On June 28, 1914, the Crown Prince of Austria was assassinated while inspecting troops in the Austrian city of Serajevo, near the Serbian border. Austria, confident about her alliance with Germany, declared war against Serbia on July 28th. The situation deteriorated quickly as Austria mobilized her army, followed by Russia. Germany demanded that Russia cease its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on August 1st and on France two days later. When Germany invaded neutral Belgium, Great Britain entered the war on August 4th.
Germany and Austria-Hungary, known as the Central Powers, were at war with the Allies, consisting of France, Russia, Great Britain, Serbia, Belgium, and Montenegro. Germany, Austria, France, and Russia were the only powers that could readily field a well-trained army. Serbia, Belgium, and Montenegro had only small armies, and Great Britain’s power was concentrated in her navy. Germany soon invaded France, and the start of a prolonged land war had begun on the Western Front. Meanwhile, the Austrian Army, supplemented with a smaller German force, attacked Russia on the Eastern Front. Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in November.
Poison gas was first used on April 22, 1915, by the Germans against French soldiers. On May 7th, the British liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and 1,195 lives, including 124 Americans, were lost. Italy entered the global conflict in May on the side of the Allies, but Germany remained victorious on the Western Front through 1916. In the following year, the Allies went on the offensive on a grand scale. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and on Austria-Hungary on December 7th.
U.S. Major General John J. Pershing was designated Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) on May 26, 1917, and went to France on June 13th. The first elements of the American 1st Division of the A.E.F. landed there on June 26th. Pershing cabled the War Department early in July that every effort should be made to have an American army in France of at least 1,000,000 men by the following May and up to 3,000,000 men thereafter!
The American buildup in France commenced, and by the end of 1917 there were 174,884 American soldiers in Europe. There were more than 300,000 American troops in France on March 21, 1918, when the first great German offensive began.
ILION EXPANDS ITS MANUFACTURING CAPACITY
In August 1914, Remington’s Ilion factory measured 353,855 square feet, employed 1,521 workers, and achieved the following rate of production: No. 4 rolling block rifles – forty per day; No. 6 falling block rifles – 125 per day; Model 8 autoloading rifles – thirty-five per day; Model 10 pump-action shotguns – ninety per day; Model 11 autoloading shotguns – seventy-five per day; Model 12 slide-action .22-caliber rifles – 220 per day; Model 14 and Model 14 1/2 slide-action, high-power rifles – sixty-five per day; Model 16 autoloading .22-caliber rifles – thirty per day; and Model 95 double derringers – twenty per day. In all Remington was producing about 700 sporting firearms per day.
Outside of government arsenals, practically no military rifles were made in the United States for many years. Remington had last manufactured Remington-Lee military rifles in 1909 and continued to make smokeless powder Remington rolling block rifles and carbines through 1920. In late 1914, to meet the demands of foreign orders for military firearms, M. Hartley Dodge decided to construct new gun-manufacturing facilities in Ilion, New York, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Concurrently, Dodge ordered the refurbishing of its ammunition-producing facilities at Bridgeport, Connecticut, Swanton, Vermont, and Hoboken, New Jersey, to fulfill incoming orders for military ammunition and artillery components.
On November 13, 1914, land was acquired on East Main Street in Ilion, adjoining the existing plant, and on December 10, 1914, ground was broken for the new Remington armory buildings. The site was cleared, many of the older buildings were razed, and railroad sidings were constructed.
On March 1, 1915, the first of the new buildings was completed and gunmaking machinery was installed. Other manufacturing buildings, including one on the opposite side of Main Street adjoining the old Erie Canal, were constructed and opened. When all was said and done, the manufacturing floor area at Ilion was increased 185 percent, from the original 353,855 square feet in 1914 to 1,016,000 square feet. Eventually, the number of production workers rose from 1,521 employees in 1914 to a high of 7,361 employees in 1918!
On November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed, officially ending World War I for America. The joy of victory soon turned to the reality that the services of tens of thousands of workers at Rem-UMC facilities were no longer needed. Remington struggled to return to a peacetime economy of manufacturing sporting arms and ammunition, but its wartime debt was enormous.
A reorganization agreement was enacted on December 26, 1919, to divest the company of certain properties utilized during World War I to manufacture arms and munitions. The agreement was between Remington Arms-Union Metallic Cartridge Co., M. Hartley Dodge, William Rockefeller, National City Bank, and National City Co. This included buildings in Ilion, New York,12 all buildings in Swanton, Vermont, and buildings in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Remington Arms-Union Metallic Cartridge Co. had grown to immense proportions during World War I. It developed state-of-the-art military firearms-producing factories in Ilion, Bridgeport, and Eddystone and munitions plants in Bridgeport, Hoboken, Swanton, Windsor, and Brimsdown.
By war’s end, the company employed more than 35,000 workers, most of whom were laid off within a few months. M. Hartley Dodge and other Remington officials had to find a way to turn this military giant into a manageable, peacetime company that would concentrate on making sporting arms and ammunition once again.