It was 71 years ago today that one of the defining moments in Starke County history occurred. On September 28th, 1940, LaPorte had been chosen as one of 73 sites in the country for the construction of an ordnance plant. That led to the building of the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant better known as KOP.
For residents of Starke County and those who followed them here, that meant loading shells, assembling fuses, boosters, detonators and primers, and packing complete rounds of ammunition.
After the government had cleared all the families off the 13,454 acres of land it had purchased, it began construction of KOP. By May of 1942, the number of people employed reached a high of 20,785. Nearly half of the people employed were women. For many it was their first job outside the home.
The jobs paid $125 a month. This mass influx of people brought many problems with it, the main one being housing. KOP operated around the clock and the demand for a place to sleep was so great that three employees working different shifts would get together and share the same bed.
By the time the war came to an end in August of 1945, over $800 million dollars had been spent on KOP and another $2 million was spent closing it down. The plant remained on standby and went back into production in 1951 when the United States entered the Korean War.
It might be hard to find anyone today who worked at KOP, but one thing is for certain, it changed Starke County forever. Workers were recruited from the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky. They came, and eventually brought their families. Many resided in Starke County, always planning to return home after the war ended. Some did, but many stayed, helping to make up the fabric of the county.
It all happened, because of an announcement made 71 years ago today.
Note: Much of the material taken for the above article and the photo was taken from a story written by Greg Otolski, a staff writer for the LaPorte Herald 35 years ago.