In response to the urgent need for a highly effective explosive to defeat the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic during WWII, Tennessee Eastman Corporation (TEC) developed a process to produce RDX high explosive. In February 1942, 50 hand-picked TEC employees staffed the Wexler Bend Pilot Plant in Kingsport, working round the clock to produce small quantities of RDX.
The work at Wexler Bend led in June 1942 to the U.S. Government’s authorization of TEC to design and operate the Holston Ordnance Works (HOW) for the manufacture of Composition B, the most powerful explosive prior to the atom bomb. Construction of HOW began in June 1942. During 1943, design, construction, and production were occurring simultaneously at HOW and by January 1944 it was shipping 570 tons a day of explosives. HOW was mothballed at the conclusion of WWII.
Holston Ordnance Works became Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) when it was reactivated for the Korean Conflict and the plant has been operational ever since. The U.S. military has used Holston Army Ammunition Plant explosives in every battle since WWII and continues today in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
In January 1999, Holston Army Ammunition Plant continued its operations under a new operating contractor BAE Systems, Ordnance Systems Inc. (OSI) and a new type of contract that allows for the commercial use of government land and buildings. This element of the new contract is managed as Holston Business and Technology Park.