The Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna celebrated its centennial in May 2018.
This video incorporates history and personal stories showing the tremendous character of the patriots who have served and continue to serve on the New Cumberland installation.
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About the Installation
The New Cumberland military installation, Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna, has changed over the years as the defense needs of the nation have dictated.
The history of the New Cumberland installation begins in 1917 when the site was selected. On February 22, 1918, President Wilson approved an expenditure of $250 thousand dollars from the appropriation for National Defense of $100 million dollars to cover purchase of land for two reserve depots, one of them to located near Harrisburg P.A. and the other near Schenectady, N.Y. The federal government purchased 832 acres for $160,167 from the following farmers:
- Deed from J. C. Haldeman estates with 21 acres, and Marsh Run Farm of 57 acres, and Cherry Lane Farm of 231 acres (Husband of Elizabeth H. Longnecker). (See history of Susquehanna Club)
- Deed from Elizabeth H Longnecker and husband, conveying 231.58 acres, more or less (excepting railroad right of way containing 10.719 acres, and also the public roads known as Baltimore Turnpike, Cherry Lane, Mountain Road, and Marsh Run, all containing 5.45 acres) for the sum of $42,500. Deed from Elizabeth H Longnecker and husband dated April 1918, conveying 57 acres, more or less, for the sum of $11,700.
- Deed from J. D. Strock and wife, conveying 46 acres, more or less for the sum of $9,200.
- Deed from Adam H Thorley, conveying 99.523 acres, more or less, for the sum of $15,000.
- Deed from J. Emerson Thorley, conveying 90.57 acres, more or less, for the sum of $11,100.
- Deed from Annie Baughman and Harrisburg Trust Company, executors, conveying 113.97 acres, more or less, excepting the graveyard containing 0.04 acres, more or less, for the sum of $20,945.
- Deed from Edwin Keister and wife, conveying 124.86 acres, more or less, exception about 3 acres, for railroad right of way for the sum of $28,283.
- The remaining $7,090 was paid to Lease-hold tenants of the above owners.
On May 14, 1918, there was a flag raising ceremony in front of the Reserve Quartermaster Warehouses. The New Cumberland Band furnished the music and the Blue Devils of France, a light infantry group of the French Army trained for warfare in the Alps, were guests at the ceremony.
The first buildings, constructed to utilize horse and mule drawn wagons, were a response to conditions stemming from the first World War, 1914-1918. Construction began on the new supply depot under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Building the depot cost $5 million, with as many as 3,380 people employed during construction. Laborers were said to have earned $2.80 a day while saddle horses earned $3.00 per day. Eight warehouses and two open sheds were constructed. Other buildings included a medical infirmary, fire station, bakery and pump house, barracks, lavatories, mess halls, officer’s quarters, PX and guardhouse.
Over ten miles of permanent railroad track was laid, connecting with the Northern Central Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the main line from Baltimore through Harrisburg to central New York. A little more than four miles of road were constructed. A highway was graded along the west boundary for public use in lieu of the previously used Cherry Lane. Another existing public road, Marsh Run Road, leading along a portion of the southern boundary, was not discontinued for public use.
A considerable portion of the land was planted in wheat and hay and harvested by a local farmer. By this arrangement, the government acquired one hundred tons of baled hay and straw and over a thousand bushels of wheat, all transferred to Camp Meade, Maryland. The wheat was sold for $2500, impressing the Utilities Officer to write to Washington stating that 450 acres could be cultivated without interfering with operations. He was informed that the Chief of Storage declined to authorize farming operations.
A stone quarry opened at the northwest corner of the reservation and two stone crushers installed produced 90 cubic yards of crushed stone per week. Water was supplied by pipe from a small reservoir of the Riverton Consolidated Water Company when some of the springs and wells on the property were analyzed and condemned due to impurities.
In 1918, on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the Armistice is signed effectively halting the War. Following the Armistice, the installation was used as a receiving point for supplies returning from overseas. Anywhere from 100 to 300 boxcars of war material were on sidings at all times waiting to be unloaded. More than 2,000 such boxcars were unloaded in 1919, and material-handling equipment of the time consisted of two-wheel hand trucks and four-wheel trailers.
