Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Richmond Shipyards’

Henry J. Kaiser and GM’s Alfred Sloan, Influential Industrialists

posted on October 22, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

HJK and Sloan from F&A 1944-08-25-med

Henry J. Kaiser and General Motors’ Alfred Sloan, from Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, 8/25/1944

In 2005, Forbes magazine polled their readers for a list of their 20 most influential businessmen of the 20th century.

Henry J. Kaiser was number 11, Alfred P. Sloan was number 12.

Sloan served as president, chairman, and CEO of the General Motors Corporation from the 1920s through the 1950s. He led GM to become the largest corporation on earth and is credited with improving automobile technology and offering the public a choice of colors and styles (a positive spin on the invention of planned obsolescence).

Henry J. Kaiser’s role in dam and ship building was credited in the Forbes paean, only to set the stage for the big ticket item:

“But perhaps his greatest feat was providing his workers with health care coverage. Kaiser saw his prepaid health coverage plan as a way to temper labor unrest and leave the government out of the process, while bettering humanity. He made public campaigns haranguing fellow business leaders to follow his lead. Kaiser’s vision spawned the U.S. health care industry.”

While it’s arguable that Kaiser “saw his prepaid health coverage plan as a way to temper labor unrest” (he’d long before learned the benefits of proactive cooperation with labor),  the rest of the description is accurate. The man could be a contrarian.

This photo of the two industrial giants together was published in the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, August 25, 1944. At the time, Henry Kaiser was the most prolific private shipbuilder in the world, yet here he is, proudly showing off the two-year-old Oakland Permanente Foundation hospital that cared for shipyard workers.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1NWIO9C

 

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Order in the house! The Importance of Classification and Taxonomy

posted on October 1, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Article about helpful role of Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis, 1944-06-01; KPNW Discrete Collection, box 18

Article about valuable role of Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis, 6/1/1944

By now, everyone’s heard the jokes about the new International Classification of Diseases, the disease and health problem taxonomy standard managed by the World Health Organization. ICD is the latest in a series of efforts to classify diseases, starting in the 1850s. Originally called the International List of Causes of Death, the WHO assumed responsibility for the ICD when the organization was created in 1948. ICD version 10 (or ICD-10) is the newest code set. October 1 is the date on which ICD-10 compliance is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

With 68,000 discrete diagnosis codes (as opposed to the previous 14,000), we are now able to define diagnoses at a very precise level of detail. Very, very, precise – such as “V97.33XD: Sucked into jet engine, subsequent encounter” orY92.146: Swimming-pool of prison as the place of occurrence of the external cause.” Yes, these are actual codes.

But, jokes aside, precise classification has its merits. It strengthens the storage and retrieval of diagnostic information for clinical, epidemiological and quality purposes. ICD descriptors also provide the basis for the compilation of national mortality and morbidity statistics. Kaiser Permanente has actively joined other health care providers in this massive project.

However, Kaiser health care practitioners during World War II were also trying to use precise descriptions to improve health, in a slightly different way.

Sample page from Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis, published by the Region XII War Manpower Commission, Bureau of Manpower Utilization, Division of Occupational Analysis and Manning Tables, San Francisco, CA, and the Permanente Foundation Hospitals; 1944-05

Sample page from Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis

In May, 1944, the 627-page dense tome Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis was published as a joint project of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and the Occupational Analysis and Manning Tables division of Region XII War Manpower Commission. The physician in charge of the study was Clifford Kuh, MD.

One of the primary goals of the Analysis was to make sure that individuals were assigned to jobs which they could perform without risk to their health. The study detailed 617 distinct job titles in the shipyards, from “Asbestos Worker, Cutter” to “Window Cleaner.” Although the Richmond shipyards did have the opportunity to use pre-placement physical examinations prior to hiring, the study provided the basis for accurate review of work-related health problems and suggestions for reassignment. During a short three-month survey period, only three workers had to leave their assigned job due to physical failure. During the four war years Kaiser’s yards employed almost 200,000 people.

