Dear Virtual Visitor,
Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Area! This National Park Service Virtual Travel Itinerary will help both locals and visitors navigate the Bay Area's historical World War II treasures.
The Bay Area is renowned for its scenic beauty, great weather, and urban attractions. The Bay Area is also famous for its accessibility to the natural wonders of California's coast, redwoods, and mountains. The Bay Area is also a leader in technological innovation, an incubator for social change, and a model for cultural diversity.
World War II was profoundly felt in the San Francisco Bay Area. If America was the "Arsenal of Democracy" during those times, the Bay Area was the arsenal's shipyard. The Bay Area served as a coastal fortress, a pipeline to the Pacific, and as a center for cultural and social innovation. WWII caused so many dramatic changes in the Bay Area that the war years came to be known as the "Second Gold Rush" in California.
People from across the Nation came to the Bay Area to help the war effort. Military men and women sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and felt much as their counterparts on the East Coast felt when they saw the Statue of Liberty. Many wartime newcomers stayed in the Bay Area after the war ended. As a result, they enriched Bay Area communities with new cultures and traditions. Many of those who passed through came back to visit again and again, drawn by their memories of the wartime San Francisco Bay Area.
Many of the historic landscapes, buildings, and ships from World War II can still be seen and visited today. These landmarks from World War II contribute to the history and character of the Bay Area. They provide an added layer of meaning to the local citizenry, to the visitors interested in heritage tourism, and to school groups looking for tangible sites to help in understanding intangible ideas.
I hope you enjoy your virtual visit to the World War II sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also encourage you to visit them in person. Whether you are a local or a visitor, you will learn much about California's history from these important landmarks. Either way, this National Park Service Virtual Travel Itinerary will ease your journey.
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, assisted by Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, the Organization of American Historians, San Francisco Public Library and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, proudly invite you to explore World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. World War II dominated the social, economic and political landscapes of the mid-20th century, setting in motion momentous events that still shape the world we live in today. The communities that ring the San Francisco Bay were irrevocably altered by that wartime era and still bear its visible marks in the remains of military bases and coastal defense fortifications, ships and shipbuilding facilities, worker housing and day-care facilities. This travel itinerary highlights 31 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that reflect the San Francisco Bay Area's role as the "Arsenal of Democracy."
Preparations for mobilization to create "Fortress San Francisco" were massive. Forts Baker, Barry and Cronkhite ringed the tip of Marin County, while Fort Point mounted guard on the Golden Gate Straits. Inside the bay, bases abounded including Fort Mason, the principal Pacific Port of Embarkation, the Presidio, Fort Miley, Hamilton Field and Moffett Field. The San Francisco Bay Area's major contribution to victory during World War II was shipbuilding. During the war, men and women working in Bay Area shipyards, like Kaiser's Richmond Shipyard Number Three, built 1,400 vessels--a ship a day, on average--like the SS Red Oak Victory. Mare Island Naval Shipyard provided well-established repair and shipbuilding facilities. The converted Richmond Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant prepared tanks for shipment overseas to the Pacific War, and the Benicia Arsenal manufactured the munitions for these and other weapons. During World War II, tens of thousands of Bay Area women challenged common perceptions about their capabilities, and for the first time were faced with the problems of being working parents--finding daycare and housing. These historic places remain today as an indelible imprint of this time and remind us of the dramatic changes brought on by the Bay Area's participation in World War II.
Three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering the relocation of Japanese Americans living in coastal areas, who were at the time considered a security risk. In the weeks that followed, local newspapers carried almost daily reports of proclamations, plans and restrictions to civil liberties issued by Lieutenant-General John L. DeWitt out of Building 35 at the Presidio, such as Civilian Exclusion Order No. 20, which required 660 people living in the area bounded by Sutter and California streets and Presidio and Van Ness avenues to report to the Japanese American Citizens League at 2031 Bush Street for registration, and then, on April 29, 1942, for removal. Headlines from the San Francisco News at the time provide a sobering view of the swift expulsion: "General DeWitt Announces Military Exclusion Zones" (March 3); "First Japanese Ready to Leave Coast" (March 19); "Aliens Get One More Night Out" (March 25); "Goodbye! Write Soon!" (April 7). Internees were first transported to one of 13 "Assembly" centers throughout the state, including Tanforan race track in San Bruno--since demolished--where 8,000 Japanese Americans were detained in converted horse stables and makeshift barracks between April and October 1942, then on to permanent camps inland such as Manzanar, which is now a National Historic Site. In all, nearly 100,000 Californians of Japanese descent were removed from their homes and livelihoods for incarceration during the war until 1945.
The World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area travel itinerary offers several ways to discover the places that reflect the area's World War II history. Each highlighted site features a brief description of the historic place's significance, color photographs and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to six essays that explain more about Seacoast Defense, Mobilization, Port of Embarkation, Shipbuilding, Women at War and Preservation. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit the San Francisco Bay Area in person. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative program. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the Nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area is the 33rd National Register travel itinerary successfully created through such partnerships. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. If you have any comments or questions, please click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
A historian once described San Francisco during World War II as "a giant cannon aimed at the Pacific," likening the millions of tons of cargo and munitions coming out of the port to projectiles sent against the Japanese military forces. To protect the all-important entrance to the harbor, the Golden Gate and its famous bridge, the U.S. Army and Navy arrayed a vast network of coastal fortifications, underwater minefields, antiaircraft guns, radars, searchlights, observation posts and patrol aircraft. Today, the still-impressive remains of that network can be seen at many locations in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Beginning during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, the U.S. Army had been continually constructing, expanding and modernizing harbor defenses surrounding the Golden Gate and intended to keep an enemy from capturing the port with its strategic military and industrial sites. In the early years, French and British fleets were most feared by American planners, and large masonry forts armed with scores of smoothbore cannon were constructed at Fort Point in the Presidio of San Francisco and on Alcatraz Island in the middle of the bay. During the Civil War and the years immediately following, additional masonry and earthwork fortifications were constructed along both shores of the Golden Gate straits. Well-preserved examples of these semipermanent fortifications can still be seen at Battery East in the Presidio and at Battery Cavallo at Fort Baker.
In the 1890s the army began a major modernization of the Nation's coastal fortifications and, because of its strategic importance, San Francisco Bay was given number two priority behind New York Harbor. (Actually, defense appropriations for San Francisco defense projects frequently exceeded those of New York.) This rearmament project resulted in the wholesale scrapping of smoothbore artillery and the introduction of modern breech loading artillery protected in concrete gun emplacements. Construction of these fixed defenses had a dual role: first, the improved fortifications made the Nation's ports much more secure and ready to deal with the threat from modern armored warships; secondly, the strong shore defenses freed up the U.S. naval forces from their reluctant role as "floating coastal forts." This strategic change allowed our navy to sail the globe freely and extend our military presence--and U.S. influence--to foreign countries. By 1910, nearly 120 coast artillery guns were mounted in the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco. Ranging in size from three-inch rapid-fire weapons to 12-inch long-range guns, these fortifications were designed to meet the threat of any size vessel from a small patrol boat to a heavily armored battleship. These new weapons and fortifications would form the backbone of San Francisco's coastal defenses until after the end of World War II.
As Europe headed deeper towards war in the 1930s, isolationist America reluctantly began to upgrade its coastal fortifications once again. In San Francisco, this program lead to the construction of two batteries mounting the largest guns then in American arsenals: 16-inch caliber rifled guns mounted on high elevation carriages, capable of firing 2,100-pound projectiles nearly 26 miles. To protect the weapons against the growing threat of aerial bombardment, each battery of two guns was constructed as a subterranean fortification with the guns aiming out from the sides of heavily camouflaged, manmade hills. Up to 20 feet of overhead concrete and earth cover provided protection for the guns themselves along with a labyrinth of connecting corridors, ammunition magazines, power plants, crew spaces, and assorted storage rooms. To protect the new batteries, antiaircraft guns were concentarted nearby to ward off attacking enemy aircraft.
Completed in 1940, Battery Davis at Fort Funston and Battery Townsley at Fort Cronkhite were the prototypes for all subsequent fortification designs adopted by the U.S. Army. On the eve of World War II, these two batteries formed the state-of-the-art defenses not only of San Francisco but also of the entire United States.
On December 7, 1941, the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco Bay comprised a mixture of modern batteries as typified by Batteries Davis and Townsley; aging--but still potent--coast artillery emplacements constructed at the turn-of-the-century; mobile tractor drawn field artillery and antiaircraft guns; and the underwater minefields that still protected the shipping channels. Manning these defenses were an assemblage of "old army" regulars from the Sixth Coast Artillery Regiment, newly-formed units such as the 18th, 54th and 56th Coast Artillery Regiments, and National Guard Regiments from as far away as Minnesota and Texas. When news reached San Francisco of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all off-duty personnel were recalled to their units and the harbor defenses put on full alert. Soldiers moved out of their barracks and into the batteries, and began filling sandbags, stringing barbed wire and constructing beach defenses at a fevered pace. Up and down the coast, observers in tiny concrete observation posts scanned the horizon for the approach of a Japanese fleet that would never come.
As the days and weeks progressed, the initial fear of imminent invasion settled into a long-term commitment to defend the harbor by every means possible. Mobile antiaircraft guns, searchlights and radars were positioned on virtually every hill and knoll overlooking the Golden Gate. The U.S. Navy stretched an antisubmarine net across the inner harbor extending from the Marina in San Francisco to Sausalito in Marin, and stationed a navy tugboat to open and close the net to allow friendly shipping to pass. Soldiers assigned to the fortifications and observation stations constructed extensive earthwork trenches on the hillsides near their batteries, and in some cases tunneled into hillsides to construct unauthorized but comfortable underground quarters. Everywhere, camouflage paint was daubed on concrete batteries and wood barracks, and acres of camouflage nets were stretched over fortifications to obscure their presence from high flying enemy planes. Overhead, navy blimps armed with depth charges patrolled offshore waters searching for Japanese submarines but only attacked the occasional unfortunate whale.
The command center for all these activities was an underground facility covertly constructed at Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio of San Francisco and dubbed the Harbor Defense Command Post/Harbor Entrance Command Post (HDCP/HECP). The HDCP/HECP was little discussed but its role was crucial, for here inside the bomb proof command center army and navy senior staff coordinated their resources both to defend the bay against enemy sea or air attack (the army's role) and also to track and coordinate all shipping traffic in and out of the Golden Gate (the navy's responsibility).
No enemy has ever attacked San Francisco, and by 1944 it was obvious to the army-navy commanders that invasion was a far distant likelihood. The soldiers of the harbor defenses were needed on battlefronts elsewhere, and starting that year the HDSF began to phase out its operations. With the signing of the peace treaty with Japan in 1945 the army reevaluated its need for fixed defenses, especially in light of a new age of long-range bombers and nuclear weapons. The phase out was speeded up, and by 1948 the last of the army's San Francisco coastal artillery fortifications had been scrapped.
Today, the remains of "Fortress San Francisco" can still be found throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the Presidio of San Francisco, Battery Lowell A. Chamberlin at Baker Beach displays a rare six-inch rifle on a 1903 disappearing carriage, and an adjacent display gallery tells the story of the bay's harbor defenses. Fort Point, a veteran of the Civil War, was pressed into use during World War II for a battery of three-inch guns, and its museum also tells the story of the harbor defenses of San Francisco. At Forts Funston and Cronkhite, the empty casemates of Batteries Davis and Townsley can still be explored although their unlit interiors are closed for safety reasons. Below Battery Townsley at Rodeo Beach in Fort Cronkhite, visitors can see the preserved 1940s "mobilization barracks" complex where the coast artillery soldiers lived.
Across from Fort Cronkhite is Fort Barry, site of several 1900-era gun batteries that were armed during World War II. Many of these batteries still display remnants of their green-and-ochre camouflage schemes applied shortly after Pearl Harbor. Also at Fort Barry is Battery Elmer J. Wallace, a 12-inch battery that was extensively rebuilt with overhead cover during World War II and now appears much like a scaled-down version of Batteries Davis and Townsley.
Throughout Golden Gate National Recreation Area are dozens of observation posts used by coast artillery troops. Officially known as "base end stations," these tiny structures housed a crew of observers whose job was to search the horizon for the approach of enemy ships and, in the event of attack, direct the gunfire of the big guns through telephone communication. These stations stretch along the San Francisco coastline from Point Reyes in the north to Half Moon Bay in the south. Some of the best examples can be found at Fort Cronkhite above Battery Townsley; at Fort Barry near Battery Mendell; and at Fort Funston near Battery Davis.
Perhaps the most visible remnant of the army's defensive system is the land itself, for in their efforts to construct ever more far-flung fortifications the U.S. Army purchased large tracts of land overlooking the Golden Gate and its approaches. Kept out of private hands, these lands eventually formed an unintentional but invaluable "green belt" around the entrance to San Francisco Bay. In 1972, Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and included these lands within its boundaries. Today, the former World War II harbor defense posts of Forts Funston, Miley, Winfield Scott, Baker, Barry and Cronkhite provide some of the most spectacular and unspoiled open space surrounding any American city. Combined with the even earlier military posts of Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, Fort Mason and the Presidio of San Francisco, the U.S. Army handed down to today's generation a gift of urban parkland truly unrivaled anywhere.
Essay by John A. Martini.
World War II touched all of California very heavily, but nowhere more than San Francisco Bay. The war turned the Bay into a citadel, and in turn the cities made the fortress work.
Cities played several roles in World War II. They were targets of destruction and strategic advantage; they were distribution points for men and material; and they were centers of production. San Francisco Bay was prepared for the first role, but in the war, only played the second and third. Still, the preparations were massive, swiftly arming San Francisco. Forts Baker, Barry and Cronkhite ringed the tip of Marin County; Fort Funston stood at the ocean base of San Francisco, with gun emplacements in between. Fort Point mounted guard on the Golden Gate Straits. Inside the bay, bases abounded. Fort Mason, the principal Pacific Port of Embarkation, rested aside Aquatic Park; Moffett Field stood at Sunnyvale; Alameda Naval Air Station and the Army supply depot in Oakland faced San Francisco across the Bay; Hamilton Field stood to the north in Marin County. In the middle, Treasure Island housed the Naval Training Station. Camp Stoneman accommodated servicemen waiting to be sent abroad. The Bay had nearly every kind of base, up to and including one of the chief Pacific code-breaking stations, United States Intercept Station Number Two, at Petaluma.
Some 240,000 people built and repaired ships at Sausalito, Vallejo, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco and South San Francisco. The converted Richmond Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant prepared tanks for shipment overseas to the Pacific War, and the Benicia Arsenal manufactured the munitions for these and other weapons. Servicemen and defense workers thronged the streets at shift change. Damaged navy ships plied the bay toward the naval shipyard at Vallejo. Thousands came to paint the towns, and thousands more jammed the hospitals for succor. The war was inescapable. It came over the radio, on billboards, in newspapers, from the military presence and in unique events like the exodus through the Gate on April 1, 1942, of the Doolittle Raiders, in Captain Marc Mitscher's timeless words, "bound for Tokyo."
The war imposed its own rhythms on the cities and its own ethos on their inhabitants. People worked the swing shift and then partied through the graveyard shift until dawn. Everyone faced the novel every day: other cultures, other workers, other work routines, other comrades at arms or work, other lovers. Then just as surely, these were replaced again as the workers left, the soldiers sailed and the lovers departed.
Loss was omnipresent and so was death. It came in the newspapers, letters, radio broadcasts and Western Union telegrams. The uncertainty meant that people lived for the moment, dancing at the Stage Door Canteen in San Francisco or unwinding to the black man's blues at the joints of Oakland and the white man's blues at the barn dances in Richmond. People walked into each other's lives, bonded over work, drink, or love and walked out again.
Yet if individual lives were fragmented, irregular and fleeting, the war effort was not. It rolled on unrelentingly. Somehow the mass of locals and strangers, blacks and whites, men and women, young and old, whole and handicapped came together in an extraordinary united war effort. The military and the managers of corporations created an impressive production achievement that kept men and products flowing out of the great San Francisco Bay. So did the cities. Cities had numerous superbly important latent resources for war, not immediately obvious to the untrained eye. World War II uprooted 15 million Americans to work in defense, and the Federal Lanham Act failed utterly to house them. So cities had to. San Francisco and Oakland became vast dormitories, as housewives rented spare rooms, basements, back porches, garages and garrets. People doubled up in apartments and single rooms; hotels took in some; converted warehouses, others; and aunts and uncles shoehorned relatives into their homes.
Somehow cities sheltered these employees. The resident women, retirees,
high school dropouts, the blind and other handicapped, and African Americans
who joined the labor force already had housing, places at school, transportation
(many walked to work) and daycare. Even criminals received early parole
for defense work, and the inmates of San Quentin and Alcatraz
pitched in while still incarcerated. In special labor emergencies women,
girls and retirees delivered the mail at Christmas or picked crops at
Cities could also mobilize these neophytes. Many drove their cars, but millions more than usual rode mass transit. War workers could get to work by bus, streetcar, cable car, ferry and interurban, in addition to cars. The infrastructure was not the least of the cities' contributions. The new Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and older bridges held the dispersed metropolis together and allowed it to function as a physically unified military unit from Camp Stoneman to Moffett Field. The military greatly benefited from huge, well developed urban harbors. The State of California had invested $86 million in the San Francisco port alone, and the Embarcadero there contained 1,912 acres of facilities. Bay Area harbors were partly laid out on artificial land created as early as the Gold Rush. Airfields supplemented these and often served military functions as did Oakland Airport, where planes were stored and prepared for dispatch overseas. City police helped train military ones, staffed the civil defense organizations and convoyed army trucks through the streets. Throughout America, urban and town water departments supplied military bases, and the San Francisco and East Bay Municipal Utilities District did the same in the Bay Area.
Camp Stoneman in the North Bay was literally an instant city of 10,000, which badly needed water. So did many industrial processes. These urban services had taken years to develop and the military would have been badly hampered if they had been forced to develop them in 1941. Because of the fall of the water from higher elevations, the urban water projects often came with a hydroelectric power component. City boosters prized this asset to keep power and therefore production costs low, and the military and defense plants inherited this cheap power too.
Open space in the parks and playgrounds served as a tenting space for the housing-strapped military before barracks could be built. Schools and colleges trained people in everything from welding to exotic languages. Even San Quentin became an educational institution, training parolees as welders or as chefs for the merchant marine. Cities are world-class junk piles and this scrap, like high-grade steel from abandoned trolley tracks, came in handy too.
Today, Californians take city advantages for granted, so it is instructive to think of the opposite case. During World War II the government had to site many installations in the rural South and West, where it had to build many of the services that urban areas already contained. The military tried to locate these institutions close to some kind of town, even a small one. In short, Bay Area cities supplied many of the most pressing military needs. In martial terms, they were a force multiplier.
But San Francisco Bay was more than just an arsenal and a production cornucopia. It was also the most important Pacific Theater symbol of freedom, home and America. For 1,650,000 men, it was the last part of the States that they glimpsed before they saw combat, and it was the first thing that they saw when they returned. It was also the voice of freedom until they returned, as was the British Broadcasting Company in Europe. Even American prisoners of war, at considerable risk to themselves, cobbled together clandestine radios in their lethal prison camps to tune in to a twice-weekly newscast from Treasure Island. The risk of a severe physical beating was less important than hearing the voice of San Francisco and home.
Essay by Roger Lotchin, Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
"From the early days of the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific, when
men and supplies available to reinforce our position were but a trickle,
to the time when with added resources we were enabled to mount offensive
operations with increasing violence," wrote General Douglas MacArthur,
"the U.S. Army's San Francisco Port of Embarkation and its subsidiary
Oakland Army Terminal, "gave magnificently of their full support--support
which in no small measure contributed to the victorious march which
carried our arms to the heart of the Japanese Empire."
During World War II, more than 4,000 voyages by freighters and over 800 by troopships emanating from the San Francisco Port of Embarkation carried nearly 1,650,000 soldiers and 23,600,000 ship tons of cargo to support the efforts of General MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific Area and Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Ocean Area.
But the Army's Port of Embarkation, which played so important a role in American victory in the Pacific Theater of World War II, already embodied great historical significance as the symbol of and an institution contributing to America's coming of age as a world power at the beginning of the 20th century.
Until the last three years of the 19th century, the United States had never fought a major overseas war, other than sporadic naval and Marine entanglements. The United States Army had never sent forces overseas. But in a five-year period beginning in 1898, the United States suddenly stepped onto the world stage and took its place among powerful European nations as a world power. First, war with Spain began in 1898, ending the following year, but while on the Atlantic side of the continent it involved sending American forces as far as the offshore islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, in the Pacific it meant sending troops 10,000 miles across the ocean to the Philippine Islands and Guam, both of which came under American rule.
Furthermore, a revolution sponsored by American business interests in 1893 had toppled the Hawaiian monarchy and installed a Republic of Hawaii. After unsuccessful attempts to involve the United States government, in 1898 the United States finally acquired the island archipelago as a territory, which stretched in the middle of the Pacific Ocean from the large volcanic island of Hawaii itself northwest to Midway and Wake Islands and beyond. In addition, although the United States had acquired Alaska by purchase from the Russian Empire in 1867, it had been regarded as an "icebox" of little value until the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and 1899 in Canada's adjacent Yukon Territory, accessible principally across Alaska, led to gold discoveries in Alaska itself and the Nome Gold Rush of 1900. Not only was there gold in Alaska, there were copper and other resources which made Alaska a treasure chest rather than a mere icebox. Then in the Philippines, which U.S. forces had seized from Spain in 1898, a rebellion against the United States began in 1899 led by Philippine patriot Emilio Aguinaldo and others. Once that had been suppressed, another rebellion of Muslim people in the southern Philippines known as the Moro Rebellion broke out and continued intermittently down to the present day. An attack on the foreign embassies in Peking (Beijing), China, by rebels known as "Boxers" which took place in 1900, led to an international relief force including American soldiers marching to Beijing. Eventually a U.S. infantry regiment was permanently stationed in Tientsin and a U.S. Marine regiment in Shanghai, not to mention American Marines at the Embassy and navy gunboats patrolling the Yangtse River--navy, marine and army deployments that would continue for 40 years. Thus in a mere five-year period, the United States Army which had not previously fought an overseas war, suddenly had to supply, maintain and rotate troops to and from permanent overseas garrisons in the Philippines, Hawaii and China, and provide a much enlarged force in suddenly valuable Alaska Territory, and within a decade and a half, provide for garrisoning the Panama Canal.
Initially, the army accomplished this by renting commercial ships and piers. But as overseas involvement became permanent rather than temporary, spurred by the catalyst of the Earthquake of 1906, which destroyed or damaged piers and warehouses, the army decided to build its own port for seagoing ships in San Francisco Bay, and began to purchase its own ships under a new branch known as the Army Transport Service. There was no suitable location at the army's premier San Francisco post, the Presidio, for such a port, but there was at the northwest corner of Fort Mason, and by 1908 planning was underway to construct such a port, largely on filled land. In the decades that followed, the U.S. Army's Port of Embarkation, consisting of three piers, warehouses and railroad spurs connecting with the State Belt Railroad of San Francisco, hosted ships which came and went, carrying soldiers and supplies to Hawaii, the Philippines, China and Alaska. White-hulled U.S. Army transport ships with names such as the U.S.A.T.S. Grant, the Sherman, the Sheridan, the Thomas, all named for Union Generals in the American Civil War, regularly made calls at the Port. And when on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, dragged the United States into the Second World War, the army had a functioning port for shipping men and material to the far Pacific.
Of course World War II proved so large an involvement that the San Francisco Port of Embarkation soon was overwhelmed, and expanded onto land across San Francisco Bay in Oakland, California, where it built a subsidiary Oakland Army Terminal much larger than its headquarters. The port and its subsidiary, served by three transcontinental railroads, handled more than 350,000 freight car loads, and employed 30,000 military and civilian employees, not counting the longshoremen who loaded and unloaded cars and ships.
Because of the long distances involved, the Pacific War required a particularly long logistical "tail" to support the fighting troops at the "sharp end." As American troops island hopped across the Pacific from Hawaii and Australia towards the Philippines and Japan, a string of airbases and forward supply points provided aerial supremacy, control of the vital sea lanes and staging areas for combat divisions. Most of these soldiers, and many of the navy ships and personnel too, started their overseas journeys from the numerous military posts around San Francisco Bay. And many of the soldiers and sailors recalled the passing through the Golden Gate and under its spectacular bridge as the last memory of home and their first sight of homeland upon their return.
In the years following World War II, the army's Port returned to peacetime duties, now including the supply of permanent American garrisons in occupied Japan and South Korea, until five years later, a new war erupted on the Korean Peninsula, another war in which the Port played a large role. Thus the U.S. Army's San Francisco Port of Embarkation, including its Oakland Army Terminal, played a major role in World War II and in America's whole involvement in the Pacific Ocean region.
Essay by Gordon Chappell, Regional Historian, National Park Service
The San Francisco Bay Area's major contribution to victory during World War II was shipbuilding. Over 30 shipyards, large and small, and scores of machine shops, and metal and wood fabricators joined together to create the world's largest combined shipbuilding complex. Unlike major shipyards on the east coast that were concentrated in compact urban areas, Bay Area shipbuilding consisted of components sprawled across hundreds of square miles, from Napa in the north, Sacramento and Stockton in the east, to San Jose in the south.
In the decade prior to 1940, America's shipyards launched only 23 ships. In the five years after 1940, American shipyards launched 4,600 ships. San Francisco Bay Area shipbuilders produced almost 45 percent of all the cargo shipping tonnage and 20 percent of warship tonnage built in the entire country during World War II. The war lasted 1,365 days. In that span of time Bay Area shipyards built 1,400 vessels--a ship a day, on average.
One pioneer Bay Area shipyard was Mare Island Naval Yard. It began with a single floating dry dock in 1854 and progressed rapidly as the only Navy yard for the Pacific Squadron and, in fact, the only repair facility on the entire Pacific Coast. In 1859, Mare Island launched its first ship, the paddlewheel wooden steamer USS Saginaw. In the years following, Mare Island Naval Yard built a score of vessels including tugs, colliers, barges, gunboats and, in 1883, the cruiser USS Mohican.
Compared to the big shipyards on the East Coast at Philadelphia and New York, San Francisco Bay's shipbuilding industry was minuscule in the early years of the 20th century. How was it possible that from this modest beginning, San Francisco Bay would emerge in World War II as an industrial giant? How was it possible to build so many ships in so little time? First and most vital was a nationwide commitment to win the war. All available resources were dedicated to that end. Industrial leaders and politicians had the good sense to recognize that only through cooperation could total victory be achieved. As a result, World War II shipbuilding was perhaps the greatest combined effort of government and private industry in the Nation's history.
The Bay Area was fortunate in one respect; two major local shipyards, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation and Moore Dry Dock Company, had gained valuable experience in large-scale rapid production during World War I, and had on hand core management and labor groups when needed for World War II. Lessons learned during the first wartime shipbuilding program (1917-1922) had demonstrated to management what to do and what not to do. These two yards had long histories in steel shipbuilding and had managed to survive the depression years of the 1930s, a period when American shipbuilding all but ceased. In addition to these yards, Mare Island Naval Shipyard and Hunters Point Dry Docks provided well-established repair and shipbuilding facilities when the need arose. Navy contracts in the 1930s kept Mare Island capable of producing modern warships.
Industrial expansion and population growth after 1900 had given the Bay Area untapped resources at the outset of World War II. One reason the Bay Area was selected as the site of the Kaiser yards and Marinship was availability of workers. Big shipyards along the northeast seaboard of the United States drew on the dense population of that region for workers. By the time America entered the war, those yards were operating at capacity and local skilled labor was fully employed. The Bay Area also had many miles of relatively undeveloped shoreline that contained several excellent shipyard sites. Smaller existing yards and potential sites existed along the deep-water channel in Stockton, accessible to the worker population of the interior region.
Proximity to the Pacific war made the Bay Area a logical ship production site. Victory in the Pacific depended on ships; all men and material had to reach the war zone by ship. Aircraft at the time had insufficient range to operate from mainland bases and the only way to get air bases nearer to Japan was to take them by force through amphibious landings. San Francisco's Fort Mason was a well-established port of embarkation and Oakland had large (and expandable) army and navy shipping facilities. Fortunately America's rail network in 1941 was intact. Thanks to direct rail links between the Bay Area and industrial centers in the Midwest and East, a steady flow of steel and other material could sustain massive shipbuilding.
These four components--local experienced yards, ready labor supply and building sites, proximity to the Pacific war and established railroads--set the stage for what would become the largest concentrated outpouring of ships in the history of the world. But getting the job done required more than the proper setting. Organization, management and innovation were skills essential to success. In 1940 America had a number of men who epitomized the "can do" spirit prevalent in the early 1900s. In Bay Area shipbuilding, men such as Joseph Moore, Warren Bechtel and Henry Kaiser had that attitude in common, as well as the shared experience of holding things together in the 1930s, during the deepest depression in American history. While Joe Moore was a shipbuilder of long standing, Kaiser and Bechtel were new to maritime construction. But they were builders of big things, up to the task confronting them. Each had a team of experienced and reliable engineers and foremen. Each had the ability to organize and follow through.
At the top of the shipbuilding ladder was the U.S. Maritime Commission, five men appointed by President Roosevelt in 1936 and confirmed by the Senate the following year to direct America's shipbuilding program. The Commission's mandate was clear: "Develop and maintain a merchant marine sufficient to carry a substantial portion of the waterborne export and import foreign commerce of the United States on the best equipped, safest and most suitable type of vessels owned, operated and constructed by citizens of the United States, manned with a trained personnel and capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency."
While the threat of war existed in 1936, no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the Commission's responsibility over the next decade. Yet many shipbuilders and many members of Congress who passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 could vividly recall the previous wartime emergency just 15 years earlier. America had started too late. Over 80 percent of the tonnage authorized in the shipbuilding program was launched after World War I had ended and, thus, had no impact on the conduct or outcome of the war.
America would not make the same mistake again. The Commission adopted a long-range building program of 50 new ships a year for the next 10 years. America's moribund shipyards, including those in the Bay Area, came to life. Rehabilitation and expansion began immediately. In preparing for global war, the need for naval vessels was parallel to the need for merchant ships. Contracts for both types of vessels were awarded to Bay Area shipyards.
After December 7, 1941, the shipbuilding program responded to the shifting strategies and progress of the war. New types of vessels were needed, in particular, convoy escort warships in the early stages of the conflict when allied shipping was most vulnerable to German submarines. As the Allies gained the initiative, landing craft and other assault types became top priority. Managing the shipyards became highly complex. Juggling steel and manpower shortages, procuring needed parts and machinery, and balancing the needs of the Maritime Commission and the Navy provided ample challenge to administrators and planners alike.
Bay Area shipbuilders, from the giant Kaiser yards to the small boatyards around the Bay, found innovative ways to cut costs and save time, improve the product and work in cooperation with myriad Federal agencies. Obstacles to production, such as training inexperienced workers and housing and feeding emigrant workers and families, had to be met and overcome. In addition to delivering ships on schedule, shipyard management had to participate in dealing with labor unions and subcontractors, crime in shipyard boomtowns and racial and gender conflicts. Problems naturally arose, breakdowns and accidents occurred, mistakes were made. When negatives are weighed against positives, however, the result is remarkable. The ultimate measure of success is, of course, that decisive victory was achieved. By war's end, the many thousands of men and women who took part in building ships could feel justifiable pride in their accomplishment.
A map of San Francisco Bay and the rivers and estuaries surrounding it shows the nexus of land and waterways where shipbuilding took place. The varied shoreline of the Bay, one of the finest natural harbors in the world, provided equally varied shipyard sites. The narrow entrance of the Golden Gate not only protected the shipyards from storms and tidal surges, but from unseen enemies whose only course of attack by sea was through the narrow channel. The major wartime shipyards consisted of three types; established yards such as Mare Island and Bethlehem Steel, smaller specialized yards such as those at Stockton, and emergency yards, such as Marinship and Kaiser, built for specific jobs.
The major yards received raw materials by rail and pre-assembled components from Bay Area shops. Small parts, nut and bolts, and a thousand other pieces were supplied by large and small manufacturing facilities all across America. The big yards became assembly points where completed vessels were launched into the Bay. The entire network, with railway arteries and workers as lifeblood, became one giant single-purpose organism, highly adaptable and highly successful.
Any industrial organism so large can not be laid across the landscape without consequential environmental and sociological impacts. At the time, unavoidable physical degradation of the land and shoreline was an acceptable cost. To accommodate new shipyards, hills and rocks were dynamited, channels dredged, wetlands diked and filled. Ironically, it is some of these hastily-formed features that today are the most recognizable physical remnants of the wartime shipbuilding industry. The myriad buildings, warehouses and shops left derelict by the closing of wartime shipyards were dismantled or put to other uses. Today, the few surviving buildings (and a few of the businesses) are part of San Francisco Bay's historic places, such as Kaiser's Richmond Shipyard No. 3 and Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
While all wartime shipyards fell under the control of either the Maritime Commission or the U.S. Navy, they drew their resources and materials from the same pool. Constantly changing situations and needs created an enormously complex distribution system of parts and labor. The various yards competed with one another, but all worked toward a common goal. Keeping priorities for materials straight and avoiding production bottlenecks was largely, due to wartime secrecy, an unsung tale of heroic proportions. Imagine, for example, the challenge presented by hundreds of freight cars daily rolling into the Bay Area from around the Nation loaded with vital parts and material for the around-the-clock shipbuilding program. Railway cars that left Detroit on Monday with parts destined for Kaiser, might have to be diverted on Tuesday to Moore Dry Dock to complete a Naval contract on time. Kaiser, meanwhile, would need to have parts diverted to the Richmond plant from another source so that Kaiser could complete its contracts on time. By the time the railway cars arrived on Wednesday from Detroit, they might have been diverted again to Bethlehem's San Francisco yard. It was a monumental game of musical chairs.
As the war progressed, some Bay Area shipyards evolved into repair and conversion facilities, where existing vessels returning from the Pacific underwent battle-damage repairs, received updated radar or weapons, or were converted from one specialized type of vessel to another. Yards that had begun as clear-cut navy yards or Maritime Commission yards (that is, building exclusively warships or cargo ships) found their assignments more diverse as time passed. Marinship in Sausalito, for example, was built specifically to supply fuel-oil tankers for the Merchant Marine. Because the tankers were still being designed when the yard was ready to begin production, a dozen Liberty ships became the first products of the new yard. When the yard shifted to tanker production, some of the tankers, with modified specifications, were built for the navy. Near the end of the war, Marinship built invasion barges for the army.
