Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Richmond Shipyards’

Summer fun for kids – 1944

posted on July 7, 2016

Caroline Horswill
Heritage guest writer


Article on summer fun for shipyard kids, Fore'n'Aft, 1944-07-07

No matter the era, summer months beg the same question for every parent: “What will I do with the kids?” In 1944, the recreation department in Richmond, Calif., had the answer that would “get you through the summer without ending up in a nervous tizzy.” The options were shared in an article in the July 7 issue the Kaiser shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft.

The programs were plentiful and of many varieties. From playgrounds open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to child care centers available for a small fee of $3.60, parents could relax and know their children were well cared for by trained recreation department directors and depleted of excess energy by the time they returned home.

Article on summer fun for shipyard kids, Fore'n'Aft, 1944-07-07Richmond’s recreation department didn’t stop at activities for younger kids. Teens had summer activities available to them including dances on Thursday and Friday nights and youth-directed social groups. Women had the opportunity to take knitting, cooking or sewing classes, others socialized in bridge clubs, drama groups, softball teams, choir groups and family relation discussion groups.

An array of photographs illuminates summertime pleasure for all who participated. One shows three boys developing their archery skills with the help of one of the department directors. In another, a group of teenagers pay a nickel for some tunes at a Richmond recreation hall.


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The unsinkable SS Robert E. Peary

posted on May 11, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Launching of the SS Peary, 1942-11-12. [Photographs, numbered series, #646]

Launching of the Robert E. Peary, Kaiser Richmond shipyard, November 12, 1942

One of the most famous cargo vessels built during World War II in the Kaiser shipyards was the SS Robert E. Peary, assembled in 4 days, 15 hours and 29 minutes. Her keel was laid at 12:01 a.m. on November 8, 1942, and she was launched in Richmond, Calif., November 12 to considerable fanfare. She was a testament to the “we can do it!” spirit of the civilian workforce and the efficient assembly processes developed in the wartime shipyards.

But what happened to her after the festivities and before she was scrapped in Baltimore on June, 1963? The article, “Liberty Ship, Built in Week, to be Honored” in the Oakland Tribune, September 15, 1944, tells us much of her wartime performance:

When the Merchant Marine of World War II is honored on Victory Fleet Day September 27, high on the list of celebrated ships will be the Robert E. Peary, the Liberty ship built in the world’s record time of one week to establish a high record for sailing the seas of war.

She sailed out of San Francisco Bay that November on her maiden voyage of more than 19,000 miles, carrying war cargoes to the South Pacific and followed this with trips to Casablanca and the British Isles.

Once a Lyle gun [a short-barreled cannon firing a projectile attached to a rope to a boat or victim in distress] on her deck shot a line to American soldiers marooned on an island by Japs and the Americans were thus supplied with ammunition and food until they could defeat the attackers. Even while undergoing repairs at Halifax, Nova Scotia, following a collision, her record for speed was unbroken, for loading of war supplies proceeded at the same time.

Operated by the Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company for the War Shipping Administration, she is commanded by Captain Dael P. Baird, of 3617 22nd Street, San Francisco.*

However, behind every story there’s another story.

Stock photo of the Foundation Franklin, 1930 [circa]

Stock photo of the Foundation Franklin, 1930 [circa]

The above article briefly mentions a collision and repairs – and that fuller account episode can be found in the 1958 book The Gray Seas Under by acclaimed Canadian maritime and naturalist author Farley Mowat (1921-2014). Mowat’s brisk prose about the rugged sea tug SS Foundation Franklin immerses you in the salty waves and bitter Atlantic cold:

On Christmas Day of 1943, Franklin was setting a precedent. This was the first Christmas in four years that she had been in a port. Her people were celebrating, but warily, and none of them was surprised when at 1:30 P.M. the long wail of Franklin’s whistle rang out over Halifax and Dartmouth. Resignedly her people put down their glasses, their after-dinner cigars, or their lady friends from off their laps, and made hurriedly for the docks.

A distress message from a vessel called the Robert Peary had just been passed to the Foundation Maritime Company from the Canadian Navy, together with instructions that Franklin was to sail at once. The information was meager, consisting of a dubious location and the fact that a naval vessel was reported to be standing by the casualty [salvage term for stricken ship].

… It was not until dusk on December 28 that Franklin finally [located] the crippled ship. The Peary was in the trough and far down by the stern as a result of the collision damage she had sustained. She was being swept by every heavy sea that passed and, seen through the curtain of blowing snow, she was a spectral shape. By 8:40 P.M. the tow was under way for Halifax, which then bore one hundred and eighty miles to the west-north-west.

At dawn Peary’s master signaled to [Franklin’s Captain Harry] Brushett that his after bulkhead, which alone was keeping the ship afloat, was being badly strained and had begun to leak seriously. He was afraid that it might let go at any instant.

Franklin gave of her best. A hundred and sixty miles of head sea and head wind still lay before her, and the ship astern was sheering from side to side with depraved abandon. At dusk on the following night the cripple took a violent sheer until she rode out almost abeam of Franklin and then, with pure brute ugliness, she turned hard away, bringing such a strain on the tow-line that it rose out of the water for five hundred yards.

USPS Liberty Ship stamp, 1991; Lisa Killen collection.

USPS Liberty Ship stamp, 1991

Things then proceeded to go from bad to worse.

The wire itself withstood that savage lunge, but the strain of it was too much for Franklin’s steering gear and the rudder chain was ripped from the quadrant, leaving her as helpless as her charge.

…The Peary was hauling Franklin’s stern so far down that every sea was breaking on the after deck. Nor was this the worst of it. The constant jerking on the wire was sending the rudder crazy, and the quadrant arm was banging back and forth with a violence that could have decapitated a man with ease.

Brushett had two courses open to him. Either he could cast off the wire in order to ease the strain so that his men would have a chance to repair the steering gear; or he could remain fast to the Peary, and hope for some moderation in the weather before the casualty was overwhelmed. He deliberately chose the latter course; for he was aware that if he cast off he might not find her again in time to save her or her crew.

The two ships lay at the mercy of the storm for six hours. [Eventually] the [Franklin’s] arresting tackle was set up taut; the rudder was firmly held, and two men crawled aft under the grating to struggle with the chain amidst the freezing slush.

The Franklin’s rudder got fixed, and by midnight the Peary was headed for the safety of Bedford Basin in Halifax, the Franklins massive pumps keeping her afloat. They docked on December 31, the Peary was repaired, and she continued to make history. While in the Atlantic starting in April, 1943, she ran convoy routes to Europe, ferried prisoners of war from North Africa, and served off Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Tough men aboard tough ships during tough times.


* According to a September 29, 1944 article in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, the first ship’s master was Captain Harold E. Widmeyer, of San Pedro, Calif.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.

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.


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.
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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.”


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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.


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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.















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

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Liberty and Victory ships named for African Americans

posted on April 15, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



(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.


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.

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