This morale-boosting internal memo to workers at the Bermite Powder Co. plant in Saugus — 6x8.5 inches, probably letterpress-printed — is a copy of a communication received by company President
Patrick Lizza from the Navy admiral in charge of procuring ordnance. It is dated July 12, 1945, one month prior to the cessation of fighting in the Pacific theater. (Germany had surrendered
two months earlier.) U.S. forces would bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively; Japan would announce its unconditional surrender August 14 and sign the surrender
document September 2 (V-J Day), ending World War II.
Washington D.C., July 12, 1945
To The Men and Women Of Bermite Powder Company, Saugus, Calif.
Splendid results obtained with American Rockets against Jap Shipping are sent from them in a report received from the Commander of a Carrier Air Group in operations in the Enemy's home waters. Fourteen hits with 5-inch rockets were scored on a Jap Sub-Chaser, which was left burning and in a sinking condition. A Destroyer blasted by six rockets was left ablaze and badly listing. Two unidentified Jap Vessels, one of 5000 tons and the other 1000 tons were heavily hit and left afire. Rockets of this Air Group also seriously damaged a large Fishing Vessel or Sub-Chaser. The increasing effectiveness of our Rocket Fire Power as shown in this and other reports from the Pacific, should be a constant inspiration to all workers helping to provide these Weapons for the Navy.
G.F. Hussey Jr., Rear Admiral U.S.N, Chief of the Bureau Of Ordnance.
The Bermite Powder Co., and Halifax Powder Co. before it, manufactured explosives, flares and small munitions in Saugus, on a roughly 1,000-acre parcel just southeast of Bouquet Junction, from at least
the early 1930s to 1987.
The precursor to Bermite and Halifax was ex-prize fighter Jim "The Boilermaker" Jeffries (1875-1953), who supplied explosives to the mining industry starting about 1917.
Bermite and the Saugus property played an important role in the needs of the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.
For example, the most widely used air-to-air missile in the West, Raytheon's AIM-9 Sidewinder, started production in 1953 at China Lake and used a Hercules/Bermite MK-36 solid-fuel rocket engine
that would have been tested and manufactured at the Saugus plant.
Bermite was a major employer and contributed to the development of Newhall in 1932 with a row of 2-bedroom bungalows along Walnut Street for factory workers.
During and after World War II it was also a major employer of women — the real "Rosie the Riveters."
In the postwar period, Bermite subsidiary Golden State Fireworks manufactured fireworks on the property.
The munitions and fireworks operations left more than 275 known contaminants behind, some of which percolated into the groundwater below the property.
Bermite was acquired in 1986 by missile maker Whittaker Corp., and the operations would be exposed to steadly harsher environmental scrutiny over the next several years.
Around 1989, plans were made for the area to be developed into a 2,911-unit residential community to be called Porta Bella, which was approved by the City Council but didn't
come to fruition.
Whittaker sold the Saugus property to an Arizona investor group in 1999, just before Whittaker was acquired in a hostile takeover. The property spent the first decade
of the 21st Century tied up in litigation, one result of which is a long-term toxic chemical cleanup project managed by the Castaic Lake Water Agency (which became SCV Water Agency effective January 1, 2018).
LW3196: 9600 dpi jpeg from original memo purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.