Innovation was fundamental to the success of Bay Area shipbuilding during World War II. Shipbuilding prior to the war tended to be bound by long-standing traditions and methods. The transition from wooden ships to iron and then steel was slow. During World War I, steel shipbuilding followed tradition, calling for riveted hulls with each vessel custom built on site, a labor intensive, relatively slow process. In 1917, for example, a typical steel vessel took 12 to 14 months from keel-laying to delivery. At the peak of production in World War II, the work could be accomplished in four to six days.
Much credit for the prodigious output of American shipyards during World War II has been given to the assembly line, the notion that ships were built like automobiles. But the analogy is not accurate. Most large-scale shipbuilding did not employ the assembly line as it relates to automobile manufacture. With cars, the chassis was pulled slowly along the line as parts were attached to the chassis until the finished product rolled off the end of the line. Ship hulls, however, were too big and heavy to drag along an assembly line. Instead a steady stream of component parts--pre-assemblies--were brought to the hull and lifted by large shipyard cranes onto the hull. In some cases small vessels, such as landing craft, were assembled much like automobiles. Each yard employed a variety of time and labor-saving methods, whatever it took to speed up the process without jeopardizing the end product.
Greatly speeding the shipbuilding process was the widespread use of pre-assemblies, such as deck houses and engines. The technique had been used in World War I, but not nearly as extensively. As the war progressed, the pre-assemblies grew larger and more complete, right down to the doorknobs on cabin doors and cooking utensils in the galleys. Installation of the miles of piping and wiring that go into a large vessel was made far easier by the pre-assembly process. While most parts were pre-assembled in the shipyards, some complex assemblies were made miles from the yard and shipped by rail. Anchor-winch assemblies, for example, might come from as far away as New York.
As useful as pre-assembly was in cutting production time, the real key to accelerated shipbuilding, however, was welding. Ships in World War I took longer to build than in World War II primarily because their hulls were riveted rather than welded. Welding had been introduced in American ships prior to 1918, although none had an entirely welded hull. Riveted ships were strong and durable. But riveted hulls had drawbacks. Chief among these was the time needed to align steel plates and drill holes for rivets, and to set and drive home the rivets. To place each rivet (150,000 for a typical hull) took two workers, one on either side of the plates being fastened. But to reach that point required the efforts of at least two other workers. A "driller" had to position each hole in the proper place and drill through the one-inch-thick hull plate. After the plates were aligned on the frames they seldom matched the pre-drilled holes precisely, so a "reamer" had to enlarge the holes to eliminate overlap and allow the rivet to fit. The combined weight of rivets needed to fasten hull and deck plates could add more than 300 tons to a ship's hull and subtract that weight from the vessel's payload. Strong as they were, rivets could pop loose under stress or when hull plates were damaged. Unless the exterior heads of the rivets were flush with the hull, they added drag that could slow the ship at sea.
The advantages of arc welding--low cost compared to riveting, speed of application and strength-- were apparent. One worker could do the work of two. Properly welded joints and seams were as strong or stronger than the surrounding steel. In spite of these advantages, however, welding was slow to supplant riveting. Not until World War II created demand for rapid ship construction did welding replace riveting as the principal means of joining steel. Automatic seam-welding machines and new alloys and welding methods added even greater speed to the process but also revealed some disadvantages. Welded steel plates tended to buckle and warp more than riveted ones. Uneven heating could result in stress fractures. Use of improperly sized electrodes could produce weak joints. Stories of welded ships breaking apart in heavy seas, or of welded joints failing under even mild stress, were partly justified.
A skilled welder can make a good solid seam almost anywhere, horizontal, vertical, overhead, angled. A novice welder, as many of the new shipyard workers were, had neither the skill or experience to match an old hand. Welding seams on flat deck plates with gravity helping the flow was simple enough but overhead welding was much more difficult. One solution was to position seams so that the welder could work in a "down-hand" position, that is, with the electrodes held at waist level or below to avoid fatigue. That often meant bringing the work piece to the worker. Large vertical parts to be welded were turned horizontal. Ceilings and overhead structures were welded inverted then reversed when completed. Scaffolding was built to place the welders in optimum position. Welding became the basic glue of steel shipbuilding, allowing for fabrication of almost any shape in any size. Without high-speed welding, much of the innovative methods applied to World War II shipbuilding would not have been possible.
The shortage of trained workers in the shipyards translated into an even more critical problem; rapid training of new workers. All experienced workers in the Bay Area already were fully employed when America entered the war. Tens of thousands of unskilled men and women were recruited to meet demands of new emergency shipyards. Years of training and experience necessary to make a journeyman shipyard worker could not be condensed into a matter of days or weeks, yet the war would wait for no one. The solution was to break the complex job of building a ship into the smallest possible components, train workers to do that specific task and let them gain experience through repetition. Trade unions objected strenuously to this practice, giving rise to deep conflicts between unions and shipyard management that remained unresolved throughout the war. Large and small classrooms sprang up in Bay Area shipyards where welding and other crafts were taught. Galling as this situation was to professional shipbuilders, there was no suitable alternative.
A sidelight to the transition from rivets to welds in shipbuilding was "Rosie the Riveter," a public relations creation that has, over the years, become synonymous with the home front effort during World War II. Rosie illustrated how women pitched in willingly to the war effort, and proved their competency at doing a "man's" job. Rosie, however, as illustrated by Norman Rockwell and others, was an aircraft riveter, not a ship riveter. Women workers in aircraft production plants handled all phases of fabrication and assembly, but it was the image of a woman punching small alloy rivets into aluminum aircraft skin that caught the public fancy. In addition to the thousands of women welders in the shipbuilding program, thousands of other women workers participated in almost every facet of shipbuilding. Shipyards invented a parallel to Rosie the Riveter called Wendy the Welder, but she never received the icon status of Rosie. Nonetheless, the essential contribution by women welders during World War II has been recognized.
Prior to the war, Henry J. Kaiser was known in construction circles as a tough, competitive highway contractor and builder of massive dams. Most notably, Kaiser was a prime force in the Grand Coulee, Bonneville and Hoover Dams. He sensed opportunity when, in 1936, the Maritime Commission was formed. With existing shipyards fully occupied with the revitalized merchant marine, new yards were needed. Kaiser, inexperienced in shipbuilding, knew how to build industrial plants. He teamed with Todd Shipyards, one of the Nation's largest, to secure a contract for five C1 freighters. In 1940, the new company received a contract from the British for 60 emergency cargo vessels, forerunners of the Liberty ships. Thirty were to be built on the east coast by Kaiser in partnership with Bath Iron Works in Maine. The other 30 would be built in a new yard in Richmond, already scouted by Kaiser himself.
The City of Richmond before World War II was a small industrial center built around a Ford assembly plant, a Standard Oil refinery, a Pullman railway car shop and a number of other smaller manufacturers. Richmond was selected as the site of a new shipyard by Henry Kaiser and the Maritime Commission because of its available waterfront, nearby industrial capacity and sufficient nearby population from which to draw a work force. As a consequence, Richmond suffered in a microcosm all the trials and tribulations of wartime America and was transformed forever by the experience.
As the Kaiser construction crews began cutting and filling for the marine launching ways in Richmond, the rapidly changing war in Europe triggered rapidly shifting national defense priorities. Just two days after the first keel was laid in April 1941, the Maritime Commission directed Kaiser to build a second shipyard in Richmond for Liberty ships for America, and have it operational by September. Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, changed priorities again; on January 9, 1942, the Maritime Commission and Kaiser began a third shipyard at Richmond to build big troop transports. By this time yards one and two were building the British freighters and Liberty ships, although none had yet been launched. By May 14, 1942, the first keel was laid at yard three. In June 1942, Kaiser got a call to build yet another shipyard, this one for invasion ships, called yard 3-A (later yard 4). This yard was unique among Bay Area shipyards in that it came closest to an auto-type assembly line for big ships. The type of ships to be built there, initially cloaked in secrecy, were LST's. Hundreds of these "Landing Ship Tank" vessels were needed as the mainstay of invasion fleets. Several eastern yards besides Kaiser in Richmond and the Kaiser yard in Vancouver, Washington, were contracted for their construction. In all, 982 were completed including 15 by Kaiser-Richmond, and 30 by Kaiser-Vancouver. More than 100 were completed as or converted to repair ships, casualty evacuation ships, boat tenders and service craft. When the LST contract was completed, Kaiser #4 switched to frigate escort vessels based on the Canadian Corvette. After building 12 of these, the yard turned to another type of coastal supply cargo ship. By war's end, Kaiser #4 had launched 51 ships including 24 coastal cargo carriers.
This essay is excerpted from Build Ships! San Francisco Bay Wartime Shipbuilding Photographs, by Wayne Bonnett, published by and available through Windgate Press, Sausalito, California.
As growing numbers of men left for military service in the Second World War, government, industry and civic organizations used patriotism, guilt and the prospect of new opportunities and skills to recruit women to the domestic war effort. Woman power was the critical weapon in FDR's "Arsenal of Democracy," which was designed to overwhelm the enemy through superior industrial output. Approximately 12 million women worked in defense industries and support services across the Nation, including shipyards, steel mills, foundries, warehouses, offices, hospitals and daycare centers. Throughout the war, women from all backgrounds, and from all over the country, worked at jobs such as welding, riveting and operating cranes while maintaining their traditional duties as mothers and homemakers.
No region demonstrated these social changes more than the West Coast and the Bay Area, where women's contributions to the war efforts were crucial. The war's enormous social, cultural and economic impacts on women were most visible in the Western United States, which boasted the highest percentage of female industrial workers in the country. Women outnumbered men in the flood of migrants from the South and West who sought Bay Area defense jobs. This was because of economic opportunities associated with defense work, but also the number of women who relocated to be near men in the region's numerous military facilities.
The Bay Area's numerous shipyards hired the greatest number of women defense workers; towards the end of the war, 27 percent of Richmond's shipyard workforce was women, and 20 percent of the Moore shipyard in Oakland. Yet like most industries, Bay Area shipyards were reluctant to hire women until labor shortages required it. Women put pressure on defense plants for these well-paying jobs, including a demonstration in front of the Boilermakers' union headquarters in San Francisco. While doors ultimately opened wide to women in many defense factories, not all were recruited as eagerly. African Americans were usually stuck in lower-wage work once they landed a shipyard job, and were more likely to find employment in canneries, railroads and military supply facilities, which paid half of shipyard wages. Still the war moved many black women out of domestic service--as one woman put it "Hitler was the one that got us out of the kitchen."
Most women, regardless of ethnicity or race, also labored under the "double burden" of responsibilities on the job and at home, made all the more difficult by wartime shortages of goods, transportation, childcare and housing. Women defense workers in the Bay Area were more often married than single, and the largest shipyards estimated that up to half of their female workforce had children at home. Most defense plants ran around the clock, and many women worked a six-day week, leaving little time to manage the myriad duties of home and family in their meager "off" hours. For the thousands of women who migrated to the Pacific Coast states, securing adequate housing in West Coast boomtowns was a particularly difficult aspect of an already taxing new life. While much of a woman's overburdened daily life went unremarked, aspects of her duties were rephrased as weapons of the war effort. A woman's patriotic role came to encompass much of her waking activity, from the victory garden she tended, to the meals she planned to keep her family fit. Rationing of foods and necessary household goods made daily housework more arduous, while shopping for meals and clothing took on the air of a strategic campaign as women swapped ration coupons and carefully timed their purchases.
Although "Rosie the Riveter," outfitted in overalls and wielding industrial tools in a defense plant, was the most popular icon of the feminine home front, women's contributions toward allied victory were defined far more broadly than welding ships or riveting bombers. Women drove cabs and delivered mail, they refurbished railroad cars to carry troops and charted the positions of enemy aircraft. Bay Area women also volunteered to support the war effort through a variety of activities and organizations. They worked on war bond drives and "manned" civil defense programs. They promoted community health programs through the Red Cross and entertained troops at Canteens in public buildings that were rededicated to the war effort, such as San Francisco’s Ferry Building and the Native Son’s Hall. Hollywood stars like Lena Horne sang for Richmond shipyard workers and the Andrews Sisters entertained soldiers recovering at Oak Knoll Hospital. Female staff at the Berkeley Public Library collected and mailed 11,000 books to servicemen as part of the 1941 national "Victory Book Campaign."
Existing women’s organizations like the YWCA regrouped their efforts in support of home front mobilization; Oakland’s downtown “Y” converted part if its handsome facility into dormitories for service women passing through town, and offered an array of programs including dances for servicemen, forums on "Women in War Production," and Red Cross first aid classes. Newly-formed organizations such as American Women's Voluntary Service enlisted members to drive ambulances, organize mobile kitchens, administer first aid, watch fires and sell war bonds. While work in defense factories was granted higher patriotic status, women's role in boosting morale and organizing communities to cope with wartime problems was deemed critical as well.
Forces in wartime drew people together and pushed them apart. Enormous emphasis was put on preserving and strengthening family bonds as a refuge from and bolster to the strains of wartime. Yet, at the same time, the war disrupted traditional roles within many families. Job opportunities and economic advances for women put intense strain on many Bay Area marriages. Wives and children left behind by servicemen who embarked from the Bay Area for the battlefront formed new household patterns, often incorporating grandparents or friends in similar circumstances. Women and teenage girls lived with far less scrutiny of their behavior during the war, and anxiety about female sexuality became a public concern. Females who flouted conventional morals were called "Victory Girls" or "khacky-whackies" if they were thought to be on intimate terms with enlisted men out of misguided patriotism.
Mothers and children were frequently used as symbols of what the war was being fought to protect, yet they bore the brunt of social upheaval on the home front. Bay Area schoolchildren were enthusiastically enlisted into wartime activities, such as collecting scrap and buying Victory Stamps, but they were also identified as particularly vulnerable victims of wartime social changes. Outcry over "eight-hour orphans" accompanied the remarkable development of Federal-local partnerships to provide daycare for the first time to large numbers of working women. Communities and businesses, like Richmond's Kaiser Shipyards, took advantage of Federal Lanham Act funding to develop groundbreaking childcare programs.
Although popular accounts stress the common bonds holding together those who fought the "good war," the home front was also a place of struggle and conflict. Women faced and fought discriminatory barriers, such as exclusion from workplace unions, even as new opportunities were presented to them. Women of color were met with added discrimination and the incongruity of supporting a war "in defense of freedom" when their own civic freedoms were circumscribed on a daily basis. Japanese American women shared with their husbands, fathers and brothers the wrenching experience of economic loss and of being uprooted from Bay Area communities against their will when forced into relocation camps; yet they shared with other home front women the responsibility of sustaining a nourishing family life under adverse circumstances (for more information see our Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan on The War Relocation Centers of World War II). Sympathetic women in Berkeley and San Francisco founded efforts to support those interned and bring the conditions in which they lived to public attention. Their work was labeled "unpatriotic" by some, as were women activists in Bay Area pacifist organizations.
As the war wound down, public policy and rhetoric reversed support for women's participation in the labor force. Women, especially women of color, were the first let go by defense plants as government contracts shut down. Arguments against female employment reached a deafening pitch as government, labor unions and businesses worked to grant returning vets priority status and to return gender and familial roles to their prewar "norm." Yet, while many women welcomed the renewed emphasis on their central role in the family, others were not so eager to reclaim domestic responsibilities and prewar conditions. A survey by the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau found that 70 percent of Bay Area women wanted to keep their jobs when peace prevailed, and although one-fifth of working women were their family breadwinners, most found themselves unemployed. The greater independence and opportunities women found during wartime, and increased civil rights envisioned by people of color, meant that the social landscape of the West would never be the same. Women, both migrant and native to the Pacific Coast, did not just "live through" this transformative period, but helped to shape the events and the dramatic changes that left an indelible imprint on the West Coast.
Essay by Donna Graves. Graves is an historian and cultural planner based in Berkeley. She served as Project Director for the Rosie the Riveter Memorial.
When war broke out in the Pacific, the San Francisco Bay Area quickly assumed a prominent role in America's "Arsenal of Democracy." Older coastal batteries, airfields and military posts were supplemented by a network of hastily constructed barracks, warehouses and staging facilities stretching from Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg to Fort Cronkhite in Marin County. New shipyards were built in Richmond and Sausalito and existing yards were expanded in San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda. Bay Area cities were unprepared for the massive influx of laborers needed to run factories and shipyards. The rapid migration of workers severely taxed housing, education and other services. And because they were scattered around the bay, getting workers to and from shipyards tremendously strained transportation systems, with Richmond, Vallejo and Alameda among the hardest hit.
The mammoth mobilization and production effort caused profound social changes and land use impacts that still affect us today. The Bay Area is rich in historic districts, sites, buildings and structures that chronicle the region's transformation, ranging from dry docks, cranes and shipbuilding facilities, to coast defense batteries and ports of embarkation. Although many of these historic places have been lost over time, remnants of the region's "military-industrial machine" have been successfully adapted to serve contemporary civilian needs. With the conversion of coastal batteries to picnic areas, shipyards to subdivisions, blimp hangars to movie sets and officers' quarters to wedding venues, the Bay Area's once-mighty "Arsenal" has been pacified through preservation.
QUONSET HUTS TO CUL-DE-SACS
Multi-billion dollar projects are underway at former military installations throughout the Bay Area, including Hamilton Field, Alameda Naval Air Station and Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Other projects in the pipeline include Treasure Island, hailed as "San Francisco's next neighborhood," 2 and Hunters Point Shipyard, promising to deliver "jobs, homes and opportunity."3 More accustomed to plotting subdivisions on undeveloped land than building in dense urban settings, base reuse developers are sometimes reluctant to invest the time and money needed to come up with creative solutions for reusing "obsolete" infrastructure. All too often, historic places are sacrificed in the name of expediency.
