A Brief History of the Ordnance Corps
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Historically, the Ordnance Department has been recognized for its significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution and to our present way of life. It is credited with pioneering the development of mass production by adopting new manufacturing techniques and improving machine tools.
The Ordnance Corps dates back to the early days of the American.Revolution. In 1775, a Continental Congress committee., which included George Washington, convened to study the methods of arms and ammunition procurement and storage. As a result, Ezekiel Cheever was appointed as the Commissary General of the Artillery Stores, making him essentially the first Chief of Ordnance. In 1776, a Board of War and Ordnance was created, with the responsibility of issuing supplies to troops in the field. The next year, the first Ordnance powder magazine was established at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, followed shortly thereafter by the first arsenal and armory operations at Springfield, Massachusetts. Other arsenals and armories were also established at Harpers Ferry, Philadelphia, and Watertown, near Boston.
On May 14,1812, the Ordnance Department was formally organized by Congress as part of the preparations for the second British war. The department assumed responsibility for arms and ammunition production, acquisition, distribution, and storage in a much broader geographical base than in the War for Independence.
In 1832, the Ordnance Department acquired new responsibilities including research, development and a system of field service. These initiatives continued to be developed and were successfully tested during the Mexican War, becoming the foundation for the massive logistics efforts of the future.
During the War between the States, the Ordnance Corps was seriously tested since its installations were primary targets for operations on both sides. True to its tradition, the Corps successfully brought about massive procurement of weapons and supplies, effectively providing field support for fast moving armies. In the war with Spain in 1898, the Ordnance Department first deployed materiel overseas and provided close-combat support.
During World War I, the Ordnance Department mobilized an immense industrial base, developed weapons systems in cooperation with the allies, organized a variety of Ordnance training facilities, and established large overseas supply depots. World War II saw an even more dramatic expansion of the Ordnance mission of production, procurement, maintenance and training. In both Korea and Vietnam, the Ordnance Corps provided materiel supply and maintenance, characteristic of its tradition of "service to the line, on the line, on time," and was active in the development of rockets, guided missiles and satellites. The operations in Grenada and Panama, as well as Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm showed the world that the U.S. Army is ready for any contingency. Ordnance Corps soldiers played an extensive role by providing support at all levels on the battlefield.
With the advent of the modern U.S. Army Regimental System, the Ordnance Corps is organized under the whole branch concept. The Chief of Ordnance serves as the Regimental Commander, while the Office Chief of Ordnance serves as his operational headquarters for the Ordnance Corps. Under the guidance of the Chief of Ordnance, the Corps will continue to fulfill its purpose of supporting the development, production, acquisition and sustainment of weapons systems, ammunition, missiles, electronics, an d ground mobility materiel during peace and war and to provide combat power to the U.S. Army.
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