By Ms. Nicole Kirschmann (AMC)September 12, 2018
HAWTHORNE ARMY DEPOT, Nev. -- For John "Johnny" Peterson, working at Hawthorne Army Depot is more than just a job. It's a family tradition.
Both of Peterson's parents, his wife, his sister, his daughter, a great-uncle, several uncles and an aunt, his mother-in-law and grandfather-in-law have all worked at HWAD at various times, service that has spanned the last eight decades. Peterson is currently a facility management specialist at HWAD.
Peterson's family history with HWAD begins in 1940, when his father, Laurence H. Peterson, departed Spanish Fork, Utah, in a Ford Model A and drove to Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot for a job lead offered by his uncle, who worked at the base. The senior Peterson holds badge number 98, which means he was the 98th person hired at the depot in the industrial base build-up to American participation in World War II.
Peterson served in the Navy in Vietnam. "While doing gunfire support in Vietnam we came across 40mm rounds that had been renovated at Hawthorne by my sister in 1965, who was a summer hire while going to college at University of Nevada. None of the 40mm rounds ever presented a problem. I sent back to her one of the data cards with her name on it," said Peterson.
The youngest member of the family to work at HWAD is Peterson's daughter, who also worked as a summer hire before going to college.
The family tradition has not been without risk and sacrifice. Peterson's mother-in-law, Alberta Camp, worked at HWAD for twenty years before being injured in an explosion. Her injuries from flying shrapnel were severe enough to cause her to retire early.
Community and family connections are not uncommon at the ammunition installations, which for safety reasons are typically located in rural communities.
"Hawthorne Army Depot is located in a small town that relies on the loyalty of its community to continue to fill the ranks for depot operation positions. Recruiting for employment in remote locations, such as Hawthorne, was challenging for the War Department. As the plant and the community worked together to develop the plant, build infrastructure, and expand resources for their community, generations of families have established roots and followed family footsteps into positions at the depot," said Keri Pleasant, Joint Munitions Command Historian.
Hawthorne Army Depot is a subordinate installation of JMC, headquartered at the Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. JMC manages ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots that provide ammunition to all military services, other federal agencies, and allied nations.
Hawthorne Navy Ammunition Depot was established after a 1926 explosion destroyed the Lake Denmark, New Jersey, Naval Ammunition Depot. Construction began on Hawthorne in 1928.
During the pre-war years of 1930-1939, the depot's mission was to store, service, and issue ammunition to the Pacific area. During World War II, the depot served as the staging area for bombs, rockets, and ammunition for nearly the entire war effort. In 1944, the depot became involved in the demolition of various types of allied and enemy ammunition.
The depot also served as an important ammunition center during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and expanded to 236 square miles of land. The mission and function of the installation remained essentially the same over its history: receive, renovate, maintain, store, and issue ammunition, explosives, expendable ordnance items, and weapons and technical ordnance materiel.