An article in the Call Bulletin touted the survey, quoting William K. Hopkins, regional director of the United States War Manpower Commission:

“While the study has in mind the placement of all workers, the technique on which it is based will be invaluable in the post-war period – when tens of thousands of returning service men and women will have to be fitted into new jobs. I am particularly impressed with the study’s positive approach in emphasizing what a worker has the physical capacities to do, rather than the handicaps, often minor, which tend to prejudice his employment.”

Kaiser Permanente, building and using precise medical data for social benefit since 1944.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1O5V9GK

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Goodbye, Supermac!

posted on July 10, 2015

 

Lincoln Cushing,
Heritage writer

 

Frame from final Supermac strip, March 30, 1945.

Frame from final Supermac strip, March 30, 1945.

The World War II Home Front superhero cartoon strip Supermac ran in the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft between September 8, 1944, and March 30, 1945. An earlier post explained the evolution and role of this remarkable wartime graphic narrative, and so far we have shared the first 14 strips – view the first seven and the second seven. In this conclusion, Supermac foils a devilish Nazi sabotage plot that involves rats and compressed air, at which point he gets drafted and the story ends.

The strip was cryptically credited to “P.T.C.”, which turns out to have been a collaborative effort. We know that one of the contributors was artist Emmy Lou Packard – the “P” – but the identities of the other two creative talents remain a mystery. Emmy Lou Packard left the shipyards October 26, 1945.

An exhibition of Emmy Lou Packard’s shipyard illustrations will be on display at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. from August 5, 2015 through the end of the year.

These final strips ran from January 12, 1945 until March 30, 1945. Click on them to enlarge.
Supermac- gone, but not forgotten.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1JZdYZd

 

1/12/1945

January 12, 1945

January 19, 1945

January 19, 1945

January 26, 1945

January 26, 1945

February 2, 1945

February 2, 1945

February 9, 1945

February 9, 1945

February 16, 1945

February 16, 1945

February 23, 1945

February 23, 1945

March 2, 1945

March 2, 1945

March 9, 1945

March 9, 1945

March 16, 1945

March 16, 1945

March 23, 1945

March 23, 1945

March 30, 1945

March 30, 1945

 

 

 

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Henry J. Kaiser and the founding of the United Nations

posted on June 26, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

“Peace means so much more than a cessation of hostilities! Peace is a state of mind. It is based on the sense of security. There can be no peace in the individual soul, unless there is peace in the souls of all with whom we must live and work. Jobs for all could well be the first slogan for a just and lasting peace.”
Henry J. Kaiser, “Jobs for all” address before the Herald Tribune Forum, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, October 17, 1944.

http://www.kaiserpermanentehistory.org/tag/world-war-ii/page/2/

United National Clothing Collection campaign poster, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration; April, 1945

Although Henry J. Kaiser earned the sobriquet “Patriot in Pinstripes” for his industrial contributions to the war effort during World War II, he was no hawk. Kaiser’s moral compass always aligned with constructive cooperation rather than conflict, and as the war neared its end he looked toward a better new world.One of Kaiser’s campaigns was the United National Clothing Collection Committee, to which President Roosevelt had appointed Kaiser as the National Chairman in the spring of 1945. Kaiser spurred the month-long drive in April – collecting used clothing for refugees in Europe while the war there was still being fought – by saying: “Our people are going to demonstrate their gratitude for being spared from the horrors which have descended on other lands.” Five months later President Truman would ask Mr. Kaiser to repeat his service. His request stated: “I am…calling upon you again to lead the Nation in this campaign to alleviate incalculable hardships which will be endured next winter unless we act without delay. The results achieved under your leadership earlier this year were magnificent.”

Mr. Kaiser also played a smaller role in a much larger endeavor – the creation of the United Nations. Beginning on April 25, 1945, delegates of 50 nations met for two months in San Francisco for the United Nations Conference on International Organization. Those delegates, and their alternates, drew up the 111-article Charter. It was adopted unanimously on June 25 in the San Francisco Opera House and the next day they signed it in the Herbst Theatre auditorium of the Veterans War Memorial Building. Copies were printed by the University of California Printing Services in Berkeley.

Molotov-crop

U.N. Ambassador Vyacheslav Molotov, Henry J. Kaiser, and American Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman; Kaiser Richmond shipyards, May 6, 1945.

