NDIA History Snapshots: A look back at the history of the association as it celebrates its centennial year.


Every architect knows a solid foundation is crucial for a successful structure. What gets built first is essential to supporting everything that follows. Since its inception, NDIA has included many of the world's most innovative, intrepid, and influential companies and government agencies on its membership rolls. And the composition of the association's corporate members has evolved along with military technology.

When the 500 charter members of the Army Ordnance Association (AOA)--the forerunner of the National Defense Industrial Association--met at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in October 1919, they witnessed a program focused on heavy artillery, bombs and horsepower. Various drop bombs were inspected. One demonstration featured a tug-of-war between German Lanz and American Holt tractors.

Company names still familiar today were represented. General Motors, National Cash Register, Smith & Wesson and DuPont were just a few who heeded the call for "the need of intimate contact with American industry, not alone during war times, but as the best means of preparation against war."

Because of the type of military materiel prevalent in the days immediately following World War I, automobile manufacturers and steel companies were vital members of the association. Their influence was readily apparent based on topics covered in-depth in early editions of the association's magazine: "Anything to do with ordnance and how it's delivered," said Stew Magnuson, editor-in-chief of today's National Defense magazine. "Either the cannons or the actual munitions itself ... Many of the vehicles would be hauling Howitzers or cannons, and so on."

Throughout the 1920s, company membership declined as a battle between isolationalism and preparedness raged in the United States and abroad. By the end of World War II, however, there were more than 30,000 members, including stalwarts such as Caterpillar, Textron and Honeywell International.


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