The Finest Hours is a major motion picture (release date: January 29, 2016) about the heroic 1952 Coast Guard rescue of sailors from two stricken oil tankers off the storm-swept Cape Cod coast. The events depicted are dramatic and true. Less dramatic, although equally true, is the rich World War II home front story of one of those broken tankers, the SS Pendleton. [For more on the phenomenon of World War II merchant ship problems, see followup essay “In defense of Henry J. Kaiser’s World War II ship quality“]
The Pendleton was the 49th “T2” model tanker built at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyard, on the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. T2s were the largest “navy oilers” of their time, just over 500 feet in length and displacing 21,100 tons when fully laden. Their holds could carry nearly 6 million gallons of oil or gasoline. The ship was named for the rural Oregon town of Pendleton, host of the Pendleton Round-Up – one of the largest and most prestigious rodeos in the world. It’s the real deal, held almost continuously since 1910.
The Pendleton’s launch ceremony was a tribute to Native Americans engaged in war production. It is estimated that during the war as many as 40,000 Native American men and women left their reservations for the first time to find jobs in defense industries across the nation.
When she slid down the ways on January 21, 1944, the event was considered one of the most colorful ever staged in those yards. The sponsor of the Pendleton was Princess Melissa Parr, a full-blooded Cayuse Indian and direct descendant of Chief Joseph. Chief Willie Wo-Cat-Se from Pendleton expressed his appreciation for the naming of the tanker. Chief Anthony Redhawk was his interpreter.
A two-page spread in the weekly shipyard magazine The Bos’n’s Whistle described the launching:
Indians in striking regalia staged war dances and beat their drums on the launching platform. Melissa Parr, descendant of Chief Joseph, was the sponsor, with Ramona Minthorn, matron of honor; Thelma Parr, maid of honor; and Vernita McKay, flower girl. Willie Wo-Cat-Se, Pendleton Round-Up chief, was a speaker. Indian workers of the yard were honored guests at the launching and the luncheon which followed. The yard took on a real Western flavor during the day, with Indian tepees drawing crowds of interested spectators. Rear Admiral Howard L. Vickery of the Maritime Commission made the principal address at the launching ceremonies.
An audio recording in the Kaiser Permanente heritage archives lets us hear the praise offered for the diversity of the shipyard workforce:
Gathered here on the platform below, as special guests today, are Indians from various tribes of the Northwest. A good many of them work here in the yards and play an important part in the production of our tankers…We feel that this occasion, in honor of American Indians, is proper not only in view of their vast contribution on the battle front and the production front, but also in view of the fact that the American Indian was actually the first ship builder in the Northwest.
Too often the American Indian is not sufficiently thought of when we speak of the various nationalities and races living harmoniously in America, yet they have shown that great attribute – forgiveness.
Reports of courage and skill of the American Indians in our armed forces is well known to us all. Their bravery has set an example to the most daring.
In this area, there are more than one thousand Indians contributing their skill and effort in the building of ships. Here, again, their performance ranks among the finest…The Indians, our first Americans, are still leading Americans.
It is unlikely that those shipwrecked sailors or the brave Coast Guard crew in 1952 knew of their vessel’s rich creation history, but the human spirit baked into that practical slab of steel was part of the SS Pendleton’s stirring story arc.
Audio link: (partial clip available online, identity of announcer is unknown)
“Launch recording #148-149” S.S. Pendleton, 1/21/1944: A tribute to Native Americans engaged in war production Rev. Earl Cochran–Invocation. Mr. Sprague H. Carter, Mayor of Pendleton. Pendleton Roundup Quartet singing medleys of cowboy songs. Bob Williams and Goose Williams –Native American dance, songs and speeches. Mr. Kaiser Introduces Admiral Vickery. Admiral Vickery–History of Swan Island. Rev. Earl Cochran–Invocation. Tom Hoxie–burning of the plates.
I clipped the image of the tanker being towed by a tug from the Kaiser Companies film “We Build Tankers.” and after looking at it in detail have learned the following:
1. The film shows two different tankers being launched – the SS Grand Teton, launched August 1, 1944, and the SS Fort Matanzas, launched July 11, 1944. The film doesn’t identify the ships by name, but these names are visible on the bows.
2. The ship being towed has no name on the bow. That was standard protocol – the names were painted out after launching, and never had them during war service for security reasons. So, we don’t know which, if either, of these two ships (or it could have been a third) are in that still.
3. The tug is the James W, of Portland’s Shaver Transportation Company, still in business and proud to be part of this history.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1mGkxJq
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” or “Y92.146: 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.
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
After 25 years, 500-mile project
boasts 355 miles of trekking track;
celebrates milestone Saturday
By Ginny McPartland
Walking is good for just about everything that ails you, whether you’re young, old, or in between. Tomorrow (May 24) the San Francisco Bay Trail celebrates 25 years of encouraging residents and visitors to get out and use their feet to see the bay and all its natural treasures up close.
The Bay Trail celebration coincides with the unveiling of new exhibits at the Rosie the Riveter National Park’s Visitor Education Center. The joint party will be on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif., beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Fittingly, the Bay Trail organization is releasing its new smartphone application, Point, simultaneously, The mobile app will allow visitors to log in and get a narrated tour of 17 points of interest along the 2.5 miles of the trail adjacent to the Rosie park.
The Richmond Bay Trail smartphone audio tour, first in a series to be released for Point this summer, starts at the Visitor Education Center at 1414 South Harbour Way, Richmond, and ends at the Shimada Friendship Park.
Mobile interpretive tours will be released for trails along the Napa River near American Canyon and for Alviso and Novato sites.
The San Francisco Bay Trail Project, begun in 1989, is a planned 500-mile walking and bicycling trail. When completed, the trail will encircle the entire San Francisco Bay and will link the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties, 47 cities and all seven major toll bridges in the region.
So far, 355 miles have been completed and provide access to points of historic, natural and cultural interest, as well as 130 parks and wildlife preserves totaling 57,000 acres of open space.
After the ceremonies, beginning at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy a tour of the new Visitor Center exhibits, and participate in a scavenger hunt with great prizes and a WWII-era costume contest. Food will be available for sale and there will be live music.
For directions to the event, see this link: www.nps.gov/rori/planyourvisit/directions.htm
SS Red Oak Victory pancake brunch cool option
for Mother’s Day: SF Bay Trail celebrates 25 years
By Ginny McPartland
Rosie the Riveter’s dance card is full for the next two weeks at her namesake national historical park in Richmond, Calif.
The signature event is the Memorial Weekend unveiling of the park’s permanent, interactive historical exhibits on Saturday, May 24, at the Visitor Education Center. Park staff will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m.
Visitors are invited to participate in various programs offered throughout the day. For more information and directions, you may call: 510-232-5050 Ext. 0, or go to the park Web site.
After the ribbon-cutting, San Francisco Bay Trail officials will stage a 25th anniversary celebration of the 500-mile walking, biking and hiking trail.
Park officials advise arriving early because seating is limited for both events. They also urge visitors to dress warm for the cool and windy weather usual on the waterfront in the morning.
Mother’s Day can be a breeze
Enjoy Mother’s Day pancake brunch this Sunday (May 11) sitting on the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory docked on the Richmond waterfront. The ship, built in Henry Kaiser’s World War II shipyards, is on the site of the former Shipyard No. 3.
A full breakfast will be served from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $7 per person. Children under 5 eat for free.
Red Oak volunteers will give tours of the ship for an additional fee of $5 per person. The SS Red Oak Victory is berthed at 1337 Canal Blvd, Berth 6A, in Richmond.
The Richmond Museum of History operates a museum and gift shop within the Red Oak’s hold. For more information, call 510-237-2933.
Film festival features “Swing Shift” on May 15
Also coming up is a showing of “Swing Shift,” a World War II movie starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell as California aircraft production workers who find romance on the Home Front.
This is the last in a series of historical films shown on the Red Oak Victory this spring. The 1984 movie will be screened at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 15. Admission is $5.
More to see at historical park
The Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park offers a full schedule of ongoing programs. For example, films are shown in the visitors center theater every day.
Visitor center docents present programs covering many World War II themes, including the Japanese American internment, food rationing, the African American war experience, toys of the 1940s, dogs for defense and more.
On Fridays, visitors have the opportunity to meet real-life Rosies and hear their stories. “Rosie Meet and Greet” is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. in the visitors center.
The park visitor center, located behind the historic Ford Assembly Building, is open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1414 Harbour Way South, Richmond.
For more information: (510) 232-5050 x0, or visit the park Web site.
Home Front quilt show at Richmond museum
The Richmond Museum of History in downtown Richmond is exhibiting the Quilts of the World War II Home Front through June 6. Admission is $5.
Quilting expert Mary Mashuta will present “A Conversation about Story Quilts” from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at the museum, 400 Nevin Ave., Richmond. The program is included with the admission fee.
For more information, call 510-235-7387 or visit the museum’s Web site.
Special day meant to educate public
about medical trends and treatments
By Lincoln Cushing
In 1921, U.S. President Warren G. Harding declared the first National Hospital Day. He picked May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, to honor the famed nurse who set initial standards for hospital quality during the Crimean War of 1854.
President Harding declared the special day as an occasion to open hospitals across the United States and Canada to allow staff to educate visitors about medical examination and treatment and to distribute health care literature and information about nursing schools.
This publicity campaign was conceived by Matthew O. Foley, managing editor of the Chicago-based trade publication Hospital Management, in the wake of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
The devastating epidemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including more than 675,000 Americans. Foley sought to rebuild trust in the city’s hospitals as well as to draw attention to broader crises facing health care. A May 1921 Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial outlined those problems:
“The time is past when support for the care of the sick poor can be obtained through funds raised from private philanthropy.
“Modern hospital methods are expensive beyond anything formerly conceived of . . . [while at the same time] the increase of poverty and unemployment and the influx of a new and inexperienced immigrant population as yet unestablished in homes create a greatly increased number of indigent sick demanding care.”
War influenced day’s focus
National Hospital Day 1945 addressed a different set of challenges – a country still reeling from the Great Depression and still at war with Japan; victory in Europe was declared May 8, 1945.
San Francisco Mayor Roger Lapham proclaimed National Hospital Day as a date to honor volunteer and professional workers for what the mayor called “the splendid record for health in San Francisco during our fourth year of war”.
Among those health care providers honored were those serving workers and their families in the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, Calif. The shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft published this editorial:
“Hospital Day has never been one of this nation’s major anniversaries, but – indisputably – health is, and will remain, one of this nation’s major problems for a long time to come.
“For most citizens as well, medical and hospital bills have been one of the major problems in their family budget. That neither of these problems need loom so large and insoluble has been proved at the Richmond shipyards.
“Richmond workers can count themselves among the select – and unfortunately, small – group of American citizens who needn’t worry about running up doctors’ bills, yet they have by their side every protection modern medicine can offer.
“To the service that makes this possible – the Permanente Health Plan – we dedicate this issue of Fore ‘n’ Aft.”
Hospital Day becomes Hospital Week
In 1953, National Hospital Day was expanded to National Hospital Week to give hospitals more time for public education about medical care.
Currently sponsored by the American Hospital Association, this year’s National Hospital Week is Sunday, May 11, through Saturday, May 17.
The week is a time to celebrate hospitals and the men and women who, day in and day out, support the health of their communities through compassionate care, constant innovation and unwavering dedication.
Writing at a time when nursing was generally a woman’s profession, a Canadian editorial writer touted the occupation:
“[On] National Hospital Day efforts will be made to bring the value of a modern hospital before every member of the community, and also to impress young women standing on life’s threshold with idealism still dominant, and aspiring to a vocation as well as seeking a means of livelihood with the view that nursing is a profession and not a business, and that in its honour sacrifices must be rendered as well as privileges won.”
Short link to this article: http://ow.ly/wKF1m
By Ginny McPartland
Six San Francisco Bay Area women will represent female World War II defense workers across the nation when they travel next week to Washington, D.C., to be honored by Vice President Joe Biden.
Thousands of American women, as teenagers and young adults 70 years ago, stepped out of their traditional roles during World War II to build ships, aircraft and other war materiel crucial to Allied victory in 1945. Like the men who fought the war, the ranks of defense workers are thinning out more every day.
Phyllis Gould, 92, a welder in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards in the 1940s, resolved six years ago to arrange for a group of Rosies to go to the White House. Following Gould’s relentless letter-writing campaign, they’re leaving Saturday and will meet Biden in his office on Monday.
Here are brief biographies of the women making the trip:
Priscilla Elder, 93, an electrician in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, was the third of 11 children raised in Iowa. Priscilla followed her older sister to Richmond after her husband was drafted and sent to fight in Europe with the Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton.
Her twin sister followed Priscilla to California, and they both were hired as electricians to wire circuit boxes on troop transport ships built at Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. Priscilla’s 22-month-old son attended the Maritime Child Development Center, which was renovated in 2010 and reopened as a preschool.
Kay Morrison, 90, a native of Chico, Calif., came to Richmond with her carpenter husband in 1941 to find work. Her husband Ray was hired right away in Shipyard No. 2. She wanted to become a welder but at first she couldn’t get a job because the Boilermakers Union was not yet accepting women.
In 1943, she was hired as a welder and worked the graveyard shift in Shipyard No. 3 with her husband. The couple lived in San Francisco and commuted to Richmond by ferry. After three months, she took the test to become a journeyman (proficient) welder.
After the war, Ray continued his work in shipbuilding and Kay eventually went to work at Bank of America where she was employed for 30 years and retired in 1984 as bank manager.
Marian Sousa, 88, a draftsman in the Engineering Department, is Phyllis Gould’s younger sister. She came down to Richmond from Eugene, Ore., to take care of Phyllis’s young son. After graduating from high school, she took a drafting course at UC Berkeley and was hired to make blueprint revisions at Shipyard No. 2.
Another sister, Marge, arrived later and got a job as a welder; the girls’ mother, Mildred, followed later when her husband, a career military man, was posted to Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg, Calif. She put her youngest daughter in child care and went to work at the shipyards as a painter.
Phyllis and her husband bought a house in San Pablo that, though small, housed the whole extended family. The beds were in use around the clock as family members alternately slept and worked a shift at the shipyards.
Marian Wynn, 87, like Priscilla Elder, was the third child in a family of 11 raised in the Midwest. Her father migrated from Minnesota to Richmond, Calif., in 1942 to become an electrician lead man in Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. She wanted to follow her father right away but agreed to wait until she finished high school.
After graduation, she traveled by bus to Richmond and was hired as a pipe welder in West Storage in Shipyard No. 3. After the war, she didn’t return to Minnesota because she met and married her husband, a Navy man stationed at Treasure Island near San Francisco.
Agnes Moore, 94, grew up on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, the sixth of seven children. She came to California in 1942 to visit her brother and sister. While driving in San Francisco, she heard a radio advertisement for shipyard workers.
“Women, do something for your country. Go to Richmond shipyard and become a welder,” she recalls the radio announcer saying. The ad spurred her to drive over to Richmond and apply. She was hired in 1942, and in 1943 she passed the test to become a journeyman welder. Agnes worked in the shipyard until the end of the war in 1945, longer than the average Rosie.
The National Park Service is looking for personal stories from the World War II Home Front that will shed light on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life in the war industries.
Unconventional sexual relationships were necessarily kept under wraps in the 1940s because if they came to light the people involved could be arrested and suffer discrimination and harassment by co-workers, family, friends and employers.
Although largely undocumented, same-sex relationships existed in defense industries, and the park service wants to capture these stories before the last of the aging Home Front workers are deceased.
“There is a sense of urgency for the park to collect these and other under-represented stories, since many people from this generation have already passed away,” said Elizabeth Tucker, lead park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif.
Since the park was established in 2000, individuals have shared many stories and artifacts related to life in the 1940s; but some aspects of civilian life have not been chronicled.
