Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant

First bomb produced November 11, 1942
Last bomb produced October 12, 1973

Existing to the west of the city of Grand Island since World War II, the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant only ceased to exist in 1999. Today much of the land is utilized for farming, but the plant played an important Cold War role.

World War II

Built during the hectic early days of World War II in the United States, construction of the plant began on March 24, 1942. During the war around 15,000 persons were employed there overall, producing 90 lb and 260 lb fragmentation bombs, 1000 and 2000 lb general demolition bombs and 105 mm high-explosive artillery shells. At peak, 4,229 persons were employed and four loading lines were in production. On May 26, 1945 an explosion killed nine persons and destroyed a three-story concrete building.

By August 16, 1945, bomb loading was at an end at Cornhusker and after a decontamination process the plant went into mothball status.

Korea and Vietnam

The plant would reactivate in the face of the Korean War, producing 500 lb and 750 lb bombs. The Silas Mason Company would, during the 1950s, also produce rockets at the plant. However production would cease again by 1957, and the State of Nebraska bought portions of the area for use as Wildlife Management Areas.

In 1965, production began again for the Vietnam War. Bombs, mines and other projectiles would be produced until 1973. At the end of the war, the plant would proceed again into mothball until 1989 when the area was put into excess. It was never to produce munitions again


After 1973, the US Army began offer five-year leases to the public for farmland and some building use. After 1989, much of the property including 645 buildings, five bomb production lines, two ammunition magazine areas, administrative buildings, 10 homes, dormitories and other utilities were put up for public lease. 

1,000 acres of the massive property were allocated for "Husker Harvest Days", an agricultural exhibition that exists to this day. Other areas saw less success. 

Contamination Problems

Asbestos, spilled explosives and other contaminants plagued part of the property, enough so that the US Army Corps of Engineers determined the site to be a Superfund site by July 1987. A clean up effort was considered complete by 1999, however a number of contaminants were discovered including lead, chromium and cadmium mean that environmental problems probably persist.    

In the 21st Century

In 1999, according to the Grand Island Independent, the site closed without fanfare in October. Since 1973 there were several proposed uses for the property including creating a large transportation center with four all-weather runways. The US Fish and Wildlife Service expressed an interest later while the Nebraska Army National Guard considered the property in 1994. In 1997 there was even a suggestion for a new state prison site, however none of these options came to pass.

Much of the land now exists in alfalfa and private ownership, but many bunkers remain. Contamination issues related to CAAP will likely plague the city of Grand Island into the foreseeable future, however the land is now back on local tax rolls and at least some areas are available for public use.


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