Document 49: Excerpt from NIPSIC to NIMITZ

Louise Reh and Helen Lou Ross, NIPSIC to NIMITZ: A Centennial History of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (1991)

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Suddenly [after the Second World War] the [Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton] had a new mission: "Magic Carpet," an operation in which warships would be converted into transports to bring troops home from the Pacific war zone. Shipfitters and welders set a record in November 1945, installing 3,000 bunks in USS BUNKER HILL in only 16 working hours. . . .

[After the war, the] fleet was cut back. Some ships were scheduled for inactivation, others sold for scrap. Almost 100 other ships were involved in Operation Crossroads, the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests, and never used again. Sadness was expressed at this fate for ships like SARATOGA, PENNSYLVANIA and NEVADA, major contributors to the Navy Yard's workload throughout the years.

Although many [shipyard] workers left voluntarily at the end of the war, the smaller work load spawned a new acronym, "RIF", meaning Reduction In Force. . . . The first big layoff came in January 1946, with 970 journeymen and helpers discharged. Three months later another 2,880 workers were dropped from the Yard payroll. The decline continued. By the end of 1946, there were less than 9,000 employees, who worked mainly on ship inactivations and routine overhauls. [The shipyard had employed well over 20,000 workers during the height of the Second World War.] . . .

Rear Admiral Hugh E. Haven became the new Commander [of the Yard] on May 17, 1950. The following month Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was again on a war-time footing as the Korean "police action" began. Haven summed up the feelings of many:

"To Shipyard workers who were here during the late '30s when the nation was frantically arming for defense and who served on the production front during World War II, the course of international events has an ominous ring of familiarity. . . . For us all there is a depressing feeling of having to go through the awful mess all over again. . . . We know that although no war has been declared, we may be hovering on the borderline of World War III."

By August 16 ship activations were under way; the ships that had been "mothballed" such a short time before were back in the dry docks. . . . USS ESSEX and USS BON HOMME RICHARD were re-commissioned in a dual ceremony on January 15, 1951, with Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz as principal speaker. Both he and Haven lauded the shipyard workers for completing ESSEX in two-thirds of the scheduled time.

By December 1950, USS BRUSH and MANSFIELD were in the Yard for extensive hull damage suffered from mines in Korean waters. Although U. S. Navy ships were actively engaged in Korean operations, the Shipyard was not as heavily involved in battle-damaged ship repair during this period as during World War II.

The work force increased from 7,800 in mid-1950 to 15,300 in June 1952, followed by a gradual decline in employment. United Nations and Communist negotiators signed an Armistice agreement in July 1953. Negotiations continued, but the threat of a full-blown war was set aside. . . .

Although PSNS [Puget Sound Naval Shipyard] worked on many types of ships during the 1950s, the decade is probably best remembered for aircraft carrier conversions. Editor Jim Reems said it well in Salute [magazine] on January 22, 1960:

". . . Between ESSEX and CORAL SEA, there were KEARSARGE, YORKTOWN, HANCOCK, LEXINGTON, SHANGRA LA, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT and MlDWAY, nine in all, and each succeeding conversion, in turn, received added physical improvements that made it even more modern than its predecessor."

The major addition to the Yard was a new dry dock. On Christmas Eve 1958, the Navy announced a well-deserved addition to PSNS, a dry dock large enough to hold [even the largest aircraft] carriers. . . .

The next decade [the 1960s] would bring an even more challenging type of vessel to the Yard—nuclear submarines. . . . Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover spelled out PSNS's new challenge in an address at the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce on March 27, 1964. He stated:

"Puget Sound has a reputation for doing good work on surface ships. It was the principal West Coast battleship yard when the battleship was supreme. As battleships faded into history, the Yard took on carrier work. Now you are moving into submarine work. You cannot afford to rest on your oars—on your past reputation. . . ."

The Bangor Annex site [a part of PSNS] was selected in January 1973 to house the Navy's West Coast Underseas Long Range Missile System Support Site. That started the Annex's development to become a major naval installation on the Kitsap Peninsula. Designated in 1974 as the support site for Trident submarines, the area was commissioned in 1977 as Naval Submarine Base, Bangor. [Currently, Bangor is the home port of the majority of the Navy's Pacific fleet of nuclear submarines.]

The buildup of employees [during the submarine work of the 1960s and 1970s] was assisted by the arrival of former employees of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard [in San Francisco] which was closed as a national budget reduction measure. The PSNS workforce rose from 9,178 in January 1974 to 10,674 that November.

PSNS offered equal employment opportunities long before being mandated to do so by law in 1972. In 1952 PSNS received its first Award of Merit for employing the physically handicapped. . . . As the PSNS' first century draws to a close, almost ten percent of the work force have a disability of some sort. . . . [The Shipyard created an] Equal Employment Opportunity Committee in 1963. . . .

Women have been employed at PSNS since early in the century. While their numbers increased dramatically, although temporarily, during the two world wars, the years since 1973 have seen a steady rise in the number of women making careers in both blue collar and professional positions. At the beginning of the 1990s, 15 percent of the work force and almost a quarter of apprentice program entrants were women.

Representatives of most races and nationalities have worked at PSNS, both as civilians and military. In the earliest days, the names of workers reflected mostly northern European origin, but soon Blacks and Filipinos were employees.

Research by Diane Robinson indicates there were more than 200 Blacks in the Sinclair Inlet area by 1912, and most of the men worked in the Navy Yard. [The Yard was one of the few places on the Kitsap Peninsula that employed African Americans before the Second World War.]

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest