Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania
As the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Air Defense and Tactical Missile Systems, Letterkenny continues a tradition of supporting our soldiers and our Army for more than 60 years. Letterkenny has unique tactical missile repair capabilities repairing a variety of Defense Department missile systems including the PATRIOT Missile and its ground support and radar equipment. Most recently, Letterkenny has expanded it's product line to include to overhaul of tactical wheeled vehicles (HMMWV's), material handling equipment (7.5Ton Cranes), and Mobile Kitchen Trailers.
Located in south central Pennsylvania, Letterkenny provides easy access to seaports, air travel and major highways.
In 1941, The War Department laid plans for 12 large new ordnance depots to control the oncoming deluge of war materiel. Sites were carefully chosen, with Letterkenny considered due to its proximity. It was a safe, yet convenient distance from the eastern seaboard and Washington, D.C. with land well suited for ammunition storage. It had good rail facilities, nearby power and water, and another great resource-its people, who historically had shown great courage and perseverance.
Public outcry ensued as prime agricultural land would be lost and 1,000 residents would be displaced if the land were acquired for a depot. Formal objections abated quickly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and people began to support the WWII effort. On December 18, 1941, The Secretary of War, Henry L. Stinson issued the directive to acquire 21,000 acres at Letterkenny for an Ordnance Depot. Letterkenny’s mission would be to reduce the surplus of forthcoming war materiel and to store and ship ammunition, trucks, parts and other supplies. Locals at first, referred to Letterkenny Ordnance Depot as “the dump”.
Construction began immediately with 798 underground igloos, 12 above-ground magazines and 17 warehouses. In 1956, an additional 104 igloos were constructed bringing today’s total to 902. At the beginning, a large number of buildings were remodeled farmhouses, barns and chicken houses. The first shipment of ammunition arrived by train on September 23, 1942, three weeks ahead of schedule. More than three million tons of supplies were moved during the war years. As men were called to service, staffing problems became acute. The depot drained the countryside of manpower needed for agriculture. Women, Commandos, Minute Men, even Italian prisoners of war filled the jobs. Regular employees worked 7 days a week and blitzes were common. With ingenuity and devotion, Letterkennians completed seemingly impossible tasks to keep ordnance materiel flowing constantly to 70 theaters of war. Letterkenny was one of the largest depots of its kind and was called the Springboard of Invasion in 1944.
After WWII, Letterkennians had hardly become adjusted to the idea that the war was over when they found themselves caught up in the new missions of peace. Even before these missions became official, combat vehicles began rolling into the depot for storage. An enormous amount of ammunition was being returned from overseas, some of which was unserviceable and had to be destroyed.
At the time of the Korean conflict, July 1950, Letterkenny Ordnance Depot was in much better condition to meet the emergency than back in WWII. However, the gears had to be shifted from peacetime drive to high war-time production and the work force swelled to 6,500 persons, with as many as 50 new employees coming each day. Letterkenny's mission of receiving, processing, storing and shipping vehicles was strong. In 1946, experimental long-term de-humidified storage tanks were built to "can" or preserve vehicles. With the demands for ordnance materiel, the process was soon tested and deemed a success as vehicle after vehicle came out of the 169 petroleum storage tanks-- all in excellent condition.
The 50’s were a time of growth as new technologies in electronics and guided missile maintenance increased the depot's workload. Employees were trained in these fields and began working on NIKE missile components in 1953. Letterkenny became a pilot depot for the implementation of the Depot Command Management System and SPEEDEX (System-wide Project for Electronic Equipment at Depots Extended). In 1955, Major Item Supply Management Agency (MISMA), which provided control functions on a worldwide basis, became a tenant of Letterkenny. It evolved into the U.S. Army Depot System Command, Letterkenny’s immediate higher headquarters.
With the growth in operations came the need for expanded physical facilities. Renovation and the replacement of outdated machinery was needed to modernize some existing buildings, but major construction projects lead the way in the 1950’s to meet the depot’s new needs. Letterkenny became a permanent military installation on July 1, 1954. The ordnance depot was renamed Letterkenny Army Depot in August 1962, and command and control of the depot fell under the U.S. Army Materiel Command. The 28th Ordnance Detachment relocated to Letterkenny from Fort Meade, MD. In the 1960’s, with the war in Vietnam, Letterkenny’s missions increased.
In the 1970s, command of Savanna Army Depot Activity, Ill. fell under Letterkenny. Although Letterkenny’s growth seemed to slow during the decade, the depot still played a vital role. An ammunition washout facility was built and the Northeast Area Flight Detachment moved to Letterkenny. The U.S. Army Depot System Command was established in 1976 and headquartered at Letterkenny. This 2-star command remained at Letterkenny until 1995 when it became the Industrial Operations Command at Rock Island, IL—today’s Operations System Command.
The 1980s and early 1990s saw the depot evolving into its present form. New facilities and modernization projects, such as the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System-Plus, were constructed. Letterkenny’s mission became three fold; supply, maintenance and ammunition. Paladin, PATRIOT and HAWK work made Letterkenny a Center for Technical Excellence. With the Department of Defense’s reorganization, Letterkenny’s supply mission moved to New Cumberland, PA under Defense Logistics Agency. In 2001, a smaller Directorate of Supply and Transportation was reestablished at Letterkenny.
Letterkenny’s future was reshaped in the 1990’s by the tactical missile consolidation and DoD’s downsizing, reorganization and realignments. The five-year Paladin howitzer upgrade partnership completed 950 Paladins in 1999 and artillery work moved to other depots.
In 2002, Letterkenny celebrated 60 years of supporting soldiers and the Army. The depot has unique tactical missile repair capabilities repairing a variety of Defense Department missile systems including PATRIOT ground support and radar equipment. Comprising over 17,500 acres, a large land portion of the depot is used to conduct maintenance, modification, storage and demilitarization operations on tactical missiles and ammunition. The depot remains among the top three employers in Franklin County, PA fueling an economic engine that propels over ¼ billion dollars annually into the region through payroll, contracts and retiree annuities.
Since World War II, Korea and Vietnam, through Operation Desert Storm (Iraq) and Operation Just Cause (Panama), Letterkenny is proud to serve the soldier serving anywhere in the world.