INAAP: Indiana Army Ammunition Plant
Charlestown, IN

History of INAAP

Nature Creep

Between lines of Number Sixes right after sun rose behind them. This photo shows how extremely lush the grounds are that make getting around in some places impossible.
Between lines of Number Sixes right after sun rose behind them. This photo shows how extremely lush the grounds are that make getting around in some places impossible.

Though without equal in its condition, Indiana Army Ammunition is suffering from what I call “nature creep”—the condition of being re-conquered by Mother Earth. Roots break apart concrete foundations while vines pull mortar away from the bricks, letting in the frost to break down walls, which soon dissolve back into the earth.

Overhead, a young conifer has been working for years, it seems, lifting a bright red steam pipe from its bracket, where it crosses a security patrol road. I give it another year before it hits dirt, and a century before it becomes dirt.

Blending the explosive ingredients was dangerous. It is no wonder that the blending house had so many emergency slides.
Blending the explosive ingredients was dangerous. It is no wonder that the blending house had so many emergency slides.

Giving “Joe” the Boom He Needs

Before INAAP, the US could make 50,000 pounds of smokeless powder in 24 hours. But as one observer noted, “In a modern all-out war, an army of 1,200,000 men will use 600,000 pounds of smokeless powder every day of fighting. When it was obvious after the fall of France that the US was going to get pulled-into another World War, congress authorized 3 new powder plants.

Details: Squatting through the storm

Ammunition factories were to be near the south, to be near cotton, far from the coasts, for protection, and near railroad centers, water and labor. Du Pont, the oldest powder manufacturer in the country, won the first National Defense Program powder contract and selected the Louisville area for the huge project. Construction began August 26, 1940, and by the next spring, 800 permanent buildings were complete.

I say “permanent” because it was something special for ammunition plants of this area to be built to last; of the three initial National Defense Program smokeless powder contracts, INAAP is the only designed to be permanent. Well, Indiana Ordinance Works 1, technically, was to be permanent… let me explain.

Growing the War Machine

INAAP is the modern (1961) name for what are really three factories in one: Indiana Ordinance Works 1 and 2, and the Hoosier Ordinance Plant. Indiana Ordinance Works 1 went online in May of 1941 producing first 600,000 pounds of powder daily, a figure later increased to 1,000,000.

Details: The Cotton Bale Monorail

The Hoosier Plant followed, operated by Goodyear Engineering rather than du Pont, constructed between 1941 and 1942 to bag powder charges for cannons and mortars. Indiana Ordinance 2 came last and was never completed; construction began in 1944 and ended 1945. It was meant to be a rocket propellant plant, but it was later demolished.

More than 32,000 workers were employed at INAAP at one time along the 6 production lines (4 for cannon powder, 2 for rifle).

Some of the 32,000 workers walking into the plant from town. (Source: Life Magazine)
Some of the 32,000 workers walking into the plant from town. (Source: Life Magazine)

Always More War (WWII through Vietnam)

Ducking the steam lines overhead between the mixers and compressors, a water tower says "good morning," right past the slack power lines. This is the sleepy uptown of the war city.
Ducking the steam lines overhead between the mixers and compressors, a water tower says “good morning,” right past the slack power lines. This is the sleepy uptown of the war city.

Like many of its counterparts, INAAP did not operate after the Allies won victory from Japan, in fact the plant was officially placed on standby status two days before V-J day on August 12, 1945. That isn’t to say, though, that the plant never operated again—for an old soldier, it is said, there is always another battle. For INAAP, this was Korea, then Vietnam.

The Korean War brought the plant out of standby status between 1952 and 1957 (though there was also a partial activation in 1949) and the Vietnam War reactivated some of the plant again in 1961. In the early Vietnam years, only the parts of the plant associated with bagging and loading igniter and propellant were used, but in 1969 du Pont reactivated part of the powder line as well.

In the late 1970s, the Army built 2 mostly-automated black powder line elsewhere after finding INAAP too inefficient by modern standards. After the lines were built and tested to work, they were put in standby, just in case a Cold War turned hot.

Spare parts ready for this building's reactivation.
Spare parts ready for this building’s reactivation.

References »

  • Army building: new du pont plant in indiana will make 600,000 lb. of powder a day. (1941, January 20).LIFE Magazine, 10(3), Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=8kgEAAAAMBAJ
  • Gray, R.D. (1994). http://books.google.com/books?id=slkbsubql-ac [p.355]. (Google Books), Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=SlKbSuBQL-AC
  • Historic American Engineering Record. (1985).Indiana army ammunition plant Library of Congress. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/IN0288/
  • Kleber, J.E. (2001). The encyclopedia of louisville[Illustrated ed.]. (Google Books), Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=pXbYITw4ZesC