Vast Military Program
Huntington District overnight turned from civil works construction to military construction on Dec. 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and start of World War II. The district rushed to construct airports and airfields needed to train airmen in response to Axis nations' air and ground attacks and to bomb German and Japanese troops and cities. Lockbourne Air Base near Columbus was the largest of these bases and by mid-1942 was being used as the first glider pilot training school. By October !942, Lockbourne's use was expanded to a training school for B-17 bomber pilots.
Huntington District built storage and supply depots here in Huntington, in Columbus, and in Zanesville and Shelby, Ohio. To supply the war effort with weapons and ammunition, we built Buckeye Ordnance Works at South Point, Ohio; Marshall Chemical Warfare Service Plant at New Martinsville, W.Va.; Kanawha Chemical Warfare Service Plant in South Charleston; and West Virginia Ordnance Works near Point Pleasant.
An example of the size of these plants is West Virginia Ordnance Works. It was built on 8,250 acres and employed 5,000 workers making TNT in a 12-line production plant. The explosives were stored in 100 concrete igloo-type storage buildings. Workers lived in 350 housing units and dormitories. In addition to the TNT plant, there were administration buildings and shops. This facility was built by the Huntington District in seven months. The District also reconstructed Fletcher General Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio; purchased and converted the Greenbrier Hotel into a hospital, and built a 1000-man prisoner-of-war camp at White Sulphur Springs.
After the war ended in 1945, the District went back to working on its civil works projects. In 1951, military construction was resumed with the outbreak of the Korean War. Nationally, the Corps was ordered to build and rehabilitate more than 700 air bases in the United States and in foreign countries. As a result, the district built or rehabilitated nine air bases, seven in Ohio and two in West Virginia.
After the Korean Conflict ended in 1953, our military work continued, speeding up with the construction of missile bases in the late 50s. During this time, we also built a dozen Army Reserve Centers and two Veterans Administration hospitals. In 1961, the military construction mission was withdrawn from 12 Corps Districts. Huntington was one of these districts.
In recent years, the District has returned to limited military work. Ironically, this work is in the Defense Environmental Restoration Projects and Formerly Used Defense Sites or better known by the acronym, DERP/ FUDS. Two of the largest DERP/FUDS projects in the District is Lockbourne Air Force Base and West Virginia Ordnance Works
Understanding Our Roots
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the nation's engineer and water manager, a title and responsibility acquired very early in the nation's history.
In 1802, Congress reestablished the Corps of Engineers · and directed that an engineering school be established at West Point. This engineering college, the United States Military Academy, was the only engineering school in the United States until 1825. This action was taken to answer the nation's need for engineers to develop the infrastructure needed to bring the wide-spread former colonies closer together and to look to new lands beyond the Appalachians.
So in the building of our nation, the only engineers were Army officers. One of the first accomplishments of the Army Corps of Engineers was the building of a national road that reached into the Ohio Valley. By 1819, this road extended through Maryland's Cumberland Valley to Wheeling.
In 1824, Congress passed two acts that shaped the future of the Corps of Engineers. The General Survey Act authorized the President to use Army Engineers to survey road and canal routes; the Waterways Improvement Act directed the improvement of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for the common benefit of the nation. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky amended the bill authorizing the President to assign this work to the Army Corps of Engineers.
When Clay argued for the adoption of the Waterways Improvement Act, he said that, "the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were the common commercial highways of all who inhabit the vast regions through which they flow." These great rivers, he said, were the property of no state and should be treated as common stock and national property. Knowing our history is important. It helps to understand who we are, and why we have our unique work responsibilities.