feet outside the building lines, providing an "umbrella of protection."

The Inland Depots

Three great inland ammunition depots were built and the existing Hawthorne depot was vastly expanded during the national defense and war programs. Their primary function was to meet the ammunition needs of large regions of the country rather than to serve local or special functional requirements.

Hawthorne. -- Hawthorne, first of the large inland depots, was ideally situated for practically limitless ammunition storage. The useful area, 140 square miles of gently sloping plain, was hemmed in by mountains to the west, rugged hills on the south and east, and salty Walker Lake to the north. At the end of wartime expansion, magazines, storehouses, production and other buildings, covered 80 square miles. Almost all of Hawthorne's wartime buildings were erected as permanent structures.

Laid out in accordance with the new safety principles learned from the lake denmark disaster, more than 1,100 arch-type high-explosive magazines, 80 small fuse and detonator magazines had been built since 1930. Almost 400 concrete-roof, earth-covered, inflammable materials magazines were constructed to store powder, projectiles, small arms ammunition, and pyrotechnics. In all, 222 inert storehouses were built. Because of the great number of structures to be built according to a standard design, production line methods were applied in construction, through the use of small gangs specializing in individual steps of erection.

Production structures built at the depot included mine filling and assembly facilities, a case ammunition plant, a booster loading building, rocket motor loading, and ammunition overhaul facilities. As the buildings spread out over thousands of acres, it was necessary to increase the facilities serving them. The following approximate quantities of various utilities and services were installed: roads, 535 miles; railroads, 150 miles; fence, 57 miles; telephone lines, 42 miles; fire alarm system, 30 miles; water lines, 55 miles.

Before the water lines were needed for fire protection they were needed for construction, and supplying them was one of the earliest problems. Accordingly, a considerable part of the first defense


Inert Storage Area, Hawthorne
Inert Storage Area, Hawthorne

period contract was devoted to tripling the station's water supply capacity, both from the surrounding hills and from underground sources. The contractor laid new supply lines from two existing dams to the station, drilled five deep wells, and built three elevated tanks. This involved 18 miles of pipe in addition to the 55-mile distribution network.

For electric power, it was necessary to build a 54-miles 3-wire high-tension transmission line from a substation of the power company, over the mountain range west of the depot.

Isolation of Hawthorne's location introduced numerous obstacles to easy expansion. Efficient construction labor was scarce, and material deliveries were uncertain. The one branch-line railroad serving the station was overtaxed by the freighting of both construction and ammunition materials. Moreover, long-distance truck hauling was handicapped by the conditions of mountain driving. As practically no accommodations for construction laborers were available in the territory except the limited facilities of an old CCC camp, seven 10-man barracks had to be built to augment those facilities. A housing program for civilian station personnel was undertaken which ultimately provided 1,225 units, including 300 trailers. This was in addition to provisions which had to be made for naval personnel, of which the largest item was a group of thirteen buildings.

Many of the rails and ties for the station's trackage came from the abandoned Southern Pacific's Promontory line in Utah. This was the original connecting link between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroad lines, where the golden spike was driven in 1869.

Crane. -- Crane Naval Ammunition Depot was established in 1940 to serve the East Coast as Hawthorne was to serve the West. Criteria for the selection of its site were similar to those for the pioneer inland depot, and wartime construction made the two stations practically equivalent in capacity.

In several ways, Crane had a more advantageous location than Hawthorne, and at the same time, it also possessed many of the Nevada station's more desirable features. Crane's 98 square miles permitted the expansion required by the program;


more than half of the area was already owned by the government, and the remainder, being generally non-arable, was acquired at a small cost per acre. As at Hawthorne, Crane development removed little land from agricultural service. Hawthorne's superior isolation and natural security was compensated for at Crane by a greater availability of the basic needs of construction and ammunition depot operation labor, transportation, power, and water. Materials and equipment were easily obtained.

The site, in a rugged, easily eroded district of southwestern Indiana, varied in elevation from 510 to 860 feet above sea level. Sharp ridges, separating alluvial bottomlands, provided natural barricades around which magazines groups could be built. Lake Greenwood, an impounding reservoir developed prior to Navy acquisition, covered 800 acres in the northern part of the station and became the main source of water supply.

Among the more significant items of construction at Crane were 1,054 arch-type magazines, 510 inflammable materials magazines, 167 inert storehouses, 5 torpedo storehouses, 138 miles of railroad, 226 miles of roads, 65 miles of water line, and production facilities for small projectile and flare loading, mine and bomb filling, case preparation, rocket motor assembly, and 20- and 40-mm. ammunition manufacture.

Three ordnance storehouses were constructed, provided with humidity and temperature control. The Bureau of Ordnance had noted that the greatest cause of damage to stored precision instruments was corrosion caused by condensed moisture on precision surfaces. Measures to assure constant temperature and humidity to eliminate this cause of corrosion were considered preferable to immersing the parts in grease preparations.

Late in the program of station development, an extensive program of culvert headwall enlargements had to be undertaken. In all, 3,864 culverts and other drainage structures were improved. The program was necessitated by the extreme conditions of runoff that had been experienced throughout the highly erodible site. Flash floods had caused many washouts, and the repair of drainage structures caused unduly large maintenance costs.

