LaPorte County was chosen by the U.S. War Department as the site for a major munitions plant during World War II. It was called the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant (KOP).
There were several reasons LaPorte was chosen as a site for this munitions plant: First, La Porte was considered far enough away from either continental coast to prevent possible invasion or bombing; second, four railroads bordered the site (the Baltimore & Ohio, Nickel Plate, Wabash, and Grand Trunk); third, there were thousands of potential employees within commuting distance (including Chicago); fourth, there was enough land available; and fifth, the area provided an adequate water supply.
Approximately 13,454 acres of prime farmland were purchased for the plant. 250 families (approximately 800-1000 people) living in the area were forced to relocate within 30 days of federal acquisition. The government paid the families $113.00 per acre for their land, a price the War Department’s attorney called “more than fair".
Construction on the ordnance plant began November 11, 1940. The first shell was completed in August the following year. The Manhattan-island-sized complex–- comprising 20 completely fenced-in square miles-- was eventually completed on February 27, 1942, with “its own electric light plant, where sufficient energy is generated to serve a city the size of Terre Haute; a water plant, telephone system, a sewage disposal plant of the most modern type, a fire department, seventy-eight miles of [new] railroad tracks and ten Diesel locomotives, ninety-eight miles of highways ... [and] a modern twenty-six bed hospital.”
KOP produced millions of shells throughout the war, ranging in caliber from 20 to 105 millimeter.
The plant employed a peak number of 20,785 workers in May 1942.
When World War II ended in August 1945, the plant began the process of closing down. Beginning in 1951, shell production was resumed
In 1959, the United States government closed KOP and sold it. Part of the land is now the Kingsbury State Fish & Wildlife Area, and other areas are occupied by various industrial plants.
This information was obtained from the following sources:
Indianapolis News (copies of articles in Kingsbury Ordnance Plant folder, in Vertical File)
Kingsbury, A Venture in Teamwork. Vogel, William P. 1946.
Environmental risk analyses for the site are located in a file cabinet near the library’s Indiana Room. Ask a librarian for access to these extensive files.
Additional information, including period newspaper articles, can be found in the library’s vertical file, under “Kingsbury Ordnance Plant” and in our Historical Chicago Tribune database.