Dallas, Texas

Dallas Had a Bomb Factory

Magnesium Fire Levels Bomb Plant

In 1943 the headlines of the Dallas Morning News said “Magnesium Fire Levels Bomb Plant.” The article continued describing the most spectacular fire in Dallas History on December 15-16, 1943, when the government’s entire stock of magnesium was lost. Austin Bridge Company, also known as ABCo at that time manufactured incendiary bombs in a plant in West Dallas located at 1301 Singleton Boulevard, just west of Sylvan. The glow of this fire was seen an estimated 225 miles away by airplanes, almost to Houston.

Austin Bridge Company fire, courtesy of fireengineering.com

The company’s equipment and materials were badly damaged and the tires were melted off several of the machines. There was no report of any injuries, as the fire started just a few minutes after the supper shutdown. The building belonged to the company and the magnesium and most of the machinery belonged to the government and comprised possibly 98 percent of the value lost.

By mid-January the plant was back in partial operation working three shifts a day. More people were hired (mostly women) from the small towns of Dallas County and by May there were 25 foremen and set a record. On October 11, 1944, orders were received to close down as Washington had decided that magnesium bombs were not suitable for the type of warfare being carried on in the Far East. The equipment was dismantled and all operations ceased. Then, on October 31, orders were received to resume operations on an even larger scale than before! It took 30 days to reset the equipment and organize three shifts of workers. Actual production on a limited basis began on December 4. During 1945 the plant operated at full capacity until Japan sued for peace.

The Austin Bridge Company Servis Equipment Company Bomb Plant had cast, machined, assembled, and packed 29,524,975 magnesium bomb bodies which had been shipped to the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas for loading (some 925 freight cars of bombs). The Company had a maximum of around 1200 employees about 85% were women and had produced these bombs at a lower cost than any other plant in the United States.

This tidbit of information was included in a booklet printed by the Company entitled The First 50 Years – 1918 – 1968. The author was Shannon Miller.