The 1991 Base Closure and Realignment Commission closed the Sacramento Army Depot (SAAD) on March 3, 1995 ending an era lasting well over 50 years. The history of the Depot began back in the hectic pre-war days of the early 1940s, when America started gearing up for the inevitable war that would become World War II and continued operation through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and lasted well into the 1990s. SAAD was a high tech facility responsible for the support of numerous, Department of Defense Weapon Systems, Army Material Systems and other associated Communication-Electronics end items. It occupied some 485 acres within the city limits of Sacramento, California. SAAD was an important part of the Sacramento landscape for well over 50 years providing more than 3,000 civilian jobs and operation of a community domestic action program known as, "Operation Santa Clause." As a Major Depot, SAAD was built as a city within a city having its own water facilities, fire department, restaurant and Clubs, infirmary, Chaplin, gas station, railroad, police force, credit union, motor pool, movie theater, and even an aircraft runway, known as Reed Army Airfield. Generations of its work force were able to work their entire federal service careers there. The Depot became a reality with the realization by the War Department that an impending War on two fronts would deluge the need for war materiel and swamp existing storage facilities in the continental United States. This forced them to move quickly and decisively to enact a plan of action that would offset this reality. Their answer was to create 12 new Depots across the entire county with SAAD eventually established as a Signal Depot. The city of Sacramento was selected by the War Department as a site for a Depot because of its far western location and close proximity to major water, railroad, and highway corridors running through it. This allowed the Army access to its Western bases and a direct sea portal to the South Pacific. This concept of leasing provisional quarters allowed a quick response to meet the pending needs of war, which came all too soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Early in January 1942 with six Officers and 144 Civilians under command of LTC John M. Piner the Depot's first Commander, operations began for an all encompassing depot set up in a temporary staging area at the old California State Fairgrounds located at Broadway and Stockton Boulevards. The 1990 special edition of the Depot's newspaper, The Intercom, reported the Depot was first called the "Sacramento Advanced Communications Zone Depot," and later designated as the Sacramento Signal Depot. The mission in those frantic days that followed Pearl Harbor was to consolidate, pack, and ship all war supplies to Army installations across the West Coast and to the Pacific theater. The Quartermaster Corps had to relieve congestion at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and made Sacramento a temporary relocation annex of the port. This total logistic effort of war supplies continued until the spring of 1942 when the sections supplying equipment other than Signal Corps Equipment was moved to the California Quartmaster Sub-Depot in Tracy, California. In the fall of 1942 the temporary staging area moved to the leased temporary quarters of the Bercut-Richards packing plant at the intersection of 7th and B St in downtown Sacramento. Bercut-Richardson picture)This was the original location of the Sacramento Signal Depot, according to the book, "Sacramento the Indomitable City." The location and plant facilities were ideal for rapid supply connections in downtown Sacramento. The packing plant site was officially established in 1943 as the "Sacramento Signal Depot," according to the Intercom when the official paperwork caught up. Its name was later changed as a result of an Army-wide reorganization in 1962, to the "Sacramento Army Depot." The Packing Company site also served as a prisoner-of-war (PW) camp for German prisoners with a "tent" enclave. Some 425,000 German prisoners were interned at 511 different camps across the United States during the War. About 16 camps were operating in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys including the Depot. These German Prisoners were carefully screened from the time they came from the East Coast. "All the serious Nazis were weeded out" by the time they came to Sacramento. The Depot's command structure at that time, according to the "Depot Movement Plan," was the Signal Corps, Army Service Forces, Force headquarters and staff.
As a Signal Depot, SAAD was operationally geared to supply ground Communications-Electronic (C-E) equipment for the U.S. Army. Supply for the Signal Corps at that time was centered in the Philadelphia Procurement District with its huge Signal Depot physically located there. Other major Signal Depots across the United States were located in Boston; Baltimore; Dayton, Ohio; Chicago; and Lexington, Ky. SAAD had to apply Signal Corps logistics - the production, storage and distribution of C-E equipment. This necessitated a great number of military and civilian workers and the population of the Depot grew. Among the major tasks involved in Signal Corps logistics was to contract with industry to produce massive quantities of communication end-items, components and spare parts. SAAD would receive, store, issue, and maintain these various end-item electronics, supplies, and commodities.