Among local government officials and base reuse developers, historic places are alternatively viewed as a marketing tool and a key to revitalization or a deterrent to economic reuse. Bus placards advertising Bayport Alameda, "a new community that celebrates the heritage of Alameda," lure prospective buyers with a vintage photo of a Pan Am Clipper and the tagline: "Alameda was once home port for the China Clipper flights. Come see what has just landed."4 The website for Lennar Mare Island states that "preservation of Mare Island's historic resources [is] an integral part of the reuse plan,"5 although long-term plans call for substantial demolition in the island's historic district.6 Citing the need to eliminate "visual blight," all 22 buildings in the Oakland Army Base Historic District will be bulldozed for construction of a suburban-style office park.7
Hamilton Army Air Field (Novato)
Deactivated in 1974, Hamilton Field was among the first successful transfers of a military base to the private sector for redevelopment in the recent wave of closures. The project's mix of homes, office space, retail and recreational amenities is intended to create a "small-town feel" where residents can "live, work, play and belong."9 Much of the old Spanish Mission Revival architecture has been preserved, including housing, barracks and hangars, as well as the base hospital, firehouse and theater. Cavernous hangars have been converted into a half-million square feet of office space; three former barracks recently reopened as the Villas at Hamilton, a "vibrant community for independent seniors"; the old headquarters building is now the Novato Arts Center; and the firehouse is slated to become the Hamilton Field History Museum.10
ARSENAL TO ART SPACE
Fort Barry/Headlands Center for the Arts (Marin Headlands)
After sitting vacant for 15 years, HCA initiated an innovative renovation program whereby Barracks Building 944 was upgraded--one room at a time--by granting commissions to artists. "The Latrine Project," by Bruce Tomb and John Randolph, remodeled a decrepit military bathroom to meet the Center's contemporary needs, hanging plumbing from the ceiling to "provoke awareness of water systems and how they function."14 For "The Mess Hall Project," artist Ann Hamilton "magically transformed the formerly dim, damp, low-ceilinged dining room and cluttered kitchen into the Center's main gathering place, where sumptuous meals are shared, culture gaps are bridged, collaborations are inspired and creative revelations arise."15 This model has been replicated by HCA at other Fort Barry buildings, including the 1907 Army storage depot, which was innovatively restored by architect Mark Cavagnero and artist Leonard Hunter in 1999. All of these projects were completed under the watchful eye of the National Park Service, which ensured their compliance with the Secretary of the Interior's rehabilitation standards.
POST TO PARK
The Presidio (San Francisco)
One of the largest and most innovative preservation projects in the Nation, the Presidio boasts several award-winning rehabilitation and adaptive reuse projects. Old Letterman Hospital (constructed in 1924, expanded in 1933), the busiest army hospital in the country during World War II, has been reborn as the Thoreau Center for Sustainability, converting the original hospital wards into energy-efficient office space for non-profit tenants. The Mission-style Building 39 (1938), formerly the Sixth Army Headquarters, has been rehabilitated by the San Francisco Film Centre to provide state-of-the-art screening facilities, office space, conference rooms, an exhibit hall and a cafe for tenants in the film industry. The renovation and expansion of the Presidio Fire Station (1918)--adding a new truck bay, kitchen and dining facilities and lounge space--was honored by the California Preservation Foundation in 2000 for "combining a historically sensitive design approach with modern technological and spatial requirements."16 Future projects include the proposed conversion of the Public Health Service Hospital (1932) into a 350-unit apartment complex, which will be the park's largest historic preservation project to date.
Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park
As a "partnership park" with no land or buildings actually owned by the National Park Service, the success of Rosie the Riveter is dependent on collaboration with other government agencies and private property owners. Most of the historic properties within park boundaries, including the former Richmond Shipyard Number Three and the Ford Assembly Building, are owned and maintained by the City of Richmond. With funding from the California Coastal Conservancy and the Association of Bay Area Government's Bay Trail Project, the Richmond Redevelopment Agency recently commissioned the design and fabrication of interpretive signage for a 3.4-mile section of the Bay Trail passing through the Park. Due for completion in 2004, sites linked by the signage program will include the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the Ford Assembly Building and "perhaps the Park's largest historic resource--the coastline itself, which was reconfigured as the basin for Shipyard No. 2."17
Essay by Michael Buhler, Regional Attorney/Program Officer Western Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation
1. "Home Builders Face Big Roadblocks with Re-Use Projects on Ex-Military Bases," HBA News (Home Builders Association of Northern California), January/February 2002, p. 14.
2. Chuck Finnie, "Treasure Island project expected to go to mayor's cronies," San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 2003.
3. Lennar/BVHP, LLP (www.hunterspointshipyard.com).
4. Warmington Homes California (www.Bayport-Alameda.com).
5. Lennar Mare Island (www.lennarmareisland.com).
6. In its 2002 report to Congress, the National Park Service warned that "plans to demolish or relocate historic buildings," together with the proposed 8.5 million square feet of non-residential new construction, "could seriously diminish the historic character of individual areas of the Landmark and of the entire island."
7. Draft Environmental Impact Report for Oakland Army Base Redevelopment Plan, Port of Oakland, April 2002, p.1-18.
8. "Shea Homes Opens Sunny Cove and Newport Communities at Novato's Hamilton Field," July 14, 2000 (www.sheahomes.com).
9. Maura Thurman, "Developers hope community atmosphere attracts buyers," Marin Independent Journal, January 24, 1999.
10. New Hamilton Partnership/Woodley, Wright & Lynn (www.tjwright.com).
11. The Point (www.thepointart.com).
12. "San Francisco: Art for the City, A City for the Arts," Newsom for Mayor Policy Brief (2004).
13. Headlands Center for the Arts (www.headlands.org).
16. Michael Buhler, Award-Winning Design Solutions (California Preservation Foundation, 2001), p.80.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the largest urban national parks in the world set in the midst of the Nation's most popular destinations for local, national and international tourists. The total park area is 75,398 acres of land and water--nearly two and one-half times the size of San Francisco. Approximately 28 miles of coastline lie within its boundaries, including rugged cliffs, spectacular beaches and the world famous Golden Gate.
The mission of Golden Gate National Recreation Area is to preserve and enhance the natural environment and cultural resources of the coastal lands north and south of the Golden Gate for the inspiration, education and recreation of people today, and for future generations. In the spirit of bringing National Parks to the people, this National Park reaches out to the diverse urban community of the San Francisco Bay Area, bringing the richness and breadth of the National Park experience to all including those who may never have the opportunity to visit other National Parks. It works to protect the integrity of our park's fragile resources in the challenging context of an urban setting. And, it is committed to forging partnerships with the community to strengthen the park's relevance to metropolitan neighbors and to engage the public in stewardship of the park's history and ecology.
It is one of the Nation's most highly visited national parks, and consists of numerous individual sites in the California counties of Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo linked together with the common intent of protecting nationally significant natural, scenic, historic and recreational resources and providing much needed open space in the increasingly densely populated Bay Area. Such renowned destinations as Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Monument, the Marin Headlands, Fort Point National Historic Site, the Presidio of San Francisco, as well as Fort Mason, the historic Nike Missile Site and the Cliff House at Lands End are parts of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and each has its own unique natural, cultural and military history.
Much of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is within walking distance from San Francisco, with other areas up to an hour's drive away. Access to the recreation area is possible daily and year-round. Visitor information is available at Fort Mason, the Cliff House, Fort Point, Rodeo Beach, Muir Woods, Fort Funston and the Presidio. Hours for individual facilities vary, but the most common hours of operation are 10:00a.m. to 5:00pm. All visitor centers are open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For further information, visit the park's website.
Forts Baker, Barry and Cronkhite are excellent examples of early coastal defense structures, comprising 2,279 acres of uplands and tidelands along the north side of San Francisco Bay extending west from the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Pacific Ocean. This land, strategically located in Marin County, commands early observation of the Bay entrance. The fortifications proposed for construction on this land were to augment those at the Presidio of San Francisco, in order to prevent successful passage of hostile ships through the Golden Gate into the San Francisco Bay. During the period between the two world wars (1918-1941) the fortifications at Forts Baker, Barry and Cronkhite were continually modified to keep abreast of the increased range and firepower of naval ships. During World War II (1941-1945) these fortifications were modernized with anti-aircraft defense systems and defense against motor torpedo boats. From World War II until the present, batteries of ground to air missiles were provided on these three forts to defend the San Francisco Bay Area against hostile aircraft.
During World War II, Fort Baker was designated Mine Command Headquarters, responsible for laying protective minefields across the Golden Gate (by 1945, its waters were laced with 481 submerged mines). The small, makeshift Boat Repair Shop struggled to maintain the vast mine flotilla at the outset of the war, necessitating a major expansion that added a new, sizeable Marine Repair Shop and 100-ton launchway in 1943. Several WWII-era buildings remain, including the Cable Tank Building (1940), the Mine Storehouse (1940) and the Marine Repair Shop. Just beyond the marina lies Battery Yates (1903), its six rapid-fire guns once poised to defend against enemy vessels entering the Golden Gate.
Today, the Travis Sailing Center occupies several historic WWII waterfront
buildings, where they conduct sailing lessons, operate a marina and
undertake small boat repair using the lone surviving boatway in Fort
Baker. The Bay Area Discovery Museum for Children also occupies several
of Fort Baker's historic buildings, with plans to convert the remaining
structures into a retreat and conference center, scheduled to open in
Fort Barry's first battery, Battery Mendell (1901), featured two 12-inch breech-loading rifles (manufactured at San Francisco's Bethlehem Steel) capable of firing an 1,100-pound projectile over eight miles. Batteries Samuel Rathbone and James McIndoe (1904-1945) defended the minefields outside the Golden Gate during World War II. Owing to its panoramic views of the bay, Fort Barry also served as a mine groupment command post during the war, ensconced in concrete stations along Bonita Ridge dating from the 1900s. Within Fort Barry's scenic Marin Headlands location is a 1921 balloon hangar (now used as horse stables), a WWII garrison and a 1941 chapel serving as to the National Park Service's Marin Headlands Visitor Center. Many empty gun emplacements are accessible to the public and provide spectacular views of the rugged shoreline. The non-profit Headlands Center for the Arts occupies several rehabilitated Army buildings--including Building 944 and Building 960 (both 1907)--which are occasionally open to the public for special exhibitions and performances. The Golden Gate Hostel provides spartan accommodations in a former hospital ward and general's quarters overlooking the parade grounds. However, Fort Barry's most visited attraction is the SF-88 Nike Missile Museum--the Nation's only officially restored Nike Missile site. A dedicated group of Nike veterans and volunteers have restored the anti-aircraft installation to near pristine condition.
Fort Cronkhite's trademark beachside barracks were completed in 1941, typical of thousands of wartime barracks once found from coast to coast. A year earlier, Battery Townsley (1940-1948) had become the first 16-inch gun ever fired in the continental United States, its two massive rifles capable of hurling a 2,100-pound shell 27 miles out to sea. Battery Townsley was complemented by three smaller anti-aircraft guns dotting Wolf Ridge. At wartime, soldiers manning coastal batteries needed to be battle-ready with 15 minutes notice. As a result, those working the guns at Fort Cronkhite practically lived within Battery Townsley's cement walls, rarely straying beyond the fort's barracks and mess hall. In January 1944, as the threat of a Japanese attack subsided, Fort Cronkhite became the first commando combat school in the Western Defense Command.
Today, Fort Cronkhite is largely unchanged from its days as a combat school, with the notable exception of the curriculum: its historic barracks are now occupied by the Headlands Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. Barracks #1059 (1940) has been restored to its original appearance, with period furnishings that reflect its use during World War II, the Korean War, and the 1960s.
Forts Baker, Barry and Cronkhite, partially administered by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, are located on the north side of San Francisco Bay extending west from the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Pacific Ocean, in Marin County. All three forts are within walking distance of the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, accessible from the Alexander Ave. exit of Hwy. 101 north. Follow signs for the visitor center--turn left onto Bunker Rd., proceed two miles to Field Rd. The visitor center is open daily 10:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Please call 415-561-4700 or visit the park's website for further information.
The Presidio of San Francisco was the oldest Army installation operating in the American West and one of the longest-garrisoned posts in the country. Three flags have flown over this former military post on the strategic Golden Gate. Established by Spain in 1776, the Presidio of San Francisco became a Mexican outpost in 1822. In 1847, during the Mexican War, the New York Volunteers occupied the Presidio's adobes inaugurating 147 years of growth as a major U.S. Army post. Now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio has 1,491 acres, vast Army-planted forests, miles of beaches and bluffs, hiking and biking trails and 768 historic buildings and structures including massive coastal batteries. It is one of the largest and most innovative preservation projects in the Nation.
During World War II the Presidio became the nerve center for Army operations in defense of the Western United States, including, for a time, Alaska. General John L. Dewitt led the IX Corps and Fourth Army from his headquarters at the Main Post. The Harbor Defense Command, which was under the General's authority, was located at the old Battery Dynamite. Through the early 1940s, a new mine casement and various emplacements and support buildings (now mostly demolished) were provided to protect the Bay Area. Elsewhere on the reservation, the substantial and impressive building programs that continued to distinguish Presidio architecture through the year 1940 shifted radically in 1941 to hastily planned projects of light wood construction in response to the new World War. Today, many of these World War II "temporary" buildings at the Presidio, as well as other bases, have been demolished; the Post's best examples of such buildings and groups of buildings remain in the areas of the Main Post, Fort Winfield Scott and Crissy Field. By 1942, construction of a permanent nature resumed and several prominent buildings were added to the Post during that period, including the Red Cross building, a radio transmitting station for the coastal defenses, two large and impressive identical houses built as officers' family quarters and an indoor pool and gymnasium.
Enter the Presidio at the Lombard Street gate and bear right on Presidio
Boulevard to Lincoln Boulevard. The two-story complex with the red tile
roofs is Letterman Hospital, one of the Army's busiest medical centers
during World War II--at the height of the conflict, it registered a
peak load of 72,000 patients in one year. After the Presidio became
a national park in 1994, this complex was reborn as the Thoreau Center
for Sustainability with offices for non-profit organizations.
Off Lincoln Boulevard, across from the fire station, is the narrow end of Building 35 (1912). Under the authority of Executive Order 9066, General John L. DeWitt issued a series of military proclamations from his offices at Building 35, headquarters of the Western Defense Command. The proclamations first established restricted military zones on the West Coast within which "all enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry" were subject to military regulation. By late March 1942, DeWitt began issuing Civilian Exclusion Orders expelling "all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens" from the West Coast military zones. Building 35 will house the Bay School of San Francisco, an independent high school with an emphasis on science and technology, ethics and world religions, and will include interpretive exhibits on the building's historic role. One month prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Fourth Army Military Intelligence Service Language School was established in Building 640, a converted hangar along Crissy Field, where Japanese American soldiers were trained in translation, battlefield interrogation skills, decoding documents, and interpreting commands. Located just a short distance from General DeWitt's command post at Building 35, many of the school's graduates were serving the Army in the Pacific Theater while their families were excluded from the West Coast.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, anti-submarine net was stretched across the Golden Gate and heavy artillery guarded the coast. The Fourth Army drilled on the parade grounds. The 7th Infantry Division that recaptured Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians trained at the Presidio. One block west, turn left onto Graham Street. At Graham and Moraga is the historic Officers' Club, the temporary location of the Visitor Center where you can get a map or catch the free PresidiGo shuttle. Two 1941 bachelor officer quarters stand across Moraga Street. West of the stately red brick Montgomery Street barracks (1895-97) is the Golden Gate Club, built in 1949 and financed by soldiers as a memorial to their comrades who gave their lives in World War II. Nearby is the serene San Francisco National Cemetery; a register here locates individual graves.
Continue along Lincoln Boulevard to the coastal bluffs overlook with its panorama of the Art Deco Golden Gate Bridge (1937). Ahead, up a slope to the left, is the West Coast Memorial to the Missing with a statue of Columbia and a list of those lost or buried at sea in the Pacific Theater. South on Lincoln are Baker Beach and Battery Chamberlin (1904-1948). A small museum here includes a demonstration of a 6-inch "disappearing" gun.
On the bay side of the Presidio is former Army Air Corps' Crissy Field with a restored grass landing field. Across Mason Street is Building 640, a small 1928 hanger that was the home of the Military Intelligence Service Language School in 1941. Here Japanese American soldiers studied military Japanese to serve as interpreters and intelligence personnel in the Pacific Theater. The National Japanese American Historical Society will renovate it as an interpretive center (expected to open in 2006). The Presidio Trust, a Federal government corporation, is charged with rehabilitating and making the Presidio self-supporting by 2013. Today, the housing is available for leasing by the public and former Army offices are leased to 175 non-profit and for-profit organizations.
The Presidio of San Francsico, a National Historic Landmark, is part of the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is roughly bounded by Lyon St., West Pacific Ave., Lake St., the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Directions, transit and PresidioGo shuttle information can be found online. Many ranger and docent-led guided tours depart from the Visitor Center, open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily. Call 415-561-4323 or visit the park's website for further information. The Crissy Field Center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Wednesday-Sunday; call 415-561-7690 for more information. You can also contact the Presidio Trust at 415-561-5300.
