The Ordnance Department During World War II
General Wesson's term as Chief of Ordnance expired in spring 1942, and President Roosevelt replaced him with Gen. Levin H. Campbell. A 1909 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he resigned from the Navy to work in private industry before re-enlisting as an officer in the army. He served in the Ordnance Department during World War I and then continued at various Ordnance postings during the 1920s and 1930s working on the engineering and production of artillery, tanks, and ammunition. He received praise for successfully introducing automatic machinery to the artillery ammunition assembly line at the Frankfort Arsenal in 1939 and 1940. As assistant chief for facilities in the Industrial Service, he supervised the planning and construction of new Ordnance plants. When he was promoted to Chief of Ordnance in May 1940, Campbell not only shuffled some of the administrators in the department, but also he reorganized it in some significant ways. He appointed an advisory staff comprised of four prominent industrialists: Bernard Baruch, who had chaired the War Industries Board during World War I; K.T. Keller, president of Chrysler Corporation; Benjamin F. Fairless, president of U.S. Steel; and Lewis H. Brown, president of Johns-Manville Corporation. He also established three new operating divisions at the level of the Industrial Service and the Field Service: Military Training, Technical, and Parts Control divisions.
Campbell also reorganized the Industrial Service, now called the Industrial Division and under the supervision of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Hayes. By the time he had become Chief of Ordnance, each of the four divisions had developed staffs, he believed, that could manage their responsibilities without needing the supervision of assistant chiefs. Another change Campbell inaugurated for the Industrial Division was to decentralize some of its supervisory offices. One such decentralized office he created was the Field Director of Ammunition Plants (FDAP), which he located at St. Louis next door to the office of the St. Louis Ordnance District. The FDAP had administrative charge of some sixty ammunition factories that were owned by the government and operated by contractors. Another decentralization was even more consequential. In July 1942, the U.S. Army decided to transfer all automotive activities to the Ordnance Department. Heretofore, development, production, distribution, and maintenance of the army's cars and trucks and related components like engines, transmissions, and axles had been the responsibility of the Quartermaster Corps. Combat vehicles like tanks, armored cars, and personnel carriers, on the other hand, had been the Ordnance Department's responsibility. Campbell combined the two streams of procurement under a new Tank-Automotive Center (T-AC) headquartered in Detroit. The overhauled organizational structure Campbell gave the Ordnance Department served to administer ordnance production totaling more than $1 billion per month by December 1942.
Prior to the army's administrative reorganization of tank and automotive procurement, the Quartermaster Corps had also been in the midst of a tremendous procurement program (see section describing the development of the jeep). Between July 1940, when the Quartermaster Corps reorganized to create a Motor Transport Division, and August 1942, when the duties of procurement and maintenance were shifted to Ordnance's Tank-Automotive Center (T-AC) in Detroit, the number of trucks in the U.S. Army increased from about 20,000 to about 500,000. By that time, the Motor Transport Division had been reorganized as the Motor Transport Service, and there was talk within the War Department of making the Motor Transport Service a separate branch of the U.S. Army (a shuffle recommended by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower). Although officials of the Quartermaster Corps argued against transferring Motor Transport away from their control, the army ordered that procurement and maintenance of motor transport vehicles be moved to Ordnance.
The transfer of the Motor Transport Service from the Quartermaster Corps and its merger with the Tank and Combat Vehicle Division of Ordnance's Industrial Division was easily the most monumental change made to the division's responsibilities during the war. The Motor Transport Service had charge of the army's motor pools, automotive supply depots, and schools for training auto mechanics. In addition, the Motor Transport Service administered more than 4,000 contracts worth about $3 billion, which had to be folded into Ordnance's already mammoth list of contracts. General Campbell established the new T-AC at Detroit so that it could readily coordinate with the nation's auto industry. He wanted to avoid too much concentration of Ordnance activities at the nation's capital, and he wanted to develop the best possible relationships with auto industry leaders. After a false-start in organizing the top leadership at the T-AC, Campbell placed Brig. Gen. A.R. Glancy in charge with Brig. Gen. John K. Christmas as his deputy. Glancy was an industrialist with experience in military procurement. He received a reserve commission to become a brigadier general. Christmas had spent most of his career in the army designing and engineering tanks. Glancy organized the Detroit operation into five branches: Development, Engineering, Manufacturing, Supply, and Maintenance.
