Anniston Army Depot was originally conceived as an ammunition storage site in the isolated northeast Alabama foothills of the Appalachian Mountains before the United States' entry into World War II. It has since grown to encompass a variety of maintenance and storage missions that keeps the U.S. Army prepared for engagement worldwide. With more than 6,000 people currently working on the depot, it is one of Alabama's single largest employers.
Anniston Army Depot's origins date to 1940, when the Department of the Army acquired 10,640 acres in Calhoun County near the town of Anniston. In February 1941, construction began on 500 ammunition storage "igloos" (concrete structures mounded over with dirt to contain
accidental explosions and facilitate concealment) along with warehouses and administration buildings. On October 14, 1941,
the facility was officially named the Anniston Ordnance Depot, with an initial staff of only four. With the attack on Pearl
Harbor by Imperial Japan in December 1941 and the United States' entry into World War II, the need for the depot's services
increased dramatically. By November 1942, the Army had acquired additional land to expand the depot to its current 15,000-plus
acres; more than 4,000 civilians worked at the facility receiving, processing, and shipping the millions of tons of ammunition
required by the United States armed forces and its allies. As the depot's mission grew and demands on the Army increased during
the war years, management of the depot was contracted to Chrysler, which had experience in management of large supply facilities.
After World War II, management of the depot reverted to the Army. During its history, no major units have been posted at the
depot. The facillity's staff is largely civilian with a small contingent of military personnel that oversees the various aspects
of the work at the depot and are under Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM).
After World War II, the depot continued primarily as a storage facility and regional vehicle maintenance depot until 1952, when the Army assigned the depot the mission of overhauling and rebuilding its fleet of combat vehicles and tanks, as well as artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. In addition, the depot was tasked to modify equipment and weapon systems to further extend their usefulness to the Army. In August 1962, the depot was renamed Anniston Army Depot (ANAD) and placed within the Army Materiel Command to better reflect ANAD's growing maintenance role. In 1980, the Army's land-combat missile inventory was added as part of the depot's maintenance function. Employees at the depot repair, recondition, and upgrade missiles such as the Tube-launched Optically Wire-guided (TOW) family of anti-tank missiles and recycles those deemed obsolete for their parts, saving the Army the expense of purchasing some new parts.
Widely known as "The Tank Rebuild Center of the Free World," in the twenty-first century, ANAD's mission remains critical. Currently under the command of Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), more than 6,700 government depot employees and on-site contractors rebuild the Army's most powerful ground combat vehicles, including the M1 Abrams main battle tank. They also rebuild all self-propelled and towed artillery pieces, vehicle-launched bridges, and armored-vehicle recovery vehicles. As the need for more substantial armor on the military's High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs, or Humvees) became apparent during Operation Iraqi Freedom, ANAD became one of the centers for fabrication of Armor Survivability Kits for installation on HMMWVs to protect U.S. troops against improvised explosive devices and other dangers of the modern battlefield.
For the first time in ANAD's history, new armored vehicles are being constructed on the depot. Currently, Contractor General
Dynamics Land Systems builds approximately 600 Strykers annually. These eight-wheeled, highly-mobile armored vehicles have
proven invaluable to light infantry units serving in Iraq, especially in urban areas, providing fire support and armored protection
to units that traditionally rode to battle in unarmored trucks.
With the end of World War II, the Army faced the challenge of bringing home and storing the millions of weapons that had equipped the 16 million American service members who went to war. ANAD stored many of these weapons until they were disposed of as surplus or demilitarized through destruction. Today, ANAD maintains the entire inventory of the Army's small arms, from pistols to heavy machine guns. Serviceable weapons are refurbished and put back into use, whereas badly damaged and worn out weapons are reduced to indistinguishable pieces before being sold as scrap metal.
Beginning in 1963, ANAD became one of the Army's storage sites for its growing stockpile of Cold War-era chemical-warfare munitions, which included lethal nerve, blood, and blister agents contained in rockets, artillery shells, and aerosol canisters. In the early 1980s, when it was discovered that some of the chemical munitions had begun to leak their deadly payload, a new, state-of-the-art facility was constructed on the depot for the decontamination and destruction of these unstable munitions. The facility was completed in 2001, and in 2003 personnel began to destroy all outdated stockpiles of chemical munitions held at the depot. This disposal process is now mainly complete and was accomplished without incident.
The more than 60 years of heavy-industrial activity at ANAD has come with some price to the environment. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was found that depot personnel had been disposing of toxic industrial chemicals in unlined pits, resulting in these chemicals seeping into groundwater. Under Environmental Protection Agency scrutiny, ANAD undertook to clean up the environmental hazard and has since invested substantial sums in keeping its operations ecologically friendly. ANAD's role supporting U.S. armed forces, and the armed forces of friendly nations who use U.S.-made equipment, has made it one of the most important assets that the Army owns.
W. Jayson Hill
Published September 24, 2008
Last updated October 3, 2012