Battery Chamberlin is named in honor of Captain Lowell A. Chamberlin, First Artillery, who served with distinction in the Civil War and continued as an artillery officer until his death at the Presidio in 1889. This Endicott-era battery was completed and armed in 1904 with four six-inch guns mounted on disappearing carriages. The battery was built to protect underwater minefields laid outside the Golden Gate during the time of war. These guns had a range of nine miles and could fire at the rate of two rounds per minute. The original guns were dismounted in 1917 for use in World War I, but the battery was modified to receive two six-inch guns on simple barbette carriages in 1920. During World War II, the Sixth Coast Artillery (Harbor Defense) Regiment, Battery "D," manned the two guns at Battery Chamberlin, which were placed under camouflage netting to hide them from potential air attack. In 1948, the Coast Artillery Corps was deactivated, the battery disarmed and the guns scrapped during "Operation Blowtorch."
In 1977, the National Park Service received the Six-Inch Rifle Gun Number Nine and disappearing carriage, listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places, from the Smithsonian Institution. The gun and carriage were installed at gun emplacement Number Four at Battery Chamberlin, and are the same type as initially used here before World War I. An underground cartridge room also is open for inspection and contains photos and small exhibits on the coastal defenses of San Francisco.
Battery Chamberlin, part of the Presidio of San Francisco and a National Historic Landmark, is administered by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is located at the north end of Baker Beach along the western shoreline facing San Francisco Bay in San Francisco. Demonstrations of the 50-ton rifle are conducted on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Please call 415-561-4323 or visit the park's website for further information.
The Fort Miley Military Reservation on Point Lobos, one of the outer headlands on the southern side of the Golden Gate, was acquired by the U.S. Army in 1893 and used as part of the seacoast defense of San Francisco Harbor during the early phases of America's involvement in World War II. As part of the overall project for the defense of San Francisco Bay, the construction of fortifications at Fort Miley began in 1899. Work began on November 27, 1899, on a battery for 16 12-inch mortars. The reservation was renamed Fort Miley in 1900 after Lieutenant Colonel John D. Miley, U.S. Volunteers, who had died in Manila, Philippine Islands, the year prior. Toward the west end of the reservation, Battery Chester, two (and later three) 12-inch rifled guns, were completed from 1902 to 1903. These weapons covered all three of the channels of approach to the Golden Gate--south, main and north.
By 1937, the army had decided that 12-inch batteries such as Chester should be abandoned when the harbor defenses could again be modernized with a new generation of defenses. However, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the Second World War before the new modernization project was completed and Battery Chester's guns continued to play an important role in coastal defense until 1943. The Allied victories in the Pacific that year reduced the danger of an enemy attack on San Francisco to such an extent that the army ordered Battery Chester's guns be salvaged. Battery 243 (Construction Number) at Fort Miley was completed in 1944, designed for two 6-inch rapid-fire guns protected by steel shields rather than the traditional concrete-and-earth parapets. This type of coastal gun was considered to be of value at that late date in the war because of its function to cover the submarine minefields outside the Golden Gate, making mine-sweeping by the enemy difficult if not impossible. Indeed, its guns were not mounted until 1948, after most other types of coastal guns had been scrapped. This battery is historically significant because it represents one of the last phases of the traditional concept of coastal defense.
Overlooking Land's End, most of the original Army buildings were demolished in 1934 to allow construction of the Fort Miley Veterans Administration Hospital. The sole surviving army building, an ordnance storehouse, is now a maintenance building for the National Park Service. The remains of several pre-World War I batteries edge the perimeter of the hospital. West Fort Miley offers visitors a grassy picnic area situated among three gun emplacements, including Battery Chester (1903-1943), which offers a spectacular view down Ocean Beach. At Point Lobos, two original shell-damaged sections of the USS San Francisco flank a granite monument commemorating those who perished at Guadalcanal on November 12-13, 1942.
Fort Miley Military Reservation, partially administered by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is located on Point Lobos bordered by Clement St. and Lincoln Park between 40th to 48th aves. in San Francisco. The picnic area at West Fort Miley is open during daylight hours and is accessible from the West Fort Miley entrance off of El Camino Del Mar and 48th Ave., or from the Rte. 38 bus line. For further information, visit the park's website or call 415-561-4700. More information about the history of Fort Miley can also be found at the California State Military Museum.
With three tiers of vaulted brick casemates housing cannons, a barbette tier with additional guns and a sod roof to absorb the impact of enemy cannon fire, Fort Point is the antiquated architectural masterpiece of coastal fortifications in the Bay Area. Fort Point was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1853 and 1861 to prevent entrance of a hostile fleet into San Francisco Bay.
The fort was designed to mount 126 massive cannon. Rushed to completion at the beginning of the Civil War, Fort Point was first garrisoned in February of 1861 by Company I, 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. The fort was occupied throughout the Civil War, but the advent of faster, more powerful rifled cannon made brick forts such as Fort Point obsolete. In 1886 the troops were withdrawn, and the last cannon were removed about 1900. The fort was then used for storage and training purposes for many years.
Although the sod roof eroded over time, Fort Point remained in service during World War II until 1943. More than 100 soldiers of the 6th U.S. Coast Artillery Regiment were stationed at searchlights and rapid-fire cannons mounted at the fort. The soldiers stood guard over the Golden Gate and the 7,000-ton, seven-mile metal submarine net (manufactured at the Tiburon Net Depot) stretching from Sausalito to San Francisco.
Fort Point is the only third system brick fort on the west coast of the United States. It was designated by Congress as a National Historic Site on October 16th, 1970. Directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and flanked by the Presidio's Crissy Field and a rocky coastline, visitors can easily make an afternoon of exploring Fort Point and the surrounding area.
Fort Point National Historic Site, part of the Presidio of San Francisco, is administered by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is located at Long Ave. and Marine Dr., accessible from Lincoln Blvd. The Fort Point Museum is open 10:00am to 5:00pm daily. For further information, visit Fort Point's website or call 415-556-1693. Fort Point has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Alcatraz is an island in the San Francisco Bay, approximately one third of a mile long, 525 feet across at the widest, comprising 22.5 acres and has been the site of events that had an important impact on the Nation from before the Civil War through an American Indian occupation lasting from November 20, 1969 until June 11, 1971. Alcatraz Island may have been used by the native Ohlone Indian population as a way station for their canoe trips across the waters. The first European exploration of the site was by Juan Manuel de Ayala's expedition which sailed the Spanish frigate San Carlos into the San Francisco Bay in 1775. Making cartographic observations by small boat, his Lieutenant, Canizares, described an island "so arid and steep there was not even a boat harbor there: I named the island de los Alcatrazes because of their being so plentiful there." Alcatrazes is archaic Spanish for cormorant, a seabird noted for its long neck, wedge shaped tail and a hooked bill. By 1826 the name Alcatraz was applied to the island--it was also applied to the island that later became Yerba Buena. Alcatraz is today most remembered for the Federal prison that stood there from 1934-1963, and is today one of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's most popular attractions.
At the end of the Mexican California era, an exception was made by the Mexican authorities to the usual rule of government control of coastal islands, and title to the island was granted to one Julian Workman, a naturalized Mexican, on condition that he establish a navigation light there. Upon assumption of control by the United States, John Charles Fremont purchased the still vacant island for the U.S. government in his "official capacity of governor of California." In 1850, Alcatraz was set aside specifically for military purposes by order of President Millard Fillmore, based on the United States' assumption of Mexican government property. The need for Fremont to have purchased the island was therefore disavowed, and the matter became a series of legal actions by Fremont and his heirs until the 1890s. The initial survey of Alcatraz was one of the first conducted in the Tenth Military District, while still under the command of Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny. The map that resulted from this 1847 survey became the basis for the establishment of fortifications on the island over the next 20 years.
In 1848, gold was discovered in the Sierra foothills, and by 1849 the small Spanish-founded city of San Francisco was in the midst of one of the greatest mass migrations the Nation had known. Alcatraz increased in strategic importance and was included in Congress's 1850 appropriation for the building of eight lighthouses on the Pacific Coast. Begun on December 15, 1852, the lighthouse became the first lasting impact of human construction on the island. In 1853 1st Lt. Zealous B. Tower immediately began work on the fortifications on Alcatraz designed to protect the San Francisco Bay region. Batteries of brick with granite copings and concrete foundations were constructed in the north and west sides of the island, while the south battery was largely built of blue sandstone. Completed by April 15, 1855, these became the United States' first permanent harbor defense batteries of the West Coast. On the crest of the island, work soon began on the defensive barracks, soon nicknamed "the Citadel." By the eve of the Civil War, the 86 cannons on Alcatraz included the only permanently mounted guns defending the most important harbor of the western Americas. During the Civil War, Alcatraz defended the bay against the threat of Confederate raiders. Alcatraz's role as a nationally significant prison had its genesis among the Civil War when the fort's guardhouse was built with a lower guardroom for drunks and deserters. Later, pro-Confederate Californians were held here during the Civil War, including Assemblyman-elect E.J.C. Kewen of Los Angeles. After serving many years as a military base, the Bureau of Prisons took over Alcatraz in 1934.
The regime at Alcatraz was one of rigid discipline and tight security, with an extremely low convict to guard ratio of three to one. With construction of the Cellhouse (begun in 1909) and the Yard (1936), Alcatraz rapidly assumed its present form. Alcatraz held such nationally known criminals as Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert "Birdman" Stroud. During World War II, the Army again had a presence on the island as GIs manned antiaircraft guns on the prison roofs, waiting for Japanese planes that never came. The prisoners invested their small pay into War Bonds and did war related work in the various prison shops. The patriotic feeling that swept over the United States after December 7, 1941, also included the prison population. One inmate, James Widmer, illustrated the work the prisoners did on behalf of the U.S. war effort, including making clothing for the military forces.
Although 39 men were involved in 14 separate escape attempts from Alcatraz, there is no proof that anyone succeeded. Several attempts failed violently. "Doc" Barker met his end in a hail of gunfire at a small beach facing the Golden Gate that now bears his name, and in 1946 the "Battle of the Rock" gained nationwide attention in May of 1946 when desperate convicts seized control of the cellhouse and faced correction officers and U.S. Marines in a violent battle involving guns and concussion grenades that lasted for three days. By the end the prison uprising was subdued with three convicts and two guards dead.
Alcatraz closed as a Federal prison in 1963. As the very last convict to leave passed the reporters gathered there for the occasion, he offered the comment that, "Alcatraz never was no good for anybody!" The facility was abandoned and only the lightkeepers remained to tend the lighthouse. Between 1969 and 1971, Alcatraz Island was under occupation for 19 months. A small group of people who called themselves "Indians of All Tribes" went to the island on a chartered boat, declared that they were taking back their land, and unknowingly shaped history. Some of the visible signs of the period are interesting graffiti throughout the island's structures. The invisible signs of the occupation are the establishment of D-Q University of Davis, California, California's only two-year accredited tribal college, and an increased awareness of the American Indian's social concerns. In 1972, Alcatraz Island became part of a newly established unit of the National Park System: the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The restorations of many of the facilities and historic tours of the island have been some of the most important accomplishments of the National Park Service on Alcatraz Island.
Alcatraz, a National Historic Landmark, is administered by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area and located in the middle of San Francisco Bay. A ferry to the island runs about every 30-40 minutes from San Francisco's Pier 41, Fisherman's Wharf. The island is open daily, except for Christmas and New Year's Day, or due to extreme weather. Departures begin at 9:30am; the island closes at 4:30pm in fall, winter and spring, and 6:30pm in the summer. For further information, visit Alcatraz's website. It is strongly recommended that you purchase tickets in advance, as they can sell out as early as a week in advance especially in the summer and around holiday weekends. Tickets are available by calling Blue & Gold Fleet at 415-705-5555, online at Blue & Gold Fleet's webpage, or in person at their ticket booth at Pier 41. For groups of 15 or more call Group Reservations at 415-705-8214.
Although Fort Mason was originally established as a coastal fortification in the 1860s, it is best remembered as headquarters of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation between 1910 and 1963. During World War II, Liberty ships built in Bay Area shipyards were constantly ferrying troops to the immense pier and dock system at Lower Fort Mason, ultimately transporting 1.6 million troops and 23 million tons of cargo to the Pacific theater through the port administered facilities. New York Times Magazine commented at the time that, "This port has one main commodity to send abroad. It is exporting war." "From the early days of the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific, when men and supplies available to reinforce our position were but a trickle, to the time when with added resources we were enabled to mount offensive operations with increasing violence," wrote General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. Army's San Francisco Port of Embarkation and its subsidiary Oakland Army Terminal, "gave magnificently of their full support--support which in no small measure contributed to the victorious march which carried our arms to the heart of the Japanese Empire."
Lower Fort Mason is a large complex of warehouses and piers, built
between 1910 and 1914 to supply Army bases across the Pacific. Their
red-tiled roofs and white stucco facades evoke Spanish Colonial architecture
on a grand scale. Lower Fort Mason is now the Fort
Mason Center, serving the community as a cultural center and office
space for non-profit organizations ranging from theaters and ethnic
museums to art galleries and environmental advocacy groups. It is this
section of Fort Mason , know as San Francisco Port of Embarkation, U.S.
Army, that has been designated a National
By contrast, Upper Fort Mason features dozens of smaller-scale historic buildings, among them the former Port of Embarkation Headquarters (1902), now Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Headquarters; the Mission Revival-style Chapel; Civil War-era barracks now occupied by the San Francisco International Youth Hostel; and McDowell Hall (1855), once home to commanding officers and, until very recently, the Officers' Club (1943-2003). The Construction Quartermaster's Office and the Post Headquarters building (FM101) was constructed on the eve of America's entry into World War II, and amidst other changes, an additional group of seven sets of officers' quarters was added to the southern portion of Fort Mason around 1941.
Fort Mason is located between Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge on San Francisco Bay, in San Francisco's Marina district. The entrance to Fort Mason Center is at the intersection of Marina Blvd. and Buchanan St.; parking is found immediately to your right after entering. The main office is open Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 5:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm. For further information please visit the Fort Mason Center's website or call 415-441-3400. Fort Mason has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Located at the west end of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, this park includes the fleet of National Historic Landmark vessels at Hyde Street Pier, a visitor center, a maritime museum and a maritime library. Visitors can board turn-of-the-century ships, tour the museum and learn traditional arts-like boatbuilding and woodworking. The park offers educational, music and craft programs for all ages, and provides unique opportunities for docents, interns and volunteers to learn more about the Nation's maritime heritage. The historic ships include the wooden lumber schooner C.A. Thayer, presently undergoing restoration in a former seaplane hangar across the bay in Alameda, and the steam paddlewheel ferry Eureka, considered to be the largest wooden structure in the world.
The Maritime Museum is located inside the historic Bathhouse Building, part of the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. This ship-shaped, streamline-moderne building was constructed as a Works Progress Administration project in 1939. Inside the building mast sections, jutting spars and ships figureheads are arranged among the colorful fish and gleaming tiles of muralist Hilaire Hiler's expressionist vision of Atlantis. Displays include panels, video, oral history re-creations, models and interactive exhibits. The Steamship Room illustrates the technological evolution of wind-to-steam power. The Mermaid, the one-man sailboat that transported a solo adventurer across the Pacific from Japan in 94 days, is displayed on the balcony, along with a statue by San Francisco sculptor Beniamino Bufano.
The Visitor Center is located on the ground floor of a historic, 1907 brick warehouse, now adaptively used as the Argonaut Hotel. The Visitor Center features exhibits, interactive displays and an auditorium for educational events and lectures. A First Order Fresnel lighthouse lens, a magnificent brass structure encasing hundreds of precisely polished prisms, guides park visitors through the door.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, administered by the National Park Service, is located at the west end of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The museum at the foot of Polk St. is open daily, year-round, 10:00am to 5:00pm. The Visitor Center is located at 499 Jefferson St. at the corner of Hyde St., and is open Memorial Day-October 1 from 9:30am to 7:00pm, and October 2-May 30 from 9:30am to 5:00pm. The Hyde Street Pier is open daily, year-round from 9:30am to 5:00pm. The visitor center, museum and pier are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. There is an entrance fee to the pier only for adults; please visit the park's website or call 415-447-5000 for further information.
Built in 1895, C.A. Thayer is one of only two surviving examples of the sailing schooners designed specifically for use in the 19th-century Pacific Coast lumber trade. This 19th-century vessel was destined to perform military service during World War II. Between 1895 and 1912, C.A. Thayer usually sailed from E. K. Wood's mill in Grays Harbor, Washington, to San Francisco. The vessel also carried lumber as far south as Mexico, and occasionally even ventured offshore to Hawaii and Fiji. After sustaining serious damage during a heavy, southeasterly gale, C.A. Thayer's lumber trade days ended in an Oakland shipyard, in 1912. But it was really the rise of steam power, and not the wind, that pushed Thayer into a new career. Early each April from 1912 to 1924, C.A. Thayer hauled 28-foot gill-net boats, bundles of barrel staves, and tons of salt from San Francisco to Western Alaska. Vessels in the salt-salmon trade usually laid up during the winter months, but when World War I inflated freight rates (1915 to 1919), C.A. Thayer carried Northwest fir and Mendocino redwood to Australia. From 1925 to 1930, C.A. Thayer made yearly voyages from Poulsbo, Washington, to the Bering Sea codfishing waters off the Alaskan coast.
After a decade-long, Depression-era lay-up in Lake Union, Seattle, the U.S. Army purchased C.A. Thayer from prominent Seattle codfisherman J. E. Shields for use in the war effort. In 1942, the army removed Thayer's masts and used it as an ammunition barge in British Columbia. After World War II, Shields bought his ship back from the Army, fitted it with masts once again, and returned it to codfishing. With its final voyage, in 1950, C.A. Thayer entered the history books as the last commercial sailing vessel to operate on the West Coast.
