Writing

The Town that Built the Tanks and Bombs that Won This Country’s Wars

I’m driving cross-country in a couple of weeks and I feel compelled to visit Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, home of such great Americans as Mike Ditka and Gust Avrakotos.

I was planning on picking up a Primanti Brothers sandwich and eating it in the grandstands of Aliquippa High School Stadium — aka The Pit.

What else do I need to see when I’m in the area?

For those of you unfamiliar with Aliquippa, here’s a summary:

Aliquippa, about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was just one of many burgs built to process all that ore and coal wrested out of the hills, one more town full of people from Eastern and Southern Europe who kept the coke ovens fired and the stacks smoking 24 hours a day, 13,000 workers filling three daily shifts on the other side of the Aliquippa Tunnel. Jones & Laughlin Steel designed and built the town just after 1900 and divided it into 12 ethnically specific “plans,” separating labor from management, hunkies from cake-eaters. But the soot still fell all over, dirtying your shirt collar even if you never set foot in the mill that stretched for seven miles along the Ohio River.

The Aliquippa Works pumped out record tonnages of armor plate, shell forgings, bombs, landing craft, bullets and mortar tubing, proudly shaping the weapons to beat back Hitler and Tojo.

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