Hawthorne Army Depot


Hawthorne Army Depot

The Hawthorne Army Depot is a huge U.S. Army ammunition storage site located near the town of Hawthorne in western Nevada in the United States. It is directly south of Walker Lake. The depot covers 147,000 acres (595 km²), and has 600,000 square feet (55,700 m²) of floor space in 2,427 storage bunkers. It is said to be the largest such facility in the world.

The Hawthorne Army Depot stores reserve munitions to be used after the first 30 days of a major conflict. As such, it is only partially staffed during peacetime, but provision has been made to rapidly expand staffing as necessary. The depot is run by an independent contractor under an agreement with the government.

In May 2005, the facility was included on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list, with closure being recommended. However, the depot was subsequently dropped from the BRAC list primarily due to the bases training capability in support of pre-deployment training for OEF-bound Marine Corps units (by MWTC), Navy, and Army SOF.

In 1998-1999, the facility was used to destroy the U.S. stockpile of M687 chemical artillery shells and separate from them their 505 tons (458 metric tons) of binary precursor chemicals.

History

The depot began its existence as the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD). It was established after a major disaster occurred at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Lake Denmark, New Jersey, in 1926. The accident virtually destroyed the depot, causing heavy damage to adjacent Picatinny Arsenal and the surrounding communities, killing 21 people, and seriously injuring 53 others. The monetary loss to the Navy alone was $84 million in 1926 dollars (mostly in consumed explosives). As a result of a full-scale Congressional investigation, the seventieth Congress in 1928 directed the establishment of a Board of Officers to provide oversight of the storage conditions of explosives. A court of inquiry investigating the explosion recommended that a depot be established in a remote area within convert|1000|mi|km|-2 of the west coast to serve the Pacific area.

Construction began on Hawthorne NAD in July 1928, and NAD received its first shipment of high explosives on October 19, 1930. When the United States entered World War II, the Depot became the staging area for bombs, rockets, and ammunition for almost the entire war effort. Employment was at its highest at 5,625 in 1945. By 1948, NAD occupied about convert|104|sqmi|km2|0 of the convert|327|sqmi|km2|0 area under Navy jurisdiction. Subsequently, excess Navy lands were turned over to the Bureau of Land Management.

Security for the 3,000 bunkers at NAD was provided by the U.S. Marine Corps. Beginning in September 1930 and during World War II, 600 Marines were assigned to the facility. In 1977, that number had been reduced to 117; security is contracted to a private company.

The mission and functions at NAD have remained much the same over the facility's history. The mission, as stated in a 1962 Navy Command History, was to "receive, renovate, maintain, store and issue ammunition, explosives, expendable ordnance items and/or weapons and technical ordnance material and perform addition tasks as directed by the Bureau of Naval Weapons. It also served as an important ammunition center during the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict with several thousand structures on convert|236|sqmi|km2|0 of land.

In 1977, NAD was transferred to the Army, and renamed the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant (HWAAP). In 1980, HWAAP was redesignated as a government-owned contractor-operated facility. Day & Zimmermann Hawthorne Corporation (DZHC) is the current operating contractor. In 1994, the facility received its current name of the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD).

Local Community

The Hawthorne Army Depot surrounds the small town of Hawthorne, Nevada, where most of its employees reside. Prior to the facility becoming contractor-operated, it was staffed primarily by civil service workers and military personnel, who were housed on government owned property neighboring Hawthorne, including the now-extinct town of Babbitt, a trailer park, and military housing known as Schweer Drive. During the peak of operations in World War II, additional housing was provided in a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp christened "Camp Jumbo", and in a large adjoining construction camp.


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