The State of California purchased C.A. Thayer in 1957. After preliminary restoration in Seattle, Washington, an intrepid volunteer crew sailed it down the coast to San Francisco. The San Francisco Maritime Museum performed more extensive repairs and refitting, and opened C.A. Thayer to the public in 1963. The vessel was transferred to the National Park Service in 1978, and has been docked at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Thousands of school children spend the night aboard the 1895 schooner each year as part of an innovative educational program. In 2004, the C.A. Thayer was transported to a seaplane hangar at the former Alameda Naval Air Station for a restoration expected to take two years, during which time the project's progress will be tracked in the Park (with exhibits and panels) and on the park's website.
The C.A. Thayer, a National Historic Landmark, is temporarily located at a hangar at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. During the restoration, tours may be available, refer to the restoration website for the latest information. After the restoration, the C.A. Thayer will return to its dock at the National Park Service's San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on the west end of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The park is open daily, year-round from 9:30am to 5:00pm. The visitor center, museum and pier are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. There is a fee for visitors over 17; please visit the park's website or call 415-447-5000 for further information.
The Eureka is the last remaining example of the fleet of ferry boats used in commuter service across the San Francisco bay. The ferry was built in 1890, at Tiburon, California, by John Dickie for the San Francisco and North Pacific Railway (SF&NPR), and originally named Ukiah to commemorate the railway's recent extension into that California city. A freight-car ferry, Ukiah was SF&NPR's "tracks across the Bay," ferrying trains from Sausalito to San Francisco. After WWI, Ukiah needed extensive repair, and shipwrights at the Southern Pacific yard labored for two years--eventually replacing all of its structure above the waterline. This kind of reconstruction was called "jacking up the whistle and sliding a new boat underneath." Re-christened Eureka, the vessel slid from the Southern Pacific yard as a passenger and automobile ferry (her present form) in 1923. As a passenger ferry, she could carry 2,300 passengers and 120 automobiles. At that time, she was the biggest and the fastest double-ended passenger ferry boat in the world--299.5 feet long, with an extreme width of 78 feet and gross tonnage of 2,420. Eureka was a member of the Northwestern Pacific fleet of ferry boats until 1941, when she had the dubious distinction of making the last Marin County run. During the war years, Eureka joined a number of bay ferries in the work of transporting troops from Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, up the Sacramento River, to the Port of Embarkation piers in San Francisco. By the 1950s regular ferry service was limited to bringing railroad passengers from Oakland to San Francisco.
When Eureka's crankpin snapped in mid-crossing in 1957, the vessel was removed from service. In October of 1999, Eureka entered San Francisco Drydock for a $1 million restoration project focusing on the vessel's superstructure--the above-water portions of the vessel. A significant portion of that restoration was the replacement of the boat's "kingposts"--four large wooden structures which support the paddlewheels and upper decks. Eureka's 1890 "walking beam" marine steam equipment is the only operating example of this once-common engine in North America.
The Eureka, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the San Francisco Bay, at the foot of Hyde St. at the west end of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and is part of the National Park Service's San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. The pier is open daily, year-round from 9:30am to 5:00pm; closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. There is an entrance fee for adults; please visit the Eureka's website or call 415-447-5000 for further information.
USS Pampanito (SS-383) is a World War II Balao class fleet submarine built in 1943 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. A member of the elite force of U.S. submarines that helped turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific, Pampanito made six patrols during World War II. The vessel sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others, with a total of more than 27,000 tons of enemy shipping sunken. During its first two patrols, Pampanito narrowly escaped destruction. While attacking an enemy convoy on the first patrol, Pampanito was spotted, severely depth charged and damaged. On Pampanito's second patrol, while patrolling off the coast of Japan, alert lookouts spotted two torpedo wakes approaching allowing enough time to avoid them.
During Pampanito's third, and most well known, patrol the sub operated as part of a wolf-pack consisting of USS Growler (SS-215) and USS Sealion (SS-315). On the morning of September 12, 1944, the pack attacked a convoy carrying war production materials of oil and raw rubber. Unknown to the skippers, the convoy also carried more than 2,000 British and Australian prisoners of war. On September 15th, Pampanito moved back to the area of the original attack and found men clinging to makeshift rafts. As the sub moved closer, the men were heard to be shouting in English. Pampanito was able to pick up 73 men and called in three other subs in the area to assist with the rescue. For World War II service, Pampanito earned six battle stars. She was decommissioned in 1945.
In the conflict against Japan in World War II, the role and importance of the submarine forces of the United States cannot be overestimated. American submarines sank more than 600,000 tons of enemy warships and more than 5,000,000 tons of merchant shipping, thus destroying much of Japan's ocean commerce. This was accomplished by a force that never numbered more than two percent of naval personnel engaged in the war. The American submarine war against Japan created a blockade that denied the country oil, iron ore, food and other raw materials needed to continue to fight. The USS Pampanito is now one of the most popular historic vessels in the country, welcoming nearly 200,000 visitors each year.
The USS Pampanito, a National Historic Landmark, is located at Pier 45 in the center of Fisherman's Wharf, in San Francisco. The submarine is now a floating museum, and includes a powerful audio tour featuring the voices and stories of the Pampanito's World War II crew. The submarine is open daily mid-May to mid-October, 9:00am to 8:00pm, except for early closure at 6:00pm on Wednesdays. From mid-October to mid-May, it is open, 9:00am to 6:00pm Sunday-Thursday, and 9:00am to 8:00pm on Friday and Saturday. There is a fee for admission. Please call the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association for tour information at 415-775-1943, or visit the submarine's website.
Launched on June 19, 1943 from South Portland, Maine, where the ship was built at the West Yard of the New England Shipbuilding Corporation, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien is the sole survivor of the 6,000-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day, 1944. It is one of two extant Liberty ships of the 2,751 in service during World War II. Liberty ships were usually manned by quickly-trained merchant seamen. The standard Liberty ship, including the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, was 441 feet and six inches in length, with a beam of 56 feet, gross tonnage about 7,176 and displacement tonnage 14,300. Named for the first American to capture a British naval vessel during the Revolutionary War, the O'Brien made seven World War II voyages, ranging from England and Northern Ireland to South America, to India and Australia. The vessel also made 11 crossings of the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to the Normandy beaches in support of the D-Day invasion. After the war, the O'Brien was "mothballed" and laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, north of San Francisco.
Thirty-three years later, skillful maneuvering by a U.S. Maritime Administration official (himself a former Liberty ship sailor) saved the O'Brien from the scrap yard. In 1979, following dry-docking, generous donations of money and supplies by numerous individuals and companies and thousands of hours of restoration work by her volunteer crew, the old ship entered service on San Francisco Bay in like-new condition. She is a steaming memorial to the seamen of the U.S. Merchant Marine who served on Liberty ships in World War II, to their Navy gun crews and to the civilian men and women who built the largest single class of ships in history.
In 1994 the O'Brien, in what was to be an epic eighth voyage, steamed through the Golden Gate, down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic to England and France, where the O'Brien and its crew (a remarkable collection of old salts whose average age was 70 and a few cadets from the California Maritime Academy), participated in the 50th Anniversary of Operation Overlord--the Allied invasion at Normandy that turned the tide of World War II in Europe.
SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a National Historic Landmark, is permanently moored at Pier 45, at the foot of Taylor St., in San Francisco. It has been rededicated as the National Liberty Ship Memorial and is open to the public daily, 9:00am to 4:30pm, except major holidays. The 2500-horsepower, triple-expansion reciprocating steam main engine is operated on Steaming Weekends (normally the third Saturday and Sunday of each month) so visitors can see the engine plant in action and take rides. Several San Francisco Bay cruises are scheduled each year, with occasional longer voyages to west-coast ports such as Sacramento. There is a fee. Please visit the ship's website or call 415-544-0100 for further information.
The State Belt Railroad of California was a shortline that served San Francisco's waterfront until the 1990s and played an important role in World War II. Its tracks extended the length of the Embarcadero from south of Market Street to Fort Mason and the Presidio. The Belt transferred cargo between ships and main line railroads such as the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific and the Santa Fe. It also loaded trains onto car ferries for ports across the Bay. Although locals nicknamed the line the Toonerville Trolley and the Wooden Axle Line, the State Belt had an illustrious career. The first section of the State Belt was built by the Board of State Harbor Commissioners in 1890. In 1913, the State Belt built the Belt Line Engine House, a five-stall roundhouse at Sansome Street and the Embarcadero in San Francisco. This engine facility housed a modest number of oil-fired steam switchers, and later, ALCO S-2 diesels. An accessory building to the engine house, the sandhouse, was built the following year. Both buildings are simple utilitarian buildings of this period, constructed with reinforced concrete and plaster. The buildings were altered in the 1950s replacing five main doors with industrial type roll-up doors set back from the façade. Renovation work done in 1984 included replication of the original doors and reinstallation in their original location.
In 1914, the State Belt tracks were extended on a wooden trestle across a shallow stretch of the Bay known as Black Point Cove. There, at the end of Van Ness Avenue, a new railroad tunnel built by the Army took the track under Fort Mason to the dock area on the fort's western edge. The Army's railroad went on to the Presidio, and was used through World War II and beyond to transport supplies, and occasionally troops.
The State Belt contributed greatly to the movement of materials during the war. Army and Navy switchers were added to provide enough locomotive capacity. The State Belt also delivered trainloads of fresh troops to debarkation points, and picked up hospital trains and returning troops.The railroad moved 156 troop trains and 265 hospital trains in 1945 alone.
Today, the former Belt Line Railroad and Sandhouse have been converted into office space. Although the Belt Line ceased operations in 1993, the success of the recently established Market Street Railway F-Line along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf has prompted a movement to extend the historic streetcar line to serve several historic attractions beyond the current terminal, including San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Fort Mason and the Presidio.
The Belt Railroad Engine House and Sandhouse is bounded by Lombard, Sansome and the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The building is now private office space, and is not open to the public. For more information on the proposed extension of the historic streetcar line, visit the Market Street Railway's website. Visitors may also be interested in the nearby Golden Gate Railroad Museum, which houses State Belt Steam Engine #4 (built in 1911).
The Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District, comprised of Piers 1, 1 ½, 3 and 5, is one of the largest surviving pier complexes along San Francisco's Embarcadero. The San Francisco waterfront piers played a crucial role in the Pacific theater during World War II. With construction spanning over a decade in length, led by Chief Engineer of the State Harbor Commission, Frank G. White, Piers 1, 1 ½, 3 and 5 opened in 1918. Unlike the piers south of the Ferry Building that were designed in the Mission and Gothic Revival styles, the piers north of the Ferry Building were built in the Beaux-Arts style, similar to New York's Chelsea Piers. The timber-frame bulkhead buildings, covered in stucco, are each two stories high, punctuated by two-story arches. Behind these formal building are the areas more closely associated with the functioning of the port--the piers and transit sheds. Concrete or timber piers extend east behind the bulkhead buildings, connected to the system of wharves upon which the bulkhead buildings rest. Steel truss and timber frame buildings, accommodating the loading and unloading of ships are built upon the piers, with open aprons for circulation.
These were the only group of piers in the Port of San Francisco dedicated chiefly to inland trade and transport. These connections facilitated the growth of communities in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and fostered California's agricultural business that led the State to become the richest in the Nation, as well the fifth largest economy in the world. The famous Delta King and Delta Queen provided overnight connections between San Francisco and Sacramento from Pier 1 ½, making it an important gateway for public travel to the interior of the State. Pier 3 and Pier 5 served primarily freight shipping, with a colorful variety of companies sharing the bulkhead office and warehouse spaces and the huge transit sheds which originally extended the full length of the finger piers for more than 700 feet east from the wharf on the Embarcadero.
With the outbreak of World War II, San Francisco's waterfront became a military logistics center; troops, equipment and supplies left the Port in support of the Pacific theater. Almost every pier and wharf was involved in military activities, with troop ships and naval vessels tied up all along the Embarcadero. In addition, the military briefly set up antiaircraft guns and searchlights at piers along the waterfront from 1941 to 1942. The Coast Guard, Immigration Services and the Maritime Service Enrolling Office occupied Pier 5.
After the war, the piers fell into disuse, as ports in Oakland, Alameda and Richmond were better equipped to respond to the conversion to containerized shipping. Piers 1 ½ and 5 were early examples of finding new uses for buildings which form a valuable part of the city's environment. The former Passenger Waiting Room of Pier 1 ½ was converted into an architect's waterfront office, and the bulkheads of Piers 1 ½ and 5 were used as professional office space. While many of the piers were demolished, Piers 1 ½, 3 and 5 remain the most visible from the Ferry Building and Market Street, still the main thoroughfare of the city.
In January of 2001, San Francisco Waterfront Partner, LLC was selected by the Port of San Francisco to redevelop the historic Piers 1 ½, 3 and 5. The project focuses on preserving and rehabilitating the historic maritime design of the Northeast Waterfront and the Ferry Building Waterfront while enhancing the public use and access to the historic and scenic waterfront setting.
The Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District includes Piers 1, 1 ½, 3 and 5 off the Embarcadero, between Washington and Broadway sts., facing the San Francisco Bay. Some of the shops in the historic pier building are open during normal business hours. For further information on the redevelopment project, visit www.thepierssf.com
Sitting in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island State Park offers spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline and the Marin Headlands, as well as more than a century of military history. First occupied by the coastal Miwok Indians, the island came under Spanish rule in 1775. During Mexico's rule of California (1821-1848), ownership of the island was granted to rancher Antonio Osie in 1839. In 1850, under American rule, President Fillmore declared Angel Island as a military reserve. During the Civil War, the island was fortified to defend San Francisco Bay from the potential attack of Confederate ships entering the bay. Angel Island continued to be a military installation during subsequent American wars.
In 1905, the War Department transferred 20 acres of land on the island to the Department of Commerce and Labor for the establishment of an immigration station. Between 1910 and 1940, an estimated 175,000 Chinese and 60,000 Japanese immigrants were detained in barracks at the Angel Island Immigration Station under adverse and oppressive conditions
During World War II, the immigration station's barracks and the hospital were rehabilitated to house German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war before they were sent to inland camps. In July 1942, a group of Japanese prisoners from the battle of Midway were interred at Angel Island. Other Japanese prisoners included those captured at Attu and the Solomons. German prisoners included high ranking officers captured by the British in North Africa and at the time of Germany's surrender there were 277 German prisoners on the island. After Italy surrendered in 1943, it shifted to the side of the Allies. Italian prisoners of war could not be released, yet they were not prisoners, so they were formed into Italian Service Units, performing non-combative related work. Several Italian Service Units came to Angel Island in 1944 and 1945. Today, the Angel Island, U.S. Immigration Station has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Down the shore, Fort McDowell was used as a port of embarkation during both world wars, shipping more than 300,000 soldiers to the Pacific Theater during World War II. The post's busiest period was at the end of the war, when 23,632 returning soldiers were processed in December 1945 alone. A post-war reorganization of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation did not include Fort McDowell, prompting its closure on August 28, 1946. Buildings from Fort McDowell remaining on the island include a hospital, Quonset mess and drill hall, chapel, restored guardhouse and officers' quarters.
Angel Island, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, is operated as a California State Park and is accessible by ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon. An information kiosk on the island is open 8:00am to sunset. Visitors can explore the various trails and roads which offer excellent views of Fort McDowell and the Immigration Station. Many of the buildings are identified by interpretive signage. A tram tour of the island departs from the Cove Café on weekends in March, April and November; and daily May-October. Call 415-435-1915 or visit the park's website for further information. You can also learn more about the immigration station by visiting the website of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.
Formerly known as Goat Island for the herds of goats once raised for food there, the idea of a military post on Yerba Buena Island was originated in fear of an invading Civil War ship slipping past Fort Point and Alcatraz during a foggy San Francisco night. It was not until the 1870s that Camp Yerba Buena Island was completed, including construction of a fog signal and octagonal lighthouse (1875) that remain in pristine condition today. Just before the turn of the 20th century, the first U.S. Naval Training Station on the Pacific Coast was established on the north east side of the island. Quarters One, also known as the Nimitz House, was built c. 1900 as the Commandant's residence. Its Classical Revival style, fashionable for private residences in the Bay Area at that time, was unusual for naval base housing. The training station closed in 1916.
During World War II, Yerba Buena Island fell under the jurisdiction of Treasure Island Naval Station, headquarters of the 12th Naval District. Built on the shoals of Yerba Buena Island, the 403-acre Treasure Island was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s. After hosting the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, the Navy deemed Treasure Island an ideal location for transporting people and machines to the Pacific theater, and on April 1, 1941, established Treasure Island Naval Station which also included a portion of Yerba Buena Island. Quarters One became the residence of the Commander of the Naval Base. Several other buildings used by the Naval Station during World War II also remain on the island, including the senior officers' quarters and Buildings 83, 205 and 230.
Treasure Island served as a Coast Guard post, Marine District headquarters and the West Coast office of Pan American Airways. Originally housed at Naval Air Station Alameda's airport until January 1939, the Pan Am Clippers were moved to their new terminal building and hangars on the northern end of Treasure Island. The clippers provided regular air travel between the U.S. and Asia, but were quickly thrust into military service after America entered the war. The China and Philippine Clippers ferried military personnel and medical supplies between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor daily, while Boeing Clippers continued their runs to New Zealand until the end of the war. The former hangars are now rented as sound stages. Treasure Island also served as a forward base and docking station for blimp anti-submarine patrols near the mouth of the Golden Gate--saving flight time between the main blimp installation at Moffett Field. Virtually all of the original structures remain intact, including Buildings 2, 3, and 11, and the Art Moderne Building One (1938), designed by Timothy Pflueger for the Exposition, which was used as the command and communications center during World War II. The Department of Defense closed the station in 1993, and the island is currently in the process of conveyance to the City of San Francisco.
