Written by Jim Duke, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Records Center Archival Technician
The Utah State Archives and Records Service (Archives) Records Center stores inactive files for our state and local government agencies. For nearly 40 years, the Archives leased warehouse space in West Valley City to house these records. When it reached its storage capacity and outgrew the facility, the Archives was able to relocate to its current Clearfield facility. This new location at the Freeport Center has a rich, vibrant history.
The Freeport Center is home to more than 70 national and local companies with a workforce of over 7,000. Their location is at the crossroads of the West, and is combined with an excellent transportation network of highways and railroads. Yet, the Freeport Center grew out of very humble beginnings. It began as a swamp. After it was drained it became a truck farm. A truck farm is not a farm that grows trucks! It’s the horticultural practice of growing one or more vegetable crops on a large scale for shipment to distant markets. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 began a rebirth of what would become today’s Freeport Center.
“This is the Place”, but why?
During World War II, there was a need to re-supply and outfit the war effort in an area that would be out of reach of aerial attack and also have the railways and infrastructure capable of supporting a large supply depot. On April 11, 1942 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy decided that location was Clearfield, Utah. The Clearfield site was strategically located in that it was roughly equidistant from every major seaport on the West Coast. In the event that a major port on the west coast were to come under Japanese attack it could be re-supplied within one day by rail or within a matter of hours by air.
Construction activity shortly followed, but no formal groundbreaking ceremonies were held due to reasons of wartime security. Construction of this large facility was no easy feat. When commissioned, it was the second largest Naval Supply Depot (NSD) in the world, but by the end of World War II it had become the largest.
During 1942, concurrent with the efforts to build the physical facility at NSD Clearfield, a training program was underway at NSD Oakland to train a nucleus of Navy Supply Corps Officers and other military staff for the purpose of manning NSD Clearfield. Most of the able bodied men were on the front lines so many of the personnel came from those men who were not able to serve in the armed forces. They were highly desired for employment as civilian employees for wartime civil service or as local defense contractors. With a shortage of able-bodied men, other groups were brought in to lend a hand.
World War II introduced female employment to the private sector and to government service on a grand scale never before seen in American society. Female labor became the norm considering that much of the male manpower was away at war. In July of 1942 the introduction of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) further lessened the labor shortage. Other efforts to tap manpower included putting a local contingent of Italian Prisoners of War (POW’s) to work at the depot in November 1943. Much of the work done at the depot during this period was performed without the benefit of Material Handling Equipment (MHE) such as forklifts. Forklifts and other such MHE was simply in short supply because of the overwhelming wartime demand. As time progressed this deficiency would be addressed. This shortage of manpower and MHE witnessed many Navy Officers donning old uniforms to help with the unloading and loading of box cars to keep wartime requirements and requisitions moving.
One of the reasons the Clearfield site was chosen was its already established rail system. In fact, some of the track from Promontory Summit was used to expand the existing rail system. Rails that had unified the nation at the driving of the golden spike in 1869 were now helping to win the war by speeding shipments of urgent supplies to the fleet.
The Role of NSD Clearfield
The outcome of World War II was determined by who controlled strategic island chains. The war in the Pacific focused on the control of island chains previously unknown to the average American household. These island chains were the forward receiving points for items stored and or created at rear staging areas such as NSD Clearfield. In a combination of open and covered warehouse space, this facility stored the logistical requirements and stage war materials needed to support the Pacific campaign. The categories of support included:
- Advance Base Functional Components Support
- Automotive Spares Support
- Aviation Support
- Destroyer/Cruiser Support
- Medical Stores Support
- Ordnance Support
- Personal Effects (of Deceased) Support
- PT Boat Support
- Radar Support
Post War (the Decommissioning)
NSD Clearfield was decommissioned in 1962, leaving the 680-acre facility standing idle. At that point it became the warehouse district that we recognize today. Railways that once raced wartime materiel to needed locations now race needed products from Lifetime Products, Utility Trailer, Honeywell, and Del Monte. The Freeport Center is even involved in space exploration: NASA’s shuttle boosters were refurbished here.
In 2010, the federal government transferred ownership of three federal buildings to the state of Utah. One of those buildings was an IRS building located at Bldg C-6. On Thursday, November 29, 2012 the Freeport Center got a new tenant. The Ribbon cutting for Utah’s new Records Center was held in the afternoon and included a tour of the facility. Since the Records Center is usually closed to the public, this was a unique opportunity for state and local employees, as well as the general public, to tour the 80,000-square-foot facility.
Today, the Records Center continues to support the legacy of the Freeport Center and its mission to serve the public. The Record Center stores records for many different agencies which can be requested as needed. It also assist agencies in disposing of the records when they have met retention. We either send them onto our permanent repository or destroy the non-permanent records according to the approved retention schedules. We also store microfilm in an environmentally controlled storage area where the humidity and temperature are monitored three times a day.
The Utah State Records Center is one facet of a dynamic and still-growing warehouse and distribution center.The Utah Records Center, as part of the Archives, is proud to be a continually growing part of the Freeport Center. We look forward to a bright future of growth and progress.
The Free Library. “World War II History of NSD Clearfield, Utah.” https://www.thefreelibrary.com/World+War+II+history+of+NSD+Clearfield%2c+Utah.-a099746580.
Sgt. H. James Holub U.S.M.C. Retired, “World War II History of NSD Clearfield, Utah,” http://marinebarracks.com/clearfield_history.htm.
Salt Lake Tribune, “A Look Back: Utahns in the military from the ’40s and ’50s,” http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=52844072&itype=CMSID.
UtahRails.Net, “Naval Supply Depot (NSD) Clearfield,” http://utahrails.net/utahrails/nsd-clearfield.php.
United States Department of the Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks,”The Supply Depots,” Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps,1940-1946, Volume I, https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Building_Bases/bases-12.html.