1940's Depot History

In 1941, the War Department laid plans for 12 large, new Ordnance Depots to control the oncoming deluge of war materiel. Letterkenny Township was chosen due to its proximity. It was a safe, yet convenient distance from the eastern seaboard and Washington, D.C. with land well suited for ammunition storage. It had good rail facilities, nearby power and water, and another great resource, people, who historically had shown great courage and perseverance.

Public outcry ensued as prime agricultural land would be lost and 1,000 residents would be displaced if the land were acquired for a depot. Formal objections abated quickly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and people began to support the World War II effort. On December 18, 1941, The Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, issued the directive to acquire 21,000 acres in Letterkenny Township for an Ordnance Depot. Letterkenny’s mission would be to reduce the surplus of forthcoming war materiel and to store and ship ammunition, trucks, parts and other supplies.

Construction began immediately with 798 underground igloos, 12 above-ground magazines and 17 warehouses. Later, in 1956, an additional 104 igloos were constructed bringing the total to 902. At the beginning, a large number of buildings were remodeled farmhouses, barns and chicken houses.

Colonel J.K. Clement became the first Depot Commander on July 17, 1942. Under his leadership, the first shipment of ammunition arrived by train on September 23, 1942, three weeks ahead of schedule. More than three million tons of supplies were moved during the war years. As men were called to service, staffing problems became acute. The Depot drained the countryside of manpower needed for agriculture. Women, Commandos, Minute Men, even Italian prisoners of war filled the jobs. Regular employees worked seven days a week and blitzes were common. With ingenuity and devotion, the Letterkenny workforce completed seemingly impossible tasks to keep ordnance materiel flowing constantly to 70 theaters of war. Letterkenny was one of the largest depots of its kind and was called the Springboard of Invasion in 1944.