Rock outcroppings occurred in profusion throughout the station's area; one outcropping near the eastern boundary was used as the main source of crushed rock for concrete roads and railroad ballast. It yielded more than 2,000,000 tons of material.

There was no indication of ground water within economically accessible depths, so Lake Greenwood had to be depended upon for construction water. When the project started, the reservoir had been drained for repairs, so all water used during the first few months had to be brought in by tank-car and truck.

As at Hawthorne, standard structures were built by production-line methods. In winter construction of arch-type magazines, much time was gained by the use of canvas shelters during operations on each new unit.

High morale of construction labor was a notable feature at Crane. It was expressed in an unusual manner on a Sunday early in 1942, when 98 percent of all construction personnel, field and office, as well as subcontractors and material suppliers, reported for work and donated the day's pay to the Treasury of the United States to be used in the construction of a projected microfilm storehouse, funds for which had not yet been allocated.

Hastings and McAlester. -- Astride the nation's north-south centerline lie Hastings and McAlester naval ammunition depots, the stations which almost doubled inland ammunition loading and storage facilities. Initiated, authorized, and established at the same time, to provide similar services, their sites appeared superficially to present similar construction problems. Actually, their construction histories are contrasting stories of ease and difficulty. Difficult ground conditions, bad weather, poor labor, and slow material deliveries retarded work at McAlester so as to throw it three months behind schedule. In contrast, an almost total absence of these drawbacks enable the Hastings contractors to meet better deadlines. Perhaps these experiences can be related to the relative costs of the lands acquired. The government paid about $15 an acre for the 70-square mile tract in Oklahoma, while in Nebraska it paid about $57 an acre for 75 square miles.

In what was formerly a farming and grazing area, the Oklahoma depot was established 5 miles southwest of the town of McAlester. Two railroads served the site, one touching the northern boundary, and the other running along the southeast side. Highway connections were good. The terrain was rolling, with low ridges varying in elevation from 700 to 800 above sea level; shale and limestone


outcropped on the ridges. The lower areas, where most of the structures were located, were of poorly drained clay overlaid by an unstable sandy loam. When the Navy went in, about twenty percent of the area had been farmed. The remainder was prairie, used for pasture. Scrub tree growth was a general feature, all merchantable timber having been cut.

Work began on the McAlester construction in July 1942. Unstable and wet ground conditions were the principal retardant. Wet or dry, the overburden would not support heavy equipment, so the first step in site preparation had to be the removal of the surface material with draglines. When it rained, the impervious material beneath became unmanageable. Artificial draining partly relieved the condition in the worst places, but again draglines were the ultimate answer.

As on many projects, abnormal weather caused costly delay. A four-day storm, beginning May 7, 1943, piled up 13 inches of rainfall. The resulting floods not only washed out construction operations at the depot, but interrupted rail service for weeks, stopping material deliveries. Thirty days of delay were definitely assignable to that one cause.

The quality of common labor available was poor, and shortages existed during the early months in most of the skilled trades. There were not enough bricklayers available to permit exploiting the one locally plentiful building material. Hence, many buildings for which brick could properly have been used had to be built of concrete. At the job's peak, 15,000 workmen were employed, coming as far as 300 miles. To accommodate them, a 1,200-man barracks group, a trailer camp, and a cafeteria were provided.

Ground water was not available on the site, so six small impounding reservoirs were built to dam the flow of some small streams. Initial construction water needs were met by importation of water in tanks cars.

Construction of the connecting railroad between the existing rail lines at the north and southeast boundaries of the station was the first job to be done. The inadequate existing roads were then extended by a 50-miles network of temporary roads. These facilities were ultimately expanded into permanent networks of 121 miles of railroad and 230 miles of highway.

Excavation for the roads, railroads, and buildings accounted for 20,000,000 cubic yards of earthwork, much of which had to be moved without the help of the more economical types of machinery. The overburden, generally 30 inches thick, had to be stripped to expose usable foundation material, and this overburden, once moved, could not be used for fill.

The station water supply was developed by the construction on Peaceable Creek, in the northern part of the station, of a dam which created a 600-acre reservoir. A water treatment plant was built, capable of serving a population of 6,000. The sewage treatment plant was designed for a population of 3,600, but was capable of being overloaded to an equivalent of 6,000. Effluent was discharged into Peaceable Creek below the water-supply dam.

The similarity of the McAlester and Hastings sites existed only in terms of general appearance. Both were devoid of heavy growth. Otherwise, the site characteristics were quite different.

Elevations at Hastings varied from 1,800 to 1,970 feet, with a variation of 5 to 10 feet from hilltop to bottom of draw. Soil was a loess deposit of silt and sandy or silty loam. There was no rock in the area, and the water table lay 70 feet below the surface.

Abut 2 miles east of the city of Hastings, the land was well suited to economical construction and was strategically situated with respect to transportation, having access to three major railroads, two of them transcontinental, and a major concrete highway. The 76-square-mile tract was in the shape of a triangle, bounded on the north by U.S Highway No. 6, and on the southwest by the Union Pacific Railroad.

Construction labor was drawn from as far away as 500 miles, and to provide housing a 1,200-man construction camp was built. In addition, 1,560 housing units for operating personnel were built in and around Hastings by various governmental agencies.

