Richmond Shipyards

richmond shipyard

Shipyard #3 is viewable on the drive to visit aboard the Red Oak Victory ship.  It contains several structures, including the Machine Shop, the General Warehouse, and the original Kaiser First Aid Station.  Nearby markers describe much of the activity that took place there. 

Access to the deep water of the Bay and miles of previously undeveloped shoreline made Richmond the location of choice for a wartime industrial complex dominated by the largest and most productive shipyards in the entire world. Population boomed to over 100,000 to support the war effort with work never stopping-three shifts a day, seven days a week. Hayfields were rapidly converted to the largest public housing project ever constructed in the United States. With millions of men in uniform and out of the workforce for the duration, tens of thousands of women were recruited to do what had been previously considered "men's work." They soon became collectively known as "Rosie the Riveter." A network of schools and childcare centers was thrown up overnight to care for and educate the children of these working women.

The nation's first HMO, now Kaiser Permanente, was founded to keep the shipyard workers healthy. Needing still more workers, Henry Kaiser scoured the country for recruits, finding thousands of willing volunteers in the rural African-American population of the South. Coming to Richmond by the trainload, farm workers and sharecroppers were rapidly retrained as welders and equipment operators. In a matter of days, they were building Liberty and Victory ships. 747 ships were built in Richmond, coming off the ways at a clip of one a week toward the end of the war. One Liberty Ship, the Robert E. Peary was built in just over four days, setting a record that has, to this day, never been surpassed.

The Richmond shipyards produced more ships, faster, and better than had ever been done in any time in the history of the world. In 1945, the shipyards shut down as fast as they had started up four years earlier.

Tens of thousands of shipyard workers, many of whom had relocated permanently to California, were thrown out of work. With returning servicemen re-entering the workforce, women and minorities were no longer welcome, but the seeds had been planted, and many post-war innovations that benefited women and minorities in the workforce, began with the knowledge of just what had been accomplished.

Rosie the Riveter Trust (ID # 94-3335350) — PO Box 71126, Richmond, CA 94807-1126 — (510) 507-2276

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