Clas: The man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal

By Mr. John B Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal (AMC)October 23, 2015

AMC Hall of Fame
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Clas: The man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal
2 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Frederick J. Clas guided the New York-based Watervliet Arsenal's move from World War II battleship guns to nuclear-capable weapons for the Cold War, to self-propelled artillery for Vietnam, to the Abrams tank. He was just 18 years old when he joined ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Clas: The man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal
3 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Always the coach and mentor, Fred Clas, right, providing guidance in August 2015 to the photographer on how to shoot the picture of ongoing production, while Arsenal Deputy Commander Joe Turcotte listens in. In the history book on Clas' lap, are sev... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Clas: The man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal
4 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Arsenal Work Leader John Zayhowski, left, checks the date on a production machine while Fred Clas, center, talks about how he used that machine nearly 50 years ago. Arsenal Deputy Commander Joe Turcotte, right, provided escort during Clas' visit to ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Clas: The man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal
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WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2015) -- Innovator, experimenter and leader are just a few of the words that have been used to describe U.S. Army Materiel Command's Hall of Fame inductee Fred Clas. But he is most notably known as "the man who shaped Watervliet Arsenal."

Clas will be formally inducted in to the 2015 Hall of Fame Oct. 27, 2015.

When Clas reported for his first day of apprentice training at Watervliet in 1940, it would take three major wars and nearly 100,000 hours of work before he would drive out the arsenal gate one last time en route to his retirement. To hear him speak today, he has never retired.

When Clas began working at the arsenal, his plan was to stay one year and then attend college. But war has strange consequences not only to Soldiers, but also to those who support the troops.

Clas' machining days were almost derailed when in 1943 he enlisted in the Navy. Two of his brothers had just joined the Navy and he didn't want to be left out. After 19 days of training, somehow the arsenal leadership was able to get him discharged from the Navy and thrown right into Army boot camp. After Clas finished his Army basic and advance training, he was assigned to the Watervliet Arsenal.

During his career, he help lead the arsenal's transformation of its capability from the manufacturing of guns for battleships to nuclear-capable weapons for the Cold War to self-propelled artillery for Vietnam to the most advance tank system in the world, the Abrams tank.

By his early 30s, he became the deputy director of arsenal operations. In 1963, he became the director of operations overseeing a manufacturing workforce of nearly 3,000, a position he held until he retired in 1985.

But beyond all the greatness that Clas helped bring to Watervliet, he remains an unassuming man.

When he was informed this month about his selection into AMC's Hall of Fame, he relished the moment ever so briefly before he broke into a dialogue about what the arsenal is doing today and what he can do to help it.

As much as Clas said he would love to attend the ceremony at AMC headquarters, his current health precludes his travelling from upstate New York to Alabama. Col. Lee H. Schiller, Jr., commander of Watervliet Arsenal, will accept the award on his behalf.

Nevertheless, Clas is a tough, spirited man who won't let his health challenges slow him down. As much as he looks forward to getting back on his feet, he said he does have a sense of the impending future given that he is 93.

"I know that there is not much else my doctors can do for me after this next surgery," Clas said. "And so, what concerns me most is that I have a lot left to do for the arsenal and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to complete my mission."

Clas is simply a humble man who wants nothing more in life than to make the arsenal better. He did, but no one here will ever tell him that his mission is complete. It is hard to measure the importance that such a man has on the arsenal and on the Army, but suffice it to say it is significant.


Army Materiel Command…Mr. Frederick Clas will be inducted into the 2015 AMC Hall of Fame by Gen. Dennis L. Via, Commanding General, AMC. The ceremony will be conducted at the AMC Headquarters at the Redstone Arsenal, Ala., on Oct. 27, 2015.

AMC was activated in 1962, but its Hall of Fame was not established until 2012, on its 50th anniversary. The Hall of Fame was established to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the command and the U.S. Army, giving employees a sense of heritage, honor, and pride. Nominees are evaluated on their contributions to one or more of AMC's core missions or the lasting impacts they made on the command.

AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- equipping, sustaining and enabling the war fighter through technology, acquisition support, materiel development and logistics power projection -- across the spectrum of joint military operations.

AMC impacts or has a presence is all 50 states and in 144 countries. It has a work force of more than 65,000 dedicated military and civilian employees.

Watervliet Arsenal…The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary on July 14, 2013. It is a subordinate command to the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command at Warren, Mich., and the Army Materiel Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

Today's arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark had revenue in fiscal year 2015 that exceeded $130 million and provides an annual economic benefit to New York of nearly $100 million.

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Watervliet Arsenal September Newsletter: The Salvo

Story: Watervliet Arsenal's apprenticeship: What a wonderful burden to have

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