Fort Knox. Mystery Is Its History.

By Todd Brandes and Jimmy Shirley
April 28, 2017

Fort Knox Depository
An historic photo of the United States Mint Bullion Depository at Fort Knox

The United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Ky., is one of six United States Mint facilities. Located 30 miles southwest of Louisville, adjacent to the United States Army Garrison Fort Knox, the Depository is home to a large portion of the gold bullion of the United States. The balance is stored at Mint locations in Philadelphia, Denver, West Point and San Francisco.

Construction of the Depository began in 1935 and was completed in December 1936, at a cost of $560,000. The building contains 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforced steel and 670 tons of structural steel. It was constructed under the supervision of the procurement division of the United States Department of the Treasury. Upon completion, the Depository was placed under the jurisdiction of the Director of the Mint. The facility is equipped with state of the art security systems and the latest technological advancements.

The first gold was moved to the Depository by railroad in January 1937, shipped by the United States Postal Service. This was the only method of providing insurance for the gold because, at the time, the U.S.P.S. was the only agency that could accept the liability if any assets were lost. The initial series of gold shipments was completed in June 1937, making the United States Bullion Depository fully operational at that time.

The gold in the Depository is in the form of standard U.S. Mint bars of almost pure gold, or coin bars resulting from the melting of gold coins. The bars are similar in size to an ordinary brick, measuring approximately seven inches in length, three and a half inches in width and one and three quarters inches in thickness. Each of these gold bars contains approximately 400 troy ounces of pure gold.

Fort Knox Military Police WWII
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Knox military police assist school children during World War II. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The Depository is headed by an Officer in Charge, who is responsible for ensuring the security of the bullion. The facility is protected by the United States Mint Police, and the officers are hand-selected by the U.S. Mint Headquarters in Washington, D.C. These officers must complete a rigorous training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. and pass a thorough background investigation.

The Depository, commonly referred to as the “Gold Vault,” has undergone many changes over its 81-year history. The security of the Depository has reached legendary status with its mystique and mythical folklore. The actual structure and content of the facility is known by only a few, and no one person knows all the procedures to open the vault. No visitors are permitted into the facility and only one president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and one Congressional delegation in 1974, have been inside the vault.

Perhaps the most advanced security system the Depository has to offer is its secrecy. Cloaked in mystery, the United States Bullion Depository has established itself as the most secure facility in the world and earned the title “As Secure as Fort Knox.”

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