The Bercut-Richards packing plant was used for the duration of the War. Its success to the war effort was very apparent to the War Department and a permanent site was approved for a new Signal Depot in Sacramento. The reason sited for the need for a permanent location change, according to the "Depot's Movement Plan" was to eliminate the many minor activities required for operation at the scattered Bercut-Richards packing facility. According to the SAAD Intercom, LTC Joseph J. Healy of the Office of Chief Signal Officers in Washington D.C. flew to Sacramento to begin a search for a lasting Depot location. Healy's picture) The site he discovered was near the small Southern Pacific railroad stop of "Polk Station." It was mostly low-lying areas of open fields surrounded by small truck farms. Construction began on the new Depot on July 10, 1945, but with "VJ Day," according to the Intercom a hold was put on all state side Military Constructions. Colonel Healy felt strongly a permanent facility with a "major signal corps" mission/presence was needed on the West Coast, just in case any possible future military conflict arose...especially in the Pacific region. History would attest to the wisdom of Colonel Healy with the breakout of the Korean War in 1950 just five years later. It was thus, almost through his singular efforts in persuading higher Army command to continue the Sacramento Depot site construction because of the need to maintain a presence on the West Coast that that authorization was given to complete the project. On September 24, 1945, the new Signal Depot was finished and ready for occupancy and use by the Army. Its location was 9.7 miles from the downtown Bercut-Richards facility at 8350 Fruitridge Road, Sacramento California. It was divided into two parts the industrial area on the main post and the Signal Corps enclave on the South Post. Colonel Sultzer was the first Commanding Officer of the permanent Sacramento Signal Depot. A camp was also set up for transfer of the remaining German prisoners of war that were moved from tent city. According to the "Movement Plan" it served as a temporary location for the return of PWs back to Germany.
The Depots Signal Corps operations continued to grow and flourish in the years that followed World War II, dramatically escalating with the outbreak of the Korean Conflict. The additional work load required building 4 more warehouses, enlisted barracks, and the "Maintenance Building," known as Building 320. It included a central machine shop to meet the escalating needs of this aggressive war. From 1950 to 1958 the construction continued. The new maintenance building would meet the requirements of the heavy metal fabrication and the emerging electronic maintenance function for C-E equipment. This added C-E work load began in earnest during the 1950s and eventually included in later years the development of Test Program Sets for the repair of ground electronics circuit cards, emergency manufacturing of parts, shelter repair, metal plating and treatment, and state of the art cart painting. (1950s Maintenance Picture) At the height of Depot operations during Vietnam in 1968 the Depot had a work force of 4,000, according to "Sacramento the Indomitable City." The budding repair of night vision equipment for Vietnam began to blossom in 1964-5 resulting in a new mission for the Depot, one that would take it into the state of the art and require expansion of Building 555 where the work was done. (Night Vision Picture) Previous to the night vision function, Building 555 was a small military clothing and sales store. It had a scale out in front where trucks were weighed with their loads. The store's clothing work transitioned to Sharpe Army Depot because more military were stationed there. Approximately $1.5 million in expansion would take place in the 1980's to make Building 555 the most sophisticated state of the art high tech facility in the Department of Defense. It included air bath showers and people wearing clean suits in ultra clean rooms. Eventually the repair and maintenance function of Building 555 would include electro-optics equipment and lasers for such state of the art weapon systems such as the Bradley fighting Vehicle and the M1A2 Main Battle Tank all done in what was called "Triple-Nickel" by the Depot employees. So efficient the production output of the Depot it was to receive the prestigious U.S. Army Excellence Award for small installations for its performance in 19868 It would use the cash award of $100,000 received from AMC to purchase a set of gazebos that were placed all over the Depot for the enjoyment of employees. This award was under the Command of Colonel O'Neil.
In February 1947 the Depot became one of the first members of the newly formed Army Signal Association (ASA), later known as the Armed forces Communications Electronics Association (AFCEA). The Army Signal Association was established in 1946 as chronicled in the release of the first issue of "SIGNALS" in September-October of 1946. The Army Signal Association was a result of the success of the relationship established during the Second World War between the Armed Forces and private industry. ASA wanted to continue this highly successful military industrial connection that was created to support the war effort. It felt such a relationship furthered National Defense and more closely integrated a solid liaison between industry and the Armed forces. This was outlined in the opening credits of first issue of the magazine. Chief of Staff and General of the Army, Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed this association in his letter to the Army Signal Association, a connection that has lasted to this day. The Sacramento Chapter, as it was known was formed under the guidance of the Depot's Commander, Col. A.M. Shearer. Sacramento was among the first ASA Chapters. As such, the Depot was a hub for Communication Electronics goings-on in the Northern California area with meetings held in the Depot's Officers Club. An example of an ASA meeting held on November 3, 1948, as reported in the 1948 November Edition of "Signals Magazine," by Chapter president, L. J. Brunridge. "Dr. Otto Smith of the University of California, addressed Russia's Bomb with an added feature of the screening of the, "Tail of two Cities, Nagasaki and Hiroshima." The Last AFCEA meeting at the Depot was in 1993 with Colonel William Gundy, Commander of the Depot presenting an overview of the accomplishments achieved in transitioning the Depot's work force to other installations in the DOD and private industry. After the closure of the Depot the local AFCEA Chapter eventually was disestablished. The Depot also sponsored meetings of the Association of the United States of America.
