Savanna Army Depot

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Savanna Army Depot (1918-2000) - A U.S. Army Depot first established as Savanna Proving Ground in 1918 during World War I near Savanna, Jo Daviess County, Illinois. Abandoned in 2000. Other official names over the years include Savanna Army Depot Activity, Savanna Army Depot and Savanna Ordnance Depot.

Savanna Army Depot Storage Bunkers 1997.

Savanna Proving Ground (1918-1921)

Text and Maps below adapted from LOC - HAER IL-19, Data Pages, Savanna Army Depot, Savanna, Carroll County, IL

The Sundry Civil Act passed by Congress on 12 Jun 1917 appropriated 1.5 million dollars for the establishment of a proof-firing facility for the testing of artillery and ammunition. The Commanding Officer at Rock Island Arsenal, Colonel George W. Burr, (Cullum 3241), was authorized to purchase the land and make the necessary improvements for this facility to operate under the Rock Island Arsenal.

Savanna Proving Ground Era Map 1918-1920.

Construction began for the proving ground in April 1918 during World War I on the selected site near Savanna, Illinois. The proving ground officially opened on 26 Dec 1918 shortly after World War I had ended. Proof-firing activity had already begun in September 1918.

The "Hill" area and the "Combined Shop" area were developed on a small area at the southeast extreme of the depot. Buildings on the "Hill" included the commanding officer's residence, officers' quarters, men's barracks, administration building, hospital, and Boulenge Instrument building. The "Combined Shop" area included an ammunition storage house, instrument house, garages, vehicle storage warehouse, engine house, and several firing points.

Savanna Ordnance Depot (1921-1962)

The Savanna Proving Ground was officially separated from the Rock Island Arsenal on 5 Mar 1921 and renamed Savanna Ordnance Depot.

Savanna Ordnance Depot Era Map 1921-1962.

The "Upper Field" was developed in 1921 with forty-seven standard ammunition magazines and thirty high explosive magazines. Each type was located in a separate area, served by railroad tracks. Also built in 1920-1921 was a Nitrate Storage Pit, built to hold 260,000 tons of sodium nitrate for war reserves.

In 1929 twenty-four igloo-style earth-covered standard magazines were built and an additional 194 igloo-style earth-covered magazines were built in 1939 and 1940. An additional 213 magazines were added in 1941. These 407 igloos, except for one destroyed by an explosion in 1948, now comprise 'E' and 'F' areas and part of 'J' area. In addition, 55 standard ammunition magazines similar to those built in 1921 were constructed in 1940 and 1941 in what is now the 'A' area.

Standard Underground Magazine in Savanna Depot.

Between 1939 and 1942 four industrial plants were constructed

Plant #1 - Bomb Loading Plant (Group III Load Line or CL Plant) (1939-1940) prototype The initial 12 buildings were laid out and interconnected with enclosed ramps through which materials were moved by battery-powered tow trucks. The plant loaded bombs with explosives during World War II, including the bombs used in General James Doolittles's raidon Tokyo in 1942.

Plant #2 - Typical Melt Load Line (1942) Initially the plant consisted of twenty-nine interconnected buildings in their own distinct separated area of the depot. In this plant fixed-round ammunition was loaded with explosives.

Plant #3 - Ammonium Nitrate Crystallization Plant (1942) Never operated as planned because ammonium nitrate usage was discontinued when the plant was completed.

Plant #4 - Clipping, Belting, and Linking Plant (1942) Near the Combined Shop Area, used for packaging small arms ammunition. It consisted of two buildings: the packaging plant and a change house.

Thirty-seven temporary buildings were erected in 1941 as part of a Unit Training Center. With quarters for 945 enlisted men and 40 officers, the complex included fifteen temporary barracks, five mess halls, six recreation buildings, officers' quarters, a post exchange, guard house, two storehouses, and an administration building.

A hospital complex was constructed in 1941 that consisted of nine buildings connected by a series of closed and open walkways. Other buldings erected in 1941 include a fire and guard house, garage and shop building, a field office in the ammunition area, transfer platforms, and guard houses. The Diesel Generating Plant was constructed in 1941, and a new administration building was completed in 1942.

Post World War II - The Typical Melt Load Line was modernized and equipped to load both fixed and semi-fixed shells in sizes through 105mm. The Bomb Loading Plant was used for the demilitarization, renovation, and modification of ammunition. The Ammonium Nitrate Crystallization Plant was used for ammunition inspection. In 1950, the Ordnance Ammunition, Surveillance, and Maintenance School was established to provide technical, operational, and administrative training in all fields of ammunition. A Brass Reclamation Plant was constructed in 1954.

Savanna Army Depot (1962-1976)

Savanna Ordnance Depot was renamed Savanna Army Depot on 1 August 1962, and it received a special weapons mission on 1 Jan 1966 and an authorization to construct facilities to support this mission. Eight yurt-style magazines were constructed along with a check and assembly building, warehouse, and guard house. This area, fenced and designated 'J' area, also included the former Liquid Propellant Storage Area, constructed in 1957, and twenty-three earth-covered magazines annexed from 'E' area. A new special weapons workshop was completed in 1970, and the special weapons mission was terminated in 1975

The DARCOM (U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command) Ammunition Center was established at the depot in July, 1971. It was redesignated the U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center and School in 1979, and it provided technical, logistical, consultant, engineering, training/ and other specialized ammunition services to the Department of Defense.

Savanna Army Depot Activity (1976-2000)

On 1 Jul 1976, the depot was placed under DESCOM (Depot System Command), with headquarters at Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and renamed Savanna Army Depot Activity.

Current Status

Decactivated on 18 Mar 2000.

Location: Savanna, Jo Daviess County, Illinois.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.20917 Long: -90.31389

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 650'~



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