Quarters 1, Yerba Buena Island, Naval Training Station is located at 1 Whiting Way on Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco, and can be reached from I-80, by taking the Treasure Island exit off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Although the island is accessible, Quarters 1 is not open to the public. A guard is posted at the entrance to the completely accessible base and is ideal for a car tour. There is a partial perimeter trail offering a panoramic view of the city. The Treasure Island Museum Association remains active, although the museum itself is closed. You can find more information about the Treasure Island Project online or by calling 415-274-0660.
The USS Potomac was built in 1934 as the Coast Guard cutter Electra. The 165-foot vessel, weighing 376 gross tons and cruising at speeds of 10 to 13 knots, was commissioned as a U.S. Navy vessel in 1936. It was renamed the USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht until his death in 1945. As former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR had a deep love of the sea and the Navy tradition. During the sultry summer days in Washington, D.C., he preferred to cruise on the USS Potomac rather than stay in the White House. He loved holding informal strategy sessions with close advisors and congressional leaders in the privacy and seclusion of the yacht.
On Monday, August 4, 1941, four months before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR boarded the USS Potomac ostensibly for a fishing trip and a visit to Martha's Vineyard. The President, however, was secretly transferred to the heavy cruiser USS Augusta the next morning bound for Newfoundland where he would meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill--their first meeting as Heads of State. During this top-secret rendezvous, the two world leaders forged the principles of the Atlantic Charter, which formed the Allied partnership during World War II and what Roosevelt called the "United Nations," to plan the post-war peace. With the United States' direct involvement in the war at the end of 1941, the president's recreational use of the USS Potomac came to an end. During World War II the vessel was used primarily as a naval sonar research vessel. Special transducers and motor generator units for the sonar equipment were installed.
After FDR's death in April 1945, the Potomac began a long and ignominious decline from its former role in world affairs. After many adventures and many owners--including Elvis Presley--she was seized in 1980 in San Francisco by U.S. Customs for her role as a front for drug smugglers. Towed to Treasure Island, the proud vessel's hull was pierced one night and she sank. Refloated by the Navy two weeks later, she was sold to the Port of Oakland for just $15,000. The Port of Oakland spearheaded a cooperative effort with organized labor, maritime corporations and dedicated volunteers to complete a $5 million restoration. Opened to the public in 1995, the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac now operates this National Historic Landmark as an active memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the momentous times through which he led our Nation.
The USS Potomac a National Historic Landmark, is located at 540 Water St. near Jack London Square in Oakland. Dockside Tours are held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 10:30am to 3:30pm. Reservations are required for group tours of 10 or more; please call 510-627-1215 for information. Two-Hour History Cruises on the San Francisco Bay are also available April-October, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00am and starting July 10, also at 1:30pm. There is a fee--advance ticket purchase is recommended. Call 866-468-3399 for more information. For reservations for groups of 20 persons or more please call 510-627-1215. For further information visit the USS Potomac's website.
Located in Alameda, California, the USS Hornet (CV-12) was part of a wartime buildup of U.S. carrier forces in a war that demonstrated the vital role of naval aviation. As early as 1910, the U.S. Navy recognized the potential value that flight would have in naval operations. Although naval aviation was utilized during World War I, aircraft assigned to warships generally provided only reconnaissance support for the fleet. The possibility of using airplanes as a naval strike weapon did not begin until the 1920s when aircraft capable of performing heavy bombardment against land or sea targets were built. Naval vessels capable of carrying several squadrons of such aircraft were developed concurrently. Thus the first eight carriers constructed by the U.S. Navy varied in size, speed, protection and aircraft complement to provide the greatest number of carriers capable of launching the greatest number of air strikes, yet still comply with treaty-imposed tonnage restrictions. Essex (CV-9), the ninth U.S. carrier authorized, was a product of these earlier designs. A total of 26 Esssex-class carriers were ordered by the U.S. Navy between February 1940 and June 1943 and 24 were completed. This was the largest class of carriers ever built by the United States and over half, including USS Hornet (CV-12), served as part of the Pacific Fleet during World War II.
World War II and the carrier campaigns of the Pacific firmly established the role of aviation within naval operations and the aircraft carrier replaced the battleship as the Navy's primary strike weapon. Serving as mobile air bases, carriers could maneuver aircraft around the open waters and scattered island chains of the Pacific. By employing a combination of scouting, fighter or bomber aircraft to control the enemy's air power, groups of carriers, screened by surface ships, could open the way for island invasions, cover and support amphibious operations, and help to hold the conquered areas. Thus carriers became an integral compound of nearly every campaign throughout the Pacific War. With aircraft that extended the fleet's firepower beyond the range of large caliber battleship guns, the carrier's status was elevated from reconnaissance platform to that of major surface combatant.
Launched just 10 months after its predecessor, the USS Hornet (CV-8), was lost in battle, the new Hornet had a distinguished World War II career that included the invasion of Saipan and the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the amphibious landing on Palau, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and strikes against the Japanese home islands. The USS Hornet and its air groups were credited with shooting down 688 planes, destroying another 742 aircraft on the ground, sinking a carrier, cruiser, 42 cargo ships and 10 destroyers and assisting in the sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato. The Hornet received seven battle stars and the Presidential Unit citation during World War II. The USS Hornet was reactivated for the Korean War and its last combat deployment was as an antisubmarine warfare carrier in the Vietnam War.
The USS Hornet's exceptional career was capped with the recovery of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts at the end of these missions. Navy divers aided the Apollo 11 crew, astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. and Michael Collins, back to the Hornet after the capsule hit the water. The Apollo crew, wearing containment suits because of the possibility of introducing alien bacteria, stepped from the helicopter, waved and entered quarantine. President Richard M. Nixon welcomed the astronauts back to earth aboard the carrier. "Hornet plus three" then steamed for home. The Navy announced the impending retirement of the USS Hornet on January 15, 1970, and the carrier was decommissioned on June 30.
Today the USS Hornet is open to the public and permanently moored at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, which served many functions during World War II, providing combat training to carrier squadrons, commanding patrol and scouting operations, and providing aviation support for Naval supply bases. Alameda was a major aviation gateway to the Pacific and berthing location for the Pacific fleet, including the first USS Hornet.
The USS Hornet a National Historic Landmark, can be seen at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California. At Atlantic Avenue, turn left through the gate and into Alameda Point (formerly Naval Air Station Alameda). Turn left on Ferry Point and proceed along the water towards the cluster of large ships. Parking is available across the street from the USS Hornet. The museum is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm Wednesday-Monday; limited access on Tuesdays due to ship maintenance. Please call 510-521-8448, or visit the museum's website for further information and for directions from Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco.
The history of the Union Iron Works Powerhouse is inseparable from the shipyard it was once part of. Established in the early 1900s by the United Engineering Company, the yard was purchased by Union Iron Works (later called Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation) in 1916 and came to be known as the Alameda Works. The building is one of many designed for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG & E) in northern California between 1905 and the 1920s. The site was expanded from seven to 75 acres with facilities for constructing up to six major vessels simultaneously, making it one of the largest and best equipped yards in the country. After 1923, the Alameda Works ceased making ships but continued its dry docking and ship repairing operations.
At the beginning of World War II, the Alameda Works was re-established as the Bethlehem Alameda Shipyard, and modernized and expanded to include new shipways and on-site worker housing. During the war, the yard repaired more than 1,000 vessels and produced P-2 troop transport ships, and it continued to produce structural steel. Shipbuilding came to an end in the early 1950s and the yard was closed in 1956.
Designed by San Francisco architect Frederick H. Meyer, the Union Iron Works Powerhouse stands as the last remnant of the Alameda Works Shipyard. Meyer was one of San Francisco's leading architects between 1905-1955 and is best known for his role in the development of the San Francisco Civic Center, for his many downtown San Francisco office buildings and for his careful and imaginative use of orthodox ornamental detail. The Union Iron Works Powerhouse is a one-story rectangular industrial building, 25 feet high, 53 feet wide and 110 feet long, which rests on a concrete base. Borrowing imagery from classical antiquity and the Renaissance, the powerhouse is an excellent example of a building type--the "beautiful" power house--for which the Bay Area was nationally known. It contained several large generators and was constructed specifically to meet the massive electricity requirements of the yards. Today, the little building that once powered an entire shipyard has been converted into private office space.
The Union Iron Works Powerhouse is located at 2308 Webster St. in Alameda, California. Take the Posey Tube south from Oakland to the island of Alameda, where the Posey Tube becomes Webster St . The Union Iron Works Powerhouse is within 1,000 feet of entering the island. Now a private office space, it is closed to the public.
Gilman Hall was built from 1916 to 1917 to accommodate an expanded College of Chemistry under the leadership of Gilbert Newton Lewis. Designed by John Galen Howard, the building provided research and teaching facilities for faculty and students specializing in physical, inorganic and nuclear chemistry. Located in Gilman Hall's "attic" space, Room 307 is where Glenn T. Seaborg and his coworkers identified plutonium as a new element on February 23, 1941. Although the possibility of extending the periodic table of elements had been considered many times, the hope of extension did not become realistic until 1934, when artificial radioactivity was discovered. Ninety-two elements were then known, but in 1940, the first of the man-made elements was developed, Neptunium, number 93, an isotope of Uranium. A few months later five co-workers--Arthur Well, Edwin MacMillan, Glenn Seaborg, Emilio Segre, and J.W. Kennedy--shared in the discovery of element number 94, Plutonium, created by the same process that produced Neptunium number 93. Doctors' Seaborg and MacMillan were later awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1951 for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements.
In 1942, the Berkeley campus became quite involved in the war effort of World War II. The top floor, or "attic," of Gilman Hall was fenced off for classified work in nuclear chemistry. Half of the rooms in the attic had small balconies that could be used as outdoor hoods, but the actual hoods in Gilman Hall were not equipped with fans. They operated only as chimneys, with a burner flame that produced a draft. For the war work, electrically powered fans were finally installed to vent the hoods. Plutonium research in Gilman Hall was part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. In 1942, Glenn Seaborg left Berkeley to join the Manhattan Project in Chicago. He returned to Berkeley after the war and directed the university's nuclear chemistry research.
Room 307, Gilman Hall, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 on the 25th anniversary of the discovery of plutonium. All of Gilman Hall was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 1997, followed by its listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Gilman Hall has been used continuously by the College of Chemistry for 80 years; today it is occupied by the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Room 307, Gilman Hall, University of California, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the Central Campus Area of the University of California, Berkeley. Free campus tours are held daily at 10:00am, leaving from the Visitor Center, Room 101 of Sproul Hall (at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Ave). Free Daily Tours begin from Sproul Hall at 10 am on Monday through Friday; on Saturdays, tours begin at Sather Tower at 10 am, and on Sunday from Sather Tower at 1 pm. Please call 510-642-5215 for more information or visit the University of California, Berkeley website.
This new National Park commemorates a significant chapter in America's history: the World War II Home Front. Fully engaged in winning World War II, American women, minorities and men worked toward a common goal in a manner that has been unequaled since. Women affectionately known as "Rosies" helped change industry and had sweeping and lasting impacts. Richmond, California, played a significant and nationally recognized part in the World War II Home Front. The four Richmond shipyards with their combined 27 shipways, produced 747 ships, more than any other shipyard complex in the country. Richmond was home to 56 different war industries, more than any other city of its size in the United States. The city grew nearly overnight from 24,000 people to 100,000 people, overwhelming the available housing stock, roads, schools, businesses and community services. As a "partnership park" with no land or buildings actually owned by the National Park Service, the success of Rosie the Riveter is dependent on collaboration with other government agencies and private property owners. Historic properties within park boundaries include Richmond Shipyard Number Three, Ford Assembly Building, SS Red Oak Victory, Atchison Village Defense Housing Project, Maritime Child Development Center and Kaiser Richmond Field Hospital.
Atchison Village Housing Project is an excellent illustration of the local-Federal collaboration that provided much needed housing and domestic support for defense workers and their families. The modest, wood-frame buildings clearly reflect the constraints (time, money and materials) placed on publically-funded housing construction during the period. Just prior to and during the war, the Lanham Act of 1940 provided $150 million to the Federal Works Administration, which built approximately 625,000 units of housing in conjunction with local authorities nationwide. The Richmond Housing Authority was selected to be the first authority in the country to manage a defense project. Atchison Village represents one of 20 public housing projects built in Richmond before and during World War II. Constructed in 1941 as Richmond's first public defense housing project, it is the only project funded by the Lanham Act that still exists in Richmond, and one of the few in the Nation not destroyed after the war.
The Maritime Child Development Center was one of approximately 35 nursery school units of varying sizes established in the Richmond area during World War II in order to provide child care for women working in the Kaiser shipyards. This center was funded and constructed by the U.S. Maritime Commission as part of a larger development that also included housing, an elementary school and a fire station. The temporary housing was demolished after the war but a larger permanent housing complex remains as do the other buildings. The Maritime Child Development Center, a wood frame, modernist style building operated by the Richmond School District, incorporated progressive educational programming, and was staffed with nutritionists, psychiatrists and certified teachers. It had a capacity of 180 children per day. At its peak, with 24,500 women on the Kaiser payroll, Richmond's citywide child care program maintained a total daily attendance of 1,400 children. Unlike the Federally-funded WPA day care facilities implemented during the New Deal, the World War II centers were not intended for use by the destitute, but for working mothers. The Kaiser-sponsored Child Care Centers, particularly those at Kaiser's industrial sites in Vanport, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, gained a reputation for innovative and high quality child care. That the Maritime and Pullman (since renamed the Ruth C. Powers) Child Development Centers in Richmond, both constructed during World War II, continue to function as child care facilities nearly six decades later, is a testament not only to their effective design, but to the continuing demand for assistance for mothers who work.
The Kaiser Richmond Field Hospital for the Kaiser Shipyards was also financed by the U.S. Maritime Commission, and opened on August 10, 1942. Sponsored by Henry J. Kaiser's Permanente Foundation, it was run by Medical Director Sidney R. Garfield, M.D. The Field Hospital served as the mid-level component of a three-tier medical care system that also included six well-equipped First Aid Stations at the individual shipyards, and the main Permanente Hospital in Oakland, where the most critical cases were treated. Together, these facilities served the employees of the Kaiser shipyards who had signed up for the Permanente Health Plan (commonly referred to as the "Kaiser Plan"), one of the country's first voluntary pre-paid medical plans, and a direct precursor to the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) defined by the federal HMO Act of 1973. By August 1944, 92.2 percent of all Richmond shipyard employees had joined the plan, the first voluntary group plan in the country to feature group medical practice, prepayment and substantial medical facilities on such a large scale. After the war ended, the Health Plan was expanded to include workers' families. By 1990, Kaiser Permanente was still the country's largest nonprofit HMO. In part due to wartime materials rationing, the Field Hospital is a single-story wood frame structure designed in a simple modernist mode. Originally intended for use primarily as an emergency facility, the Field Hospital opened with only 10 beds. Later additions increased its capacity to 160 beds by 1944. The Field Hospital operated as a Kaiser Permanente hospital until closing in 1995.
Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service, is still in development. It has a small Visitor Center in the City of Richmond's City Hall South where a Driving Tour Booklet can be obtained. The Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park is open year round, dawn to dusk, as are the other city parks within the National Park's boundaries, as is the SS Red Oak Victory. Other sites of the park are in private ownership and are not open to the public at this time. However, their exteriors can be viewed.
The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Richmond, California, was the largest assembly plant to be built on the West Coast and its conversion to wartime production during World War II aided the Nation's war effort. Built in 1930 during the Great Depression, the assembly plant was measures nearly 500,000 square feet. The factory was a major stimulant to the local and regional economy and was an important development in Richmond's inner harbor and port plan. Ford became Richmond's third largest employer, behind Standard Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad. It is also an outstanding example of 20th-century industrial architecture designed by architect Albert Kahn, known for his "daylight factory" design, which employed extensive window openings that became his trademark. The main building is comprised of a two-story section, a single-story section, a craneway, a boiler house and a shed canopy structure over the railroad track.
To ensure that America prepared for total war by mobilizing all the industrial might of the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned the production of civilian automobiles during WWII. The Richmond Ford Assembly Plant switched to assembling jeeps and to putting the finishing touches on tanks, half-tracked armored personnel carriers, armored cars and other military vehicles destined for the Pacific Theater. By July of 1942, military combat vehicles began flowing into the Richmond Ford plant to get final processing before being transported out the deep-water channel to the war zones. The "Richmond Tank Depot" as the Ford plant was then called, helped keep American fighting men supplied with up-to-the-minute improvements in their battle equipment. In mobilizing the wartime production effort to its full potential, Federal military authorities and private industry began to work closely together on a scale never seen before in American history. This laid the groundwork for what became known as the "Military Industrial Complex" during the Cold War years. This Assembly Plant was one cog in the mobilization of the "Arsenal of Democracy" and a historic part of what is today's industrial culture of the United States.
After the war, the devastation to the local economy as a result of the closing of the Kaiser shipyards would have been crippling had it not been for the continued production of the Ford Plant. The last Ford was assembled in February 1953, with the plant being closed in 1956 because of the inability to accommodate increased productivity demands. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged the plant. At the present time, the City of Richmond has repaired and prepared the Ford Assembly building for rehabilitation. A developer has been selected and portions of the building will soon be accessible to the public. Upon completion of the rehabilitation, the Visitor Center for the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park will relocate into this building.
