The history of Henderson, Nevada is tied forever to the history of the Second World War. In the 1940’s, as the war began after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States Army went to work setting up an industrial apparatus across the nation to further various wartime projects. Among those projects was the mass production of the recently discovered “miracle metal” magnesium that, when separated from its ore, allowed it be incredibly useful in the casing of incendiary munitions used in air bombings, as well a modern marvel when alloyed with aluminum to create the parts for the engines and frames of the airplanes that proved crucial in American victories in both the European and Pacific campaigns.
Almost a quarter of the magnesium used in the war effort came from the Henderson plant alone. However, when the war ended, the vast majority of its workers moved away once the war time work dried up and the new found prosperity opened new doors for the residents of the town. The houses and schools emptied rapidly as soon as the magnesium plant shut down and the town’s future viability was in doubt. Given as the town began its existence as Army property, there was a very real chance that the entire town and its land and buildings would be sold as war surplus property.
The Nevada State Legislature visited the town, however, and decided that it was worth salvaging. Purchasing the entire town using the funds of the state of Nevada, Henderson narrowly avoided becoming a casualty of the end of the wartime period. In 1953, after attracting new peace time industries to the town, Henderson was incorporated with a population of over 7,000 people. They elected their first mayor, and the post-war boom in civilian industries saw the town expand from 13 square miles to almost a hundred square miles.
Disaster struck in 1988 when a rocket fuel factory in nearby Gibson Springs caught fire. Given that they were manufacturing rocket fuel, the blaze ended up being a major disaster that exploded, damaging buildings across the region and even shaking the ground in a way that was noticeable on the Richter scale. In addition to the explosion, there was also a great deal of smoke and toxic fumes. Still, the city continued forward, developing its economy in the wake of the disaster. These days the scars of the incident are no longer visible in modern Henderson.