Posts Tagged ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt’

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s passing mourned at Kaiser shipyard

posted on October 14, 2014

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered a stroke and died while on a vacation in

Franklin D. Roosevelt's horse-drawn casket proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue during his funeral procession, 4/14/1945. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Click on arrow to play audio.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s horse-drawn casket proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue during his funeral procession, 4/14/1945. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Click on arrow to play audio.

Warm Springs, Georgia.

Two days later, the S.S. Bradford Island, a tanker, was launched from the Kaiser Swan Island (Portland, Ore.) shipyard before a somber audience.

A bugler mournfully played taps. The master of ceremonies asked the shipyard flag be lowered to half-staff, then he delivered a brief elegy to the popular fallen president.

Roosevelt had visited the Vancouver (Wash.) Kaiser shipyard on September 23, 1942 on a secret trip to review Home Front production, and was a strong supporter of the Kaiser shipyards and workers.

This audio clip comes to us from an archival set of master recordings on glass disks, capturing the gravity and loss of a community that had suffered much in the past years:

“By the proclamation of Harry S. Truman, president of the United States, this is a day of national mourning for the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt…

“We have lost a great leader and a true friend. We mourn with the other people of the world who have also sustained this loss…

“There is perhaps a no more fitting way to commemorate his passing from us as a mortal being than the launching of this ship. For although death has come to Mr. Roosevelt, it came near the hour of victory towards which he led us, and the sturdiness of his dauntless spirit and faith is with us.”


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1982 – KP Oakland and Richmond hospitals celebrated 40 years

posted on July 16, 2014
Oakland vid shot

Still from short video made for Oakland and Richmond KP hospitals’ 40th anniversary in 1982 Click on image to view

Anniversaries offer an opportunity to reflect on the past and anticipate the future. It is at such times that history helps an organization take a deep breath and focus again on its purpose and direction.

In 1982, two of the original Permanente Foundation hospitals – Oakland and Richmond – embarked on a campaign to celebrate “Caring and growing since 1942.” In addition to a special issue of the employee magazine KP Reporter, the hospitals produced a short video that swept from the World War II Kaiser shipyard health plan to the hugely expanded Oakland medical center, and beyond.

The Oakland Hospital opened August 1, 1942, with 70 beds. The Richmond Field Hospital, closer to the shipyards but with only 10 beds, opened August 10, 1942.

The video includes footage of wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt chatting with Henry J. Kaiser at a ship launching, and founding physician Sidney R. Garfield, M.D., describing the goals of this remarkable health plan.

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Thousands of merchant seamen lost lives in World War II

posted on March 24, 2014

By Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

“The first Liberty ship was named after Patrick Henry. The last 100 have been named for merchant seamen who died in wartime service.” –Fore ‘n’ Aft, Kaiser Richmond shipyard newsletter, May 18, 1945.[i]

Almost 1,500 World War II Liberty and Victory ships were built in the Kaiser shipyards. What most people do not realize is that they were not produced for the U.S. Navy – they were made for the United States Maritime Commission, an independent federal agency created by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936.[ii]

These ships were vital to winning the war. General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a message congratulating those who built the ships:

“This headquarters has just heard the glorious news that American shipyards have produced more than 2,100 merchant vessels in the past two years.

WPA poster recruiting for US Maritime Service, 1942; image courtesy Library of Congress

WPA poster recruiting for U.S. Maritime Service, 1942; image courtesy Library of Congress

“This remarkable record, unequaled in history, will bring confidence and encouragement to every soldier, sailor and airman in the Allied Forces, for they are most keenly aware that their ability to carry on the fight, indeed, their ability to survive, is completely dependent on ships . . . Ships, still more ships, and ever more ships will help smash the enemy.”[iii]

But ships don’t run by themselves. Merchant seamen staffed those vessels and thus served a vital – and dangerous – function during World War II. Although usually thought of as civilians, these seamen were “military” according to International Law because their ships were armed – albeit lightly. The merchant mariners were trained to shoot and could fire on the enemy if threatened.

President Roosevelt lauds seamen

President Roosevelt declared in 1944: “It seems to me particularly appropriate that Victory Fleet Day this year should honor the men and management of the American Merchant Marine.

“The operators in this war have written one of its most brilliant chapters. They have delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operations and across every ocean in the biggest, the most difficult and dangerous transportation job ever undertaken.

“As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant fleet’s record during this war,” Roosevelt said.[iv]

"Back the invasion- Get the oil to the tanks" shipyard progress infographic billboard, Kaiser Swan Island shipyard (Oregon), 1944

“Back the invasion – Get the oil to the tanks” shipyard progress infographic billboard, Kaiser Swan Island Shipyard (Oregon), 1944

Legislation to equalize benefits for merchant seamen with those afforded members of the armed services under the GI Bill languished in Congress, despite the president’s endorsement and support from Admiral Emory S. Land, chairman of the Maritime Commission.

On the advice of his labor relations lawyer, Harry F. Morton, Henry Kaiser pushed for the legislation. Morton wrote to Kaiser:[v]

“I cannot see how this endorsement could possibly affect our dealings with the various unions since the purpose of the bill is to compensate the seamen for the personal risks these men take daily while in the service.

“As Admiral Land points out . . . more than 5,700 merchant seamen have lost their lives or have been reported missing in action, and over 500 of them are prisoners of war.

