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Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant

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 Workers on the factory line at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant

Twin Cities Ordnance Plant workers on the factory line, 1940s. Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant files, box 143.E.17.2F. Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Authorized in 1941, the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) contributed to United States military efforts for more than fifty years. Economic and environmental impacts extended beyond the New Brighton/Arden Hills site into the greater Twin Cities area.

Prior to US entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt advocated for the country’s role as the “Great Arsenal of Democracy.” His aid strategy, laid out in the Lend-Lease Act, utilized government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) ammunition-manufacturing plants to provide supplies overseas. As a result, the Army Ordnance Department authorized construction of the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant (TCOP) in the spring of 1941. Federal Cartridge Corporation (FCC) of Anoka, a sporting ammunition manufacturer, was contracted to operate the facility.

Land was purchased in rural Ramsey County, about ten minutes north of Minneapolis by car. Crews worked night and day, constructing an operational facility and supporting infrastructure in just six months. The rapid pace continued as ammunition production began, with thousands of Twin Cities workers filling three shifts around the clock. The massive facility eventually functioned like a small city, with its own fire department, security force, hospital, bus system, and rail terminal. Social elements like a plant newspaper, intramural sports leagues, and a choir served to maintain morale.

When Roosevelt visited the plant in September, 1942, he inquired about both the high numbers of women in manufacturing positions and the integration of African Americans into the organization. Indeed, over half the employees were female, known as WOWs (Women Ordnance Workers). And while African Americans in Minnesota were then generally limited to service occupations, men such as Cecil E. Newman and J. W. Pate held supervisory positions at TCOP. FCC President Charles L. Horn also refused to separate employees by race.

Community spirit and innovation marked the World War II era at TCOP. Taxpayers’ committees encouraged high production levels, since workers’ own tax dollars funded the plant. Managers actively sought and implemented employee suggestions that saved time and money. Working under a non-strike agreement, an internal grievance committee of union and non-union members handled labor issues. Horn’s investment in electronics led to the invention of an electric eye to aid assembly machines. Steel-cased cartridges were developed at TCOP to deal with brass shortages.

At war’s end, the plant served as one of five returned-material centers in the US. Employees tested and sorted ammunition for future reserves. Other army ordnance plants sent machinery to be prepared for long-term storage. In 1946, TCOP’s name changed to Twin Cities Arsenal.

The arsenal returned machines to defense manufacturers nationwide when the Korean War developed. This war-and-peace-pattern would be repeated for the remaining life of the plant. When ammunition was needed for the Vietnam War and First Persian Gulf War, production resumed under contracts with FCC. In peacetime, the plant returned to standby status with army oversight. Private companies, including Honeywell and 3M, leased property for defense research and development.

Disputes arose in later generations. Internally, labor strikes stopped work in 1951, 1967, and 1971. Vietnam War protesters targeted the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP; renamed in 1963) as a hub of military production in 1971 and 1972. Environmental effects of the manufacturing process and chemical disposal were confronted in the early 1980s

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defined a twenty-five-square-mile “New Brighton/Arden Hills Superfund Site” in 1983. This extended beyond the TCAAP into affected portions of seven nearby communities. A 1987 agreement between the EPA, the US Army, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency mandated cleanup of the site at army expense.

The army announced plans to release portions of TCAAP land as excess federal property in 1994. This prompted planning, led by Congressman Bruce Vento, for redevelopment of the area. Several other proposals were drafted and ultimately rejected in subsequent years, until Ramsey County finalized purchase of the land in 2013.

With environmental remediation completed, the City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County partnered with Alatus in 2016 to work toward developing Rice Creek Commons for residential and business use. Other portions of the original TCAAP land are currently utilized as the Rice Creek North Regional Trail and the Arden Hills Army Training Site. The site also hosts public works facilities for Arden Hills, Ramsey County and MnDOT, and the Arden Hills City Hall.

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“150 Block Rail Spur in War Protest at Arsenal.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 29, 1972.

“500 Tons of ‘Hot’ Bullets Splash Into Lake Superior.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 29, 1945.

“Ammunition Output In State Is Staggering.” Ivanhoe Times, September 21, 1945.

Champion, E.R. “Remember!—It’s Your Money, A Slogan That Cuts Waste at War Plant.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 27, 1943.

Civic Plus. “TCAAP Background and History.” cityofardenhills.org
http://mn-ardenhills.civicplus.com/index.aspx?NID=335

“Democratic Spirit Reigns at Ordnance Plant.” Pittsburgh Courier, February 20, 1944.

Disney, Wesley E. “Ordnance Plant Workers Organize to Save Material and Hours.” Congressional Record-Appendix, A4736, December 26, 1942.

Environmental Protection Agency. “New Brighton/Arden Hills/TCAAP.”
https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/CurSites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0504010&msspp=med

“Green Lauds Cooperation of Charles Horn.” Minneapolis Labor Review, September 13, 1945.

Halloran, M.W. “Fala’s Visit to City in ’44 Kept Secret for Master’s Safety.” Minneapolis Star & Journal, September 25, 1946.

Kaplan, Milton. “TCOP Policy Solves Racial Work Problem.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1945.