The negotiations were challenging and tiring. On May 3, 1945, 25 members of the French delegation took a break and visited the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, and on May 5th a Cuban delegation came to see the famed yards, followed by representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The war in the Pacific was still raging, and the enormous productive capacity of the yards was displayed in full view of our Allied colleagues. The USSR group included Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov and Ambassador to the United States Andrei Gromyko. The soviets were accompanied by American Ambassador to the Soviet Union W. Averell Harriman.

Historian Stephen Schlesinger, in Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations, described this break in the process: “[Secretary of State Edward] Stettinius…took Molotov to visit the Kaiser shipyards outside San Francisco to see the five-mile-long factory where ships were being manufactured at the rate of two or three a week.” And Mark S. Foster’s excellent Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West tells the story of Molotov’s reaction through an intermediary: “Mr. Molotov was profoundly impressed. You gave Mr. Molotov a splendid demonstration of the sources of our economic strength.”

Fore 'n' Aft 1945-03-02, RMH

“Russia and Us,” article in Fore ‘n’ Aft, 3/2/1945

Gromyko (1909-1989) would later serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1988).

Molotov would become USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939-1949 and 1953-1956. He served as First Deputy Premier from 1942 to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. The popular term “Molotov cocktail” for improvised incendiary weapons was coined by WWII Finnish partisans, a pejorative critique of the ill-fated and despised 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact.

The war had completely destroyed Soviet shipbuilding capacity, and Henry J. Kaiser began discussions with representatives regarding replacement ships and rebuilding of yards. However, as distrust quickly mounted between the two countries those plans evaporated.

Kaiser Permanente will be a co-host at the United Nations Foundation’s celebration of the UN’s 70th anniversary in San Francisco on June 26. Both Kaiser Permanente and the United Nations originated in the Bay Area in the summer of 1945, and share a common vision of a better world, especially in terms of the environment and its role in community health.

 

Thanks to United Nations Foundation historian Chris Whatley for help with this article.
Short link to this story: http://k-p.li/1KgGMO5

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Shipyard Security Shenanigans

posted on May 29, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Fore 'n' Aft, 1942-08-06, RMH

Fore ‘n’ Aft cover, 8/6/1942, artwork by Sam Wainwright.

Family lore was that my curmudgeon uncle Robert Heizer, who worked in the World War II Kaiser Richmond shipyards as a steamfitter, bristled at the formal security measures in the yards and pasted a photo of a gorilla on his badge. No one noticed.

Wartime vigilance was nothing to joke at, but workers did. Most of the push back was good natured and harmless, and all of the wartime Kaiser factories only experienced a single documented incidence of outright sabotage.

This cover of the weekly Richmond shipyard magazine treats us to a young guard being surprised by the contents of an older worker’s lunchbox. Note the punched IBM computer card in his pocket.

The “On the cover” description says: “In vivid chalk and charcoal Shipfitter Sam Wainwright of Richmond Shipyard Number One portrays a not too impossible scene stemming from his intimate knowledge of the strange things that sometimes turn up in workmen’s lunchboxes.”

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1KttKeg

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Memorial Day – 1945 and 2015

posted on May 20, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Fore 'n' Aft, 1941-01-15, RMH

“Prefab Patriots,” article about blood donors in Fore ‘n’ Aft, 1/15/1943 (Prefabrication was one of the construction divisions in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards)

Kaiser Permanente is on a mission to hire more military veterans and is committed to leveraging veterans’ skills, attributes, and experience to further strengthen our diverse and talented workforce.

A previous history blog described Henry J. Kaiser’s support for World War II military veterans, but the Home Front workers during that war also showed their deep commitment during Memorial Day by taking on additional duties. One example was this news item from the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, June 8, 1945:

“Mobile blood bank a big success”

They turned the personnel training building in Yard Two into an experimental station last week. That is, it began as an experiment, but it wasn’t very long before everyone realized the idea was a huge success which should be carried into the other yards.

The theory was that if a mobile blood bank unit came into the yard it would be swamped with workers who wanted to donate blood. [But with good planning and logistics it worked out.] On Memorial Day there was a continual line of workers to and from the personnel training building from 8:45 a.m. until 2 p.m.

