WORLD WAR II HISTORY OF NSD CLEARFIELD, UTAH
As you are aware the 2003 Navy Supply Corps Workshop will be held in Salt Lake City April 11-13. What you may not be aware of is that on April 10, 2003 we will commemorate a significant chapter of Utah Navy Supply Corps History. Naval Supply Depot Clearfield was commissioned on April 10, 1943. When commissioned it was the second largest Naval Supply Depot in the world, by the end of World War II it had become the largest. What follows is a short history of World War II operations at NSD Clearfield. It is interesting that the logistical lessons learned during that conflict are still of value today as we battle the war on terror.
~ CONSTRUCTION OF NAVAL SUPPLY DEPOT CLEARFIELD ~
Early in 1942 following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor it became evident to the Navy that it would need to vastly expand its logistical support network in order to successfully prosecute its wartime campaign against Japan. To do this the Navy would require substantial new warehouse space to be created somewhere in the American West where it would be accessible to major transportation nodes and be out of the reach of enemy air attack.
The Navy evaluated several sights before settling on a location in Clearfield, Utah, which was approved by the Secretary of the Navy on April 11, 1942. The Secretary of the Navy then sought the approval of President Roosevelt, which was granted on or about May 26, 1942. On receipt of Presidential authorization the Navy Department moved swiftly to obtain title to the desired real estate. On June 13, 1942 Judge Tillman D. Johnson granted immediate possession to the Navy during condemnation proceedings which were held in Federal Court in Ogden, Utah. Construction activity shortly followed, but no formal ground breaking ceremonies were held due to reasons of wartime security.
Construction was commenced under a contract which planned for the building of forty eight 200 x 600 storehouses. These warehouse facilities were intended for general storage of naval parts, stores and equipment to support naval ships, airplanes and personnel. The initial contract allocated funds in the amount of $33.6 million for the construction of the depot. Construction efforts moved ahead swiftly despite shortages of manpower and construction material. With the nation on a war footing the construction of NSD Clearfield had to compete with other urgent wartime requirements and activities.
This construction effort would last 10 months, 22 days. When completed in April 1943 the following feats of construction had been accomplished:
cubic feet of building construction
- 228,175 cubic yards of concrete
- 7,560,346 square feet of roofing
- 30 miles of railroad to include 145 switches, 80,000 ties and 71,550 cubic yards of fill
- 13.5 miles of road
- 18 miles of water line
- Ground level and overhead water tanks totaling 2.4 million gallons of water
- 7 miles of sanitary sewers
- 18 miles of storm drains
- 6.8 million square feet of automatic sprinkler protection, which required 218 miles of pipe, and 63,450 sprinkler heads
- 5.2 miles of illuminated fence
- 8 miles of overhead electrical distribution system
- 11.4 miles of telephone wiring (10.3 overhead, 1.1 underground)
- 1.7 miles of overhead air raid alarm system
- 11.7 miles of fire alarm systems (10.8 overhead, .9 underground)
- 2.4 miles of underground steam distribution
~ MANNING UP NSD CLEARFIELD ~
Despite the hurdles of constructing Naval Supply Depot Clearfield, a bigger hurdle remained in staffing the organization required to run the facility. Utah along with the rest of the nation responded quickly to the call to arms. This call to arms took many forms. Many men volunteered or were drafted for active military service. Those men who were not able to serve in the armed forces were highly desired for employment as civilian employees for wartime civil service or for local defense contractors. This rapid mobilization of available manpower created a paucity of manpower assets, which heralded a need for creative solutions. World War II introduced female employment to the private sector and to government service on a grand scale never before seen in American society.
During 1942 concurrent with the efforts to build the physical facility at NSD Clearfield, a training program was underway at NSD Oakland to train a nucleus of Navy Supply Corps Officers and other military staff for the purpose of manning up NSD Clearfield. This training effort would teach them the essentials of how to operate a Navy Supply Depot. This challenge would be especially daunting in that NSD Clearfield would be stood up from scratch. Obviously this nucleus would need to pay special attention to the specifics of operating procedures and other such details in order to make NSD Clearfield a going concern.
On September 4, 1942 Commander Harry Hines arrived at Clearfield, Utah as Supply Officer in Command. Accompanying Commander Hines was a Chief Clerk and one other civilian employee. Other Navy Supply Corps Officers, trainees and employees would shortly follow them. One of their chief objectives on their arrival would be the recruitment of available labor. This objective would be difficult to fulfill as available manpower had been drained to support other defense installations, and defense production efforts. Hiring ads in the local newspapers expressly advised prospective employees that they would not be considered for employment if they were already employed by another activity having a wartime support requirement.
While final construction efforts would not be completed until April 1943, the Administration building was made available for use of Commander Hines and his growing nucleus on November 22, 1942. This staff included 15 Navy Supply Corps Officers, 1 Medical Corps Officer and 3 Navy Line Officers. Like the little engine who could, the NSD Clearfield staff quickly began to ramp up to meet the demand for wartime operations. In December 1942 NSD Clearfield recorded its first stock receipts and its first issues albeit on a small scale. From this small beginning NSD Clearfield quickly manned up to meet the challenges of supporting the furious battles that were then raging in the Pacific.
