Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Richmond Shipyards’

Give Me Liberty – Wartime Ship Launch Honors Immigrants

posted on October 5, 2017

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

During World War II, diversity was a media weapon against the Axis forces.

Small scale Statue of Liberty at Richmond shipyard #2, at launching of the last Liberty ship built on the Pacific coast, the SS Benjamin Warner

Our diversity – our “melting pot” of ethnicities, races, religions, and creeds – distinguished us positively from the purity and exceptionalism espoused by our foes. The Office of War Information promoted every instance in which our military and home front work force reflected the rich mosaic that is America, and the Kaiser shipyards offered fertile ground for content.

The Liberty ship Booker T. Washington, built at the California Shipbuilding Corp. at Terminal Island, Los Angeles, and launched in 1942, was the first major U.S. oceangoing vessel to be named after an African-American. Several cargo ships were named after what we now call historically black colleges or universities, but back then were “Negro colleges.” When the SS Tuskegee Victory was launched at Oregon Shipbuilding on May 8, 1945, her invocation (a traditional elements of a ship launching, also known as the Prayer of the Invocation) was offered by Father Thomas Tobin, pastor of All Saints church, “who has championed the interests of minority groups all his life.”

The second ship named after an African American was the SS George Washington Carver, built in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards.  She was the first Kaiser-built Liberty ship to be named for a famous African American, and many of the men and women who built her were African Americans.

The SS Pendleton was the 49th “T2” model tanker built at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyard, on the Willamette River in Portland, Ore.; her launching at the beginning of 1944 honored the role of Native Americans in the military and the home front.

Admiral Vickery (Vice-Chairman of the U.S, Maritime Commission) at launching of the SS Benjamin Warner, from Fore ‘n’ Aft, 7/14/1944.

Six Liberty ships were named for labor leaders, many of whom were European immigrants. And seven other Liberty ships launched in 1944 were named for Jewish American labor leaders, doubly sticking it to Hitler’s doomed Reich.

The launching of the SS Benjamin Warner on the 4th of July weekend, 1944, honored an immigrant, and the event was decorated with a giant replica Statue of Liberty. America’s film industry became a testament to the Allied moral high ground, as a place where even Polish Jewish immigrants could rise to fame and fortune.

The Warner was named after the father of Hollywood’s Warner brothers. Henry J. Kaiser, himself the child of immigrants, proclaimed “Benjamin Warner was a plain man, unknown and unsung until he entered the new world of hope and opportunity which he found in America.”

She was the 1,147th ship of this class built in the Kaiser shipyards and launched on the West Coast—and the last. A few Liberties are still being finished at East Coast yards. The Liberty class was being replaced by the larger and faster Victory class ships, and the Kaiser shipyards were already building them. A reporter for Time magazine described the event as “the melancholy end of a shipbuilding era.”

Benjamin Warner’s sons, Hollywood motion picture producers Harry M. and Colonel Jack Warner, were present at the ceremonies. The craft was sponsored at the launching by Miss Lita B. Warner, 19-year-old granddaughter, a Stanford University student.

Rabbi Rudolph I. Coffee conducted the Warner’s invocation. Between 1921 and 1933, Coffee had been the rabbi at the oldest Jewish congregation in the East Bay, Temple Sinai, at 28th and Webster streets in Oakland. After that he became the chaplain at San Quentin Prison until he retired in 1954. Rabbi Coffee had been selected for this honor because he’d performed wedding ceremonies for Harry Warner and his third brother, Albert.

A 13-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty was unveiled as a gift from Warners to the builders. The fate of this replica is unknown.

Yes, send us your huddled masses yearning to be free. Modern diversity messaging favors the “salad bowl” concept rather than the “melting pot” (mixing together yet retaining individuality) but the concept is the same – In addition to making us stronger, diversity and inclusion enable us to achieve the vision our founders had when they started it all.


A short news film by Paramount Pictures of the launching can be seen here.

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Henry J. Kaiser’s exemplary record of hiring the disabled

posted on October 5, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


“Handicapped workers aren’t necessarily misfits; in fact, they do most jobs better than the average in the three shipyards.” The Bos’n’s Whistle, Oregon Shipbuilding Company, April 22, 1943.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1943-04-22, OHS

Warner H. Van Hoose, shipwright, 4/22/1943.

November is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The pull quote above was for an article about disabled workers in the World War II Kaiser shipyards, and shows how even though the language has changed over the past 73 years, the sentiment – that everyone, regardless of ability, could contribute to the Home Front production – was consistent with the hiring practices in the seven wartime Kaiser shipyards.

As World War II waned, President Truman announced that the first week in October would be “National Employ the Handicapped Week” (also called “Employ the Physically Handicapped Week”), and a San Francisco Bay Area conference was set for October 10, 1945, which included representatives of industry, the AFL, CIO, and various governmental agencies. Jack Wagner, an AFL representative, declared: “We include in our definition of full employment the disabled war veteran’s and the handicapped civilian worker’s right to gainful employment.”