When the final check was made, 265 pints of blood had been donated. Two hundred and sixty-five pints of blood donated in one day by one yard is a record-breaking figure. It’s also much more than that. It’s life to a great many of our fighting men who might otherwise not ever return from battle fronts.

Bringing this Home Front commitment to the present, Kaiser Permanente plays a leadership role in shaping the future of health care delivery both in America and across the globe. Kaiser Permanente offers a challenging and meaningful career at an organization that values the unique strengths veterans bring to the civilian workforce.

Veterans are encouraged to take that next step and visit the Kaiser Permanente Military Careers site. A Military Skills Translator will assess one’s service experience and recommend appropriate civilian Kaiser Permanente career opportunities, and a Military Talent Community email list offers an additional channel to receive career updates and tailored information.

Kaiser Permanente is not just committed to hiring military talent—it promises to provide newly hired veterans with the resources and training they need to perform successfully in their initial roles and the ongoing support to achieve success.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1LbDBFD

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Further adventures of Supermac

posted on May 13, 2015

 

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Supermac fights the crazy whirley crane, 12/15/1944

Supermac fights the crazy whirley crane, 12/15/1944

Between September 8, 1944, and March 30, 1945, a working class hero comic strip named Supermac ran in the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft. An earlier post explained the evolution and role of this remarkable wartime graphic narrative, complete with the first seven strips. He was the empowered spirit of the home front workforce, appearing in an employee magazine with a circulation of 80,000 copies.

These strips, from November 10, 1944 until the end of the year, carry the story arc through a whirley crane made crazy by loco weed as unwitting part of a sinister German sabotage plot and ends on a hopeful New Year’s note. The home front work force desperately needed that boost – the war was turning, but “Victory in Europe” day would not be until May 8, 1945 and “Victory over Japan” day August 15.

Here are the next seven strips. Click on any image to enlarge.
Catch up on the first seven Supermac strips here. The last in the series is here.

11/10/1944

11/17/1944

11/17/1944

11/24/1944

11/24/1944

12/8/1944

12/8/1944

12/15/1944

12/15/1944

12/22/1944

12/22/1944

12/29/1944

12/29/1944

 

These images are from the digital collection of Fore ‘n’ Afts collaboratively produced by Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond Museum of History.

Short link to this story: http://k-p.li/1Flmi6T

 

 

 

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Liberty and Victory ships named for African Americans

posted on April 15, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

15_0209_12

(Center) Mr. Walter Gordon, daughter Betty Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon at launching of the SS John Hope.

One of our patriotic messages during World War II was that our society was better than that promoted by the Axis forces. And part of that messaging was about how we were more tolerant and inclusive than Hitler’s “master Aryan race.”

To Americans of color, all of them keenly aware of our segregated military, the internment camps for Japanese Americans, or the whites-only Boilermakers union in the shipyards, this was a challenging sell. But winning the war demanded huge changes in attitude from everyone. One high profile commitment to honoring diversity was the naming of cargo ships, a task which fell under the direction of the Maritime Commission’s Ship Naming Committee.

Before the war ended, 18 Liberty ships built for the Maritime Commission were named for outstanding African Americans. Towards the end of the war four of them honored black Merchant Mariners who perished under fire. In addition, four of the subsequent Victory-class ships were named for historically black colleges. Six of these 22 vessels were built in Kaiser shipyards; some – most notably the SS George Washington Carver – were predominately built by African American men and women. Ships thus named were a tremendous source of recognition and pride in the black community. Historian Shirley Ann Moore described the impact of one launching in her seminal work about the Richmond (Calif.) African American community To Place Our Deeds:

“Thousands of black people, far more than could be ‘simply be accounted for by black shipyard workers and their families,’ crowded into the yard. As the ship ‘shivered and slid into the water,’ a black woman ‘threw up her arms and raised her voice above the crowd. ‘Freedom’ she cried.’ “

The SS John Hope [#272] was launched January 30, 1944. It was Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2’s 272nd Liberty ship and the 8th ship named after an outstanding African American. Hope, born in Atlanta, was an African-American educator and political activist, the first African-descended president of both Morehouse College in 1906 and of Atlanta University in 1929, where he worked to develop graduate programs. Both were historically black colleges.