At the time of formal commissioning on April 10, 1943, the NSD Clearfield staff had grown to 29 Navy Supply Corps Officers and 8 Navy Line Officers. Total staffing for the depot was approximately 1700 persons. This included a Marine Barracks that was assigned to the depot by the Navy Department for physical security of the depot.
Considering the gargantuan challenge of supporting a wartime fleet engaged in fighting the enemy, NSD Clearfield simply needed more people to effectively fulfill her mission. So serious was this challenge that the Navy actively recruited many employees from out of state to fill its employment needs. Female labor was the norm considering that much of the male manpower was away at war. NSD Clearfield also pleaded with the Navy Department to increase its military manning to cope with the challenge. In August 1943 37 Navy Officers had been authorized for NSD Clearfield.
This battle for manpower waged on throughout 1943 witnessing many initiatives to make effective use of available manpower. Much of the labor exerted during this period was performed without the benefit of MHE (Material Handling Equipment or forklifts). Forklifts and other such MHE was simply in short supply because of the overwhelming wartime demand. As time progressed this deficiency would be addressed. This shortage of manpower and MHE witnessed many Navy Officers donning old uniforms to help in unloading and loading box cars to keep wartime requirements and requisitions moving. Other initiatives having great effect in maximizing manpower were the introduction of Training Division and a Plans Division. Training was an immense challenge in that many personnel were recruited based on their availability rather than their capability. If available they could be trained on the job. Training topics included Navy Storekeeping, Naval Correspondence, Typing and use of MHE. The Plans Division was needed to enable the facility to forecast and organize so as to enable NSD Clearfield to move from a reactive mode to a proactive mode. In order to effectively meet the mandate of its mission NSD Clearfield had to position itself to where it was able to anticipate Fleet requirements and to aggressively use its resources to support the Navys ongoing Pacific campaign.
Other challenges encountered included an unacceptably high absenteeism rate. Investigating the root causes of the absenteeism, the Navy found that this problem in many cases was brought on by the challenges of working mothers balancing a work life with a home life. In 1943, shops rarely stayed open past 6:00 pm. Taking the initiative, the Navy worked with local merchants to extend shopping hours in the evening hours to enable its employees to take care of shopping needs in the evening after work. The Navy opened its base canteen to its civilian employees and expanded the base canteens merchandise to include such necessities as soap, toothpaste, cosmetics etc. These efforts to accommodate the needs of its employees did the trick and stemmed the tide of absenteeism to acceptable levels.
Other efforts to tap manpower included putting a local contingent of Italian POWs (Prisoners of War) to work at the depot in November 1943. This was a win-win situation in that male manpower was hard to come by, and kept the POWs busy at productive wartime support.
By December 1943 the epic struggle for manpower had begun to ebb, as several local defense plants that had been engaged in filling wartime contracts began to release employees for employment at NSD Clearfield. Other initiatives would include the introduction of female WAVES (Women Auxiliary Volunteers for Emergency Service). By the end of 1944 the NSD Clearfield staff would grow to 5,000. At the end of WWII the naval facility would include 7,000 persons including 2,000 military personnel.
The wartime expedients of supporting the Navys Pacific campaign challenged social norms, business practices and the ingenuity of the personnel assigned to NSD Clearfield. As impressive an achievement as the construction of NSD Clearfield was, it would have been for naught were it not for the can-do dedication of its military and civilian personnel.
~ WARTIME OPERATIONS AT NSD CLEARFIELD ~
Logisticians are the unsung heroes of the military service. At the beginning of U.S. involvement Admiral Ernest J. King then Chief of Naval Operations stated, I dont know what the hell this logistics is .but I want some of it!. If the United States was to be successful in prosecuting its Pacific campaign against Japan, it would need to sustain a mammoth logistical pipeline to naval forces operating in the Pacific theater of operations. The scope of the Pacific theater defied the imagination as it stretched in the Southwest Pacific from Singapore and Australia to Alaskan island chain in the Northern Pacific to the west coast of the continental United States. This immense geographical spread challenged the ability of the Pacific Fleet deeply wounded by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Vast differences in weather, climate and operational conditions challenged logisticians tasked with supporting this life and death struggle with the Japanese.
With the stinging Japanese blows at Pearl Harbor fresh in mind the Navy was determined to protect its material stockpiles and logistical treasures from the reach of enemy attack. The site at Clearfield, Utah was highly desired as it was beyond the reach of Japanese carrier aircraft. In addition the Clearfield site was strategically located in that it was roughly equidistant from every major seaport on the West Coast. In the event that a major port on the west coast were to come under Japanese attack it could be re-supplied within one day by rail or by air within a matter of hours.