Originally called the Marsh Run Storage Depot by the locals – the official title being the U.S. Quartermaster Interior Storage Depot – the mission was to provide reserve storage for quartermaster, signal, ordnance, medical, engineer, and chemical warfare items. At the end of World War I, the site served as a receiving point for supplies returning from overseas. Little activity occurred at the site between World War I and World War II.
November 20, 1934, the Secretary of War transferred to the control and jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture, 0.9 acres, more or less, as a right of way for a highway across the reservation. Revocable lease to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, dated June 1936 of approximately 72 acres, for airport, for a period of one year, at an annual rental of $515.00. Revocable permit to the Department of Agriculture, dated February 1937 – to use and occupy approximately 89,600 square feet of space, at the New Cumberland General Depot, for a period of five years for the use of its Plant Quarantine and Control Administrations. Revocable permit to the Works Progress Administration, dated October 1936 – to use and occupy approximately 68,890 square feet of storage space, for the period ending June 30, 1937.
From 1918, the name of the depot changed several times from Quartermaster to Army Reserve Depot, then to General Reserve Depot, until the name returned to Quartermaster Depot in 1941.
During World War II, the site served as a filler depot for overseas shipments. In 1941, storage facilities more than doubled, providing 3,277,000 square feet of covered storage. An adjunct of its mission was that of a reception center for newly inducted soldiers with more than 90 percent (some 500,000) of central Pennsylvania inductees processed through the New Cumberland site. Soon after, a prisoner of war (POW) camp for German prisoners was established.
By 1940, most of the original farm buildings were demolished except for a German bank barn used to stock animals that was renovated into the Officer’s Club in May of 1942.
Immediately after World War II, operations involved receiving and disposing of excess supplies and equipment, with the Quartermaster Supply Section as regional supply point. In addition, in 1946, a War Reserves Branch (WRB) was established to store supplies and equipment. Following deactivation of the POW camp and induction center, a U.S. Disciplinary Barracks Branch was activated and operated until 1959.
Named the Army Service Forces Depot in 1943, the installation name changed to the New Cumberland General Depot in 1946. The nine-hole golf course still operating in 2002 was also developed in April 1946. In 1948, the depot became a separate installation under the Quartermaster General. During the Korean Conflict (1950-1953), activity increased and so did construction. Four additional warehouses brought the total amount of covered storage space to 4,200,000 square feet. These four buildings were known as the “Golden Mile” as each building was approximately a quarter of a mile long.
In 1960, an aircraft hangar along with maintenance shops, were constructed on the western portion of the site. These facilities were linked with the Harrisburg-York State Airport – now the Capitol City Airport – and served mainly as maintenance and repair facilities for U.S. Army helicopters and other aircraft.
By this time the depot employed some 1,600 persons with an annual payroll in excess of $10 million, nearly 85,000 tons of supplies were received and more than 103,000 tons were shipped. Within the 894 acres, there were 24 miles of railroad track with a railroad siding capacity of 700 cars and a 250-car capacity classification yard.
The depot underwent another name change in 1967, from the New Cumberland General Depot to the New Cumberland Army Depot (NCAD), and it became a field installation of the U.S. Army Supply and Maintenance Command under the Army Materiel Command (AMC).
On June 21, 1972, central Pennsylvania was hit by what has been called the most devastating disaster in central Pennsylvania history, Hurricane Agnes. Although the depot suffered no major damage, surrounding floodwaters made it inaccessible by road and the depot was shut down for five days. Depot flight-crews evacuated 3,500 people and delivered 150,000 pounds of emergency supplies while logging 179 missions.
