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Pandemic Closed Event to Mark 80th Anniversary of PB Arsenal

Date: Thursday, November 4, 2021
Source: Arkansasonline.com

Military and civilian personnel and a few invited guests are marking the Pine Bluff Arsenal’s 80 years of service to the country and the local community.

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, today’s 11 a.m. ceremony is closed to the public, said Cheryl Avery, PBA civilian spokeswoman.

White Hall Mayor Noel Foster, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, and Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson, have been invited.

“The Pine Bluff Arsenal has been a vital part of Jefferson County for a long time, and was instrumental in supporting our country’s wartime and peacetime efforts,” Robinson said.

The World War II-era post, positioned near the cities of White Hall and Pine Bluff, opened in 1941 as the Chemical Warfare Arsenal but was renamed the Pine Bluff Arsenal the following year.

Even today, it remains relevant. According to a 2020 Pine Bluff Arsenal Compatible Use Study, it is one of the top three employers in Southeast Arkansas, with an annual economic impact on the region of approximately $141 million.

It is part of the Army’s Joint Munitions Command and is the only active-duty Army installation in the state. There are approximately 740 civil and military employees working there.

The Arsenal produces about 148 different types of munitions, chemical and biological defense products, and military protective clothing.

About 11,000 tons of shipments pass through the gates annually, Avery said.

Foster said the Arsenal has impacted the city of White Hall in countless ways — both economically and providing jobs since its opening.

“The Pine Bluff Arsenal is a great partner of the cities of White Hall and Pine Bluff,” Foster said.

From time to time there is talk of base and post closures, but the PBA has endured.

“I am excited that they have remained in Jefferson County. They are great for our economy,” Robinson said.

ITS ROOTS

The late U.S. Rep David Dickson Terry of Little Rock was behind the Southeast Arkansas location’s selection.

It sits on approximately 14,944 acres and cost about $60 million to build 80 years ago, and employed as many as 9,000 civilian employees and 450 military personnel during World War II, Avery said.

The PBA’s original mission was the manufacture of incendiary grenades and bombs.

“However, the mission quickly expanded to manufacturing, loading and storage of war gases, and the production and storage of pyrotechnic, riot control and white phosphorus munitions,” Avery said.

Pine Bluff Arsenal manufactured cloth face coverings during 2020 in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Carol Morris, a textile production worker with the Arsenal?s Directorate of Chemical and Biological Defense Operations, sews one of the early versions of the coverings during March 2020. (Special to The Commercial/U.S. Army, Pine Bluff Arsenal Archive)