To understand the complexity of supporting the Navy in its Pacific campaign it is necessary to understand the make up of the Pacific Fleet and also a basic understanding of its strategy to win the war against Japan. The Pacific Fleet ranged from tiny PT boats and Minesweepers to Destroyers, Cruisers to the awe-inspiring Battleships and Aircraft Carriers. The advent of naval aviation in the early 20th Century introduced carrier borne aircraft, seaplanes, and blimps. Other naval forces to be supported included the U.S. Marine Corps with all the complexity of land warfare in an amphibious setting. Each of these naval components would require unflagging logistical support if the United States were to be successful in its Pacific quest to conquer the Japanese war machine.
In its strategy to retake the Pacific the Navys strategy was to build forward operating bases as it retook the Pacific. The Japanese Navy in its early efforts to challenge the United States moved quickly to take Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines, and to cripple the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The outcome of the war would be determined based on who controlled strategic island chains. The war in the Pacific would focus on control of island chains previously unknown to the average American household. These island chains would be the forward receiving points for rear staging areas such as NSD Clearfield.
NSD Clearfield covered approximately 871 acres initially covered by 58 warehouses. In a combination of open and covered warehouse space this facility would store logistical requirements and stage war materials needed to support the pacific campaign. The categories of support include
Base Functional Components Support
- Automotive Spares Support
- Aviation Support
- Destroyer/Cruiser Support
- Medical Stores Support
- Ordnance Support
- Personal Effects (of Deceased) Support
- PT Boat Support
- Radar Support
To accomplish this daunting task NSD Clearfield was organized into operating groups which provided different types of logistical support.
and Storage of Incoming Stores
- Packing and Shipping of Outgoing Stores
- Transportation of Incoming and Outgoing Material
- Inventory management
Determining what to send to operating forces in the Fleet was a function of Push and Pull logistical support. Pull refers to urgent items that are specifically required by the operating units, while Push refers to those routine items that can be forecast as requirements for logistical support. Pull items would be sent on demand, while Push items would be sent as a matter of routine. This combination of logistical support is still a cornerstone of support for todays Navy.
Naval doctrine called for setting up Advanced Base Functional Components (ABFCs) at forward operating bases in the Pacific. These forward-operating bases would have different requirements depending on the type of operating forces that would be located at these locations. To support these forward bases would require flexibility and ingenuity. To respond to this challenge the Navy created the concept of ABFCs. ABFCs are specially designed units tasked to perform a specific operational function. ABFCs were envisioned as puzzle pieces that could be pieced with other ABFCs to create special logistical support capabilities. ABFCs were as diverse as Mobile Optical Repair Units to Gardening Units. Each ABFC was conceived with a specific Table of Equipment designed to enable an ABFC to fulfill its intended mission.
One of the principal taskings of NSD Clearfield was to assemble this table of equipment for the various ABFCs in the pacific theater of operations. Assembling this equipment was an incredible challenge. NSD Clearfield was sandwiched between the production schedules of contractors tasked with producing the urgently required material and the operational schedules of the Pacific Fleet. Juggling the minutia of these competing schedules was a logistical feat of the first order.
Once material was identified for shipment it would often require special packing, so to be able to endure the rigors of transit. Packaging this material for shipment literally consumed many millions of board feet of lumber. Quality packaging was urgently needed to ensure that when the operating unit in the Fleet received the material that it would be received in prime operating condition. NSD Clearfield earned a sterling reputation for quality packaging as evidenced by a letter of commendation from the Commanding Officer of NSD Guam who held up the efforts of NSD Clearfield as the standard to emulate.
Shipping this material from NSD Clearfield to the Fleet required coordination worthy of a Broadway production. The Transportation Section of NSD Clearfield maintained a very close relationship with the Railroads so as to maximize its effectiveness in speeding its shipments to the West Coast for onward shipment. The Transportation Section of NSD Clearfield had its own railway service, which serviced the sprawling NSD Clearfield complex. This railway service brought incoming shipments to NSD Clearfield and shipped outgoing requirements to the fleet. An interesting footnote about the NSD Clearfield railway is that the rails used were drawn from the tracks at Promontory Point for use at the Clearfield depot. In their own way these rails that had unified the nation at the driving of the golden spike in 1869, were now helping to win the war by speeding shipments of urgent supplies to the fleet.
While most shipments were sent by mail, urgent requirements could be expedited by air shipment from nearby Hill Army Air Field or from the Salt Lake Airport. By air shipments could arrive at the West Coast in a matter of hours. This was a precursor of the overnight air shipments that we today take for granted.
World War II introduced many new logistical concepts that helped to win the war against Japan. Without the efforts of the dedicated personnel assigned to NSD Clearfield this logistical campaign to support the Pacific Fleet would have been immensely more difficult. The logistical lessons learned in this campaign are still in use today as the U.S. Navy prosecutes the war on terror. The former employees and veterans of NSD Clearfield can take comfort in the thought that their efforts helped to make possible the victorious conclusion of the Pacific campaign.