On September 15, 1930, the Secretary of the Navy commissioned the U. S. Naval Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada. This did not happen by accident, but two accidents were significant to the process. Four years earlier in July of 1926, during the same week that a fire destroyed the Hawthorne business district, the Navy’s principle ammunition depot in Lake Denmark, New Jersey blew up, destroying the town and killing over 50 people and injuring hundreds more.
After the war the depot focus shifted toward demilitarization and renovation projects and other conventional weapons loading and testing. In 1977 the Department of Defense put all ammunition and production under command of the Army and the Naval Ammunition Depot became the Army Ammunition Depot. In 1980 the Depot was contracted out to a private corporation, later becoming Day Zimmermann Hawthorne Corporation.
The Western Area Demilitarization Facility
Under the developing cloud of the Second World War, the Naval Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne began operation as a storage facility, with 72 military personnel and 90 civilian employees accepting the first load of ammunition. Known as the “World’s Largest Ammunition Depot” its boundaries cover 237 square miles.
During World War II Hawthorne’s facilities and personnel were greatly expanded. The workload included cast loading of bombs, torpedo and guided missile warheads, depth charges and mines, propellant loading and assembly of gun cartridges. Peak employment of 5,625 civilian and military employees was reached in August 1945.
Today the depot can safely and efficiently dispose of outdated and unserviceable ammunition using the latest technology. The Western Area Demilitarization Facility (WADF) was completed by the Navy and transferred to the Army early in 1980 This state-of-the-art facility provides an environmentally safe and friendly, processing plant built specifically to recycle and reclaim metal parts and explosives.