Richmond Shipyards
The four Richmond Shipyards, located in the city of Richmond, California, United States, were run by Permanente Metals and part of the Kaiser Shipyards, and were responsible for constructing more ships during World War II than any other shipyard in the country. The shipyards are part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. The park's Rosie the Riveter memorial is located on the former grounds of Shipyard #2. Shipyard #3 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Henry J. Kaiser had been building cargo ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission in the late 1930s. When orders for ships from the British government, already at war with Nazi Germany, allowed for growth, Kaiser established his first Richmond shipyard, beginning in December, 1940. More than 747 vessels were built here in the four Richmond Kaiser Shipyards during World War II; a feat not equaled anywhere else in the world, before or since. These ships were completed in two-thirds the amount of time and at a quarter of the cost of the average of all other shipyards. The Liberty ship SS Robert E. Peary was assembled in less than five days as a part of a special competition among shipyards; but by 1944 it was only taking the astonishingly brief time of a little over two weeks to assemble a Liberty ship by standard methods. Henry Kaiser and his workers applied mass assembly line techniques to building the ships. This production line technique, bringing pre-made parts together, moving them into place with huge cranes and having them welded together by "Rosies" (actually "Wendy the Welders" here in the shipyards), allowed unskilled laborers to do repetitive jobs requiring relatively little training to accomplish. This not only increased the speed of construction, but also the size of the mobilization effort, and in doing so, opened up jobs to women and minorities. During WWII, thousands of men and women worked in this area every day, in very hazardous jobs. Actively recruited by Kaiser, they came from all over the United States to swell the population of Richmond from 20,000 to over 100,000 in three short years. For many of them, this was the first time they worked and earned money. It was the first time they were faced with the problems of being working parents -- finding day care and housing. Women and minorities entered the workforce in areas previously denied to them. However, they still faced unequal pay, were shunted off into "auxiliary" unions and still had to deal with day-to-day prejudice and inequities. During the war, there were labor strikes and sit-down work stoppages that eventually led to better conditions. Many workers commuted from other parts of the Bay Area to the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond by way of the Shipyard Railway, a temporary wartime railway which ran from a depot in Emeryville, California to a loop line serving all four of the shipyards, and utilizing cars of the local Key System. The shipyard is currently closed to the public while safe methods of public access are developed. The SS Red Oak Victory is docked nearby.