The first Quonset huts were manufactured in 1941, when the United States Navy needed an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled by unskilled labor. The United States Navy contracted with the George A. Fuller construction company to manufacture them. The first was produced within 60 days of contract award.
The original design was a 16 ft × 36 ft structure framed with steel members with an 8 ft radius. The sides were corrugated steel sheets. The two ends were covered with plywood, which had doors and windows. The interior was insulated and had pressed wood lining and a wood floor. The building could be placed on concrete, on pilings, or directly on the ground with a wood floor.
As the original design used low grade steel, a more rust-resistant version was called for. The United States used an all-spruce ‘Pacific Hut’ in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. The flexible interior space was open, allowing for use as barracks, latrines, offices, medical and dental offices, isolation wards, housing, and bakeries.
The most common design created a standard size of 20 ft × 48 ft with 10 ft radius, allowing 720 square feet of usable floor space, with optional four-foot overhangs at each end for protection of entrances from the weather. Other sizes were developed, including 20 ft × 40 ft and 40 ft × 100 ft warehouse models.
About 160,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. After the war, in the United States, the military sold its surplus Quonset huts to the public. Many remain standing throughout the United States.
Besides those that remain in use as outbuildings, they are often seen at military museums and other places featuring World War II memorabilia. Some are still in active use at United States military bases; for example, Camps Red Cloud and Casey near the Korean DMZ and Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii.