Detroit Arsenal is the first facility constructed in the United States with the express purpose of mass producing tanks and armored vehicles for the armed services. The layout and machinery of the arsenal where to be designed as such, that following the war the facility could be converted to “peaceful” manufacturing.
Located in the Detroit, Michigan suburb of Warren, planning of the facility began in 1940 under the direction of Albert Kahn, one of the foremost architects of the time. Construction of the 113 acre facility officially began in 1941 under the control of the Chrysler Company, however the United States government was the controlling entity and land owner. The original intent of the Detroit Arsenal was to mass produce all types of armament in hopes of out producing the enemy forces of World War II and thus bringing a swift end to the war.
Detroit Arsenal was planned, designed and constructed in an astonishing amount of time. Chrysler was able to construct the entire facility in just over one year, making it one the quickest constructed facilities of its size in history. The need for haste in construction was prompted in large part by the overwhelming lack of armor in the United States arsenal. German forces had been mass producing tanks, tracked and armored vehicles for the better part of a decade, leaving American troops potentially unmatched against German armored divisions.
Throughout the course of World War II Detroit Arsenal was able to easily meet its mission, producing a quarter of the almost 90,000 tanks produced during the war. At the close of World War II the plant began its transition into peacetime production, however that was not to last. The outbreak of war in the Korean Peninsula once again saw Detroit Arsenal producing tanks at a rapid pace. As hostilities in Korea began to draw down, the Department of The Army began to realize that they had neither the personnel nor the knowledge to efficiently run the facility and, in May of 1952 they passed control over the Chrysler Company once again.
The defense division of Chrysler that was responsible for Detroit Arsenal was sold to General Dynamics in 1982. General Dynamics, at the time was widely known for its streamlined production of the M1 Abrams tank, recognized worldwide as one of, if not the best tank in production. General Dynamics continued production at Detroit Arsenal in addition to a second facility in Lima, Ohio. In 1996 the decision was made to consolidate operations and all production and maintenance were moved to the main General Dynamics plant in Lima.
The 113 acres of Detroit Arsenal sat dormant for a short time until 2001, when the actual plant, and parts of the adjoining land was deeded to the home city of Warren. The site of the original production facility has now been divided out amongst several entities and in dedicated solely for civilian uses. The facility has been registered as a Michigan Historical Marker and is now fondly remembered as the “Arsenal of Democracy”.