Stories of the South - Gulf Ordnance Plant Prairie, MS
Growing up I showed horses, as everyone probably knows by now if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time. So with showing comes travel and I think I went to just about every riding arena indoor and outdoor in at least a 100 mile radius. I was lucky to have a pretty nice pony, then a pretty nice horse, two indulgent parents, and cheap diesel. One of my favorite places to run was at the Monroe County Riding Club area in Prairie, MS. On the way to the pen you would ride through what was left of the little town. There's not much there anymore and less today even than when I was a kid. At least when I was younger the big, old, frame store buildings were still there but those had been town down when I rode through there in May of 2014. The most notable thing about Prairie to me, is that in World War II it was the home of the Gulf Ordnance Plant.
|The Plant in it's heyday. Image from "And speaking of which..."|
This was a plant that made ammunition and bombs and by the end of the war this facility had made one quarter of the ammunition that was used by the Allies. The site was 6,720 acres and 551 acres were classified as explosive areas. It was a city unto itself with a coal fired power plant burning 50 tons of coal every day. They also had their own water pumping station.
| Smoke stack from the coal fired power plant|
The plant opened November 1942 with grand fanfare from the community. The local high school band even played. Workers were bused in from the surrounding communities and some workers came from as far away as Alabama. Many had moved from across the country and lived in dormitories on site. It was literally a brand new city with a new permanent population.
|Shell of the bomb factory|
The facility was state of the art for the time with blast proof fixtures and underground tunnels connecting the site so that work was completed secretly and safely. Production ceased in 1945 and destruction of surplus ammunition continued into 1946. The site continued to be used after the war including use as a trade training school and a facility to overhaul vehicles for the Korean conflict. Eventually though most of the buildings were demolished due to asbestos. There are several bunkers left in the surrounding countryside as well as one of the smoke stacks from the power plant, the shell of the three story bomb factory where liquid TNT was cooked and poured into warheads, and a few of the warehouses which are now used as local businesses.
The most easily seen building is right on the highway and I believe is a telephone office? Correct me if I'm wrong please.
A good portion of the original site was sold back to local farmers and the remainder is split between the industrial park and Mississippi State University's experimental cattle ranch.
I've always been fascinated with the site and was happy to find information online about it. Brent Coleman has a great website with black and white pictures from the plant during the production years. He has also written a comprehensive book about the plant as well. Please visit his site to see just how large the facility really was was. There is also another entry on the blog "And speaking of which..." about the Gulf Ordnance Plant.
Yes I am a big old history nerd. This should be well established by now.
It's amazing how times have changed. A major corporation provided millions of dollars of product for a war effort, paid employees, built a multi-million dollar facility, and all at very little profit to the company. A place that changed the lives of thousands and yet so little remains.
Happy Thursday everyone! It feels good to finally get a good long post out there. I hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you see any errors and if you have anything to add please leave a comment. Thanks as always for reading!