15_0209_10

Mr. Thomas Pruitt, “baritone and burner.”

Presiding at the launch were Walter Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon, and their daughter Betty Gordon. Also present were Mrs. Harry Kingman, Matron of Honor (whose husband was the chairman of the President’s Fair Practices Employment Committee), Miss Florence Gee (daughter of a shipyard worker), and Rev. Roy Nichols (Associate Minister of the newly formed South Berkeley Community Church).

Walter Arthur Gordon (1894-1976) was the first African American to receive a doctorate of law from U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school. He had an extremely long and varied career where he served as a police officer, lawyer, assistant football coach, member of the California Adult Authority, governor of the United States Virgin Islands, and a federal district judge.

The launch proceedings were published in the May 1944 issue of The Sphinx magazine, the second-oldest continuously published African American journal in the United States. The article stated:

Mr. Thomas Pruitt, a baritone and burner on graveyard shift at the Richmond yards, sang two songs: “Water Boy” and “Without a song.”

Mrs. Hope was unable to attend, but sent a message that was read aloud:

“You can imagine how happy it would make me to see that great ship slide down the ways. We hope that it will help hasten the day when liberty, justice, and peace will reign over the entire world. I know that this would be John Hope’s wish. He was a member of nature’s nobility. This ship would not be worthy of his name, if it were not willing to give its all for humanity.”

These pictures of that launching, never previously published, are from the extensive and remarkable collection taken by African American photographer Emmanuel Francis Joseph.

 

Liberty ships

1. SS Booker T. Washington, educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute (#648, September 29, 1942, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
[It was aboard this ship that West Indies-born Captain Hugh Mulzac became the first African American merchant marine naval officer to command an integrated crew during World War II]

2. SS George Washington Carver, scientist (#542, May 7, 1943; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #1)

3. SS Frederick Douglass, abolitionist leader and editor (#988, May 22, 1943; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore,)

4. SS John Merrick, insurance executive (#1990, July 11, 1943; North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, NC)

5. SS Robert L. Vann, founder and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier (#2189, October 10, 1943; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)

6. SS Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet (#1897, October 19, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)

7. SS James Weldon Johnson, poet, author and diplomat (#2546, December 12, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)

8. SS John Hope, educator (#2742, January 30, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

9. SS John H. Murphy, founder and publisher of The Afro-American (#2614, March 29, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

10. SS Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haitian independence leader (#2780, April 4, 1944; Kaiser Richmond Shipyard #2)

11. SS Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender (#2785, April 13, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

12. SS Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad (#3032, June 3, 1944; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)

13. SS Bert Williams, comedian and vaudeville performer (#3079, June 4, 1944; Todd New England Shipbuilding Corp., South Portland, Maine)

14. SS Edward A. Savoy, confidential messenger for 22 secretaries of State (#2660, July 19, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

15. SS James Kyron Walker, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2982, December 15, 1944; Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, TX)

16. SS Robert J. Banks, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2392, December 20, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)

17. SS William Cox, Fireman, died when the David Atwater was sunk by enemy fire (#2394, December 30, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)

18. SS George A. Lawson, Messman aboard the tug Menominee, torpedoed and sunk (#3097, February 1, 1945; New England Shipbuilding Co., Bath, Maine)

 

Victory ships

19. SS Fisk Victory, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee (#749, May 14, 1945; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)

20. SS Howard Victory, Howard University, Washington. D. C. (#822, May 19, 1945; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)

21. SS Tuskegee Victory, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama (#682, June 5, 1945, Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding Corp.; Portland, OR)
[Renamed USNS Dutton, T-AGS-22, an oceanographic survey ship, November 1, 1958]

22. SS Lane Victory, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee (#794, June 27, 1945, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
The Lane Victory is now a museum ship in San Pedro, Calif., and has appeared in various commercials, movies and television programs.

 

Photographs courtesy Careth Reid / E.F. Joseph Collection. All rights reserved.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1OglXRy

 

 

 

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Supermac! World War II shipyard superhero!

posted on March 18, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Supermac!

