Remembering LaPorte County’s Kingsbury Ordnance Plant

By Mary Giorgio

*Editor’s Note: I would type this in ultra-bold if such a font existed. Do not “explore” this former military munitions plant. Local, regional, state and federal authorities tend to frown upon it. With bullets.

Located on 13,000 acres just outside of LaPorte, Indiana, the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant supplied hundreds of thousands of Allied troops with ammunition during World War II. While the plant’s production of ammunition made decisive American victories possible, the plant also brought financial prosperity to nearby Indiana communities struggling to recover from the Great Depression.


KINGSBURY IN FULL SWING

In the late 1930s, the federal government was looking for secure areas to build munitions plants in anticipation of America’s entry into World War II. Kingsbury was the perfect place for one of these new plants. A farming community with an abundance of flat, open land, the location could be easily secured. It was also far enough inland to prevent incoming enemy attacks. Kingsbury had an ample supply of fresh water for production needs, yet it was still positioned near highways for easy transportation of finished goods.

Kingsbury was the fourth American plant authorized to prepare for war. The government purchased most of the 13,000 acres through eminent domain, the right of the US Government to purchase land for public use. Over 250 families were relocated.

PLANT PHOTO, 1942

Construction on the facility began in 1940. In all, eight construction lines were completed, each separated by a mile in case of an explosion. It also included barracks, bomb shelters, clock towers, and offices. The first shell was loaded at the facility on October 13, 1941.

At the peak of its production, the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant employed more than 20,000 workers. Approximately 45 percent of these workers were women, due to the large number of men serving overseas. Since the demand for workers exceeded available Hoosiers, additional workers were imported from across the country.

In a single day, workers produced 180,000 point-detonating fuses, over 46,000 40mm shells, and 500,000 rounds of 20mm ammunition. The facility had tight security, with multiple checkpoints for workers to pass through.

ORDNANCE TEST AT PLANT

Being a small village, Kingsbury lacked housing for the multitude of out-of-town workers. Thousands lived within commuting “range.” To accommodate the new workers, authorities constructed homes, trailers, and dormitories in proximity to the factory. The locals called the new housing Kingsbury Heights.

The facility operated at full capacity until the end of WWII. When the war ended, Kingsbury was put on “nucleus reserve” so it could be back online within 4-6 months. Most of the workers moved back to their original homes.

The US military briefly reinstated Kingsbury during the Korean War, but it was decommissioned and permanently closed in 1960. The land was eventually parceled off. In 1965, about 7,200 acres were given to Indiana to create the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area. Other areas reverted to farmland. Today, a large expanse houses the Kingsbury Industrial Park.

TODAY

Today, you’ll only find crumbling munitions buildings and decaying bunkers scattered throughout the area. Those physical signs are about all that remains of the once famed Kingsbury Ordnance plant that aided Allied forces and brought great prosperity to the area.

Right when the region, and the country, needed it most.