Watervliet Arsenal ... 1813-2013
Vol. 13, No. 7 U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal July 31, 2013
War of 1812 Mexican-American War American Civil War
Spanish-American War World War I World War II
Korean War Vietnam War
Persian Gulf War
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The Arsenal Salvo is an authorized monthly publication for members of the Department
of Defense. Contents of the Salvo are not necessarily the official views of, or an endorse-
ment by the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, or
the Watervliet Arsenal.
News may be submitted for publication by sending articles to Public Affairs Officer,
1 Buffington Street, Bldg. 10, Watervliet, NY 12189, or stop by office #102, Bldg. 10,
Watervliet Arsenal. The editor may also be reached at (518) 266-5055 or by e-mail:
email@example.com. The editor reserves the right to edit all information submitted
Commander, Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr.
Public Affairs Officer, John B. Snyder
Editor, John B. Snyder
Photographer: John B. Snyder
Photos provided by:
U.S. Army & Air Force
Defense Video & Imagery Distri-
Library of Congress
Watervliet Arsenal Museum
Lee H. Schiller Jr.
Let me begin by saying thank you to everyone who
has extended a warm and friendly welcome to me and
to my family. I look forward to getting out and meet-
ing as many of you in my first 30 days of assuming
Special thanks to those who helped make the
change of command ceremony a very memorable
one. In my short time here, I continue to be highly
impressed by the dedication and commitment of our
workforce, which is the arsenal’s greatest resource.
Because this is my first article I am writing for the
Salvo, I thought it would be best to share with you my
command philosophy for the Watervliet Arsenal.
Our sole mission focus is to support our military
servicemembers who defend our nation. They de-
mand and deserve EXCELLENCE in our support and
therefore, we will always strive to deliver high quality
products, at cost, and on time.
I truly believe that TEAMWORK is the success
to any business. No one single person is greater than
the team. We will strive for successful partnerships
with management and labor, business partners, and our
higher headquarters, TACOM and AMC.
RESPECT is the very essence of what makes us an
outstanding organization. It is a commitment to each
other and a means of recognizing each person’s dig-
nity and contribution to our mission.
My expectations are very simple: Be engaged;
look for and solve problems; stay on schedule; have
high expectations and insist that accountability occurs
at every level; keep the chain of command informed;
and adhere to policies, regulations, and guidance,
whether those directives are verbal or written.
Because people are our greatest asset, creating and
maintaining a SAFE environment will remain one of
the highest of priorities during my command. We will
incorporate proactive safety measures into all of our
programs and activities.
I will consistently address this topic because it is
important that we all keep it foremost in all that we do,
on and off the job. We will strive to maintain a culture
of safety that is rooted in training, awareness, and ac-
Through the next couple of years, I will use this
column, as have past commanders, to communicate
topics that I feel we need to discuss, things you need
to know, and to recognize people who are doing a
In closing, it is truly an honor to be the commander
of an arsenal where Dedication, Pride and Excellence
are not just words. They are an icon that you have
lived by and believed in since 1813.
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Top: An 1881 map of the arsenal shows its relation to the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. Bottom right: Built in 1841, the arsenal com-
mander’s quarters was one of many new buildings constructed in the 1840s to replace deteriorated buildings from 1813 & 1814 as shown in
this 1875 photo. Bottom left: Beginning with the Erie Canal, the arsenal has leveraged advanced technology to improve production. This
1913 photo shows just how much damage could be leveled against the arsenal whenever the Erie Canal flooded. That is Building 40 and the
current Cannon Club in the water.
In the heat of our nation’s second war with Great Britain, a 12-acre plot of land was pur-
chased on July 14, 1813, and construction of a manufacturing center begin immediately. Ad-
ditional land purchases were made in 1826, 1828, 1833, 1859, 1862, 1867, 1869, 1918, 1920,
The location of the arsenal was the primary factor in the establishment of the arsenal at
Watervliet. Being close to transportation routes, the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, would
allow the arsenal to quickly move supplies and trade. The existence of an underlying strata
of shale also provided a sound foundation for manufacturing and the ability to tap into the
skilled labor force of the area were all essential to the selection of the Watervliet location.
Production during the war focused on the manufacture of ammunition, powder horns,
cartridge boxes, and leather accoutrements. Once the war ended, the arsenal fell into a pe-
riod of decline as it became a warehouse of sorts for military equipment.
Maj. James Dalliba, the first commander, was challenged by the tyranny of distance be-
cause he also commanded arsenals and depots at Buffalo, Batavia, and Rome, New York.