Supermac!

The weekly magazines published in the World War II Kaiser shipyards – Fore ‘n’ Aft for the Richmond, Calif., yards and The Bo’s’n’s Whistle for the Portland, Ore., area yards – offer a remarkable trove of material on home front working culture. And what’s working culture without cartoons?

Labor has always used cartoon art as part of its communications arsenal. From acerbic cartoons of the Industrial Workers of the World, to Fred Wright’s iconic art in United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America publications, to the “SuperScrubs!” comic in Kaiser Permanente’s own Labor Management Partnership magazine HANK, the cartoon/comic genre has always been a popular medium.

Between September 8, 1944, and March 30, 1945, a comic strip named Supermac ran in Fore ‘n’ Aft. The “super” concept character had already permeated popular culture the iconic Superman first appeared in Action Comics in 1938 – but this Supermac fella was…different.

He was small and scrawny, and struggled to find privacy in a big public yard when changing into his super persona. Over the short span of 26 cartoons strips he fearlessly fought German saboteurs and industrial mishaps. He was the empowered spirit of the home front workforce, appearing in an employee magazine with a circulation of 80,000 copies.

The strip was cryptically credited to “P.T.C.”, which turns out to have been a collaborative effort. We know that one of the contributors was artist Emmy Lou Packard – the “P” – but the identities of the other two creative talents remain a mystery. Based on publication credits, “T” might have been either Rose Thompson or Virginia Thompson; the “C” could have been Mary Chapman, Stan Champion, Mary Lou Clark, or Jack Cook.

Presented here are the first seven strips. The next set can be seen here.

[Disambiguation alert – a subsequent, unrelated cartoon figure also named Supermac appeared in the British press in 1958, skewering British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (1957 to 1963.)]

These images are from the digital collection of Fore ‘n’ Afts collaboratively produced by Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond Museum of History.

Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1O7iKqr

Click on any strip to enlarge.

Supermac

Supermac, 9/8/1944

Supermac, 9/15/1944

Supermac, 9/15/1944

Supermac. 9/22/1944

Supermac. 9/22/1944

Supermac, 9/29/1944

Supermac, 9/29/1944

Supermac, 10/13/1944

Supermac, 10/13/1944

Supermac, 10/20/1944

Supermac, 10/20/1944

Supermac, 10/27/1944

Supermac, 10/27/1944

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Heavy lifting in the World War II Kaiser shipyards

posted on January 29, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Fore'n'Aft, 1943-10-22

Whirley cranes featured on the cover of Fore ‘n’ Aft, 10/22/1943

One of the innovations that emerged in the World War II Kaiser shipyards was the application of prefabrication on a massive scale. Unlike the way ships had been built for centuries, piece by piece from the keel on up, prefabrication used assembly line processes to dramatically speed up output. Ship parts – such as bow sections, double bottoms, deck houses – were built in separate facilities in the shipyard and brought together for final assembly on the launching ways.

It made sense on paper, but when dealing with massive hunks of steel that was easier said than done.

Enter the whirley crane.

Before entering the ship building business, Henry J. Kaiser had recently finished building Grand Coulee Dam on the mighty Columbia River in Washington, a project made possible through the efficient flow of heavy materials. During the six years Grand Coulee was under construction, a new type of crane was developed to get the job done. It was called a “whirley crane,” a fast, readily moveable beast capable of handling large steel supports, pouring big batches of concrete, and positioning heavy dam conduits.

The whirley was invented by Clyde Wiley (president of the Clyde Iron Works, established in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1889) in the early 1920s. He designed it so that the boom and “A” frame would turn in a 360 degree circle – thus the “whirley.” Before Wiley’s crane was developed, rolling bridge cranes and “hammerheads” had been used almost exclusively for building bridges, unloading ships and other heavy construction, but their function was limited.

Oregonship album #1, 1942; PA-221

Two whirleys lifting deck superstructure, Oregon shipyards, 1942.

