THE DEFENSE INDUSTRY OF UTAH
Rebuilding Tanks at Tooele Army Depot
Utah's defense industry began with explorations in the l840s. The earliest
arrival was John C. Fremont in late summer l843. Fremont returned again
in l845, and subsequent military explorers included Captain Howard Stansbury
and Lt. John W. Gunnison, in the early l850s. Lt. Col. Edward J. Steptoe,
who arrived in August l854, set aside the earliest military reservation
in Rush Valley.
Steptoe moved on to California in l855, and Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston
founded the first regular military post at Camp Floyd (later Fort Crittenden)
near Fairfield in Cedar Valley after the arrival of the Utah Expedition
in 1858. Sent to quell an alleged rebellion by the Mormons and to escort
Governor-designate Alfred Cumming to the territory, the camp offered employment
and surplus sales in addition to construction and supply contracts for the
local population. It also served as an irritant as Johnston sent troops
to cities like Provo and Springville where conflicts with local citizens
aggravated already strained relations. During its short duration (1858-1861),
Camp Floyd constituted the largest troop concentration of its kind in the
United States, averaging approximately 2,500 men. After the outbreak of
the Civil War, the federal government recognized the need to protect the
overland mail route from Indian depredations. This led to the establishment
in October 1862 of Fort Douglas by California Volunteers. Convinced that
the Mormons were traitors and fanatics, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor decided
not to rebuild the ruins of Camp Floyd, but to situate his command on the
bench overlooking Salt Lake City. Following the creation of Camp Douglas
(renamed Fort Douglas in 1878), the soldiers set out to control the Indians.
At the Battle of the Bear River just north of the Utah border in Idaho,
Connor's men wiped out more than 250 Shoshoni men, women, and children,
in what was among the largest number of dead in any Western Indian battle.
With the Indians subdued for a time, Connor encouraged a peaceful solution
to the Mormon problem by promoting the development of mining in Utah. He
calculated that a huge Protestant and Catholic influx would eventually displace
After the Civil War, the federal government began to move Indians in Utah
to reservations, and periodic outbreaks concerned Euro-Americans in the
Western territories. Consequently, efforts to control Native Americans led
to the establishment and operation of Fort Cameron near Beaver (l872-l880).
Eventually, the LDS Church purchased the land and buildings, and converted
Fort Cameron into an academy in 1898, known as the Murdock Academy.
As settlements advanced throughout eastern Utah and western Colorado, conflicts
between the frontiersmen and Indians became more frequent. The War Department
established two forts in the Uinta Basin (Fort Thornburgh l88l-l884) and
Fort Duchesne (l886-1912) in an attempt to control the Utes. With the closing
of Fort Duchesne, Fort Douglas again became the only permanent War Department
installation in Utah and the principal army post in the Mountain West. By
the fall of 1916, the first of 5,000 civilians were trained at Fort Douglas
for various assignments during World War I. The post also housed several
hundred German prisoners during the war.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Fort Douglas became an induction
center, a finance office, and the regional headquarters which directed operations
in the Ninth Service area including the Mountain and Pacific Coastal states.
After the end of the war, many activities were curtailed, and some of Fort
Douglas' property was transferred to other agencies and to state government.
After World War I, the Government constructed the Ogden Arsenal as a storage
base. By 1936, however, the arsenal began manufacturing its own munitions.
During World War II, the facilities expanded to include a bomb and artillery
plant, while simultaneously achieving the status of a master depot and distribution
center for all ordnance to the western United States. In 1955, the post
discontinued its operations and transferred its real estate and facilities
to nearby Hill Air Force Base. The Arsenal's ordnance functions were transferred
to Tooele Ordnance Depot (now Tooele Army Depot).
Utah's first militia was called the Nauvoo Legion after a similar organization
in Illinois. Abolished by the Edmunds-Tucker Act in l887, the militia was
revived in 1894 as the Utah National Guard. The state established a camp
for the guard in 1928, named in honor of Brigadier General W. G. Williams.
The guard has participated in aspects of every war since the Spanish-American
War, including island-hopping in the Pacific and invading Europe during
World War II. Camp Williams also became a sub-post and training site for
Fort Douglas during World War II. Prior to the Korean War, the state stationed
three Air National Guard units at the Salt Lake Airport.
Hill Air Force Base in Davis County, formerly home of the Ogden Air Material
Area (OOAMA), and now a unit of the Air Logistics Command is home base for
several airplane units and provides technical and logistical support for
Air Force units in nearly all the western states. The initial construction
of Hill Air Force Base was completed in November 1939. During World War
II, OOAMA's duties consisted primarily of supplying, storing, repairing,
and maintaining aircraft. During the postwar period, OOAMA performed similar
services during the Berlin Airlift and the Korean and Vietnam wars. By 1960,
OOAMA was a world-wide manager for air munitions and explosives. Under the
Air Force Logistic Command its duties now include responsibility for the
F-l6. It remains today an important link in the Air Force's space-age technology.
Hill is the largest single employer in the state.
Wendover Air Force Base, opened in 1939 as sub-post of Fort Douglas' bombing
and gunnery range, finally achieved official Army Air Base status in 1942.
During World War II, Wendover served as a training facility for high-altitude
formation flying, long-range navigation, target identification, and simulated
combat bombing missions. Wendover also trained the plane crews which dropped
atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since the early '60's the base has
seen very little activity, and while part has been converted to civilian
uses, that portion remaining under Air Force control is administered by
Hill Air Force Base. Utah General Depot (UGD) received its eighth name,
Defense Depot Ogden, on January 1, 1964. At the time of its construction
during World War II, it was the largest quartermaster depot in the United
States, and an indispensable and permanent link in the Army's supply system.
