Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams, the main product of the plant, sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates. To the right of the gates sits the "Department of Defense - Joint Systems Manufacturing Center" sign, visible in the background to the right of the picture. (Photo: Jade Phoenix Pence)

LIMA, Ohio — David Berger was sworn in as mayor of this one-time industrial boomtown on Dec. 5, 1989. A month later, he was hit with his first dose of bureaucratic reality.

It had been decades since businesses and people in Lima were coming instead of going. But in January, 1990, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney upped the ante. He revealed during a visit here plans to close the Lima Army Tank Plant, news that set Mr. Berger into action and foreshadowed much of what would happen with the plant over the next three decades.

Since it opened in 1941, the plant's work force has risen and fallen with the tides of defense spending and the military's needs overseas. Mr. Berger's first brush with the Pentagon led to his earliest battles to secure the city's manufacturing base. The wars have never stopped coming.

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