News | Nov. 9, 2021

From animals to equipment, DLA Disposition Services has processed it all

By Peter Gentry DLA Disposition Services

Since its inception in 1972, Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services has received and processed millions of excess Department of Defense personal property items.

Most of these items are within the norms of end-of-lifecycle logistics for the nation’s armed forces. However, some examples of property turned-in to DLA Disposition Services stand out among the rest and serve to highlight the unique capabilities of disposal logisticians.

US Army Signal Corps Pigeons
US Army Signal Corps Pigeons Pigeons from the US Army Signal Corps fly to their destination. In World War II, pigeons proved particularly useful in places like the Pacific jungles where it was difficult to string wire. Many hero pigeons served valiantly during the battles, often receiving wounds but still delivering their messages.
US Army Signal Corps Pigeons
US Army Signal Corps Pigeons
Pigeons from the US Army Signal Corps fly to their destination. In World War II, pigeons proved particularly useful in places like the Pacific jungles where it was difficult to string wire. Many hero pigeons served valiantly during the battles, often receiving wounds but still delivering their messages.
Photo By: DLA Disposition Services
VIRIN: 211105-D-OD896-5560

After the Second World War, the War Assets Administration - a forerunner to DLA Disposition Services - received over 17,000 pigeons from the U.S. Army Signal Corps. These former message couriers were housed on various Army installations until they were offered for sale to the general public for $2.50 a bird. After nearly a year of sales, approximately 14,000 pigeons remained, prompting a change in tactics. The WAA announced free birds to anyone sending in a self-addressed crate, which quickly resulted in the remaining avians being rehomed.

Slightly larger in stature than carrier pigeons and requiring a more substantial, coordinated effort was the disposal of six naval vessels. In 2014, DLA Disposition Services awarded a contract for the destruction and scrapping of six Navy ships, including the 418-foot USS Forrest Sherman and 567-foot USS Thomas S. Gates. These vessels were cut apart by contractors in a joint effort between the Navy and DLA Disposition Services focused on cost avoidance. Contractors remediated hazardous waste and materials during the months-long methodical deconstruction of each vessel.

16 inch Gun Barrel
16 inch Gun Barrel A barrel belonging to a World War II era Iowa-Class battleship is loaded onto a trailer for disposal.
16 inch Gun Barrel
16 inch Gun Barrel
A barrel belonging to a World War II era Iowa-Class battleship is loaded onto a trailer for disposal.
Photo By: DLA Disposition Services
VIRIN: 211105-D-OD896-5557

Similarly, turn-in specialists were tasked with the disposal of a 16-inch barrel from a WW2-era Iowa-class battleship. For the uninitiated, each barrel from the BL 16-inch Mk I naval gun is 68 feet long and weighs 13 tons. Moving the barrel required a host of specialized equipment, from a sling-attached crane for loading the barrel to a heavy-lift trailer for transport.

Other former armaments received by disposal specialists include inert intercontinental ballistic missiles. DLA Disposition Services has accepted several Minuteman III ICBMs that once served as gate guards or static displays across various military installations. For example, in 2008 the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs determined that its Minuteman III static display in the front of the Cadet Field House required disposition. General deterioration of the display, coupled with the presence of asbestos-containing materials, made it unsafe for continued exhibition and it was turned-in to DLA.

Another reutilization success story involved a live horse turned in to DLA. “Tommy” was part of the caisson section at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which was responsible for performing military funerals. Tommy was too short for the purposes of the unit, and was turned in. A month after being received in place, the Yuma County Sheriff Department in Arizona reutilized Tommy for mounted patrol duty.

Tommy the Horse
Tommy the Horse Tommy the horse is displayed with his new owners during a public event.
Tommy the Horse
Tommy the Horse
Tommy the horse is displayed with his new owners during a public event.
Photo By: DLA Disposition Services
VIRIN: 211105-D-OD896-5555

Living horses are not the only equines received by DLA Disposition Services. Taxidermized specimen have been turned in as well. When the Ordnance Museum at Rock Island Arsenal opened in 1905, it inherited exhibits created for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. These exhibits were curated by the Smithsonian on behalf of the U.S. government and included several taxidermized horses. The animals were displayed at the Rock Island Ordnance Museum for over 100 years. As the horses deteriorated in condition, some of the taxidermized specimen were brought to DLA Disposition Services for disposal.

As the organization looks to the future, DLA Disposition Services remains committed to supporting its customers’ diverse disposal requirements, whether tasked with the disposal of animals, armaments or aircraft – and everything in between.