History of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps

The Ordnance Corps has a proud tradition dating back to colonial America when Samuel Sharpe was appointed as Master Gunner of Ordnance in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. For the next four hundred years, the Ordnance Corps served a pivotal role in the American Army: it built the weapons for the Union Army in the Civil War, it established forward maintenance as a key tenet during WWI, and organized the first Bomb Disposal Units in WWII. Through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, up to its current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women of the Ordnance Branch maintain its dedication to the spirit of "Service To The Line, On The Line, On Time!"

In 1940, The Ordnance School consolidated officer and enlisted training at the newly dedicated school buildings at Aberdeen Proving Ground. This became the center for Ordnance soldier training in WWII. The Bomb Disposal School, established in 1942 at Aberdeen Proving Ground under the leadership of Colonel Thomas J. Kane, trained 219 seven-man teams in WWII. Commissary General of Military Stores, Colonel Benjamin Flower, led the Ordnance effort during the American Revolution by establishing laboratories, arsenals, foundries, and magazines in places such as Springfield, MA and Carlisle, PA. During the Korean War, the Ordnance Replacement Training Center (boot camp) was reestablished following its closure after WWII. By the time it closed its doors in May 1954, it had trained 74,000 soldiers. During the Civil War, the M1861 Rifle Musket was the basic infantry weapon for the Union Army. Springfield Armory produced 805,538 Rifle Muskets during the war. Women's Army Corps test firing M-3 submachine guns at Aberdeen Proving Grounds during WWII. During the war a WAC detachment of 568 women worked at the Ordnance Research and Development Center participating in research on all types of armaments and munitions at all the APG test areas, including the country's first supersonic wind tunnel. The 42nd Infantry Division Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop formed part of the emerging echelon maintenance system developed by the Ordnance Department during WWI. The 50-man unit assisted the organic ordnance personnel assigned to the lower echelon commands. In 1887, the Ordnance Department established its first federal cannon foundry at Watervliet Arsenal. In the emerging age of steel, breechloading artillery, experimenting with and producing cannon was an increasingly complicated and expensive proposition that civilian industry was reluctant to perform. The Detroit Tank Arsenal, built in eight months while engineers simultaneously designed a new medium tank, the M3, to be produced there. The plant, operated by the Chrysler Corporation, produced the first M3s in April 1941. The Detroit Tank Arsenal built 22,234 tanks by war's end, roughly 25 per cent of the country's tank production in World War II. In the early years of Vietnam, many combat units were deployed ahead of their supporting logistics units. Logistics infrastructure had to be built up while the fighting was ongoing. This M578 Light Recovery Vehicle is doing its work with two (vice the standard one) .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the cab. Civilian Women Ordnance Workers (WOW) made a vital contribution in WWII working in the arsenals, armories, depots, and proving grounds. About 85,000 of the 262,000 civilian ordnance workers were WOWs during the war. During WWI, Ordnance base shops and repair shops were fixed sites which could completely rebuild or overhaul weapons and equipment. The largest base shop, at Mehun, France, covered 50 acres and employed 2,000 American and French soldiers and civilians.



Last updated 19-Nov-2021