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Rock Island Arsenal Army Base in Arsenal Island, IL Illinois Military Bases
Base Contact Information
Rock Island Arsenal Communication Office: (309)-782-6001, DSN: 793-6001
Visitor Information: (309) 782-0484, DSN 793-0484
Geography and Area Information
The Rock Island Arsenal is located at 41°31′1″N 90°32′31″W on Arsenal Island, a 946 acre (1.47 square mile) island in the Mississippi River. The island was originally known as Rock Island and is midway between the cities of Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa though it technically falls within the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois. The island facility is just west of Interstate 74 where it crosses the Mississippi River and less than one mile from the Iowa State line. The base has three avenues of access; 24th Street and the Moline Bridge from the Illinois side and the Government Bridge from the Iowa side. Being that the Rock Island Arsenal is surrounded by the Mississippi River on all sides it is subject to seasonal flooding with rises in the water level. The island has several methods in place to combat seasonal flooding and an emergency plan in the event the island has to be evacuated. The area around the island is classified as humid continental climate and experiences hot humid summers and cold winters with high levels of humidity that is often accompanied by high winds.
The Rock Island area was first used for military purposes in 1816 with the construction of Fort Armstrong. The fort was part of a system of defenses in the Upper Mississippi Valley and served as a mustering point and headquarters during the Black Hawk War of 1832. The fort was abandoned in 1836 but it remained in use as an ordinance depot until 1845.
The military facility of Rock Island Arsenal was established by an Act of Congress in 1862 turned over to the command of the Department of The Army. During the Civil War the Rock Island Arsenal was used as a Union prison camp and the Rock Island Prison Barracks were constructed in December of 1863. The prison facility was used until July 1865 as part of a 21 camp system used by Union forces. At its height 12,192 Confederate prisoners were held at the Rock Island Prison Barracks where 1,964 of them died. The only visible remains of the Rock Island Prison Barracks today is the Confederate Cemetery where all 1,964 casualties of the prison were buried. A separate cemetery, the Rock Island National Cemetery was established in 1863 as site to burry Union prison staff that died on the island, 125 in all. Today it is one of 117 national cemeteries controlled and operated by the United States Veterans Administration.
In 1880 the Rock Island Arsenal was used for the manufacture of government weapons, supplies and ordinance. On July 4, 1905 the Rock Island Arsenal Museum was established and is now the second oldest Army museum after West Point. Exhibits at the museum detail the islands history as a Union prison camp during the Civil War provide examples of weapons and ordinance produced throughout its history.
In 1919 the base began producing Liberty Mark VIII tanks, the first generation of American tanks, stopping production in 1920 after making only 100 pieces. Following World War I the Rock Island Arsenal took on the role of producing weapons, vehicles and ordinance for the Army at a consistent rate, expanding production during times of conflict and war to accommodate needs. The Rock Island Arsenal continues to be one of the Army’s top weapons and ordinance facilities well into the 21st Century and continues to produce personal weapons, crew served weapons systems, artillery pieces and vehicles.
Primary and Ancillary functions
The primary mission of the Rock Island Arsenal is to provide logistical and manufacturing support for the United States Armed Services. The Rock Island Arsenal is the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing facility in the United States and is home to the Army’s only active foundry and employs approximately 6,000 civilians and 250 military personnel in its current state of operations. The facility produces a range of military products including aircraft weapons sub-systems, weapons simulators, small arms, gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, artillery pieces, fighting vehicles and ordinance. Rock Island is also the only facility in the United States that builds assembles and distributes tool kits and sets support equipment in the field.
The Rock Island Arsenal is also home to multiple museums and exhibits including the Mississippi River Visitor Center, Rock Island Arsenal Garrison Museum, Memorial Park, The Colonel Davenport Historical Foundation and the Rock Island National Cemetery. The museums are open to public access and generally open six or seven days a week.
In addition to producing armaments for the United States Government the Rock Island Arsenal is home to several tenants. These include multiple Army offices and schools, The Army Corps of Engineers, Marine Corps Liaison offices and reserve units, Navy Liaison offices and reserve units, Air Force liaison offices and USAR Multifunction Support Command. The base also houses several Federal offices and branches of commercial companies and contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, United States Fish and Game Offices and Metters Incorporated.
Several sections of the Rock Island Arsenal are open to the general public. Those visitors not in possession of a Common Access Card (CAC) are required to enter Rock Island Arsenal via the Moline Bridge entrance and check in at the main gate security office at building 23. Visitors need to have a valid government issued ID, current insurance and valid vehicle registration. More information can be found by visiting www.usagria, contacting the installation security office at (309) 782-0484 or emailing