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Despite cuts, Fort Knox's iconic status endures

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 30, 2013 at 11:19 am •  Published: June 30, 2013
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Fort Knox's own estimates project that its annual economic impact will shrink from about $2.8 billion a year to $2.62 billion upon the brigade's departure, said Ryan Brus with the post's public affairs office. That's a decrease of more than 6 percent.

Much of Knox's future is invested in the home for the Army's Human Resources Command, which opened in 2010. The gleaming structure is the largest office building in Kentucky and one of the biggest in the military.

The work going on inside is a far cry from the military post's heyday when tanks and infantrymen roamed the grassy hills. Knox was known as the home of the Army's tank and armored vehicle training for more than seven decades, before the Pentagon completed the move of the school to Fort Benning, Ga., in 2011.

Lonnie Davis hated to see the tanks go. Aside from the lost business for his Radcliff barber shop, the Kut Zone, he had a 20-year career in the Armored Division at Knox.

"That's why I went into Armor, to stay close to home," Davis said.

Today, the Gen. George S. Patton Museum and a scattering of aging tanks and armored vehicles sprinkled around the post are only remnants of that past.

Inside the museum, which just finished a $5 million renovation, visitors learn about the post's history, and tucked away in a small corner is a tribute to its Hollywood past. That started with "The Tanks Are Coming," a 1951 film about a tank crew fighting its way into German territory. Bill Murray's comedy "Stripes" was released in 1981, with Knox doubling as the fictional Fort Arnold where Murray goes through basic training.

But the most iconic film shot at the post was 1964's "Goldfinger," with Sean Connery in the role as 007, tasked to stop a madman from destroying the country's gold reserves.

The movie helped spur curiosity about Knox's gold vault, which opened in 1937. Its seemingly impregnable walls ushered Fort Knox into the American lexicon as a way to describe a safe and secure location.

During World War II, the gray stone fortress housed documents including the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The U.S. Treasury Department says on its website that there are now 147 million ounces of gold inside, with an estimated worth of more than $160 billion at today's prices.

But the gold stays inside, and the bullion depository is not a tourist attraction: No visitors are allowed in.

Berry and Davis said Knox's future success could depend on adding staff to Human Resources Command along with other administrative-oriented missions. The post's total workforce now is about 20,000, including active duty and civilians.

"We'll gain from that as opposed to the green-suit side, if you will," Berry said.