Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA Image 1
    Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA Image 2

    Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA History

    In 1912, Major Charles P. Summerall was given the task of finding a suitable site for an artillery training camp on the east coast. He decided on the city of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. Soon after, Congress authorized the purchase of 18,000 acres of land, and an artillery training camp was established. A series of transformations followed throughout the years, that's led up to the present day Tobyhanna Army Depot.

    In the summer of 1916 the Army was preparing against possible involvement in World War I, and maneuvers were being executed. The Tobyhanna camp was the site of an artillery, tank corps, and hospital training camp, where serious shortages of supply and field experience were noted. Many of the officers were Yale professors, including the camp physicians; although various problems were found, camp health was high and the quality of food was good, and the overall value of camp hygiene was impressive. The units shelled the local camp territory and practiced maneuvering, and retired at the end of summer feeling an overall success.

    During World War I the camp was used for tank training and as a local embarkation camp, until after the war it returned to its original field artillery training mission. The camp was gradually improved in the next two decades, used by Army, Reserve, and National Guard units, as the only live fire range in the state of Pennsylvania. In this time the camp gained roads, a power plant, ammunition magazines, a machine shop, and telephone system. Later various troop housing improvements were made, including barracks, observation tower, mess halls, stables (for gun-hauling mules), and a water tower, sewage system, and indoor plumbing.

    During the Great Depression Tobyhanna was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps encampment, a program to keep working people working rather than wandering around starving and desperate, and further camp improvements were made by the CCC directly, including expanded housing for a long term residential camp of about 500.

    In World War II, Tobyhanna camp was at first an anti-aircraft training camp, but the site was now too small - it had not gotten smaller, but ranges had increased, and the shelling was too loud for local farmers to sleep and live fire and aerial targets were falling on private land. The camp was was turned into a storage and support facility for the Army Air Corps, storing a great deal of general materiel, and especially spare landing gliders intended for airborne troop landings. The gliders were never used, and they were sold at auctions after the invasions of Europe, mainly for their high quality cargo crate lumber. Late in the war Tobyhanna became a prison camp, housing German prisoners of war, who were occupied with farm and other local labor. A military hospital was also built at Tobyhanna camp, to handle the predicted heavy casualties of an expected US invasion of Japan, shuttled back to the US East Coast once stabilized. Since this invasion never took place, the hospital was never fully put to use as intended. Nevertheless, the hospital building came in handy during the depot's reconstruction, as a first headquarters and administrative area.

    The period after the war saw military downsizing and a demobilization of U.S armed forces. As a result, the federal government transferred the land back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and control of the reservation went to the Department of Forestry and Waters. This resulted in the formation of the Tobyhanna State Park.The Army did not stay out of the area long. Two years later, the Signal Corps needed a new depot, and chose the former military site as its location. Tobyhanna Signal Depot (later renamed Tobyhanna Army Depot) was established in 1953, using only about 1,400 acres of the once much larger site. Today, the depot serves as the DoD's biggest, full-service electronics maintenance center, and is titled with being a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for C4ISR and Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control.