As World War II began to boil over in Europe, the War Department needed a safe location away from the eastern seaboard to house munitions as America would soon enter the war. The ‘land between the lakes,” between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, was chosen. This area represented a low population, bedrock close to the surface (important to absorb explosions) and a cheap cost to buy at about $1.50 an acre.
The military arrived in June of 1941, giving the residents an ultimatum to move and harvest any crops in just a few weeks. By July, the Army moved in and over 130 farm families left their farms. While most of the existing structures were either demolished or burned, some were actually moved off site and exist today in various locations surrounding the Depot.
Soon the Depot was a beehive of activity as thousands of men and women became actively engaged in building the hundreds of igloos, roadways and the 24 miles of fencing which made up the Depot. In only seven months, 519 igloos, 140 miles of roadways and 40 miles of rail were built! A tremendous feat, but typical of American ingenuity and hard work. All together, about 10,500 acres of land were to become part of the Depot with the headquarters, warehouses and NCO housing located on the southeast side of the property. Officers were house in a separate location overlooking Seneca Lake while the enlisted men were barracked in the northwest corner of the Depot.
Soon munitions of all types, i.e. bombs, hand grenades, rockets, ammunition, etc, began arriving to be stored inside the igloos. The first mission of the Depot was for storage and dispersal of munitions to the European war front, but after the war was over, unused munitions were returned to the Depot and its role expanded to not only include storage, but also demolition and defusing of old and unstable muntions.