1939 - 1945

On August 10, 1942, GMOC was presented with its first Army-Navy "E" Award for production excellence, in a large ceremony attended by the chief of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance, Admiral William Blandy. West Virginia State Archives.

The NOP got its second chance in 1939, when the Navy leased half of the plant (the South Unit) to Carnegie-Illinois Steel to pursue its original purpose: armor production.

With a $50 million expansion (1941) and three of the largest forge presses in the world (14,000 tons), the NOP was one of the few factories in the country capable of producing armor for America's biggest warships.

A year later, a small group of engineers was brought in to spec out the North Unit for manufacturing gun barrels once more. General Machinery Ordnance Corporation (a subsidiary of General Machinery Corporation) was born.

What had been the first true Naval Ordnance Plant (two more had been established in World War I by seizing factories that were failing to deliver according to contract) was soon joined by eleven more as the Bureau of Ordnance built a nationwide network of factories to keep its ships supplied.

By the end of the war both GMOC and Carnegie-Illinois had, in their respective fields, outproduced every other Naval Ordnance Plant combined.

Roosevelt's New Deal also had tangible effects on the NOP's operation. From 1939 to 1943, one of the biggest National Youth Administration "work experience" projects operated in two buildings at the NOP as part of a nationwide effort to relieve joblessness among American youths just entering the workforce.

Offering fifteen different courses in the "arsenal trades," the program taught high-demand skills to 17-24 year old men and women, black and white, in fields related to war production.

At left, digitized and made publicly available for the first time due to the "Century Strong" exhibit, is a 1940 color film from the National Archives promoting the South Charleston NYA program--filmed entirely at the Naval Ordnance Plant.

Check out our online Flickr archive of the NYA at the NOP.

More World War II galleries coming soon!

More historical galleries on the way!