Nearly all the functions of the Ordnance Department were represented in the Detroit office, a fact recognized during the course of the war by the renaming of the center as Office, Chief of Ordnance-Detroit (OCO-D). Campbell was so intent on decentralization that he intended to assign full operating authority to OCO-D, although some of the divisions in Washington, DC, had difficulty relinquishing authority. This caused some inefficiency and discord within the Ordnance Department during the war, but afterward officers in the department generally considered the experiment in decentralization of the Tank-Automotive Center to have been a success, to which the tremendous production of military vehicles was largely attributable. During the course of the war, nearly half of the Ordnance Department personnel moved to Detroit. The staff there grew from forty officers and about 600 civilians in September 1942 to 500 officers and nearly 4,000 civilians by February 1943. At the peak of employment, 5,000 civilians worked at OCO-D, which was responsible for the manufacture of more than three million military vehicles. OCO-D spent almost half of the Ordnance Department's total expenditures during the war.
Another of Campbell's important organizational changes occurred at the level of the ordnance districts. Civilian chiefs headed the district offices from World War I to 1942. Although the chiefs were prominent industrialists, they were also volunteers who did not work full time at their district offices. With industries and their managers being more taxed to meet military production demands and with the district offices facing greater work loads in administering procurement at the local level, Campbell decided to assign experienced Ordnance officers as district chiefs, retaining the former civilian chiefs as policy advisors.
Ordnance contracted with firms for many kinds of items beyond combat vehicles, such as were processed by Ford's Richmond branch, or weapons. Through the San Francisco Ordnance District, for example. Ordnance contracted with such firms as Rogers Super Tread Tire Service of Yakima, Washington. Founded in 1936, the father-and-son firm owned a small tire recapping plant. Specializing in tires for large construction equipment, their business grew and was in position to be low bidder on an Ordnance contract in 1942 to recap tires for the contractors that were building military installations in Alaska. The army then awarded Rogers contracts and sub-contracts for recapping tires for military vehicles. Rogers processed tens of thousands of tires throughout the war. During the peak of its work in 1944, Rogers had as many as eighty men working in its union shop. Another example was American Box Corporation, a company representing the merger of several California-based box and lumber companies, the oldest being the Stockton Box Company of Stockton, founded in 1910. American Box's stock in trade was wooden boxes used for shipping fresh, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables. The company also produced some industrial boxes. American Box's first military contract was with the Quartermaster Corps in 1941, when the company helped the corps design wooden foot lockers for use in military training camps and then produced 136,666 of the items. American Box was soon under contract to build boxes for Ordnance as well, including more than a million boxes for transporting artillery munitions, bombs, and small arms.
The San Francisco Ordnance District created its Historical Section in 1942 in response to Ordnance Department order no. 337 dated 21 September 1942. District Chief Colonel Harmon instructed the members of his Historical Section:
"The San Francisco Ordnance District has been charged with compiling a complete history of the District's activities since its inception. This history will be a factual record and will not only be a laudatory account, but will include known mistakes, their elimination, and suggestions for improvement in any phase where the need is apparent."
The District Historian wrote and directed the writing of numerous historical summaries that chronicle the histories of the many activities supervised by the district. These histories, and those of other Ordnance Districts, comprise several large series of records in the National Archives' Record Group 156, the Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance. To compile the histories, the District Historian had commanding officers at various installations write monthly and quarterly historical reports; dispatched employees on assignments, like the trip Fern Hurley made to the Richmond Tank Depot to interview workers and write a chapter on the depot in her report, "Women Man the Battle Stations" (see section on women); and wrote letters to contractors asking them to write brief histories of their activities under contract to Ordnance during the war (Rogers Super Tread and American Box are two examples). Actual primary documents are not always included in the histories, but often the historian had typed copies of primary documents appended to reports as exhibits. There is considerable additional information available in the histories on other aspects of Ordnance activities during World War II.