In October, the Defense Logistics Agency celebrates its 60th anniversary. But one of its major subordinate commands has been around for much longer, contributing over 200 years of warfighter and whole of government support to the agency’s great legacy.
DLA Troop Support traces its roots back to the early 1800s when the Schuylkill Arsenal was constructed on Grays Ferry and Washington Avenues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to house ammunition and military supplies. It was only the third federal facility of the then young nation.
One of the arsenal’s first major contributions to the nation was in outfitting Merriweather Lewis and William Clark’s “Corps of Discovery” in 1803 as they set off to explore land west of the Mississippi recently acquired through the Louisiana Purchase.
According to the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
, the arsenal provided the expedition with $2,000 of clothing, blankets, tents and equipment. What couldn’t be bought through the arsenal’s on-hand supplies was purchased from local shopkeepers through Israel Whelan, the official Purveyor of Public Supplies in Philadelphia and the namesake of DLA Troop Support’s current headquarters building.
During the war of 1812, the arsenal provided the U.S. military with guns, ammunition, clothing and textiles. After the war, the Schuylkill Arsenal gave up its guns and ammunition mission to focus solely on manufacturing, storing and distributing clothing and other textile materials.
Then, in 1861, when tensions between northern and southern states turned into the Civil War, 10,000 tailors and seamstresses from the Philadelphia area were hired, many working from home, to make uniforms, blankets, tents and bedding for the union troops.
The arsenal supplied provisions for the nation’s military once again in 1918, as the U.S. entered WWI. The enormous demand of equipping and mobilizing two million service members in the span of a year, accentuated the need for a larger facility and led to the lease of 61 acres at West Oregon Avenue & South 22nd Street, in South Philadelphia.
Construction began on what was then a celery farm owned by the Girard Estate and the city of Philadelphia, and by the end of WWI all operations had moved to the renamed location, the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot.
After the war the depot continued to manufacture uniforms for soldiers, nurses, chaplains and firefighters as well as other items like flags, tents, buttons, service medals, blankets and bed sheets throughout the 1920s.
In the 1930s, during the great depression, production in the depot ramped up again, this time providing work uniforms to the 600,000 Civilian Conservation Corps personnel working jobs created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
During WWII, the depot facilitated approximately $5 billion in contracts for military uniforms and equipment, as the Army grew to more than 8 million soldiers.
The Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot continued to supply and support the military through the Korean War.
In 1965, the Defense Personnel Support Center was formed and the mission expanded, to include subsistence, medicine and medical supplies.
Since then, Troop support has gone through more changes, adding supply chains, moving to its current location in northeast Philadelphia and becoming a major subordinate command of what is now the Defense Logistics Agency.
Troop Support continues to adjust, adapt and innovate to deliver optimal global supply chain solutions to support the warfighter and our many valued partners here and abroad.