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Redstone Arsenal was originally established by the U.S. Army in 1941 as a manufacturing and research facility for chemical weapons. Since that time, the post has served as an active Army installation for training and development of the Army's missile, rocket, and space programs. In 1949, the Huntsville Arsenal, Huntsville Depot, and Redstone Ordnance Plant were all combined to make what is now Redstone Arsenal. Army personnel at Redstone Arsenal have also worked closely with NASA on several programs given shared resources and proximity.

  • Redstone Arsenal
  • Male and Female production line workers during World War II
  • Redstone Missile

Redstone Arsenal was founded in 1941 during World War II in Huntsville, Alabama. This military base received its name due to the red soil that surrounded the area. During World War II the military used this base for training. The post has grown to approximately 38,248 acres and was created in 1949 by combining the Huntsville Arsenal, Huntsville Depot, and Redstone Ordnance Plant. In the years that followed, Redstone Arsenal became an ordinance rocket center and chemical manufacturing facility. This base produced chemical weapons such as mustard gas, tear gas, white phosphorous, and lewisite during World War II. Many of these weapons were produced by women who would be collectively known as "Rosies" in reference to the famous image of Rosie the Riveter.

During WWII, diverse women from the area worked here producing weapons while men also worked in manufacturing or served in the Army. Women that weren’t able to work in the arsenal helped during WWII in many other ways. For example, all women and girls that could sew, knit, or crochet were asked to do so to help the Red Cross. They also helped with thousands of bandages, volunteered at the USO, learned basic first aid, salvaged scrap metals, as well as gardening and other many tasks. Due to the loss of male employees in the war, the only other option was filling jobs with women. Women’s roles that were assigned to them consisted of checking and inspecting mechanical parts and equipment among other assignments. 

From 1956-1958 the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was opened at Redstone Arsenal and became under the new command. Then in 1960 Redstone began working close with NASA and renamed the George C Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA and Redstone built rocket stands and testing facilities together. Redstone has been known for its role within the US-Soviet Space Race as the home to the earliest developed rockets such as, Dragon, Jupiter, Nike, and Hellfire to name a few. In November of 1951, a Nike Ajax missile intercepted and destroyed the first aerial target by a U.S. guided missile. The United States military and NASA concocted the Jupiter C, which was a ballistic missile that was able to travel more than 682 miles altitude and a range of 3,355 miles in September of 1956. 

Redstone became the home to the US Army SMDC (Space and Missile Defense Command), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), AMRDEC (Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Centre), the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Army Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School (OMEMS), and the US Army Aviation and Missile LCMC (Lifecycle Management Command). Since 1952, OMEMS has graduated more than 224,251 students. Redstone also trains as many as 6,000 plus soldiers every year, some which are trained to become bomb technicians. There is even an airfield near Redstone Arsenal called the Redstone Airfield which is used by the military base and NASA not only for flight activities, but also for any type of military aircraft coming or going to refuel or land. 

Redstone Arsenal, AL History. (n.d.). In Redstone Arsenal, AL. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from

Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. (n.d.). In Army Technology. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from

US Army. (2017, April 27). Redstone Arsenal Historical Information. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from

Image Sources(Click to expand)


Encyclopedia of Alabama