A collection of odd-looking structures and concrete buildings on the grounds of the Vanderburgh County Fairgrounds is all that remains of a complex that once sprawled over nearly 30 acres, an inconspicuous reminder of the area’s wartime history.
During World War II, Evansville played an important role in the nation’s war efforts, manufacturing munitions and equipment to supply Allied forces. A factory north of the city turned out thousands of P47 Thunderbolt Fighter-Bombers, and a 45-acre shipyard on the riverfront produced Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), used to transport vehicles and troops onto foreign shores.
In 1942, Chrysler converted the Plymouth assembly plant in Evansville to begin manufacturing ammunition, producing more than three billion rounds over the course of just two years. Needless to say, all that ammo had to be stored somewhere, safely and away from populated areas. The government constructed an ammunition depot next to the Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad line in northern Vanderburgh County, where equipment and ammunition could be stored while awaiting transportation. The site originally contained administration buildings, warehouses, and bunkers for the vast quantities of explosives. Federal troops stood guard in four watch towers, protecting the critical cargo traveling in and out from the depot.
Today, only a handful of the structures remain. The large angled walls that flank the entry to the complex originally offered protection to nearby buildings in case of an explosion, and ammo bunkers were buried under dirt for added safety. After the war ended, construction crews removed dirt from the bunkers for use in construction of U.S. 41.
The military constructed three such facilities during WWII; the remnants of Evansville’s complex are believed to be the only ones still standing. Today, the remaining warehouses and bunkers serve as storage for the fairground.
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