More from that Bos’n’s Whistle article:

Before the war, most business and industry shied away from hiring the “crippled” man. Although the handicap often had nothing to do with the job, it just didn’t seem like the employer was getting his full money’s worth in hiring a man with a missing arm or leg. Then along came the war with its terrific demand for manpower. The armed forces had the same ideas as business men. They, too, wanted physically perfect specimens. The only difference was that they wanted 10,000,000 of them and they had the Selective Service Act to insure first call and prior rights. Industry must get along on what’s left.

Employ the Physically Handicapped Week announcement, Lawrence (KS) Journal, 10/2/1945

Employ the Physically Handicapped Week newspaper story, 10/2/1945

Then came the great discovery. Under the mass production system, it was found that many so-called handicapped workers could find a place just as easily as the physically fit. Not only were there jobs they could do just as well as the “fit” man, but amazingly enough, they sometimes actually did much better. The secret of all production is to make the best use of the talents that ANY man has.

Eleven workers were profiled, highlighting each one’s disability, the cause of the disability, and the job that each worker now held in the Kaiser shipyards. Here are two of them:

Warner H. Van Hoose, O.S.C. shipwright, lost a leg at the age of 7, but it didn’t even slow him down. He became a carpenter and developed a hobby of hunting and fishing. Now he jacks in bilge plates, and with the aid of one crutch travels easily up and down scaffolds. He doesn’t wear his artificial leg to work, “It just gets in my way,” he says. “I save it for dances or less strenuous activities.”

T.R. Wright, 4/22/1943

T.R. Wright, welder, 4/22/1943

T.R. Wright formerly worked for a lumber company. One day a snag fell on him crushing his shoulder and ribs. It took seven operations, including the grafting of bone from a leg to his shoulder and three years in a hospital, to get him back together again. He still suffers, however, from paralysis of his right arm, but manages to get along nicely as a welder at Swan Island.

A similar article from the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore’n’Aft, June 18, 1943, was titled “They didn’t know when they were licked”:

The men whose pictures you see on these pages are but a few of the hundreds who are building ships in Richmond. There are a million more like them, eager and able to help win the war. Before Pearl Harbor little attention was paid them. They had two handicaps: one physical on their part, the other psychological on the part of employers. Too often they were not given an opportunity to prove their ability.

As the armed forces and increased war needs drained the manpower market, other sources were tapped. Among them were the physically handicapped. Now the rest of America is learning what that important but forgotten million always knew-they can do almost any job as well or better than the normal man.

Fore'n'Aft, 1943-06-18

Allen Moreland, burner, 6/18/1943.

The article also profiled several workers, including an African American burner:

The Negro race has responded magnificently to the demands of the war, both on the battle fields and on the home front. Allen Moreland is a burner in Yard Three, has been there for nearly a year. An artificial leg has been no insurmountable handicap for him. He takes his jobs in turn, asks for no odds from anyone. His work has won the respect of his fellow workmen.

Making sure that disabled workers had a job that fit required extra effort. In May 1944, the 627-page 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. One of the primary goals of the Analysis was to make sure that individuals were assigned to jobs that they could perform without risk to their health. The report detailed over 600 distinct job titles in the shipyards.

The shipyards also hired medical professionals to assist in placement efforts. One was Colonel B. Norris, MD, who had retired from the Army Medical Corps and was in charge of Oregon Shipbuilding’s care for disabled war veteran employees. “Dr. Norris will work closely with the personnel department in placement of handicapped or convalescent veterans in jobs particularly suited to their individual requirements.”

Bos'n's Whistle, OSE, 1945-06-29, OHS

B. Norris, MD, 6/29/1945.

An article in Fore ‘n’ Aft from July 20, 1945, titled “According to a man’s abilities…” described employment opportunities for these disabled workers as the war was winding down.

Because the Permanente Hospitals in Richmond and Oakland instituted vocational rehabilitation services with the cooperation of the State and Federal Bureaus, several former Richmond shipyard workers, who were injured or who suffered serious diseases, have been trained or are being trained in work which they can perform.

The case of Ed Andreas is a typical example. Ed was a painter on the ways in Yard One. He broke both feet, his ankle and pelvis bone when he fell from the scaffolding to the ground forty feet below. Ed was unable to return to his former job and his case was referred to George Sloan, Richmond representative for the State Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. After an interview to determine his eligibility, Ed was sent to the San Francisco office, where he was given aptitude tests. One of the many counselors in this office discussed employment objectives with him, and today Ed is learning the trade of watch repairing.

… The key to all rehabilitation work is recognition of one cardinal point. Very few jobs require all human faculties. Therefore it is a problem of fitting the abilities of the individual to the requirements of a job. It is a problem of placing a man according to his abilities- not rejecting him because of his disabilities.

Employment without discrimination – The Kaiser way, since 1942.
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Summer fun for kids – 1944

posted on July 7, 2016

Caroline Horswill, guest writer


Article on summer fun for shipyard kids, Fore'n'Aft, 1944-07-07No 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

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 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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