Nebraska Historical Marker: Sioux Army Depot
Nebraska Historical Marker: Sioux Army Depot
9800-9898 U.S. 30/Lincoln Hwy, west of intersection with County Rd 99, across RR tracks from Brownson, Cheyenne County, Nebraska
View this marker's location 41.186638, -103.1137
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Sioux Army Depot was established on 23 March 1942 as Sioux Ordnance Depot. It was the only U.S. Army Ammunition Depot in Nebraska during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The depot was initially under the command of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department and later the U.S. Army Materiel Command. Sioux Army Depot's mission during its entire history was the receipt, storage, and issue of all types of ammunition from small arms to 10,000 pound bombs, all types of general supplies from small automobile parts to jeeps, and various strategic and critical materials. The depot occupied 19,771 acres and included 801 ammunition storage igloos, 22 general supply warehouses, 392 support buildings, 225 family living quarters, 51 miles of railroad tracks, and 203 miles of roads. Depot personnel assigned ranged from 625 to 2,161 civilian employees and from 4 to 57 military personnel depending on Army activity. Sioux Army Depot was deactivated on 30 June 1967. Dedicated by the Sioux Army Depot Employees on 25 July 1992.
On June 30, 1940, shortly after World War II began with Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Congress authorized the construction of 16 Army Ordnance Depots, 8 of which were to be built in 1941 and 8 were to be built in 1942. The latter 8 were intended to be temporary structures. Between these two phases of construction, the United States entered World War II, increasing the need for ammunitions. On March 3, 1942, the Army announced that an Ordnance Depot would be built near Sidney, Nebraska.
Covering 19,771 acres of land, the Sioux Ordnance Depot (as it came to be known) was completed on December 28, 1942 and cost $27 million. The primary mission of the depot was to receive, store, and issue ammunitions, components, and supplies. It was divided into four sections: administration, utilities, combat equipment storage, and the magazine. The administrative area included a mess hall, living space for officers and civilians, a chapel, a theater and more. The depot was intended to be a temporary structure, so most of the buildings were designed to last between 5 and 20 years. They were built from wood frames and asbestos siding. Despite its temporary intent, the depot in fact lasted 25 years, and some buildings still stand today. The fire and guard headquarters building located in this section is still standing and is listed as a historical site.
Construction and use of the depot required numerous civilian workers. The Federal Public Housing Administration contracted local builders to make houses for workers inside the city and near the depot. In 1943, the depot became home to a prisoner of war camp. On average, about 300 prisoners lived at the camp at any given time, mostly Italians, but at one point over 600 prisoners, half Italian and half German, were held at the camp. In accordance with the Geneva Convention, the prisoners were allowed to work paid jobs in non-war-related industries. Many worked in farms, though few liked it. Others worked at the depot as laborers, engineers, carpenters, auto mechanics or other jobs. After Italy surrendered on September 8, 1943, Italian prisoners were given the opportunity to stay in America and continue working for the American war effort. Many prisoners at Sidney did, forming the 70th Italian Quartermaster Service Company. All the POWs at Sidney were gone by 1946. Some of them enjoyed their time in Nebraska and returned after the war. One man, Emanuelle Campanella, married a woman from Colorado and owned a garage near Sidney.
The depot did not stop working after the war. It was used in the immediate post-war years to process surplus ammunition from the war. During the Korean War (1950-1953), the depot saw increased usage. Several more subdivisions were added to Sidney to accommodate the new workers.
Cheyenne County saw its peak population in the 1960 census, thanks both to the SOD and the discovery of oil. Some of the land of the SOD was leased to oil companies.
The Cold War kept the SOD busy during the 1960s. In 1962, the depot was renamed the Sioux Army Depot. In 1964, a Launch Control Center for Minutemen Missiles was built at the depot. This Control Center was responsible for a number of missile silos in the region. That same year, however, the Army announced that the depot would be deactivated. The depot was not immediately closed but was gradually phased out. It was finally closed in 1967.
Kay, John, Lonnie Dickson, Robert Kay and Dr. Kathleen Fimple. "Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey: Reconnaissance Survey Final Report of Cheyenne County, Nebraska." Nebraska State Historical Society State Historic Preservation Office. July 1, 1994. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/reports/cheyenne_county.pdf
“Sioux Ordinance Depot Fire and Guard Headquarters.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. US Department of the Interior. 1994. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/nebraska/cheyenne/CN00-046_SiouxOrdDep_FGHQ.pdf
Spencer, Ralph. “Prisoners of War in Cheyenne County, 1943-1946.” Nebraska History. Fall 1982: 438-449.
See Nebraska Historical Marker Program for more information.