Hastings Power Plant, Hastings NE

Hastings Powers the Night

Hastings Power Plant, Hastings NE

May 8, 2011

Hastings Powers the Night

Passing eastbound through the area I spotted the dilapidated DLD State Recreation Area park and campground east of Hastings NE and pulled in. What an interesting spot it turned out to be.

Toward Hastings stands this photogenic power plant. Behind the park is the Hastings Air Force Station, abandoned in 1968. And a mile or so east are the remains of the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot, the largest United States World War II naval ammunitions plant.

Hastings Air Force Station

Hastings Air Force Station (ADC ID: SM-133, NORAD ID: Z-133) is a closed United States Air Force General Surveillance Radar station. It is located 5.2 miles (8.4 km) east of Hastings, Nebraska. It was closed in 1968.

Hastings Air Force Station was initially part of Phase II of the Air Defense Command Mobile Radar program. The Air Force approved this expansion of the Mobile Radar program on October 23, 1952. Radars in this network were designated “SM.”

The station became operational on 1 January 1962 with the activation of the 625th Radar Squadron (SAGE), feeding data to DC-22 at Sioux City AFS, Iowa. The radar squadron provided information 24/7 the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction altitude speed and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile. The deployment of the AN/FPS-67B search radar and two AN/FPS-6 height-finder radars to Hastings marked the completion of the second phase of the mobile radar program.

The radars were operated until 1968 when Air Defense Command closed the station as part of a draw down of assets and budget reductions. Today, what was Hastings AFS is now known as the "Radar Industrial Park". It is generally abandoned, with the few buildings that remain severely deteriorated.


Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot

The Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) near Hastings, Nebraska was the largest United States World War II naval munitions plant operating from 1942 to 1946 and produced over 40% of the U.S. Navy's munitions.

The former Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) is one of Nebraska's former four major ammunition plants: the Cornhusker Ordnance Plant, the Nebraska Ordnance Plant and the Martin Bomber Plant. Its construction began in July 1942 on 49,000 acres (200 km2) and was completed in early 1943 with over 2000 buildings, bunkers, and various other types of structures. The cost of construction was over $71 million.

The navy built in this location due the proximity to the area's three railroads, the abundance of underground water, cheap natural gas and electricity, the stable work force and the distance from either coast (being beyond the range of Japanese or German bombers). At one point during World War II the facility was producing over 40% of the U.S. Navy's munitions. It manufactured 40mm shells, 16 inch projectiles, rockets, bombs, depth charges, mines and torpedoes. Production peaked in June–July 1945, when the depot employed 125 officers, 1,800 enlisted men, and 6,692 civilians.

The impact on the city of Hastings was a 40% population increase from just over 15,000 in 1940 to 22,252 at its peak during the war. By 1944, workers base wages at the depot were 74-cents an hour with time-and-a-half for overtime beyond 54 to 64 hour workweeks and thus considerably higher than the 40- to 50-cents per hour in town and maybe a dollar-a-day for a hired man on the farm. Farmers experienced a severe labor shortage, schools were overcrowded with 50-60 children, new homes were scarce.

Four accidental explosions took place during the war, of which two were officially reported. All occurred in 1944, and together resulted in the deaths of 22 people. The first accident left a crater 550 feet long, 220 feet wide, and 50 feet deep. The most severe accidental blast killed nine people and injured fifty-three on September 15, 1944. It was caused by human error while a train was being loaded. The loading depot and the train were totally destroyed. Part of the roof at a high school in Harvard, about 15 miles (24 km) east of Hastings, collapsed as a result of the explosion; injuring 10 children.