Before World War II, Huntsville, AL was a quaint, mostly farming town. All of that changed in 1941. The U.S. government decided to make the city home to a $40 million war plant. Huntsville Arsenal was a chemical munitions manufacturing and storage facility, which produced more than 24 million chemical munition items during the war.
Adding to Huntsville’s defensive landscape, the War Department decided to build a neighboring, $6 million ordnance facility. Redstone Arsenal loaded and assembled for shipment more than 45.2 million units of ammunition during World War II.
These two facilities achieved massive outputs that required massive labor. With so many men being drafted for the war, much of the burden fell on the shoulders of the local women. By September 1945, 62% of employees at Redstone Arsenal were women. In the summer of 1943, Huntsville Arsenal even worked with Atlanta University to bring in 100 African American female students to work the production lines. For most of these women, it was the first time they had ever worked outside of the home.
The women’s work was not easy or always safe. They helped manufacture colored smoke munitions, gel-type incendiaries, mustard gas, burster charges, rifle grenades, demolition blocks, and various bombs. Sadly, five women were killed while working at one of the two war facilities. Easter Posey, pictured here, was the first woman killed in the line of duty on April 21, 1942.
We are grateful for women like Easter who became “soldiers of production” to help win the war and protect our country. I cannot hear the name Huntsville without thinking of her!
“My sister worked here for two years during the war,” a saxophone player named Clifford told them as they set up chairs.
“Is that so?” Edwin said.
“She was a tool-crib operator. Believe it or not, this whole place used to be covered with women or ‘soldiers of production’ like they were called.”
Song of Return, Chapter 9