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Illinois Ordnance Plant

This year the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge celebrates 60-years as a haven for wildlife and one of the area’s most popular tourism destinations. But not many of the people who enjoy the Refuge today know that Crab Orchard was once the site of an enormous ammunition factory that played a vital role in our nation’s defense during the Second World War. The story of the Illinois Ordnance Factory, or Ordill as it was known, is a fascinating look at how the war on the home-front changed the social and economic history of Southern Illinois forever. Thousands of area women earned their first regular paychecks at Ordill, and many of them never looked back as they got their first taste of work outside the home. Ordill also employed thousands of area men who’d been looking for steady work in an area hard-hit by the Great Depression and lay-offs in the region’s many coal mines. Most of what remains of the plant is off-limits to the public but our cameras were allowed inside for a rare look at the many buildings and bunkers that remain in the closed portion of the Refuge. We also talked with people who worked at Ordill during the war who related their memories and insights to us about their wartime experiences. Our program-length feature was created by producers Roger Suski and Jak Tichenor.

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