Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant Created Innovations in Manufacturing Technology and Management — and an EPA Superfund Site

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant Created Innovations in Manufacturing Technology and Management — and an EPA Superfund Site

Article excerpt

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. …

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