“Likely due to the prejudice and severe legal, economic and social consequences of revealing sexual orientation in the 1940s, the park’s museum collection does not yet have any information about LGBT civilians,” Tucker said.
The NPS has engaged public historian Donna Graves to produce a LGBT traveling exhibit in 2015. Stories, photos and artifacts collected in the coming months will become part of the show to honor the history and contribution of LGBT civilians.
The National Park Service and the Rosie the Riveter Trust are sponsoring a special LGBT event 3 p.m. Monday, March 24, at the Lesbian Social Club in Rossmoor, a large retirement community in Walnut Creek, 15 miles east of Oakland.
Therese Ambrosi Smith, author of “Wax,” a novel about two Kaiser Richmond Shipyard workers, will be keynote speaker. The group will discuss the themes in Smith’s book, including the realization of one of the workers after the war that she was a lesbian.
The group will also discuss the book “Against the Current: Coming out in the 1940s” by Beverly Hickok, a riveter at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica during World War II. Hickok, who was the head librarian of Transportation Library at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley for 32 years, published the book in 2004.
Hickok, 95, will be a guest at the Monday event and is expected to speak and to sign her book. A limited number of copies of “Against the Current” will be available to purchase.
In her book, Hickok tells the story of a young woman who begins to accept her lesbianism while a student at UC Berkeley. Although fictionalized, the story mirrors Hickok’s actual life as a riveter in a defense plant and a librarian after the war.
Angela Brinskele, director of communications for the Mazer Lesbian Archives, wrote this review of Hickok’s book on Amazon.com: “This is a well-written book about the fascinating early life of Beverly Hickok. It is an excellent way to get a real understanding of what lesbians had to face when simply trying to live life true to themselves in mid-century America.
“I mean after all, can you even imagine what coming out in the 40’s would be like? For most of us today it is hard to imagine a time when you could be arrested for simply being gay.”
Ranger Tucker invites anyone who would like to share a LGBT story from the 1940s or to attend the Walnut Creek event to call the park’s confidential phone line, 510-232-5050, ext. 6631.
The Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park Visitor Education Center, 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The center is located on the site of the former Kaiser Richmond Shipyard No. 2. Kaiser Permanente traces its origins to the wartime shipyards.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust staff and volunteers are getting ready for the foundation’s annual gala at the former site of the Kaiser World War II Shipyards in Richmond, Calif.
The party is set for the evening of Saturday, April 12.
The trust stages a dinner event every year to raise funds for the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
Programs that receive support from the trust include Rosie’s Girls, a summer camp that trains girls from disadvantaged neighborhoods in various career skills, such as carpentry.
More information about the gala to come in this space.
Kimi Kodani Hill, granddaughter of artist Chiura Obata and author of a book of his paintings, will show Obata’s work and tell his story in a special event at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park this Saturday, Feb. 22.
The free event begins at 3 p.m. at the Visitors Education Center at the former site of the Kaiser Shipyards on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif.
Obata and his family were among the Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and incarcerated during World War II under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942. The Obata family was interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Central Utah.
The national park event was scheduled to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the Executive Order’s issuance, marked as the annual “Day of Remembrance” for the Japanese-American community.
Obata taught art at UC Berkeley
The artist was trained in Japan in the traditional form of sumi-e (ink painting). He came to California in 1903 at the age of 18 and made his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He taught in the art department at the University of California at Berkeley beginning in 1932 and after the war until 1955.
Obata cultivated a life-long reverence for nature as a powerful spiritual force that inspired both his art and his life. He has gained recognition among art lovers and art historians, especially during the past several years.
His paintings are in collections of the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
His two distinct bodies of work have been published in “Obata’s Yosemite” (1993) and “Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment” (2000). Executive Order 9066 empowered the Secretary of War to “prescribe military areas . . . from which any or all persons may be excluded. . . .”
This broad power enabled the forced removal of more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent living in California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Immigrants from Japan, as well as their American-born children who were citizens, were subjected to forced incarceration in desolate camps for the duration of the war.
The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond.
For more information and directions, you may call (510) 232-5050, ext. 0 or visit our Web site.