Section III: Remaking Community
The Umatilla Ordnance Depot
The location of the Umatilla Ordnance Depot
here will strengthen the need for more power and better use of the Columbia river for transportation.
Hermiston Herald, May 1, 1941
Efforts to build the Umatilla Rapids Dam continued, linking power and navigation with defense at the Umatilla Ordnance Depot. On March 15, 1941, the U.S. Army obtained 14,000 acres of land from Umatilla and Morrow Counties. A bombing test range in Boardman gave the Army an additional 93,346 acres.
Conventional weapons were stored at the Umatilla Ordnance Depot throughout the Second World and Korean Wars. From 1962-1969 chemical weapons were brought to the depot for storage, despite the protests of many Oregonians, including then-governor, Tom McCall . As late as 1993, conventional weapons were deployed from the depot to the Gulf War.
People flocked from around the nation to build the largest munitions depot in the world, "right here in Hermiston," at a cost of $35 million. World records were set for pouring concrete - 24 igloos, using 9,000 pounds of concrete, were built in one day on September 24, 1941. Nearby Umatilla grew too, providing housing and services to workers. Nearly everyone in town knew someone or had a family member working at the army installation. On October 14, 1941, the Umatilla Ordnance Depot opened, and less than two weeks later the first rail cars brought shipments of bombs from Ogden, Utah, for storage.