“True enough, merchant seamen receive considerably more pay than do the men in the Armed Services, but that alone does not warrant the conclusion that they are not entitled to the added protection recommended by Admiral Land.

“ . . . [it is] my conclusion that you should join with the President and Admiral Land in recommending this legislation (because) any other course would be inconsistent with your advocacy of merchant seamen’s needs in the past. I recommend this even though it is a departure from your standard position regarding endorsements of proposed legislation.”

Yet with Roosevelt’s untimely death on April 12, 1945, political support for extending basic benefits to merchant seamen for their wartime service vanished until Congress awarded them veterans’ status 40-plus years later in 1988 – too late for half of those who served.


Special thanks to Toni Horodysky, historian behind the American Merchant Marine at War website, for help with this article.

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[i] Not only were 100 ships thusly named, an additional 20 were named for merchant mariners who received the Distinguished Service Medal. Only one of these – the SS Samuel L. Cobb, launched May 27, 1944, named for a seaman lost April 17, 1942, aboard the SS Alcoa Guide – was built in a Kaiser shipyard.

[ii] Although building merchant ships was its top priority, until the Maritime Commission became the Federal Maritime Commission in 1950 it was also responsible for training ship’s officers under the U.S. Maritime Service.

[iii] General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander in Chief of Allied Forces in the Mediterranean area, message to home front workers, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 10/22/1943

[iv] Franklin D. Roosevelt, public address 9/19/1944.

[v] Inter-Office memo from Harry F. Morton to Henry J. Kaiser, 12/23/1944; Henry J. Kaiser papers, UC Berkeley Bancroft Library, BANC 26:25-4

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The President, the First Lady, and Henry J. Kaiser

posted on February 20, 2012

President Franklin D. Roosevelt greets a crowd at the Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, on September 23, 1942. Here Kaiser turned out combat ships including small aircraft carriers. His workers were delivering “baby flattops” at the unprecedented and seemingly impossible rate of one a week for the Allied cause. When Mr. Kaiser was asked about this time what interested him most, he replied, “the power that is in the souls of men and how to reach it.”




First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt strikes up a conversation with an injured shipyard worker at the Permanente Hospital in Vancouver. Mrs. Roosevelt was so intrigued with the new medical care program for the Kaiser workforce that she wrote Permanente’s founding physician, Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, who happened to be away at the time of her visit.  “What is your plan for preventive care?” she asked. Stay tuned. We’ll post Dr. Garfield’s reply in these pages.



– KP Heritage Resources Photo Archive


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Henry J. Kaiser: America’s No. 1 Civilian Hero

posted on April 13, 2010

By Tom Debley, Director, Heritage Resources

Henry J. Kaiser was featured as "Shipbuilder No. 1" in a 1943 Real Heroes comic book.

Sixty-five years ago this year Henry J. Kaiser emerged on the American scene as the single most popular civilian hero of World War II, which came to an end in 1945.

It was a Roper Poll that spring that reported that—in the words of Stephen B. Adams, author of “Mr. Kaiser goes to Washington”—the American public “believed Kaiser had done more to help the president win the war than any other civilian.”

A Gallup Poll a few months later found Kaiser at the top of the list of people Americans thought should be president—with Kaiser trailing only Generals Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower. It is no surprise, then, that Kaiser was on President Roosevelt’s short list for vice president when he chose Harry Truman in the election of 1944.

Why not Kaiser? One answer comes from Michael Dobrin, guest curator of a special exhibit on Kaiser’s life at the Oakland Museum of California in 2004, who concluded Kaiser was too progressive for Democratic Party leaders.

“…Conservative party insiders—probably sensing coming postwar struggles over civil rights—balked at his overt advocacy of voter education, voters’ rights and support for unions,” Dobrin wrote in The Museum of California Magazine. “His name was dropped from the list.”

The public’s admiration for Henry Kaiser—whose most enduring legacy is co-founding with surgeon Sidney R. Garfield the medical care program that bears his name—lasted up to and beyond the end of his life in 1967. Indeed, he was so beloved that when he died in 1967 mourners flooded his memorial service with more than 20,000 white and red roses – said to be the entire supply of all florists in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was in addition to thousands of orchids and other flora from people in the Hawaiian Islands.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in condolences sent to Kaiser’s family, “Henry J. Kaiser embodied in his own career all that has been best in our country’s tradition. His own energy, imagination and determination gave him greatness—and he used that greatness to give unflaggingly for the betterment of his country and his fellow man.”

Today, of course, his efforts—and the legendary labor of almost a quarter million men and women of all races who worked for him in his West Coast ship building operations—are honored by the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

In addition, the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California will reopen May 1 with its first major redo in nearly 40 years. Its completely new Gallery of California History will include Henry J. Kaiser. According to the museum, the theme of the gallery will be Coming to California—“an idea that evokes not only the arrivals and departures of people throughout human history and their interactions with the inhabitants already here, but also the notion of coming to terms with the influence of California on our individual and collective identities.”

Late last year, Kaiser also was inducted into the California Hall of Fame and is featured in an exhibit at The California Museum  in Sacramento.

Interested in learning more about Henry J. Kaiser? Here are three good books, any one of which you might find in a local library (or for sale online):

“Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West,” Mark S. Foster, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, 1991.

“Henry J. Kaiser: Western Colossus,” Albert P. Heiner, Halo Books, San Francisco, Calif., 1991.

“Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington, The Rise of a Government Entrepreneur,” Stephen B. Adams, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1997.

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