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Illinois Ordnance Plant

The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion, Illinois draws over one million visitors a year for hunting, fishing, recreation, and environmental education, but few of the visitors know the history of the dozens of aging factory buildings that dot the Refuge. During World War II, the Refuge was home to a sprawling complex of ammunition factories known as the Illinois Ordnance Plant, or Ordill, as local residents knew it. At the height of the war, Ordill employed 10,000 people manufacturing aerial bombs, land mines, and artillery shells for the war effort.

In this high-definition encore broadcast, former Refuge Manager Dan Frisk, leads WSIU's Jak Tichenor and Roger Suski on a behind-the-scenes tour of the old factory complex, which is closed to the public. He points out enormous buildings that once housed Ordill's production lines and the dozens of ammunition bunkers that were used to store the weapons before they were shipped to the European and the Pacific fronts.

Many of the workers at Ordill were women who held their first paying jobs outside of the home, including Helen Kelton of Goreville. Kelton shares her story along with the late Charles "Dutch" Stevens of Herrin, who worked as an inspector for one of Ordill's four wartime fire departments. Bob Jackson, President of the Williamson County Historical Society, displays copies of architect's blueprints that were used to plan the facility's hundreds of buildings and more that 150 miles of roadways, power plants, and infrastructure.

The tour of the former Ordnance Plant is one of many local stories captured by WSIU Television, WSIU Radio, and WSIU's outreach department as a part of Honor and Sacrifice: WSIU Remembers World War II”, a 2007 companion project to the Ken Burns World War II documentary series, The War.

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