Field work at Hastings was begun on July 31, 1942. With the network of section-line roads available at the outset, provision of additional construction access roads was a comparatively minor item; railroads were built as near as possible to their final location. Scrapers prepared building sites. Trenches for foundations and utilities were dug primarily by traction ditchers and backhoes. The underlying loess was an excellent foundation and compacted well when used as fill. Because of its uniform depth below the surface, it could be


Bomb and Mine Loading Plant, McAlester
Bomb and Mine Loading Plant, McAlester
Stop boards were set at intervals on barricades and magazines to prevent erosion of earth fill.

reached for borrow purpose at any place within the construction area. Even in winter, the loess was easily made available by using rooters to break up the frozen overburden.

As at other large ammunition depots, great numbers of typical structures lent themselves well to production-line methods of construction. Prefabrication of forms, wood trusses, structural and reinforcing steel, and sheet-metal work took place in central shops. Specialist gangs were organized to perform successive operations, such as erecting winter protection, placing foundation forms, pouring foundation, placing superstructures forms, and the like. Three heated-concrete batching plants served transit-mix trucks. The effectiveness of the program is illustrated by the fact that in each of the peak building months, the schedule of 70,000 cubic yards of concrete to be poured per month was equalled or exceeded. In the high-explosive area, six to eight magazines were completed daily.

More than 1,500 structures, including magazines, storehouses, production and industrial buildings, were constructed at Hastings, and 227 miles of highways and 115 miles of railroads were built. McAlester statistics were similar. The 13,000,000 cubic yards of earthwork, though a vast amount, did not approach McAlester's 20,000,000 cubic yards.

The Shipping Depots

As ammunition needs in far-distant forward areas rose during the war to mountainous proportions, the Navy was faced with a problem that was essentially new to it. The ordinary coastal depot was designed primarily to serve the ammunition needs of nearby naval establishments and was quite unable to handle an export shipment problem of such magnitude. Existing commercial shipping facilities were pressed into service, but the hazards presented to commercial ports by the operation of loading ammunition ships called for a different solution. The answer was found in the construction of four new naval establishments specializing in the overseas shipment of ammunition, located at relatively isolated points, one of the East Coast and three on the West.

Port Chicago. -- The first such station to be added to the Navy's shore establishment was the Port Chicago


Naval Magazine. For some time before Pearl Harbor, the Twelfth Naval District had been considering sites for a waterside station which would relieve the pressure on Mare Island Naval Ammunition Depot and remove the hazards of ammunition trans-shipment from urban areas in and around San Francisco. On December 10, 1941, a board of district officers recommended to the Navy Department the construction of a naval magazine at Port Chicago, to be operated by the Mare Island depot. While the only immediate needs was a shipping depot for high explosives, eventual transfer of all ammunition activities from Mare Island to Port Chicago was contemplated by the report.

The site chosen was on the south shore of Suisun Bay, 10 miles farther from the sea than Mare Island. Its 640 mainland acres were mostly salt marsh lying between the northern end of the Mt. Diablo Range and tidewater. An 8-foot tide, plus the flow of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers, kept the channel alongside clear for deep-draft vessels.

Early development at Port Chicago included a pier, inert storehouses, a personnel area, and an extensive system of barricaded sidings, some of the barricades containing high-explosive magazines. Buildings outside the high-explosive area were of temporary construction.

As filling operations progressed, the pier and roads and railroads were built and the old roads, railroads, and utilities were rehabilitated. Barricades and magazines were supported by wood piles, but the temporary structures were built on spread footings. Subsidence of spread footings on new fill, however, was so bad in the inert-storage area that it was necessary to abandon construction of one storehouse. As much as three feet of subsidence occurred in some of those which were built, entailing considerable extra work. Although part of the subsidence could have been attributed to the settlement of new fill, much of it was caused by displacement of the unstable material beneath. This was borne out by the fact that the level of unfilled areas adjacent to reclaimed ground rose as borrow was deposited.

Port Chicago's combination magazines and railroad-siding barricades were unique in ammunition depot construction. Five explosive magazines, 17 feet by 25 feet in plan, were built into the fill of each of ten barricades. Headwalls, doors and small platforms were made part of the retaining walls facing the siding tracks. Magazine earthfills appear as blisters in the normally straight embankment outside the retaining walls.

In mid-1944, when it was decided to provide a total of six ship-loading berths and to open up the new inland area, Port Chicago's tidewater area had been developed about to its limit, as far as shore construction was concerned.

Forty barricaded sidings provided more than 250 protected ammunition car settings, plus the small storage spaces previously mentioned. Other storage space was for inert materials, nine 50-by-200-foot buildings having been provided for that purpose. Fifteen temporary barracks with their associated facilities, administration and shop buildings completed the development.

When the explosion occurred in July 1944, a barge pier and the original two-berth Wharf No. 1 were in operation. Under construction was the second two-berth marginal wharf and the Navy was acquiring more land farther east along the shore for another marginal wharf. The explosion ruined Pier No. 1 and the construction under way on Pier No. 2, but it did not alter the Navy's intention to provide three two-berth piers. Pier No. 2 was completed, No. 3 was built as planned, and No. 4 was built at a new location, east of 2 and 3, to replace the function of No. 1.