At its industrial peak, SAAD was responsible for Guardrail V, Quicklook, and Firefinder and maintained other such diverse state of the art, high tech military systems, as COMDAC, TLQ-17, UYK-19 and subsystems that included laser range finders, night vision goggles, electro-optics, night vision, radium-dial instrumentation and electronic circuit boards. Its manufacturing activities included shelter repair, metal plating and heavy metal fabrication, a treatment facility, painting, warehousing and shipping. The Depot industrial operation was under the command of the U. S. Army Depot Systems Command (DESCOM), a Major Subordinate Command of the U.S. Army Material Command. As such DESCOM was responsible for the higher level management and operation of all U. S. Army Depots. (picture of all signal equipment ready for loading).
The Sacramento Army Depot (SAAD) was a U.S. Army support facility that operated as a repair center for high-tech military hardware, such as night vision goggles, electronic circuit boards, and radium-dial instrumentation. The 1988 Base Closure and Realignment Commission closed Sacramento Army Depot. On March 3, 1995, the Depot officially closed. No Army maintenance capability remains. The Sacramento Army Depot has always been an important part of the Sacramento community. Since its establishment in 1941, the Depot has supported the nation by performing vital defense-related services and operations. It has also supported the community by providing more than 3,000 jobs in the Sacramento area.
The Sacramento Army Depot occupies 485 acres within the city limits of Sacramento, Sacramento County, California, approximately 7 miles to the southeast of the Sacramento business district. Morrison Creek enters the SAAD eastern boundary. The creek parallels the depot perimeter to the south and discharges on the western boundary. These essential services required the use of hazardous materials, such as solvents, degreasers, acids, and even radioactive paints, in daily operations. Operations conducted at the facility include electro-optics equipment repair, emergency manufacturing of parts, shelter repair, metal plating and treatment, and painting. In conjunction with these operations, the Army maintains unlined oxidation lagoons and burn pits, a battery disposal area, areas designated for mixing pesticides, and a firefighter training area.
On the day the Depot officially closed, the City of Sacramento leased approximately 370 acres of the total 485-acre depot to Packard Bell for its world headquarters, an important first step in the revitalization of the Sacramento community. While the BRAC Cleanup Team and the Restoration Advisory Board were working to clean up the Depot and keep the community informed of ongoing restoration activities, the Sacramento Army Depot Economic Adjustment Reuse Commission diligently continued its efforts to secure reuse opportunities and maintain the jobs of the people employed at the Depot.
In the Fall of 1994 Packard Bell, the computer company whose plant in Northridge was damaged by an earthquake decided to relocate a 3,000 employee assembly plant and distribution center at the Depot. As of April, 1996, Packard Bell had 3,500 employees working at its Depot facility (down from 5,000 in August 1995) and in February 1998 there were 3,100 employees, in October 1998 3,400 employees. This is the only Packard Bell manufacturing plant in the U.S. In mid-2000, Packard Bell NEC, Inc. announced it would shut down all manufacturing operations by year's end and layoff 1,400 of its 1,550 workers at the former Sacramento Army Depot.
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When the need for a branch camp was identified
and certified as valid to the Army, it sent a team to select a
site for the camp to fulfill the contractors requirements
while still ensuring that the prisoners would be properly housed
and secured. In many cases, few or no adequate buildings were
available for prisoner relocation, so the Army developed a mobile
unit package that could be set up quickly to temporarily
house 250 POWs. It consisted of 42 tents, sized 16 by 16,
allowing 6 or 7 men per tent. Seven additional tents of the same
size were used as office and storage buildings. Four larger tents
were used, one each, for mess hall, shower, latrine, and chapel/recreation
purposes. This entire layout was set up in a compound bordered
by a single wire fence that measured 282 by 550 feet (155,100
square feet). Portable guard towers, with searchlights, were placed
at opposite corners of the compound to permit clear
observation in the camp. Light poles were erected at intervals both inside and outside the camp. Each tent would have one or more light bulbs for night use.
The guard force for a branch camp of 250 POWs consisted of approximately 160 officers and men. It was composed as follows: 30 camp guards; 70 prisoner chasers who were the guards accompanying the POWs to and from work sites and monitoring them during work hours; 15 NCOs to oversee the guard force; seven support staff such as cooks and clerks; 33 drivers and mechanics; and five medics. Usually five officers were assigned including the camp commander, three camp officers, one supply and mess officer, one POW company commander, and one medical officer (if available).