The following is a press release from the Adams County Convention and Visitor's Bureau:
Hastings, NE—Anyone who has driven along Highway 6 east of Hastings has seen it—the rows of buildings, bunkers and structures that stretch on and on for miles.
It's the site of the former U.S. Navy Ammunitions Depot—and a new brochure provides maps and information for those who want to take a self-guided driving tour of this fascinating piece of U.S. military history nestled on the Nebraska prairie.
The brochure was produced by the Adams County Visitors Bureau. Black and white photographs were provided by the Adams County Historical Society Image Library. Research, background information, maps and additional photography were provided by Hastings resident and NAD historian Walt Miller, who serves as a tour guide for those interested in the facility—and who is writing a history of the NAD.
The Naval Ammunition Depot at Hastings was the U.S. Navy's largest munitions plant from 1942-46, producing nearly 40 percent of the Navy's ordnance at one point. The plant employed some 10,000 workers at its peak, increasing the population of Hastings from 15,500 to some 28,000 in a period of just three years.
Hastings was chosen as the site due to its central location, making it impossible for German or Japanese aircraft to reach. Hastings also offered the benefits of being served by three major railroads, having an abundant supply of underground water, and a stable workforce.
The plant, which employed a large number of women, was built in just one year, and consisted of more than 2,000 buildings spread across nearly 49,000 acres. The first ammunition shipment was made on an auspicious date: July 4, 1943—Independence Day.
The plant produced a wide range of munitions, from small caliber handgun ammunition to large 16-inch projectiles for use on gunships to rockets, mines and depth charges. During 1944, four explosions occurred at the plant, killing a total of 21 people.
One of the most distinctive features of the facility is the miles of earthen mounds or "igloos" which were used for explosives storage. The dirt covering the concrete bunkers kept the inside temperature constant and provided additional mass for blast protection.
The plant was deactivated following World War II, but was reactivated in 1950 for the Korean War. The facility was used for ordnance manufacturing storage until June 1966, when it was officially decommissioned. The former headquarters area of the NAD has since become the Hastings campus of Central Community College. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat Animal Research Center commands a large area on the east edge. Other areas of the facility are used by private industry and for hunting, recreation, farming and grazing.
The marked driving routes in the new brochure provide visitors a comprehensive look at remaining structures and the site of a number of key areas including the former headquarters, rocket and munitions loading plants, explosives storage, and employee and military personnel areas.
Tourists using the map are cautioned to stay on the roads marked and not stray from the designated route. Much of the land is now owned by private landowners or the federal government—and trespassing may result in substantial fines or even arrest.
Copies of the new self-guided driving tour brochure are available at the Hastings Visitor Center (100 North Shore Drive), the Adams County Historical Society and the Hastings Museum. For an electronic copy, log onto www.VisitHastingsNebraska.com.