There was not room in the tidewater area for the shore facilities necessary to back up a second and third pier, so an inland tract was acquired.

About half the terrain of the inland area was flat lowland, and half, foothill. An existing railroad connecting the town of Port Chicago with a cement plant back in the hills, ran along at the toe of the slope. It was improved and adapted to station use, serving as the backbone route of the transportation system.

As developed at the time of victory over Japan, the area included 75 high-explosive magazines, located in the hills, a group of 93 gun-ammunition magazines on the flat land, and 30 barricaded sidings built along the dividing railroad. Under construction were additional barricaded sidings to accommodate 550 ammunition cars, a project that was curtailed to accommodate 55 cars shortly after V-J Day. As Port Chicago had been designated a permanent unit of the shore establishment, all building construction at the inland area was permanent.

At the waterfront site, the principal deterrent to


Triple-arch Gun-ammunition Magazines, McAlester
Triple-arch Gun-ammunition Magazines, McAlester
Construction of rail sidings to the magazines was simplified by locating the buildings at an oblique to the main track.

speedy construction was the unstable and marshy nature of the ground. Mostly inundated at high tide, the area was formed by a deposit of silt and decayed marsh vegetation extending in some places to a depth of 75 feet. This area had been subsiding gradually for ages, building up layer upon layer of march grass to catch silt at each high tide. As the material which might have been pumped in from the Bay was of the same nature, it was necessary to reclaim the land with earth borrowed from the nearby hills. Ultimately, 1,235,000 cubic yards were used for that purpose.

The inland area, on the other hand, was well adapted to heavy construction. Foundation conditions were good, and earthwork was not difficult.

A minor site problem was posed by existing public roads and railroads at both sites. To build the private road and the railroad connecting the two areas, it was necessary first to cross over the two railroads and the highway paralleling the Sacramento River inland from the tidewater area. Two public highways crossing the inland area were to be kept in service, so overpasses were built at the two points where these roads crossed the station's backbone rail and road.

Earle. -- Earle Naval Ammunition Depot was the second shipping facility. It was undertaken in the middle of 1943, when the construction of a large ammunition shipping depot in the New York area became a Navy "must." Site criteria required that the area selected have adequate commercial rail connections, and be within reasonable distance of the Port of New York and yet where there would be no danger to bridges, tunnels, industrial activities, or the ship channels serving New York. This fixed the pier location in New Jersey on Sandy Hook Bay. The nearest practicable storage area, however, was a wooded swampy tract about 12 miles inland, about equidistant from Red Bank, Asbury Park, and Freehold. The main station area occupied 8,419 acres. A Navy-built Army in-transit railroad yard, the right-of-way to the Bay, and a pier area added 2,651 acres.

The wharfage built at Earle comprised a two-berth wharf for Navy use, a four-berth wharf for Army use, both located in deep water and connected to the shore by a 2-mile-long pier, and a barge wharf for Navy use in shallower water at about the middle of the long pier. A 400-foot-wide channel was dredged from the ship wharves to Bayside Channel. The long trestle was 34 feet wide, providing width enough for two railroad tracks and one truck lane, and was built with a reinforced-concrete deck connected ashore to a railroad yard comprising 10 five-car barricaded sidings and by a double-track line to the storage area 12 miles inland, where 62 more barricaded sidings were built. Because of its favorable location and up-to-date


Fuse and Detonator Magazines, New Orleans Ammunition Depot
Fuse and Detonator Magazines, New Orleans Ammunition Depot

layout potentialities, Earle was designated a permanent unit in the shore establishment, and construction was conducted accordingly. Limitations calling for temporary design were waived. This permitted the building of fire-resistant structures for most of the inert storehouses, personnel, administration, and service buildings. In the earlier stages of Earle's development these structures were built with brick bearing walls, concrete decks, wood roof-trusses, and tile interior walls. Later personnel buildings were of wood frame with brick veneer and plaster-board walls. Part of the barracks buildings had waterproofed concrete-block walls with wood decks and roofs.

The station's site was mostly swamp and covered with underbrush, a condition which caused many construction difficulties. Even before proper access roads could be built, it was necessary to carry out extensive drainage operations, and much clearing and stripping were required to prepare the magazine areas for construction. At this point, another undesirable condition came to light. The subsoil was so highly erodible that after every rainstorm roadside ditches silted seriously in all areas where the overlying layer of humus had been removed. It was extremely difficult to keep earthfill on the magazines. This resulted in elaborate attempts to control erosion. including bituminous treatment, sodding, and check weirs.

In October 1942, the month work was started, the rainfall was extremely heavy. On October 25, a severe storm resulted in the loss of floating equipment used for waterside construction and abnormally wet conditions in the depot's magazine area, which was not yet provided with artificial drainage. After that, work on the pier and on the magazines slowed alarmingly and the contractor apparently was unable to overcome the difficulties encountered. To meet committed completion dates, the Bureau of Yards and Docks in January terminated the pier and magazines contracts, which had been let on a lump-sum basis, and negotiated a new CPFF contract.


One of the first moves made by the new contractor was to drain the swamps, thus clearing the way for rapid magazine construction.