Two years later, in September 1974, Tropical Storm Eloise again led to flooding in many areas. Depot flight crews answered the call once more, logging 32 hours while flying 23 missions in support of flood victims. The depot’s mission was modified to include the Aviation Support Command. In 1974, AMC selected NCAD as the East Coast secondary item stockade and issue point as part of a revised distribution plan for secondary items. In 1976, the Defense Supply Agency designated NCAD as the principal distribution depot supporting U.S. Army units in Europe and the eastern continental United States under the Direct Support System. The primary mission during this period was supply and maintenance operations, especially the overhaul and modification of Chinook helicopters and helicopter components. Some 70,000 central Pennsylvanians toured America’s Freedom Train when it visited the New Cumberland Army Depot over the Fourth of July weekend in l976. In addition, NCAD transferred 14 acres to Fairview Township for recreational use in 1976. This area was formerly the site of a sanitary landfill.
During the 1980’s, most of the maintenance operations related to helicopters and other aircraft were eliminated, and NCAD’s mission was modified to function solely as a supply depot. Several structures on the western portion of NCAD were demolished to make room for the construction of a major state-of-the-art storage and distribution center .
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bill #1, calling for the state to “enter into negotiations with Department of Defense for the construction and operation of a private turnpike interchange directly connected to the New Cumberland Army Depot” was passed and sent to the Senate for consideration, March 1985.
Ground was broken in May 14, 1985 for the Eastern Distribution Center (EDC), sixty-eight years from day of the installation’s first groundbreaking. Among those joining Depot Commander Col. William A. Henry, USA, in turning the first shovel of dirt were Governor Dick Thornburgh, U.S. Senator John Heinz, U.S. Representatives Bill Goodling and George Gekas. After 49 years, 19.7 acres of state owned land adjacent to NCAD were returned to federal ownership in July 1985 as Governor Dick Thornburgh turned over a parcel at Capital City Airport to the depot for its EDC project. The state received $11,600, the same amount it had paid when it originally purchased the land from Uncle Sam in 1936. Construction of the EDC was completed on July 21, 1989 with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
The completion of the EDC was none too soon; in December 1989, depot workers provided support for “Operation Just Cause” in Panama. The depot went into overdrive as it supported “Operation Desert Shield,” and the extra effort continued through “Operation Desert Storm.”
NCAD was deactivated in April of 1991 and assigned to the Defense Logistics Agency as Defense Distribution Region East (DDRE), a regional headquarters responsible for the management of eight depot operations in eastern United States. At the same time, the consolidation of Defense Depot Mechanicsburg and New Cumberland Army Depot created the Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (DDSP), one of those depot operations. At the time of deactivation, NCAD had the distinction of being the oldest, continuously operated depot in the U.S. Army.
The Defense Logistics Agency began taking steps to consolidate distribution management even further by eliminating one of the two remaining regions and establishing a consolidated Defense Distribution Center (DDC). After extensive analysis of potential locations, on September 16, 1997, DLA selected New Cumberland, Pennsylvania as the location.
The DDC mission was to manage material distribution functions for Department of Defense (DoD) customers, except those for fuels and munitions, and to run as a business on capital provided by direct appropriation. Simply put, the DDC and its depots, including DDSP, were responsible for the receipt, storage and issue of supplies. DDSP became the largest Department of Defense wholesale distribution depot in the United States.
Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna Pennsylvania is one of two Strategic Distribution Platforms supporting DoD customers in the eastern half of the United States, Central and South American, Europe, North Africa, and South West Asia. DDSP stocks more than 600,000 line items valued at over $5.5 billion dollars. DDSP employed 1,858 personnel as of April 2002. As the largest automated distribution facility in DoD, the Eastern Distribution Center (EDC) is the cornerstone of DDSP. The 1.7 million square feet of floor space in the EDC includes 1.13 million square feet of processing space and some 420,000 square feet of storage area.
Recent logistical success in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, resulting from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has proved DDSP’s aggressive dedication to provide world-class products, services and innovative logistics solutions to our armed forces in the most timely and efficient manner. DDSP along with twenty-four tenant commands located on the installation employ approximately 3,100 people, contributing to the local economy with a $144 million dollar annual payroll. The installation is named the Defense Distribution Center; however, DDSP is the garrison command that operates and maintains the 848-acre installation.