By Natalie Pritz, LaPorte High School student
Just off U.S. 35 is an area once known as the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant. Some people drive past the entrance every day. Some people hunt, fish, or use the shooting range. But how many LaPorteans really know the rich history of the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant?
In 1940, the United States War Department chose this area of the county to build munitions for use in World War II. Before the decision, this land was used for farming and was known as a town called Tracy. The government bought out the land and moved Tracy’s residents to a new area to then be named New Tracy.
Jim Heinold, owner of Heinold Industrial Property in Kingsbury Industrial Park, which sits on property once part of KOP, said this area was chosen as the ammunition production center for many reasons.
“It’s close to center of the heartland and away from the water of the coasts. The Japanese and the Germans had submarines to attack our shores, so here we were away from waters.”
Throughout World War II, munitions were produced at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant. They were transported from the KOP by railroads to the East Coast, the West Coast and the Port of New Orleans to be shipped out to our troops.
After the war ended, the plant was shut down by the government, but in 1959 it was reopened for ammunition production for the Korean War. After the Korean War was over, the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant was officially shut down and sold off.
Today, part of the property is now known as the Kingsbury Industrial Park and part as the Kingsbury State Fish and Wildlife Area.
When driving or walking through the old KOP, it is nearly impossible to miss the fenced-off pieces of land with the “contaminated area” signs. Heinold stated these parts of the land were used as “burning fields and test areas.” In 1970, contractors were hired to clean up these contaminated areas. Even with millions of munitions produced, Heinold said it would be “very, very rare” to find an unexploded shell in the areas.
From the KOP’s beginning in the 1940s, building ammunition for World War II, to the property today, housing companies such as Waste Management of LaPorte, the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant property will be forever stitched into the fabric of LaPorte County’s history.
“This is a very history rich area and people need to be aware of it,” said Heinold.