Naval Ammunition Depot
Hastings, NE

When the rainclouds turned the sky into a muddy turquoise, the cattle lazily moved closer to the covered walkways between Building 100A and the heavy bunkers.

Originally, the purpose of the freestanding sheet metal corridors was to connect workers with work, where the latter could blow the former into the sky if there was a single mistake. If Building 100A went, 100B would likewise take the form of a deep crater, whereas Building 200, on the other end of a covered walkway, would hopefully retain most if its shape. Now, the workers are gone, like their work, and the only purpose of the narrow sidewalks with roofing is to anatomize the prairie, which is mostly quiet once again.

The Naval Ammunition Depot at Hastings, Nebraska transformed about 50,000 acres of farmland into a $71 million bomb factory in anticipation of World War II. While the middle of the country was inconvenient for the Navy, it was even more inconvenient for our enemies. Nebraska’s geographic isolation was its greatest asset in this case. Ground broke in July 1942 in what became the largest of the Navy’s inland munitions plants. More than 2,000 buildings, 200 miles of railroad track, and 10,000 workers filled the space, and at one time 40% of all naval munitions were made here. After the war, most of the facility was mothballed, though it operated for a short time during the Korean War. In 1966, NAD was officially, and completely, decommissioned.

Even in monochrome, you can probably tell what colors were over Hastings that evening: Red, White, and Blue.

Just beyond the almost-endless grid of igloo-shaped concrete bunkers is a cemetery commemorating one of the most graphic homeland disasters during the war. On September 15th, 1944, a worker loading a train made a mistake, the details of which will never be known. Tremors were reported 100 miles away as the train and nearby depot exploded, killing 9 and injuring 53.

Today most of the plant has found new purpose as a community college, light industrial spaces, and storage.

Full Set // Naval Ammo Depot