In February 1944, the second phase of construction at Earle began with award of lump-sum contracts for the four-berth Army wharf, the Army in-transit railroad yard, double-tracking the railroad to the pier, and additional personnel structures. As the days lengthened and grew warmer, work hit its stride. In mid-spring as many as 6,000 construction workers were employed. Work was substantially completed by June 1.

At the end of the main development program, the magazine area included 144 single-arch high-explosive magazines, 52 earth-covered triple-arch gun ammunition magazines, 26 fuse and detonator magazines, and 8 black powder magazines. Other facilities included 20 storehouses, 62 five-car barricaded sidings, 160 miles of roads, 126 miles of railroads, the long pier, and barracks for 4,500 men.

Seal Beach. -- Seal Beach Naval Ammunition and Net Depot occupied a 71/2-square-mile area, in Orange Country, Calif., on the coast just southeast of the cities of Long Beach and Seal Beach. Having about a mile of waterfront, it fanned out inland over an area which was tidal marsh only partly reclaimed and coastal plain formerly used for agriculture.

Construction, which took place almost entirely in 1944, provided a waterfront area for trans-shipment to barges, an industrial area which included a large net warehouse and the usual ammunition depot shops, an administration area with permanent and temporary barracks, an inter storage area, an ammunition overhaul area, a high-explosive area, a gun ammunition area, a classification and segregation area, and a barricaded-siding area.

The first construction move was to relocate the oceanside highway and electric railroad back from the shore to make room for a marginal barge wharf. To protect loading operations from the sea, an outer and an inner harbor were formed by the construction of rock-fill jetties. Rail and highway connection from the waterfront area to the remainder of the station was obtained by construction of a grade separation at the point where the station routes crossed the new public routes.

The 1,000-foot marginal wharf was built to serve as both a net wharf and an ammunition wharf. An L-shaped barricade was constructed along the landward wide and around the end of the ammunition portion of the wharf.

Most of the depot was built on solid ground and presented no foundation or other site problem to the contractor. However, a tide-marsh inlet had to be filled hydraulically at certain points where structures were to be erected. Settlement of the fill was slow. In the waterfront area, a heavy additional fill of crushed rock was added to hasten stabilization; in the area inland from the coastal highway, building sites on solid ground were chosen. Underground utilities in the unstable fill were supported by a series of light timber H-shaped bents.

Construction labor was difficult to obtain at Seal Beach, because of intense local competition for men. As at many other new naval installations in both congested and isolated places, it was necessary to import labor from distant areas.

As developed for full service in early 1945, Seal Beach had 80 magazines, 40 five-car barricaded sidings, 21 inert storehouses, and 5 barracks, plus the service, administration, and other buildings necessary to accomplish the station functions.

Bangor.-Bangor Naval Magazine was built on a rugged 585-acre tract on the eastern shore of the Hood Canal, a natural inlet of Puget Sound. As developed during 1944, the station consisted of a two-berth marginal wharf, which was the focal point of its activity, 41 five-car barricaded sidings, a 250-car classification yard, 39 magazines, 9 storehouses, a transfer and segregation group of buildings, four permanent and one temporary barracks, and administration and shop buildings. Construction in 1945 added 68 more magazines.

The most notable feature of the Bangor construction took place outside the station proper. The nearest point to the depot on the continental railroad system was at Shelton, Wash., 45 miles to the south, and it was necessary to build a new line from that point to serve the station. Construction of this line also furnished an opportunity to provide land rail service to the previously isolated Puget Sound depot. This entailed construction of an additional 1.4 miles of track. Another spur, 4.6 miles long, was built to serve the navy yard at Bremerton.

Local-Service Depots

In addition to the great inland depots built to serve the ammunition needs of wide areas, and the trans-shipment depots specializing an ammunition


Mine Assembly Building, Mare Island Ammunition Depot
Mine Assembly Building, Mare Island Ammunition Depot
Note size of barricade.

export, the Navy built five new stations that were similar in character and function to the ammunition depots that existed in earlier times. Two of the new local-service depots were located on the East Coast, at Cohasset, Mass., and at Charleston, S.C., one on the Gulf Coast, at New Orleans, and two were on the West Coast, at Fallbrook, Calif., and at Indian Island, Wash.

Cohasset. -- The site chosen for the Cohasset Naval Magazine contained 3,744 acres and was situated inland about 21/2 miles southeast of the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot. The new station was operated under the administrative supervision of Hingham and became a major storage point for ammunition along the North Atlantic coast.

Presenting many obstacles to construction, Cohasset's terrain was rough and wild, consisting mostly of small granite hills, with large deep swamps between. Like most other areas taken for ammunition storage, the site contained only a small amount of arable land; it had been used largely for hunting and recreation.

Construction at Cohasset included 86 earth-covered arch-type magazines, 23 earth-covered 50-by-100-foot smokeless powder and projectile magazines, barricaded sidings for 140 cars, a mine assembly facility, and barracks. Magazines could not be built in the swamps, but it frequently became necessary because of minimum inter-building distance regulations to locate them at the edges, where the overburden of muck had to be removed to rock at one side of the structure and space had to be blasted out of the rock to provide a proper foundation for the other side. Because of the uneven ground, some of the foundation walls had to be 14 feet high. Although roads and railroads were laid out to avoid the swamps and sharp rock outcroppings


as much as possible, a substantial amount of rock excavation was necessary, even when the engineers increased the maximum permissible highway grades from three to five percent.

