By U.S. ArmyApril 12, 2019
Rock Island Arsenal was at the forefront of the history of tanks in the U.S. Army. That history began in 1919, when RIA was tasked with the assembly of 100 Mark VIII Liberty tanks. The American version of these tanks was only assembled at Rock Island Arsenal, and only three tanks remain today, two of which were produced at the arsenal.
Rock Island Arsenal would be tasked again and again in subsequent decades to assist with assembly and manufacture of tanks and tank parts. This included almost 300 T1E4 light tanks during the interwar years and the early World War II-era M2A1 medium tank. The arsenal also aided in the overhaul, assembly, and production of M3 Lee tanks and the overhaul of the M4A3 Sherman tank.
With an abundance of work being conducted on tracked vehicles such as combat cars, trucks, and tanks, RIA allocated locations on the island to test these vehicles. The initial location for testing was at the Kingsbury hard lot, located on the southwest side of the island. From the interwar years through the Korean War, this lot was used to test the integrity of tracks fitted onto these vehicles.
Since the lot was not dedicated explicitly to the testing of heavy vehicles, a separate test track was established during World War II. The track was used periodically through about 2010. Today, the test track remains in viable condition and is still sometimes used.