He, therefore, assigned temporary command to Capt. Thomas Campbell who oversaw the
construction of the first 10 buildings and two stables that became the foundation of the ar-
senal’s war effort.
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Photos taken in 1865 show Building 40 after a major expansion, as well as the cast iron columns of the second floor that made this
building fireproof, according to the plans.
Although parts of Building 40, now home to Benét Laboratories, were constructed in
1828, a major expansion occurred to the building during the Civil War to accommodate
the heavy volume of war-related material. This state-of-the-art structure in the 1860s
housed the manufacturing of gun carriages and a foundry shop in a fireproof facility
that received its power from the Erie Canal.
During the Civil War period, the amount of business quadrupled as the workforce
swelled to more than 2,000, of which one-quarter were children. Although the arsenal
manufactured various articles of war, from saddles to carriages, the arsenal claimed its
stake in ammunition production.
Once again the arsenal turned to advanced technology in manufacturing. One of
its foremen developed a bullet press that tripled bullet production. It was not uncom-
mon for the arsenal to manufacture up to 30 million handmade ammunition cartridges a
On any given day, millions of pounds of black powder were stored on the arsenal,
much of it came from local manufacturers in Schaghticoke, N.Y. When the arsenal
shipped ammunition cartridges, the quantities often exceeded 10 million rounds.
Just as quickly as the arsenal transformed into a major supplier of war material at the
beginning of the Civil War, it quickly moved from a production footing to a storehouse
for military hardware once the war came to an end.
to war ...
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from a maker
a maker of
Top: An 1889 print of a line drawing of Building 110. Bottom: The first 16-inch gun manufactured at the arsenal is being readied for transport
The post-Civil War years brought great decline to the arsenal. Faced with
a severe recession in the 1870s, the arsenal was nearly closed by Congress.
But world events in the 1880s ushered in a new era ... the United States would
need to invest heavily in military technology and weaponry to compete as a
In 1887, a War Department board, which was charged with determining the
best suited navy yard or army arsenal that could be modernized for modern
warfare, selected the Watervliet location due to its proximity to skilled labor,
supplies, and to centers of transportation. By October of that year, production
of field and siege guns was underway.
A two-story brick structure was converted for the manufacture of 3.2-, 8-,
and 10-inch guns, as machinery and tools were transferred from other arse-
nals. Congress appropriated funds in 1888 for the construction of a major
shop that could produce the large seacoast guns...Building 110. It would not
be until 1899, however, that the first 16-inch gun would begin production. The
first 16-inch gun was completed in 1902.
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to war ...
World War I
Top: A typical World War I howitzer that was made at the Watervliet and Rock Island arsenals. This 1914 gun, and another just like it, reside
at the Christian Brothers Academy, Albany, N.Y. Bottom right: A World War I poster. Bottom left: A 1919 victory celebration at the arsenal
that had as many as 20,000 attend.
After the turn of the century, the arsenal manufactured a very limited number of guns,
but as it had done during the previous 100 years, it transformed itself using the latest in
Beginning in 1906, the arsenal began to use a heat treatment process to support the re-
lining of seacoast guns whose linings were well worn by usage. In 1910, the arsenal man-
ufactured what may be the nation’s first air defense-type weapon, a “balloon gun,” that
fired a 6-pound round through a 2.24-inch gun to down dirigibles (blimps) and airplanes.
World War I brought a significant building boom to the arsenal as a new gun shop,
Building 35, reached a daily production of four 240 mm howitzers and two 155 mm howit-
zers. Building 25 was built and became a “mobile artillery shop.” New barracks, canteen
and dining facility were also built to handle the large influx of workers. Employment in-
creased from 670 in 1916 to more than 3,300 by 1917.
As new technology was brought to the arsenal, old technology, such as the Erie Canal,
was displaced. The Canal ended operations on the arsenal in 1922.
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to war ...
World War II
As the arsenal rediscovered, success on the battlefield does not mean continued suc-
cess in regards to maintaining production levels and workforce size. After World War I, the
arsenal went through a significant decline in production as orders were cancelled or greatly
reduced. Production was reduced to just a single wing of the seacoast gun shop at which
point, Col. Edwin Bricker, arsenal commander, complained to the Chief of Ordnance that any
further decline in production would destroy gun-making in the Army. This slump continued
for nearly 20 years.
