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Bill Grist
26th May 2009, 08:18 AM
Navy Shell Plant Charlotte, NC Mecklenburg County NC

During World War II the United States Navy gave U.S. Rubber a contract to build a ammunition assembly plant on a tract of land of more than 2,260 acres in the Steele Creek area of Mecklenburg County, Now is is Arrowood Industral Park Charlotte, NC

At its height the plant (locally called the “Shell Plant” or the “Bomb Plant”) had more than 12,000 employees, over 90% of them women. Men were the mechanics, guards, janitors and warehouse people. Only women worked on the conveyor line, filling the 40mm shell cases—16 shells to a can.

Fifteen women weighed the powder and put it in the 40mm shell case. Some of the women rolled 4-in. strips of lead foil which acted like grease on the inside of the shell casing. They worked 7 days a week on 3 different shifts and came from Lancaster, Kershaw, Rock Hill, Richburg, York, etc. in S. C. and Gastonia, Pineville, Concord, Albemarle, Monroe etc., in North Carolina.

My Aunt Martha Virginia Grist of Charlotte, NC was one of the workers filling the 40mm Shell cases at the "Shell Plant'...

She still remembers some of the rules. Smokers could smoke only in the cafeterias. No matches could be brought in but cigarette lighters were placed at intervals for the convenience of the smokers. The cafeterias were about 200 ft from the main plant. Everyone wore insulated safety shoes. The men wore uniform coveralls with no pockets. The women wore uniform dresses.

The floors were concrete and kept shiny. Every 10 feet there were big doors built for easy exit in case of explosion. None of the machinery was electrical (although there were electric lights). All machines were run by air. There weren’t any major explosions and only one accident. One of the women workers lost her left arm. Powder was so sensitive that if any were left under the fingernails, lighting a cigarette would blow away the finger nails. The plant won a number of safety awards.

At first, workers on an 8-hour shift were turning out 8,000 rounds of 40mm POM POM ammunition. At their peak they were producing 29,000 rounds a shift. Still, there was not enough labor to run but two “load lines.” There was the capacity for a third line but labor was scarce. At the end of WWII the Shell plant was scaled down and workers were given two souviner 40mm Shells produced at the Charlotte plant and sent home..'Rosie the Riviter' had done their jobs, and were no longer needed.. Pictured here are two 40mm souviner shells that were given to my aunt in September 1945.. Both Shells are dated 1945 one brass case and one steel case...Enjoy this piece of Charlotte, NC WW2 History....BILL
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