In 1940-41, a stretch of rural farmland lying along the New River was transformed in a short 7-month period into a booming World War II industrial war-effort complex.  The building of the Radford Arsenal brought tremendous change nearly overnight to the New River Valley in Appalachian Virginia.  Changes to towns and community life came as people flooded into the region, seeking work at the Arsenal.  Housing subdivisions -- such as Fairlawn, Radford Village, Sunset Village, and Airport Acres, to name a few  --  sprang onto the landscape to accommodate the housing needs of Arsenal families.  Aspects of family life changed as household members reoriented their lives to commuting and working at the Arsenal. 

Today, when you talk with people in the region, everyone has family members or neighbors who worked at the Arsenal.  The Arsenal is now a major part of the New River Valley's cultural heritage. 


The purpose of this Radford University project has been to document the impacts and cultural changes of the Radford Arsenal on families and communities in this Appalachian region. 

Radford Arsenal Oral History Project,

  1. -Oral History Project to Record Memories of the Radford Arsenal's Impacts On An Appalachian Region, 1940s-60s

  2. -The project began as a Spring 1999 Independent Study pilot study, then the oral history research was carried out by the Fall 2000 RU "Practicum in Anthropology" Class, and was continued as an Honor's Project Spring 2001

  3. -Compilation of a book of oral histories, The Radford Arsenal: Impacts and Cultural Change in an Appalachian Region, Brightside Press, 2003.

Project Co-Directors: 
Professor Mary LaLone, Radford University, and Robert Freis, guest co-director

Student Research Team:
James Bielo, Bethany Blackwell, Andy Esposito, Amanda Hartle, Ranna-Maria Lanagan,
Barbara Talbert, & Peg Wimmer

For Further Reading:
LaLone, Mary B., Peg Wimmer, and Amanda Hartle (eds.)
The Radford Arsenal: Impacts and Cultural Change in an Appalachian Region. Radford, VA: Brightside Press.

Photo of Mary LaLone courtesy of Gene Dalton/ Roanoke Times.