Arsenal Commander Col. Richard Somers took command one year before Germany in-
vaded Poland. The year was 1938. When Somers took command there were only 350 em-
ployees and the art of machining resided in just a few foremen and master machinists who
survived the years of downsizing. But Somers began immediately preparing the arsenal for
a war and saw its workforce grow to 1,000 by 1939 and to more than 1,700 by 1940.
Production grew quickly and by the time Somers left the arsenal in 1940, the arsenal was
manufacturing nearly 1,000 guns a year. Brig. Gen. Alexander Gillespie, took command in
1940 and saw the workforce grow to more than 9,300 at the peak of the war, of which near-
ly 3,000 were women. From the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor to the landing at
Normandy, the arsenal manufactured more than 23,000 guns with an on-time delivery
rate exceeding 99 percent.
Top: The arsenal produced hundreds of 16-inch guns for seacoast protection, as well as for battleships. Here, the USS Iowa is firing guns
made at the arsenal as shown in this 1980s-era photo. Bottom right: Women made up nearly 30 percent of the workforce during World War II.
Bottom left: A seacoast gun manufactured by the arsenal is being fired on a coast emplacement in the Philippines.
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to war ...
From a peak of more than 9,300 employees in 1942, the arsenal had reduced its work-
force to 940 by 1947. In 1947, the Army Chief of Ordnance said in a letter to a local con-
gressman in regards to the current situation at the arsenal, “An economy-minded nation is
not looking with favor on the expenditure of money for the purpose of sustaining an intelli-
gent, well-trained crew of men ready to swing into the next war overnight.”
After World War II, the arsenal returned to a familiar task that had perplexed the work-
force since the end of the War of 1812 ... it once again became a warehouse for returned war
material. By June 1950, a foreign military sale type of process was established as excess
material was often shipped to Greece, Italy, France, China, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Production leading into the Korean War focused on small caliber weapon systems such
as recoilless rifles and the 20 mm automatic cannon for aircraft and anti-aircraft use. But
arsenal research and design also produced a 90 mm tank gun that was far more lethal to
any U.S. cannon used during World War II, as well as a 120 mm heavy tank gun that used for
the first time a deadly high-velocity armor piercing round.
By 1952, the workforce expanded to nearly 4,800 workers as the arsenal manufactured
small and large caliber weapons systems. The arsenal entered the atomic age in May 1953
when the world’s first nuclear shell was fired on Frenchmen’s Flat, Nev., from a 280 mm
cannon manufactured at the arsenal. The Korean War came to an end about two months
after that firing. From January 1950 to December 1954, the arsenal manufactured more than
20,000 guns, mortars, howitzers, and recoilless rifles.
Top: Arsenal production on a 280 mm atomic gun system in the early 1950s. Bottom right, American artillery manufactured by the arse-
nal being fired in Korea. Bottom left: The first atomic shell fired from a howitzer in 1953.
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to war ...
As defense budgets once again declined after the Korean War, the arsenal suffered through
more reductions in force. But just like past post-war declines in military spending, the arsenal
underwent several transformations that would assist in its long-term viability.
In 1954, the arsenal became funded by a new process by what we know today as the Army
Working Capital Fund. Prior to this new funding system, the arsenal had two sources of fund-
ing and for command and control. The arsenal answered to the Army Chief of Ordnance for
mission-related issues and to First Army Headquarters for repairs, maintenance, and other
support services. To support the arsenal in this new effort to build the industrial base, Con-
gress appropriated more than $6 million for future developments such as the modernization of
Buildings 25 and 35, the building of a new boiler house, and the construction of Building 44 to
house gage and products assurance operations.
Prior to combat operations in Vietnam, the arsenal invested heavily in research and devel-
opment. New 90 mm recoilless rifles, 105 mm tank guns, Honest John missiles, and a mortar
system that could fire an atomic warhead were developed in just a few years. Even a new
designed 175 mm howitzer made it into President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade in 1961.
By 1962, arsenal research and development hit a milestone with the dedication of Building 40
as the home of the newly formed Benét Laboratories.
The Army closed out the 1960s with a wide variety of artillery delivery systems such as the
175 mm M107 howitzer, the 155 mm M109 self-propelled howitzer; the 8-inch M110 howitzer;
and the 105 mm M102 lightweight towed howitzer.
Right: A self-propelled 175 mm howitzer at a fire base in Vietnam. Left: An Air Force gunship dropping flares while a 105 mm tube is
showing out its left side.
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to war ...