In the swamps, the contractor had to remove the peat muck down to firm bearing material and then to fill up to subgrade with good material. As borrow pits were not usually close by, transportation ran up the cost of such fill.

On the other hand, labor was plentiful and competent, materials deliveries were reliable, and the contractor was well equipped to handle a big job.

Charleston. -- Situated about 5 miles up the navigable Cooper River from the Charleston Navy Yard, the Charleston Naval Ammunition Depot covered 10 square miles of woods, small lakes, and marshland. Its site, bounded by water on two sides, was sparsely populated prior to Navy occupation. Shortly after the beginning of 1941, the contractor began draining lakes on the site and building the rail connection to the nearby Seaboard Air-Line Railway. When construction under the first authorization was complete in February 1942, 23 arch-type magazines, 10 fixed ammunition and shell houses, 7 fuse and detonator magazines, one 50-by-200-foot inert storehouse, one warhead magazine, and one black powder magazine had been built. In 1942 and 1943, additional contracts added 37 arch-type magazines, 20 fixed ammunition and shell houses, 7 fuse and detonator magazines, inert storehouses, and one black powder magazine. The United States Engineers dredged a turning basin and a 30-foot channel to serve the ammunition depot pier constructed under the first contract.

Construction in the early stages of the station's development was slowed by adverse weather conditions and by the difficulty of obtaining enough earthmoving equipment. In June and July 1941, a two-month period for which the normal rainfall for that area is about 10 inches, 37 inches fell. The roads leading to the station became impassable, and it was necessary to transport construction personnel by rail. The earthmoving equipment problem so seriously slowed building of station roads that they were of limited use for construction access.

New Orleans. -- On a point formed by a great bend in the Mississippi, 12 miles southeast of New Orleans, the ammunition depot was built. Roughly 5 miles long and a mile wide, extending in an east-west direction, with the river on its south and east sides, the site was a long-abandoned sugar plantation, ranging in elevation from 10 feet above to a few feet below mean Gulf level. It was protected by a levee, but at the time of acquisition was poorly drained by a disused system of canals leading to a distant central pumping station. A heavy growth of pine and cypress, with dense underbrush, covered the area.

On this site there were built 64 magazines, 3 inert storehouses, administration, service, and personnel structures, and a 410-foot-long marginal wharf, together with the roads and railroad trackage necessary. River water was treated for domestic use; raw sewage was pumped into the river. Drainage of the area was reestablished by clearing the canals and by overhauling the old pumping station.

Investigation of the site led to the conclusion that wood pile foundation should be used for all permanent structures, and reinforced spread footings for frame buildings. The undisturbed earth, it was found, would carry no more than 1,000 pounds per square foot, so all magazine and storehouse floors were of reinforced-concrete beam-and-slab construction, supported by concrete caps on the timber piles. The floor slabs of projectile magazines, designed to accommodate 2,000-pound-per-square-foot load, acted as continuous caps over piles spaced 38 inches each way.

Originally it was intended that the wharf should be of fireproof construction, but when concrete test-piles were driven, their use was found to be impracticable. Thereupon, the Bureau of Ordnance agreed to the construction of a timber wharf. Spliced and treated 90-foot piles carried a treated-timber deck which was 21 feet above mean Gulf level, roughly at the height of the levee. The pier was designed to carry a locomotive crane and loaded freight cars.

Fallbrook. -- Santa Margarita ranch, one of the early Spanish land grants in southern California, was the site chosen for the new Fallbrook Naval Ammunition Depot, and a 9,322-acre tract was bought by the Navy in 1941 for the purpose. The site was rugged, varying in elevation from 100 to 900 feet and was characterized by rocky heights and alluvial bottomlands. Twenty miles from the seacoast, it was connected by rail and highway to San Diego, 53 miles south, and San Pedro, 90 miles northwest.

The primary purpose of the station was to store ammunition to serve the naval establishments on


Bag-filling Building, Seal Beach Ammunition Depot
Bag-filling Building, Seal Beach Ammunition Depot
Corrugated asbestos-cement and a steel frame were utilized in this construction.

the southern California coast. The facilities constructed included 163 magazines, barracks, administration and service buildings, 16 miles of railroad, and 115 miles of roads and trails.

The soil was a combination of disintegrated granite, wind-blown dust, and humus, which when wet, was soft and difficult to drain. Because of this, provision for the drainage of fills became an important item in the station's construction. The rough terrain introduced certain construction difficulties; access to most building sites was necessarily over circuitous routes with heavy grades. Machine excavation was generally feasible, however, in connection with both roads and buildings, as it was possible to avoid most rock outcroppings and to keep drilling and blasting to a minimum.

Forms for concrete were fabricated in a central shop. A batch plant was set up on the station to serve transit-mix concrete trucks and dry-batch trucks. Transit-mixed concrete was used where it could be chuted directly to forms. Where it was necessary to hoist concrete, a portable mixer and hoist were used.

Indian Island. -- In 1937, a small amount of high-explosive storage had been provided for the Puget Sound area by construction of 105 tiny igloos at the Puget Sound Naval Ammunition Depot. The group covered only 7 acres of an unused station area. These small magazines were considered inadequate to supply the national defense program even in its earliest phase, and the need for adequate high-explosive storage facilities was answered quickly by the authorization in 1940 of Indian Island Naval Magazine, to be operated under the administrative supervision of the Puget Sound depot.

The 2,716-acre island site chosen was a few miles south of the point where Puget Sound's maze opens westward into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The terrain was hilly, with bluffs at the northern end sloping to beaches at the south. When acquired by the Navy, it was covered with brush and second-growth


timber. The few residents of the island were mostly fishermen and clam diggers.

Under the original authorization, 25 magazines for high explosives, piers, utilities, and roads, and administration, personnel, and service buildings were constructed. Subsequent work more than tripled the high-explosive storage capacity and added a mine assembly plant and personnel structures. No rail service was provided for the island.

To facilitate the transportation of men and materials for construction across the Sound, temporary piers and ferry slips were built both on the mainland and on the island. Power and telephone lines were constructed throughout the area, and connected to existing services at the south end of the island. Shallow wells were used for water until a permanent system of wells was built for the station.

Because of the isolated character of the construction site it was necessary to provide complete shop and repair facilities for construction equipment. A central concrete mixing plant was set up to handle general construction, and mobile mixers were used at sites, such as those for magazine groups, where there was sufficient work to warrant an independent unit.

Miscellaneous Ordnance Facilities

Washington, D.C. -- On December 1, 1945, the Washington Navy Yard, which had been established as such on March 17, 1800, was redesignated the Navy Gun Factory. Even before World War I, the main function of the yard had become the manufacture of guns for the Navy. Construction in World War II began in 1939 with the building of a gun assembly shop and an ordnance storehouse, and in the period which followed, buildings constructed and equipped included two shops, five storehouses, an administration building, a laboratory, a magazine, a mine building, and various miscellaneous structures.

White Oak, Md. -- Also at the Washington Navy Yard since World War I, was the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, which had been established in connection with the Navy's famous North Sea mine barrage. Its original facilities consisted of a small building and test tank. During World War II, with its problem of the aircraft-laid magnetic mine, the laboratory utilized every available space in the yard, but it soon became obvious that adequate physical expansion was impossible. Early in 1944, authorization and funds for the construction of a new naval ordnance laboratory were obtained and work was immediately begun on a 938-acre tract at White Oak, Md. Scheduled for completion by the fall of 1946, the plant was planned to consist of about fifty permanent buildings, including the main administration and laboratory building, a test laboratory, a magnetic group, wind tunnel, ballistics and explosive groups, shops, barracks, and concomitant service structures.

An interesting construction feature was the use of movable steel partitions to permit rapid change of laboratory room sizes. Partitions were prefabricated in sections, and provision was made for their placement at 11-foot intervals. All were of ceiling height and were made soundproof.

Dahlgren, Va. -- The Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren, Va., which also had been established in World War I, was greatly expanded during the construction period which began in 1940. An additional 3,500 acres were acquired, and a laboratory, 14 magazines, 5 shops, 94 quarters, a loading house, a dispensary, a storehouse, and more than three score miscellaneous buildings were constructed and equipped, and 23 miles of single-track railroad were laid to connect the station with the main line at Fredericksburg, Va.

Indian Head, Md. -- Some expansion also took place at the Naval Powder Factory at Indian Head, Md., some 450 buildings being constructed, 286 of them defense housing.

Stump Neck, Md. -- A Naval Ordnance Investigation Laboratory was built on 1500 acres of land at Stump Neck, Md., across Mattawoman Creek from the powder factory. It was equipped with laboratories, magazines, storehouses, and all appurtenant buildings.

Pocatello, Idaho. -- The naval ordnance plant at Pocatello, Idaho, was established April 1, 1942, on a level tract of 211 acres, approximately 3 miles north of the town of Pocatello. The site was selected when it was decided that a gun relining shop to serve the West Coast navy yards should be located east of the Coast Range.

Construction was begun in the spring of 1942 and continued throughout 1943, with some portions of the plant in usable condition by the middle of the year. The station was commissioned August 2, 1943.

The principal buildings constructed during that period were the big gun shop, 352 by 840 feet and 74 feet high, capable of relining the biggest guns of the fleet, the small gun shop, and an ordnance


storehouse, together with the quarters, shops, and other facilities required for the efficient operation of the station. Later, a proof shop was added.

Still later, the scope of the plant was increased by the construction of three heavy materials storehouses, each 352 by 605 feet, for the storage of guns and gun mounts. Each building was completely equipped with compressed air and electric power in several voltages, for use in exercising the gun mounts while in storage.

Altogether, 50 buildings were erected on the station, all except a few of them being of permanent construction.

Worthy of special mention was the construction of two furnace pits in the big gun shop. These pits, 44 feet in diameter and 86 feet deep, were constructed by sinking open caissons. The walls were of reinforced concrete. The big gun shop was also equipped with a 250-ton bridge crane, with an 83-foot span, the top of the crane rail being 45 feet above the floor.

Late in the fall of 1942, construction was started on the naval proving ground, to be used for proof-firing of guns reconditioned at Pocatello. The site selected was at Arco, 60 miles northwest of Pocatello, on a tract of 173,131 acres of comparatively level terrain. In addition to the gun emplacements and gun storage area, there were constructed 27 permanent buildings, including quarters for operating personnel, an administration building, warehouses, maintenance shops, and magazines for the storage of powder required for proof purposes.

Work at Arco was substantially complete by the late summer of 1943, and the station was commissioned August 2nd.

Montauk, N.Y. -- The Naval Torpedo Test Range was established March 27, 1943, at Montauk, N.Y., on a tract of land approximately 156 acres in extent at the eastern end of Long Island, on Fort Pond Bay.

The first construction contract was awarded December 21, 1942, and construction began soon thereafter. Temporary operating facilities were available April 19, 1943, and all work on the station was completed by April 30, 1944.

Several buildings, including a resort hotel, were leased and altered to provide quarters and other services. Facilities constructed included a torpedo overhaul shop, torpedo storehouse, a hangar, and seaplane ramp, additional quarters, and miscellaneous structures. A total of 70 buildings was constructed or altered at a cost of more than $7,000,000. New construction was of a temporary type, using, primarily, concrete foundations, concrete-block walls, and roll, or built-up, roofing.

Montauk was disestablished as a torpedo test range March 1, 1945, and re-established as a naval magazine on the same date.

Inyokern, Calif. -- Late in 1943, a naval ordnance test station was established in the Mojave Desert, 150 miles east of Los Angeles, where 750,000 acres of uninhabited land, remote from towns, offered excellent opportunities for the development and testing of new types of rocket projectiles. The site also afforded satisfactory year-round weather conditions. This very isolation, however, had a direct relation upon the amount of construction required, for not only was it necessary to build the station as such, but, in addition, complete community facilities for station and construction personnel had to be established. Also, its distance from large centers made it unattractive to labor, which was one of the main factors affecting progress of construction. Not only was the labor quantity low most of the time, but the quality also was not up to standard, with resulting high turnover. Labor difficulties were somewhat alleviated by the construction of a suitable labor camp, including barracks, commissary, and community mess facilities for construction workers.

In the earlier phases of the construction program, delivery of materials was also slow.

The station was established to provide for the research, development, and testing of new weapons. It also provided primary training in the use of the weapons developed. Projects were planned by the Bureau of Ordnance, assisted by various scientific groups, for both research and development.

The facilities were designed and developed jointly by the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Bureau of Ordnance, and the California Institute of Technology. The pioneering scientific character of the project and the rigid requirements demanded by the scientists for many aspects of the work added greatly to the difficulties of design.

Constructed facilities included buildings, magazines, transfer docks, railroads, roads, power lines, sewerage and water systems, also the installation of launching devices in the various test areas, including targets, observation towers, and other pertinent facilities. Certain phases of the work required the development of an airfield with necessary


Bag-Sewing Building, Seal Beach
Bag-sewing Building, Seal Beach
This reinforced-concrete, bag-sewing building was built as part of the ammunition overhaul group.

runways, hangars, and miscellaneous buildings, together with extensive improvements and developments to Harvey Field airport, outside the station. A large research laboratory and shop building, intended primarily for basic and applied research activities in connection with fire control, rockets, including all components thereof, guided missiles, torpedoes, and other similar weapons, was included in the project.

Barracks, officers' quarters, and some 1,500 houses for civilian and service personnel, complete with roads, sidewalks, power, sewers, and water supply, were developed. These were supplemented with schools, recreation and shopping centers, and other facilities deemed necessary for the welfare of the station personnel.

The accumulated value of the work accomplished at Inyokern was approximately $82,000,000 by June 1946.

Shumaker, Ark. -- Late in 1944, the Navy took over 70,000 acres of land at Shumaker, Ark., for the construction of a naval ordnance plant. Facilities constructed at this location included magazines, warehouses, production and assembly buildings, railroads, roads, and the necessary industrial, subsistence, and housing facilities, at an overall cost of approximately $95,000,000.

At the time of construction, the Shumaker facilities were urgently needed, particularly for the large-scale production of rockets. Construction of these facilities was particularly difficult for several reasons. First, although good bearing material was present at a reasonable depth below the surface, the top three or four feet was a soft muck requiring the installation of extensive drainage facilities. Second, the urgency for producing rockets required the immediate construction of production buildings before roads were constructed and before the land could be adequately drained. Third, design and construction had to be started simultaneously and no rocket production facilities of comparable scope had previously been designed.

In spite of the many construction difficulties encountered, however, the plant was completed sufficiently in time to produce the vitally needed rockets.


Table of Contents
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1. House Document 199, 70th Cong., p. 5, "Ammunition storage conditions."

2. Hearings, First Sup; Nat. Def. App. Act, 1940.

3. Hearings, Second Sup. Nat. Def. App. Act, 1940.

4. Second Sup. Nat. Def. App. Act, 1940.

5. Fifth Sup. Nat. Def. App. Act, 1941.

6. Second Def. App. Act, 1941.

7. Pubic 224, 78th Congress, Passed 28 July 1944.

8. Senator Walsh's report, No. 621, 78th Congress.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation