Run by Permanente Metals as part of the Kaiser Shipyards, the four Richmond Shipyards in California were responsible for building more ships during World War II than any of the country’s other possible locations.
The shipyards began production in 1940 and epitomize the indifference to resource limitations nurtured by the war economy. By 1944, mass manufacturing and assembly line techniques had reached such a level of efficiency that it took a ridiculously short two weeks to complete a Liberty ship. A staggering 747 ships were produced at the Richmond site before the war was over. That number has not been matched at any other site in the world.
In order to build that many ships, the shipyards had to employ tens of thousands of men and women. People came from all over the United States to help the war effort and the population of Richmond swelled from 20,000 to over 100,000 in just three years.
Although not advised, and guarded by barbed wire fences and/or active duty employees, it is still possible to stroll the lengths of sub-surface quays where thousands of shipyard laborers spent most of their workday. Like many structures built at the convergence of land and sea, they are not faring well. Today, the shipyards are part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front Historical Park. The third shipyard is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features the SS Red Oak Victory Ship which one can tour during limited visiting hours for a $5 donation, and the second is home to the Rosie the Riveter memorial.
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- Wikipedia: Richmond Shipyards: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_Shipyards
- National Park Service: Richmond Shipyard Number Three: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wwiibayarea/ric.htm
- Calisphere: Richmond Shipyards: http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/themed_collections/subtopic5d.html