When California’s Kaiser Richmond yards were built, seven “Clyde” Grand Coulee whirleys were disassembled and shipped down from Washington. Yard Two had four of these former dam-builders; Yard Three had two, and Yard Four had one. As the yards expanded, other manufacturers – Colby Engineering, American Hoist and Derrick, Browning – also manufactured whirleys. Eventually Yard One had 17 whirleys; Yard Two, 23; Yard Three,19; and Yard Four, four.

The whirleys held bragging rights in the yards. Just as the giant container-ship cranes dominate today’s Port of Oakland skyline, the whirleys defined the wartime shipyards. The Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore’n’Aft, described their appeal in their January 8, 1943 issue:

Whirley crane work is the most spectacular in the shipyards and always is one of the things visitors find most fascinating to watch, especially when two cranes get together for a big double lift.

They had a 200-horsepower electric motor for the hoist cable and another 50 HP motor for swinging the boom, which allowed the whirley to lift as much as 60 tons. The control cabin was 90 feet in the air, and skilled operating engineers communicated with riggers on the ground by telephone.

As shipyard production processes evolved, some assemblies began to use two, three, and even four whirleys operating together. Sometimes this was simply because the object was too heavy for a single whirley, and sometimes it was to gracefully flip over a subassembly that had been built “upside down” to speed up welding. Whirleys also were used for dropping and removing the giant dry dock gates in Richmond Yard number 3. The continual drive to reduce the number of pre-assembled components depended on the efficiency of whirleys. For the Liberty christened the Robert E. Peary (produced in a record four days, fifteen hours, and twenty-nine minutes after laying the keel), shipyard workers were able to pre-assemble hundreds of parts into a total of 97 units that the whirley cranes lifted onto the way.

cartoon of whirley crane

Whirley cartoon by Emmy Lou Packard, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/15/1944

Whirleys were used to bring in major hull components such as the fore peak and the stern, as well as engines and boilers. Once the main deck was in place, the ship was ready for five deck houses. These were prefabricated in the Assembly Building (where a complete set was turned out nearly every other day) and transported to the erection ways by truck.

Here’s a description of the efficiencies achieved in the Swan Island (Portland, Ore.) shipyard, from The Bo’s’n’s Whistle 11/25/1943:

Swan Islanders have clipped another week per vessel off their high-speed tanker program by prefabricating forward cofferdams on jigs and then installing each entire section as a unit on the keel. The huge 82-ton section is built as nearly complete as possible at some distance from the ways. It is then lifted easily by two whirley cranes and dropped neatly on the keel in the ways.

The new [construction] method saves 784 man hours on each unit compared to the old method which consisted of erecting 13 separate sections plus eight tons of piping, all of which had to be fitted together piece by piece on the hull.

Other types of cranes filled different niches within the yard. Bridge cranes (or gantry cranes, which move back and forth on a track but cannot turn) were the tallest at 84 feet high and rated at lifting 100 tons. A special hammerhead crane used two “arms” to sort and feed raw steel in the plate shop. Locomotive cranes were used in the steel storage yard. Other cranes performed mobile duties on caterpillar-tractor bases or on trucks.

Whirleys were even depicted as anthropomorphic characters in the shipyard magazines. Emmy Lou Packard featured a drug-addled whirley as part of a Nazi sabotage plot in the cartoon strip “Supermac” as well as an emotionally wrought character in the single-frame cartoon “Shirley the Whirley.”

Whirley crane, Kasier Richmond shipyard #3; Lincoln Cushing photo 2011-10-14

The last crane, Richmond shipyard #3, 2011; photo by Lincoln Cushing

Today, a lone whirley crane remains at Richmond shipyard #3 near the S.S. Red Oak Victory, guarding the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park Visitor Education Center.

It’s the last remnant of a mighty breed that ruled the yards during World War II. Crane CW-3204 was a Clyde Iron Works machine, built in 1935 and shipped down from Grand Coulee to Richmond in August, 1941. After the war the crane was purchased by the nearby Parr-Richmond Terminal and used until 1998; a companion crane is still in use by that company (now known as the Levin-Richmond Terminal Corporation). In 2005 the crane was donated to the City of Richmond for use in the Rosie the Riveter Park. The City of Richmond, the Rosie the Riveter Trust, and numerous local businesses and organizations raised funds to move and install it at shipyard #3.

 

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