History has shown that turning “swords to plowshares” requires the combination of a cooperative spirit, a creative vision and securing the financial resources necessary to carry out this conversion.
World War II
When the United States became involved in World War II over half a century ago, America accelerated its efforts to build an industrial complex at home to supply its armed forces fighting in distant lands. An integral component of that effort opened in 1941 at a federally-owned site 40 miles southwest of Chicago. It occupied 23,500 acres where the weapons of warfare were manufactured and assembled. Up to 57% of the Army’s TNT was produced at this facility that came to be known as the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant (JOAAP).
Korea and Vietnam Conflicts
The Plant served as a major employer in Will County throughout World War II as well as during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Thousands of area residents worked at the plant which employed nearly 12,000 people in the 1940s and 8,000 in the 1960s. People migrated to the Joliet community to find work at the plant. In 1976, that production dramatically declined and the plant was declared excess Army property in 1993.
End of Cold War
The Joliet Arsenal represents a classic example of the downsizing of America’s military infrastructure. The Will County area faces the same opportunities and challenges faced by hundreds of communities nationwide which have endured base closures and/or realignment over the past decade. History has shown that turning “swords to plowshares” requires combining a cooperative spirit with a creative vision and securing the financial resources necessary to carry out that conversion.