1942 -1945 is an exhibit developed as a collaborative effort between the staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model Visitor Center and the Sausalito Historical Society. MARINSHIP is located within the Bay Model Visitor Center, a building that served as the shipyard’s warehouse during World War II.
MARINSHIP was built in 1942 to serve as the last assembly building for tankers, oilers and liberty ships used during the war where it produced 93 Liberty ships and T-2 tankers.
A Call to Arms
The United States went to war in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous December. An urgent telegram from the U.S. Maritime Commission arrived at the offices of W. A. Bechtel Company, urging them to build and operate a new shipyard in the San Francisco Bay Area. The telegram emphasized, "The emergency demands all within your power to give your country ships." The next day, Kenneth K. Bechtel stood on a quiet Sausalito hillside and looked over the mudflats of Richardson Bay. This would be the site chosen for the shipyard to be called Marinship.
California Here I Come ...
Recruiters fanned out across the country in search of men and women willing to leave their lives behind and come to California to build the ships so desperately needed to win the war. The impact of this migration on California would be as great as the Gold Rush a century earlier.
Winning the War on the Homefront
Less than three months after the initial ground breaking, the keel was laid for the first Liberty ship, the WILLIAM A. RICHARDSON, while the rest of the shipyard was being built. During the next three and one-half years, 75,000 Americans poured into southern Marin County from all over the United States. They built 93 ships -- 15 Liberty cargo ships and 78 tankers and oilers -- in record time. Marinship workers produced a completed vessel on average of every 13 days. One tanker, the S.S. HUNTINGTON HILLS, was built in just 33 days -- nearly twice as fast as any comparable tanker of the day.
Marinship was operated seven days a week around the clock. At its peak, 20,000 men and women passed through the yard's gates every day. Everyone worked a minimum of six days a week. The rigors of shift work turned the lives of workers upside down. Management stepped in to provide support in various areas such as housing, transportation and food. The housing shortage was so severe that the Maritime Commission and the Federal Housing Authority built Marin City -- a community of houses, apartments and dormitories just north of the shipyard. Within a year, it became the second largest city in Marin County.
New Opportunities for Minorities
Because Marinship was one of the last shipyards to be built, there was an acute shortage of experienced shipbuilders and skilled labor. For the first time, minorities were aggressively recruited and trained for these jobs. Eventually, the workforce would be comprised of 25% women and 10% blacks. Marinship management was challenged by these new patterns in labor, gender and ethnic relations.
A Supersized Assembly Line
Ships were built on a gigantic assemble line. Raw steel was delivered to the north end of the yard and traveled south. From the Plate Shop, Sub-Assembly Shop and open-air skids came the great pre-assemblies. At each step, ship parts were combined and recombined into larger and larger ship sections. Finally, mammoth traveling cranes lifted these huge sections onto the hull where they were firmly welded together. With great celebration, each ship was launched and then towed to the Outfitting Docks for the finishing touches.
Marinship Vessels Circumnavigate the Globe
Carrying men and material, Marinship's Liberty ships provided a crucial link between the United States and its allies. Marinship's tankers traversed the seas transporting oil, gasoline and water to the troops fighting the enemy forces in Europe and the Pacific. These tankers and oilers also served as floating gas stations refueling the ships at sea. Victory in Europe was declared on May 7, 1945. In the Pacific, eight Marinship tankers, including the yard's flagship, the USS TAMALPAIS, were among the American fleet gathered in Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender three months later.
By November, 1945, only 600 employees remained at the huge shipyard where 20,000 had worked just two years earlier. In 1946, Marinship was turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps needed only a few of the buildings -- including the warehouse that now houses the Bay Model and the Marinship exhibit. The balance of the land was sold and has been developed for a variety of commercial and public uses over the years.