Redstone Arsenal played major role in soldiers' safety during D-Day invasion

Nearly every gun, ammo, bomb and signaling device used during World War II was made at Redstone Arsenal.

Posted: Jun 6, 2019 6:16 PM
Updated: Jun 6, 2019 6:53 PM

In the 1940s, women on Redstone Arsenal created something called floating smoke pots, which saved American lives during the D-Day invasion.

When American soldiers approached the beaches of Normandy during World War II, so did the 2 million barrel-like canisters called "smoke pots." Those canisters were made to help hide the men as they emerged from the water to fight.

"Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 3 ships, there were no holidays. You didn't take off for Thanksgiving, there was no Fourth of July. They had one holiday per year, and that was Christmas Day," said Claus Martel, an Army Material Command historian at the Arsenal.

Martel's not talking about the life of soldiers. He's talking about the manufacturers in Huntsville who ensured their safety, the women who made the floating smoke pots.

Some of the devices acted as smoke grenades to hide American boats from the enemy and others actually concealed soldiers, protecting them from gunfire when they were coming up to shore.

Martel got to interview some of the women 15 years ago and said they were proud of what they accomplished.

"They knew they were contributing to the war effort as much as anybody was contributing to the war effort," said Martel.

A lot of people WAAY 31 spoke to on Thursday were surprised to hear about the smoke pots. One family said this just makes them love Huntsville even more.

"We're not from here but to know the history here is great. It's great to know we live in a society where we look out for each other pretty much and take care of each other," said David Gerron, who lives in Huntsville.

Martel hopes more families like this want to learn about Huntsville's role in the war. He said the smoke pots were just a small contribution, but he hopes people remember D-Day as a day of recognition and remembrance.

"There were numerous people who had died here, working here at the installation, manufacturing these very dangerous weapons," said Martel.

The floating smoke pots weren't the only thing that helped the soldiers on D-Day.

The women on the Arsenal also made colored smoke grenades and signals to help the men understand what was going on in different parts of the beach and water.

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