RED RIVER ARMY DEPT, Texas – Even before August 9, 1941, the Red River Army Depot was an extraordinary place.
Red River’s story begins in 1939 when Robert Maxwell and four members of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce were tasked with securing some of the growing defense funding for the region. Maxwell worked closely with Senator Morris Sheppard, also from Texarkana, to influence the selection of Texarkana Ordnance Depot (first official name).
“We were thinking of a wartime factory that would employ a few hundred people for the duration of the war and then close once the treaties were signed,” Maxwell said in an interview in 1985.
Just a little war factory was the furthest thing from what would happen.
Instead, the committee would later find out that an Army facility would be placed in Bowie County and continue to operate well after World War II.
In March 1941, another unprecedented event occurred when Major Sidney Gruneck designed the repository on a piece of scrap paper. Soon after, Gruneck asked his team to create official drawings from his freehand pencil sketch. These designs were later accepted by defense planners in Washington.
Within months, more than 22,000 construction workers arrived to begin building the Red River Ordnance Depot.
Defense planners will soon recognize the dedication and unprecedented support of the Red River personnel. Shortly after its debut in 1941, Red River added tank repair and general storage supply to its mission.
In 1946, the depot was given the responsibility of storing return-from-war combat vehicles. Over 58,000 vehicles have been stored at the depot and is believed to be one of the largest numbers ever stored at a facility.
In 1949, Colonel Selby H. Frank, commander of the depot, was informed by officials in Washington that it would be impossible for his facility to rebuild 50 M-43A tanks in one month. As expected, employees of the depot’s production workshops did not produce 50 tanks; instead, they stunned the administration by producing 68 tanks.
This is how it has been at the Red River Army Depot for eight decades. The team is constantly taking on new challenges and continues to exceed expectations.
After moving beyond tank repair, the Department of Defense asked Red River to host an artillery unit training center. The center opened its doors to 12,000 troops during World War II and the Korean War.
Concurrently during the Korean War, Red River munitions workers shipped 418,000 tonnes of ammunition. The reliability of the depot was again demonstrated in the late 1950s, when it did not make any late ammunition shipments.
The depot continued to excel becoming the first depot to recover M26 hand grenades. The team even maintained an exceptional safety record while carrying out the reclamation work.
Now the military knew they could look to the Red River to repair or build anything. This attitude of fixing or building anything quickly earned the maintenance facility a new nickname – “The Store of a Thousand Missions”.
In 1953, Red River undertook another important task by adding rubber products to its mission. Known today as the home of the M1 wheel, the Rubber Products Factory is responsible for removing used rubber from unusable track and road wheels. Since its inception, the rubber products factory has produced nearly three million pads and over 700,000 road wheels.
The 1970s introduced another major maintenance responsibility for the depot when the team initiated a program to convert the M113 armored personnel carrier from gasoline to diesel. The project has earned the maintenance shop a new nickname – “Carrier Capital of the World”.
The depot’s hard work on the M113 led to rebuilding both the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System (BFVS) and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) in the 1980s, two vehicle systems that are still important to the filing today.
As the depot progressed into the 1990s, the procurement mission was transferred to the Defense Logistics Agency, making the procurement function a tenant of the facility. The late 1990s also brought changes when the ammunition mission was transferred to the Supply Operations Command.
Even though change was inevitable, the depot was still hard at work. In the early 2000s, Red River began reworking the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). In 2007, the depot had already celebrated the production of its 10,000th HMMWV. The depot team members continued their quest for a “commitment to excellence” and by 2012 the team was able to produce up to 40 HMMWVs per day.
Today, Red River’s mission is to maintain the combat power of the Warfighter by providing ground combat and sustainment operations to tactical systems. Although a far cry from the first mission in 1941, the depot remains the backbone of our nation’s defense.
Red River Army Depot currently serves as a center of industrial and technical excellence for a long list of vehicle platforms, including the HMMWV; the BFVS; MLRS; the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT); the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS); the Medium Tactical Vehicle Family (FMTV) and Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET), to name a few.
The repository also performs overhaul, rebuild, and reset work on an extensive list of other assets and components.
The Red River is home to eight million square feet of floor space, occupies over 15,000 acres, and is home to over 1,400 buildings. The depot is also the host facility for 16 tenant organizations, including the Defense Finance and Accounting Department and the Defense Logistics Distribution Agency – Rivière Rouge.