Military


Fort Knox Bullion Depository

A large amount of the United States' gold reserves is stored in the vault of the Fort Knox Bullion Depository, one of the institutions under the supervision of the Director of the United States Mint. The remaining gold reserves are held in the Philadelphia Mint, the Denver Mint, the West Point Bullion Depository and the San Francisco Assay Office, also facilities of the United States Mint.

Amount of present gold holdings is 147.3 million ounces (1 troy ounce equals about 1.1 avoirdupois ounces). The only gold removed has been very small quantities used to test the purity of gold during regularly scheduled audits. Except for these samples, no gold has been transferred to or from the Depository for many years. The highest gold holdings was 649.6 million ounces, on December 31, 1941.

From the end of World War II through 1983, domestic mine production of gold did not exceed 2 million ounces annually. Since 1985, annual production has risen by 1 million to 1.5 million ounces every year. By the end of 1989, the cumulative output from deposits in the United States since 1792 reached 363 million ounces. Consumption of gold in the United States ranged from about 6 million to more than 7 million troy ounces per year from 1969 to 1973, and from about 4 million to 5 million troy ounces per year from 1974 to 1979, whereas during the 1970's annual gold production from domestic mines ranged from about 1 million to 1.75 million troy ounces. Since 1980 consumption of gold has been nearly constant at between 3 and 3.5 million troy ounces per year.

The price of gold was raised from $20.67 to $35 an ounce in 1934. After the United States deregulated gold in 1971, the price increased markedly, briefly reaching more than $800 per troy ounce in 1980. Since 1980, the price has remained in the range of $320 to $460 per troy ounce.

The Depository was completed in December 1936 at a cost of $560,000. Building materials used included 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforcing steel, and 670 tons of structural steel. It is located approximately 30 miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky, on a site which was formerly a part of the Fort Knox military reservation. The first gold was moved to the Depository by railroad in January 1937. That series of shipments was completed in June 1937.

During World War II, the U.S. Bullion Depository continued to operate at Fort Knox, receiving more and more shipments of the country's gold reserves. The Gold Vault was also used to store and to safeguard the English crown jewels and the Magna Carta, along with the gold reserves of several of the countries of occupied Europe.

On April 30, 1941, worried that the war raging in Europe might engulf the United States, the newly appointed Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. "to enquire whether space might perhaps be found" at the Bullion Depository in Fort Knox for his most valuable materials, including the Declaration, "in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary to remove them from Washington."

On December 23, the Declaration and the Constitution were removed from the shrine and placed between two sheets of acid-free manila paper. The documents were then carefully wrapped in a container of all-rag neutral millboard and placed in a specially designed bronze container, secured with padlocks on each side. The container was finally sealed with lead and packed in a heavy box; the whole weighed some 150 pounds. At about 5 p.m. the box, along with other vital records, was loaded into an armed and escorted truck, taken to Union Station, and placed in a compartment of the Pullman sleeper Eastlake. More Secret Service agents and a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division met the train in Louisville, KY, and convoyed its precious contents to the Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

In 1944, when the military authorities assured the Library of Congress that all danger of enemy attack had passed, the documents were removed from Fort Knox. On Sunday, October 1, at 11:30 a.m., the doors of the Library were opened and once again the Declaration was back in its shrine.

The two-story basement and attic building is constructed of granite, steel and concrete. Its exterior dimensions measure 105 feet by 121 feet. Its height is 42 feet above ground level. The building's construction was supervised by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department, now the Public Buildings Administration of the General Services Administration. Upon its completion, the Depository was placed under the jurisdiction of the Director of the United States Mint.

Within the building is a two level steel and concrete vault that is divided into compartments. The vault door weighs more than 20 tons. No one person is entrusted with the combination. Various members of the Depository staff must dial separate combinations known only to them. The vault casing is constructed of steel plates, steel I-beams and steel cylinders laced with hoop bands and encased in concrete. The vault roof is of similar construction and is independent of the Depository roof. Between the corridor encircling the vault and the outer wall of the building is space used for offices and storerooms.

The outer wall of the Depository is constructed of granite lined with concrete. Construction materials used on the building included 16,500 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforcing steel and 670 tons of structural steel.

Over the marble entrance at the front of the building is the inscription "United States Depository" with the seal of the Department of the Treasury in gold. Offices of the Officer in Charge and the Captain of the Guard open upon the entrance lobby. At the rear of the building is another entrance used for receiving bullion and supplies.

At each corner of the structure on the outside, but connected with it, are four guard boxes. Sentry boxes, similar to the guard boxes at the corners of the Depository, are located at the entrance gate. A driveway encircles the building and a steel fence marks the boundaries of the site. The building is equipped with the latest and most modern protective devices. The nearby Army Post provides additional protection. The Depository is equipped with its own emergency power plant, water system and other facilities. In the basement is a pistol range for use by the guards.

The gold stored in the Depository is in the form of standard mint bars of almost pure gold or coin gold bars resulting from the melting of gold coins. These bars are about the size of an ordinary building brick, but are somewhat smaller. The approximate dimensions are 7 x 3-5/8 x 1-3/4 inches. The fine gold bars contain approximately 400 troy ounces of gold, worth $16,888.00 (based on the statutory price of $42.22 per ounce). The avoirdupois weight of the bars is about 27-1/2 pounds. They are stored in the vault compartments without wrappings. When the bars are handled, great care is exercised to avoid abrasion of the soft metal.

The Depository is headed by an Officer in Charge, who is responsible for ensuring the security of the gold. The guard force is composed of men selected from various Government agencies, or recruited from Civil Service registers. No visitors are permitted at the Depository. This policy was adopted when the Depository was established, and is strictly enforced.

 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list