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Redstone Arsenal
History of Redstone Arsenal

History of Redstone Arsenal

Pre-Arsenal Settlements:

The middle Tennessee River valley, now occupied by Redstone Arsenal, was originally inhabited by various American Indian tribes including the Creek, Cherokee and Chickasaw. By the early 1800s, Anglo-American farmers had established farming communities along this region of the Tennessee River basin. Over 550 families, mostly tenants and sharecroppers, lived in small farming communities on this land. Ultimately, the U.S. War Department purchased the farm land to build what is now known as Redstone Arsenal.


Today’s Redstone Arsenal was originally formed as three separate entities in 1941 and 1942 as part of the War Department’s ramp-up for WWII. Huntsville Arsenal manufactured chemicals, Redstone Ordnance Plant (later Redstone Arsenal) manufactured munitions, and the Huntsville Chemical Warfare Depot (later Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot) stored the conventional and chemical filled munitions before being shipped out. Once WWII ended, the focus shifted from production to the demilitarization and salvaging of munitions along with the deactivation of the huge manufacturing facilities at the arsenal complex. Some of the empty buildings were even leased to private enterprise. By 1949, part of the arsenal was advertised for sale by the Army Corps of Engineers. The sale never happened due to the Army’s decision to consolidate its rocket and guided missile missions here in 1948 and 1949.


With the arrival of Dr. Wernher von Braun and his rocket team from Fort Bliss in 1950, the arsenal became the center of Army missilery and rocketry. During this decade, Redstone’s scientists, engineers, and technicians transformed numerous weapon systems such as the REDSTONE, JUPITER, HAWK, PERSHING, NIKE AJAX, and NIKE HERCULES from dreams into realities. It was also during this time that the von Braun team made several notable contributions to the nation’s space effort while working for the Army. Most notable was the Army’s launching of America’s first satellite, EXPLORER I,
into space in January of 1958. This and other achievements by the Army helped lay the foundation for U.S. space exploration.


In support of the newly formed NASA, a large number of Army employees, land and facilities supporting space and rocket programs were transferred to NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) was established. Army work continued to focus on developing and sustaining ground and air defense missile systems with a focus on the Cold-War and maintaining a technological edge over Soviet systems. Meanwhile, MSFC was focusing on the ultimate space prize of putting a man on the moon. Rocket motor test stands roared as MSFC worked around the clock to achieve manned space flight. The Saturn-V rocket that eventually carried our three astronauts to the moon in 1969 was ultimately the result of the work performed here.

1970s & 1980s:

Although the United States had won the Space Race, the Cold-War continued on. Redstone Arsenal activities continued to develop advanced weapon systems and train service members on the maintenance and repair. A few of these systems included thePERSHING-II, CHAPERRAL, Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), PATRIOT, and AVENGER.

After retiring the Apollo space missions, MSFC continued to focus on propulsion systems, space station operations, and numerous other programs. These included the Skylab space station, Space Shuttle development for routine space access, and Spacelab 1.

In 1988, a term that would later become part of the common local vocabulary, was first introduced as the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The 1988 BRAC round realigned the Test, Measurement and Diagnostics Equipment (TMDE) Center from Lexington, KY, and sparked a new era of growth only rivaled by the expansion seen previously with NASA’s space programs.


The Space Shuttle program throughout the nineties served as NASA’s workhorse. Its many flights included the delivery of the Hubble Space Telescope which was another program developed at MSFC. BRAC 1991 brought materiel and logistics readiness activities from Lexington, KY, and the Presidio of San Francisco, California, which merged and later became AMC’s Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA). Additionally, the Armament, Munitions and Materiel Command (AMCCOM) was to relocate to Redstone, but this decision was reversed in the 1993 BRAC round. Another BRAC round, released in 1995, realigned multiple Army aviation activities and commands from St. Louis, MO, merging them with Redstone Arsenal’s Missile Command and other missile related centers.


The synergies created by bringing aviation to Redstone Arsenal resulted in tremendous growth on the installation and in the local community as the results of the largest BRAC round to date were released. BRAC 2005 brought the Army Materiel Command’s four-star headquarters, Space and Missile Defense Command’s Three-star headquarters, the majority of DoD’s Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Army Security Assistance Command’s Two-star headquarters from Northern Virginia. The Aviation Technical Test Center moved from Fort Rucker, Alabama, and merged with the Redstone Technical Test Center to become Redstone Test Center. Second Recruiting Brigade and 2nd Medical Recruiting Battalion were also realigned to Redstone from Fort Gillem, Georgia.

Other significant growth has occurred due to decisions outside of the BRAC process as well. The newly activated Army Contracting Command and Expeditionary Contracting Command, realignment of Department of Justice’s explosives research and analytical centers for the FBI and ATF, and various new programs within existing organizations have brought more than growth. They have added to the already diverse and dynamic mission set, only found at Redstone Arsenal.



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