Karl, Richard C. “Record of Decision Amendment #4 for Operable Unit 2 (OU2), New Brighton/Arden Hills Superfund Site.” Environmental Protection Agency, January 9, 2012.
https://semspub.epa.gov/work/05/423768.pdf

Melo, Frederick. “Ramsey County buys ammunition site for $30 million.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 26, 2012.
https://www.twincities.com/2012/11/26/ramsey-county-buys-ammunition-site-for-30-million/

Melo, Frederick. “TCAAP Superfund site now belongs to Ramsey County.” Pioneer Press, April 15, 2013.
https://www.twincities.com/2013/04/15/tcaap-superfund-site-now-belongs-to-ramsey-county/

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “New Brighton/Arden Hills Super Fund Site.”
https://www.pca.state.mn.us/waste/new-brightonarden-hills-superfund-site-aka-twin-cities-army-ammunition-plant-or-tcaap

“NBAHS Twin Cities Arsenal.” YouTube video, 58:48, from CTV North Suburbs. “New Brighton Area Historical Society presents ‘The Twin City Arsenal’ featuring Mark Haidet.” April 26, 2018. Posted by CTV North Suburbs, April 30, 2018.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1oI2fl20ww

“New Brighton Goal March 1.” Minneapolis Star Journal, November 12, 1941.

Rubis, Karl. “The History of Ordnance in America.” United States Army Ordnance Corps.
http://www.goordnance.army.mil/history/ORDhistory.html

“TCOP Solves Problem of Mixed Races.” Minneapolis Daily Times, October 16, 1945.

Thomson, Harry C., and Lida Mayo. The Ordnance Department: Procurement & Supply. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1960.
https://history.army.mil/html/books/010/10-10/CMH_Pub_10-10.pdf

“Three-Billionth Bullet.” St. Paul Dispatch, March 22, 1944.

“US Mediation Will Start in Arsenal Strike.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 16, 1971.

Vogel, Robert C., and Deborah L. Crown. The World War II Ordnance Department’s Government –Owned Contractor-Operated (GOCO) Industrial Facilities: Twin Cities Ordnance Plant Historic Investigation. U.S. Army Material Command Historic Context Series, Report of Investigations, Number 8A, US Army Corp of Engineers, 1995.
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a315679.pdf

Walsh, James. “Site of former Arden Hills ammo plant prepares for new life.” Star Tribune, June 6, 2014.
http://www.startribune.com/site-of-former-arden-hills-ammo-plant-prepares-for-new-life/262198731/

Related Images

 Workers on the factory line at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
 Workers on the factory line at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Employees of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP)
Employees of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP)
Twin Cities Ordinance Plant magazine cover, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune
Twin Cities Ordinance Plant magazine cover, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune
Workers on the factory line at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Workers on the factory line at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Ammunition inspection at Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Ammunition inspection at Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Soldiers marching with Twin Cities Ordnance Plant flag
Soldiers marching with Twin Cities Ordnance Plant flag
Window display for Twin Cities Arsenal and Federal Cartridge Corporation
Window display for Twin Cities Arsenal and Federal Cartridge Corporation
Workers outside the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Workers outside the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant
Twin Cities Arsenal employees with safety award
Twin Cities Arsenal employees with safety award
Employee meeting at the Twin Cities Arsenal
Employee meeting at the Twin Cities Arsenal
Workers on strike at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant
Workers on strike at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant
Workers on strike at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant
Workers on strike at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant

Turning Point

In the spring of 1941, the Army Ordnance Department authorizes construction of a Twin Cities Ordnance Plant (TCOP) in rural Ramsey County, about ten minutes north of Minneapolis by car.

Chronology

1941

An August 28 ceremony marks the ground-breaking for TCOP construction. The private owners of homes, farms, and businesses on the nearly 2,400 acres had been given less than a month to vacate their properties.

1942

Production begins on March 9. In forty-two months of operation during World War II, over 4 billion rounds of .30-, .45-, and .50-caliber ammunition would be manufactured. This was approximately one tenth of total US small arms produced for the period.

1943

On June 14, the Army-Navy E Award is recognized for achievement in quality production. Only 5 percent of plants received this honor. July marks the employment peak for the facility, at nearly 26,000 workers.

1945

Post-war work shifts to material reclamation. In September, over 500 tons of unusable scrap bullets from the plant are dumped into Lake Superior. This is considered the safest and most economical means of disposal at the time.

1967

In July, 450 members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) strike, seeking to replace their pension plan with a severance pay plan, due to the temporary nature of war employment. Work stoppage is observed by 3500 production workers at the p

1981

Groundwater sampling by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Health shows high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in municipal water supplies and private wells surrounding the site.

1983

TCAAP is placed on the Federal National Priorities list due to contamination of groundwater, soil, and sediment by ammunition manufacturing and disposal. It is the largest “Superfund” site in Minnesota.

1993

The plant officially closes and boilers are shut down; its labor force dips below 1500 people (200 of the 250 buildings had already been closed). Its army status has been ‘modified caretaker’ since the end of production for Operation Desert Storm.

2012

Ramsey County approves purchase of remaining TCAAP land from US government. A joint powers agreement between Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills is established to oversee environmental remediation and redevelopment of the 427-acre site.

2014

Demolition of the last building on TCAAP property is marked in a ceremony with local and state officials and Carl Bolander & Sons, the contracted site remediator. The event coincides with the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.