Top: A graphic of the invasion plan for Operation Urgent Fury into Grenada. Bottom right: The rotary forge was added to the arsenal in 1976
to wean the arsenal from outside vendors and to speed production. Bottom right: A 105 mm howitzer firing in Grenada.
Prior to the 1983 Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and the 1989 Operation Just Cause in
Panama, the U.S. Congress invested heavily in new capability under a program called Project
Renovation of Armament Manufacturing or REARM. Under this six-year program that began in
1979, nearly 700 pieces of equipment would be replaced or upgraded, as well as several build-
ings renovated. The REARM program went beyond its original six-year plan and ended in
1992 after having attained $306 million in new capability.
In addition to REARM, the arsenal invested to reduce reliance on outside vendors such as
with the installation of the rotary forge in 1976. Despite this major revitalization, the arsenal
still had a production mission to maintain.
Although the Army moved from the jungle tactics of Vietnam to the Soviet-style type of
force during the Reagan years, production shifted to the manufacture of guns and parts for a
new lightweight 60 mm mortar system to a new 155 mm M198 towed howitzer to a new light-
weight 105 mm M119 howitzer. These lightweight weapon systems were critical to the quick
deployment of U.S. forces into Grenada and Panama.
Just as in previous peacetime ebbs in defense budgets, the arsenal also turned to non-
mission work to help fill the gaps. In 1989, the arsenal began to manufacture several parts
for a new mine clearance system. During the Vietnam War, the arsenal manufactured scissor
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to war ...
First Gulf War
As the wall of the Cold War came tumbling down in the late 1980s, so too did the funding
for military weapon systems. The first reductions in force notices began in August 1990 and
would continue for another 11 years. Employment went from nearly 2,500 in 1989 to less than
500 by late 2001. Despite this outflow of critical skills and experience, the arsenal still had a
mission to perform and in 1991, it once again proved its unique capability to respond to the
urgent needs of the warfighter.
As military planners designed the air campaign to support Operation Desert Storm that
began on Jan. 17, 1991, they had concerns that current ordnance would be ineffective against
Saddam Hussein’s hardened command and control bunkers. Their concerns proved to be true
as 2,000 pound ordnance could not reach the underground bunkers. The Defense Department
and Lockheed Missile and Space Co. turned to the arsenal on Jan. 25, 1991 to develop a 5,000
pound bomb because the 2,000 pound bombs were ineffective.
With nothing more than a phone call initiating the request, the arsenal went to work and
on Feb. 17, 1991, the arsenal delivered two bunker buster bombs. The first test, without ex-
plosives, was dropped on a target and plunged more than 100 feet into the ground. After the
testing of the two bombs, two more bombs, called GBU-28, were deployed to support the air
campaign in Iraq. On Feb. 27, one of the two GBU-28s destroyed Saddam’s main command
and control center just north of the Iraqi capital. On Feb. 28, Saddam Hussein agreed to a
Right: The first Bunker Buster bomb at Frenchmen’s Flat, Nev., goes more than 100 feet into the ground. Left: Abrams tanks in formation
attacking Iraqi units.
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to war ...
Historically, after every major conflict there are many who believe that we will never fight
that kind of war again. And so, absent of war, the need for military hardware dramatically
declined after the first Gulf War, just as we have seen throughout the arsenal’s history. When
America came under attack on Sept. 11, 2001, the arsenal was near its breaking point of main-
taining a sufficient level of critical skill expertise to meet its core mission.
But what has made the arsenal great for 200 years was once again thrust into national
prominence as our nation soon found itself in two simultaneous combat operations, one in Af-
ghanistan (Enduring Freedom) and the other in Iraq (Iraqi Freedom). A lot has changed on the
arsenal since 1813 except one thing ... the ability of the workforce to meet the urgent needs
of our nation’s servicemen and women. From ramping up production for its core manufac-
turing requirements, such as tank and howitzer cannons, to non-mission production support
for such things as armored kits for soft-skinned military vehicles, the arsenal workforce once
again met the challenge supporting both conflicts.
Today, as U.S. combat operations near an end in Afghanistan, the arsenal is assisting that
transition by manufacturing hundreds of mortar systems for the Afghanistan National Army.
The sooner the ANA is trained and armed, the sooner our troops may come home. Suffice it
to say that for 200 years the arsenal has produced the materials that have helped hundreds of
thousands of our military to safely come home.
Top: Abrams tanks firing in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bottom right: Afghanistan National Army soldiers firing a 60 mm mortar system that
was manufactured by the arsenal. Bottom left: A M777 155 mm howitzer firing in Afghanistan.