The main duties of UGD were to furnish the western states with all their
nonperishable subsistence items. With the outbreak of the Korean War, receipts
and shipments jumped proportionately. As during World War II, the Depot
also assisted in training military personnel for the Korean campaign. Defense
Depot Ogden continues to remain one of the largest supply depots in the
In 1942, the War Department acquired 25,000 uninhabited acres west of the
Oquirrh Mountains. Soon thereafter, the Tooele Ordnance Depot (TOD) commenced
storing high explosives, vehicles, small arms, and munitions. After World
War II, TOD function as a storehouse and surplus disposal center. During
the Korean War, TOD's mission changed from primarily a storage depot to
a manufacturing enterprise devoted to producing, rebuilding, and repairing
war materiel. Since the Korean War, TOD has become the major ammunition
equipment design center for the nation's Ordnance Corps. In 1962, TOD'S
name was changed to Tooele Army Depot (TAD).
Also in 1942, the Chemical Warfare Service created Dugway Proving Ground
for large-scale testing of chemical munitions. Following the creation of
Dugway, another depot was initiated in Rush Valley called Deseret Chemical
Depot (DCD). DCD was designed for the storage and shipment of all types
of chemical warfare material. Eventually, the Army placed the Depot under
the jurisdiction of the Tooele Army Depot. Since the nuclear age and the
use of radio-active materials in warfare, Dugway has expanded its facilities
for the handling, storage, and utilization of such materials. Dugway Proving
Grounds has also been extremely controversial because of the highly toxic
agents stored and tested there which have apparently caused some sheep deaths
and may pose a danger to people in surrounding areas.
The federal government also operated a number of bases that continued during
World War II and were subsequently decommissioned. The Clearfield Naval
Supply Depot officially opened in April 1943. The mission of the depot was
to provide a reservoir of materal in support of West Coast supply points
and the advance bases of the Pacific Fleet. The Depot was also used as a
depository for the personal effects of men lost in action, and housed a
sizable German prisoner-of-war camp. The depot's workload declined between
wars until the facilities were transferred to General Services Administration
in 1962. A number of industrial and governmental enterprises have moved
to the depot to take advantage of the rental storage space available. Perhaps
the most regrettable incident of Utah's war years was the country's widespread
prejudices against American citizens of Japanese ancestry that prompted
the deportation of citizens and aliens of Japanese ancestry to relocation
centers in the west. One was located at Topaz, in Millard County. Topaz
was an enclosed city of barracks with limited freedoms and facilities; it
operated from September 1942, until October 1945.
Other temporary installations during World War II, included the Bushnell
General Hospital near Brigham City and Kearns Air Base in Salt Lake County.
Bushnell served as a facility for treatment of severely wounded military
personnel. Kearns functioned primarily as a training field for Air Corps
personnel. Following the war, Bushnell was turned over to the Bureau of
Indian Affairs and became the Intermountain Indian School. By the spring
of 1943, Kearns had grown until it was Utah's third largest city, boasting
a military population of 40,000 troops. By October 1943 Kearns facilities
had trained over 90,000 airmen. The base continued to function until the
end of World War II when the War Assets Administration declared the camp
surplus. The "surplus" townsite became one of Utah's fastest growing
The federal government also financed the construction of a number of manufacturing
plants during World War II, all of which were phased out after the war.
These included the Geneva Steel plant near Orem, the Remington Arms Plant
in Salt Lake City, the Kalunite Aluminum processing plant in Salt Lake City,
a vanadium plant at Monticello, a refractory plant at Lehi, an oil refinery
at Salt Lake City, a radio tube plant at Salt Lake City, and a parachute
plant at Manti.
After World War II, in addition to continuing the operation of installations
like Hill Air Force Base, Ogden and Tooele Army Depots, and Dugway Proving
Grounds, the federal government opened a number of new facilities. These
included Hurricane Mesa, the testing ground of Project SMART, Supersonic
Military Air Research Track, was a mesa just west of Zion National Park,
near the town of Hurricane. Seeing the need for an ejection system which
would allow pilots to be thrown clear of their airplanes without injury,
the Air Force contracted Coleman Engineering Company, in 1954, to design
and construct such a system. By using dummies and apes in their rocket sled
experiments, the Air Force standardized ejection systems for industry-wide
acceptance for both fighters and bombers. By December 1961, the facility
was phased out. The following year, the Ballistic Systems Division of the
United States Air Force chose Green River Utah as the launch site to test
their re-entry systems on some advanced ballistic missiles.
Since World War II, the United States Department of Defense installations
in Utah have become increasingly important to the state's economy. Defense
spending has been the single most important factor in the number of new
jobs created in Utah since 1940. These installations also purchase millions
worth of products annually from Utah businesses. Without these federal enterprises,
Utah would undoubtedly be adversely affected.
See: Leonard J. Arrington, The Price of Prejudice, The Japanese-American
Relocation Center in Utah During World War II, (1962); Leonard J. Arrington
and Thomas G. Alexander, Federal Military Installations in Utah, 1858-1966,
(1966) (this is a collection of a series of articles that appeared in the
Utah Historical Quarterly and the Pacific Historical Review;
Leonard J. Arrington and Anthony T. Cluff, Federally-Financed Industrial
Plants Constructed in Utah During World War II, (1969); James L. Clayton,
"The Impact of the Cold War on the Economies of California and Utah,
1946-1965,"Pacific Historical Review, 36 (Nov. 1967): 449-473.
Thomas G. Alexander and Rick J. Fish