The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, part of the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter World War II--Home Front National Historical Park, is located at 1414-1422 Harbour Way S. between the Harbor Channel and the Inner Harbor Basin in Richmond. The plant is currently closed to the public. For further information, visit the park's website.
Looking across the channel from Sheridan Observation Point at the foot of Harbour Way South, you can see some of the buildings of Henry J. Kaiser's Richmond Shipyard Number Three. The massive square concrete building is the general warehouse, from which ships received their finishing touches-- blankets, mops, brooms and all the other individual pieces of furnishings and equipment needed to completely fit out a self-contained floating vessel. On the other side of the general warehouse, but not visible, are five quays, or slips, where the ships were assembled. Henry J. Kaiser had been building cargo ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission in the 1930s, and when orders for ships from the British government, already at war with Nazi Germany, allowed for growth, Kaiser established his first Richmond shipyard begun 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. All of Kaiser's shipyards together produced 1,490 ships, which amounted to 27 percent of the total U.S. Maritime Commission construction. 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 Robert E. Perry 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 everyday, 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 daycare 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. As one African American Rosie commented about the progress of labor and civil rights during this time, while huge gains had to wait for the post-war civil rights movement, the Home Front did "begin to shed light on America's promise."
Richmond Shipyard Number Three, part of the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, is located at the tip of Potrero Point in Richmond. The shipyard is currently closed to the public while safe methods of public access are developed. For further information, visit the park's website.
The Victory ship SS Red Oak Victory was built in Richmond Kaiser Shipyard # 1, and launched on November 9, 1944. It was one of 414 Victories built during World War II, but one of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant Marine to the U.S. Navy. The Red Oak Victory served as an ammunition ship in the South Pacific during WWII. The ship was named for the town of Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered the highest per capita casualty rate of any American community during World War II. Following a fitting out period, the Red Oak Victory was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on January 10, 1945. Red Oak Victory departed Hawaii on February 10 loaded with munitions needed in the Marshall and Caroline islands. Sent onward from Eniwetok, she arrived in Ulithi on February 28, 1945, and then began operating under Commander Service Squadron Ten. Operating out of the Philippines, the vessel issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During a hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, SS Red Oak Victory handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.
Many Rosies recounted how important their jobs were in welding these ships and how careful they were in doing it. They realized the lives of their husbands, brothers and sons depended on the cargoes delivered by these ships. Victory ships were not supposed to last long--but the welds of the Red Oak Victory are still intact after 60 years. The Red Oak Victory is 455 feet in length, and armed with one five-inch/38 caliber gun; one three-inch/50 caliber gun, and eight 20 mm guns. The vessel was decommissioned in 1946 and returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission. Red Oak Victory was used by the Luckenback Steamship Company from 1947 through the 1950s, during which time the vessel went to Japan, Korea, Cuba, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Japan. Red Oak Victory was operated by American Mail Lines for the Military Sea Transport Service from 1966 to 1968, making a dozen voyages to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines carrying military supplies loaded at West Coast ports. From 1968 until 1998, the vessel was laid up in the Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, California.
Doomed to be scrapped, the Red Oak Victory came to the attention of the Richmond Museum Association in 1993. In 1996 Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the ship to the Museum Association. Red Oak Victory was turned over to the Richmond Museum of History and returned to a new home in Richmond on September 20, 1998.
The SS Red Oak Victory, part of the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, is located at 1500 Dornan Dr., Terminal One, Point of Richmond, in Richmond. The ship is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association, which is restoring the ship with volunteer help. The ship is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm, Tuesday-Sunday; there is a suggested donation. To schedule a guided tour, please call 510-237-2933. For further information, visit the ship's website.
After the 1906 earthquake left San Francisco in ruins, the California Wine Association moved to Point Molate and began construction of Winehaven, once holder of the prestigious title, "world's largest winery." At the peak of the season as many as 400 workers lived here, as all of the California Wine Association's shipments to foreign, coastal and New York markets sailed from the Winehaven dock--shipment capacity was 500,000 gallons a month, and 40 ships sailed annually for New York alone. With the advent of prohibition in 1919, Winehaven went mostly unused from about 1920 until the late 1930s. The navy acquired the 412-acre site in 1941, moved into the winery buildings, and constructed 20 large concrete tanks on the hillsides above for a fuel depot. Thousands of drums of fuel were stored in huge buildings, pipelines were laid, a new pier was built and the old one was eventually removed. The Winehaven area was once more alive and bustling with ships and men. The old Winehaven Hotel was pressed into service for a period as barracks and mess hall, and the workers' houses were renovated for the use of naval personnel. The Commanding Officer of the Naval Fuel Depot was assigned the largest house on the bluff overlooking the others, which previously had been the home of the winery superintendent.
Despite the switch from wine to fuel, the historic district remains
virtually unaltered from its days as a winery. There are 35 buildings
in the National Register historic district built between 1907 and 1919,
the most notable being the castle-like Winehaven Building adorned with
crenellated parapet and corner turrets. Also within the district is
the Winemaster's House (Building 60), which became the Commanding Officer's
residence, and the quaint Village of Point Molate, a row of turn-of-the-century
cottages used to house Winehaven and military families. The Navy continued
to operate the fuel depot during the Korean War and Vietnam War until
it was decommissioned in 1995. Mixed-use development is envisioned around
its historic core when the property is transferred to a private developer.
Hamilton Army Airfield, in Novato, California, was built as a bombardment
base and the headquarters for the 1st Wing of the Army Air Corps, one
of only three bases established for this purpose nationally. The base
was utilized for the defense of the western section of the country until
1940. Hamilton Field played a significant role during World War II in
training and national defense by serving as an overseas staging area,
acting as one of three major bases of the West Coast wing of the Air
Transport Command's Pacific Division and for its role in the Operational
Training Unit Program. Construction of Hamilton Airfield commenced on
July 1, 1932, with the majority of first phase construction completed
After the base's contributions in WWII the base was reassigned several times until buildings and land were transferred to the Navy, Army and Coast Guard. Now deactivated, Hamilton Field, now called Hamiltown, has been redeveloped into a variety of mixed-use commercial and residential projects. Architecturally, Hamilton Airfield is significant for its deviation in form and style from other airfields heretofore in existence. The development of the base as a planned community was an innovative approach in construction of Army bases which had only been adopted in the mid-1920s. Hamilton Field represented a growing trend in construction that reflected the climate, topography and history of the region in the architectural style of the base. Hence, the airfield was designed in the Spanish Eclectic style, with buildings of hollow tile or reinforced concrete construction, stucco exteriors and Mission tile roofs. Much of the old Spanish Mission Revival architecture has been preserved, including housing, barracks and hangars, as well as the base hospital, firehouse and theater. Built in 1932, the old firehouse is undergoing renovation to house the Hamilton Field History Museum, scheduled to open in 2006. The 350-seat Hamilton Theater is slated for transfer to the City of Novato, but as yet there are no plans for its reuse.
Hamilton Army Air Field Discontiguous Historic District is located primarily on the southwest part of Hamilton Army Air Field in Novato. The community is accessible from the Alameda de la Loma and Bell Marin Keys Blvd. exits from Hwy. 101. Much of deactivated base was transferred to the city, and Hamilton Field is now a residential community, Hamiltown. For further information, please visit the community's website or the nearby Novato History Museum and Novato Historical Guild.
Mare Island became the first United States naval base on the West Coast in 1854. Spanish ship captain Don Juan Manuel de Ayala y Aranza touched here in 1775. It received its present name from Mexican calvary commander General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo in 1830. Mare Island illustrates the Nation's effort to extend its naval power into the Pacific Ocean. The first U.S. warship (1859) and first dry dock (1872-91) constructed on the West Coast were built here. To this day, Mare Island holds the record for building the destroyer USS Ward in 17½ days during World War I. The shipyard has been associated with military affairs, development of industrial design and persons significant in U.S. maritime history beginning with David Farragut through World War II leaders.
During World War II, the shipyard turned out scores of ships and submarines, assembling new destroyer escorts with prefabricated sections brought in from as far away as Colorado. Warships damaged in battle were also repaired and refitted in the base's drydocks. By the end of the war, Mare Island had produced 17 submarines, four submarine tenders, 31 destroyer escorts, 33 small craft and more than 300 landing craft.
Mare Island's sprawling National Register historic district boasts hundreds of buildings built between 1854 and the end of World War II, including ranking officers' mansions (c. 1900), duplexes for junior grade officers (1940), and ammunition depots (1856-1960s). Building 46 (1855), which served as an active pipe shop until 1984, is scheduled to reopen as the Mare Island Artifact Museum in 2004. St. Peter's Chapel (1901), the West's first nondenominational military church, features 29 stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. At Alden Park, visitors can inspect a German Marder Suicide Submarine and Torpedo (1944) and explore bomb shelters built during World War II.
Closed in 1996, Mare Island was conveyed to the City of Vallejo in 2002 for reuse and redevelopment. The City is currently negotiating with a master developer on a plan that would provide "seven million square feet of commercial space...1,400 residences, new recreational and open spaces, and revived historical areas."
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard, a National Historic Landmark, is roughly bounded by Mare Island Strait, Causeway St., Cedar Ave., Mesa, Ribeiro and Tyler rds. It is accessible from the Tennessee St. exit of I-80. Because access is limited, contact the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation in advance for tour information at 707-557-1538 or www.mareislandhpf.org. Further information can also be found on the developer's website: www.lennarmareisland.com. Visitors may also be interested in the nearby Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum at 734 Marin St. in downtown Vallejo, or viewing the shipyard from sea on the Baylink Ferry (www.baylinkferry.com). Mare Island has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.
In 1847 a 252-acre parcel of land adjoining the Benicia city limits on the east was acquired for a military reserve. First occupation of the post was on April 9, 1849, when two companies of the 2nd Infantry set up camp to establish Benicia Barracks. In 1851, after the urging of General Percifer F. Smith, the first Ordnance Supply Depot in the West was established in Benicia. In 1852 it was designated Benicia Arsenal. The grounds of the Benicia Arsenal are famous for stabling the Army's one and only Camel Corps--an idea dreamt up in 1855 by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (later Confederate President). The short-lived Camel Corps was disbanded in 1863, but the Camel Barns, built in 1855, remain and are now the Benicia Historical Museum. The Benicia Arsenal was a staging area during the Civil War for Union troops from the West, and the installation remained a garrisoned post until 1898 when troops were assigned to duty in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish-American War. During World War I, Benicia Arsenal gave ordnance support to all large Army installations in the Western States as well as supplying Ordnance material to American expeditionary forces in Siberia.
In the 24 hours following the Pearl Harbor bombing, 125 separate truck convoys were loaded and dispatched from the Benicia Arsenal, leaving its stock of ammunition, small arms and high explosives completely exhausted. Throughout the war, the arsenal supplied ports with weapons, artillery, parts, supplies and tools. In addition, the arsenal overhauled 14,343 pairs of binoculars, manufactured 180,000 small items for tanks and weapons and repaired approximately 70,000 watches. However, the arsenal is most famous for supplying munitions to Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle for the first bombing raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, launched from the USS Hornet (whose successor is now docked at the former Alameda Naval Air Station).
Prior to 1940, the arsenal employed 85 civilian employees at Benecia Arsenal; by October 1942, the payroll had reached 4,545. The labor shortage in 1944 forced the arsenal commander to put 250 Italian and 400 German prisoners of war to work, alongside 150 juveniles from the California Youth Authority. Women comprised nearly half the civilian employee force. During the Korean War, the number of civilians reached an all-time high of 6,700 workers. Benicia Arsenal was deactivated in 1963.
The Benicia Arsenal is located at Army Point and I-680 in Benicia. The Benicia Historical Museum is located at 2024 Camel Rd., and is open Wednesday-Sunday, 1:00pm to 4:00pm. There is a fee for admission; tours of the area are offered. The Gunpowder Magazine Building is only shown by appointment; please call 707-745-5435 or visit the museum's website for further information. Additional information can also be found at the Friends of the Benicia Arsenal at www.friendsofthebeniciaarsenal.itgo.com. Benicia Arsenal has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Port Chicago Naval Magazine was dedicated as a National Memorial in 1992 to honor the courage and commitment of the Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners, and working civilians killed and injured in the largest homeland disaster during World War II. With roots reaching back to the mid-1800s, Port Chicago is one of the oldest Naval ordnance support bases on the West Coast. In 1942, the 13,000-acre port, located along the Sacramento River Delta in Concord, was annexed by Mare Island Naval Shipyard as an ammunition transshipment facility. Tragically, Port Chicago is best remembered as the site of a catastrophic explosion on July 17, 1944, that took the lives of 320 servicemen, including 202 African Americans. Five thousand tons of munitions being loaded for transport to the Pacific detonated, launching a tower of fire and smoke two miles into the sky.
Disparate treatment of the survivors only deepened the wounds. Black sailors were ordered to return to work almost immediately while white officers were granted a leave of absence. In protest, 50 African Americans refused to serve under these harsh conditions. They were subsequently court-marshaled and found guilty of mutiny, prompting future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to declare the proceedings "one of the worst frame-ups we have come across." On December 23, 1999, one of the few surviving convicted mutineers, Freddie Meeks, was granted a full pardon by President William J. Clinton.
Visitors to the site can still see the ruins of piers destroyed in
the blast, as well as bunkers and revetment and munitions boxcars. The
Port Chicago National Memorial edges the Concord shoreline, featuring
interpretive panels and a granite monument engraved with the names of
those who perished in the explosion.
As the United States became concerned about the security of its lengthy coastlines, dirigibles (rigid, powered blimps) became an essential component of the Navy Department starting in the 1920s. Blimps were more effective than balloons: occupants were able to observe large areas of land and sea for longer periods; the craft were more maneuverable; and ascent and descent could be more dependently controlled. More commonly known as Moffett Field, the U.S. Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, California, Historic District consists of a large number of buildings that were constructed from the 1930s on. By far the most famous and visible of these are Hangars Number One, Two and Three, which dwarf the surrounding buildings, standing as testament to the engineering skills of their builders.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hangar Number One was constructed in 1933 to house the Navy dirigible USS Macon. During the brief period that the USS Macon was based at Moffett from October 1933 until it was lost at sea in February 1935, Hangar Number One not only accommodated the giant airship but several smaller non-rigid LTA craft simultaneously. The hangar is 1,133 feet long and 308 feet wide, constructed on an amazing network of steel girders sheathed with galvanized steel, and the floor covers eight acres and can accommodate 10 football fields. Unique and spectacular are the "orange peel" doors, weighing 500 tons each. The style of the other buildings on the base is largely Spanish Colonial Revival, mostly built in the 1930s, with some International style buildings constructed in the 1940s and later. After the Macon crashed in 1935, the base was turned over to the Army Air Corps for use as a training center.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Navy regained control of the station as the West Coast headquarters for coastal patrol blimps. Throughout the war, Navy blimps could be seen hovering over the Golden Gate patrolling for submarines and mines. In 1943, Hangar Number Two and Hangar Number Three were constructed to keep pace with the Navy's increasing demand for space. Once again, however, the Lighter-Than-Air program at Moffett Field would be fleeting. A shift to Heavier-Than-Air technology in 1942 marked the beginning of the end, with the blimp program completely phased out by 1946.
Decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to NASA, Moffett Field is now part of the NASA Ames Research Center. Plans are underway to integrate Moffett Field and the adjoining Ames Research Center campus into a shared-use research, development and educational resource in collaboration with government, industry and academia. Even today, Hangar One dominates the landscape, towering over an impressive array of 1930s-era Spanish Colonial Revival military buildings. The hangar was closed to the public in 2003 after the discovery of toxic contaminants. At the Moffett Field Museum, visitors can explore rooms of memorabilia, artifacts and models from its days as the hub of West Coast blimp training and operations.
Naval Air Station Sunnyvale is located near Mountain View and Sunnyvale, 35 miles south of San Francisco. From Hwy. 101 use the Moffett Field exit. The Moffett Field Museum has been located in Hangar One for several years, but is currently closed due to potential toxic chemicals in the hangar. For further information, visit the museum's website or call 650-603-9827.
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
Links to Lesson Plans on World War II
The Bay Area is the ideal learning laboratory to bring the lessons of the World War II era home to students in a tangible way. Numerous schools and diverse populations exist in close proximity to places of interest in terms of the social, ethnic and military stories of the time. Many of the places included in this travel itinerary make ideal field trips that reinforce the lessons of the classroom. Whether you are able to visit the actual places or their websites, the lesson plans highlighted in this section offer excellent ways to bring meaning to the era by association with tangible places. They also provide an opportunity to emphasize important subjects, such as the wartime internment of Japanese Americans that are not yet well represented by places listed in the National Register located in the Bay Area. So whether you are looking for specific activities to teach politics, social trends, economics or military history, these lesson plans offer a sample of the very best the web has to offer.
Teaching with Historic Places
Organization of American Historians
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
California Military History Educational Project
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Parks in the San Francisco Bay Area
Trust for Historic Preservation
Hotels of America
San Francisco Public Library
of American Historians
Office of Historic Preservation Department of Parks and Recreation
Francisco Bay Area Travel and Tourism Information
San Francisco Bay Seacoast Defenses 1776-1974
of the City of San Francisco
Japanese American Historical Society
Gun Batteries of San Francisco: www.angelfire.com/ca5/battery
Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers
Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record
War II Related National Park
University Library Government Publications and Maps
National Park Service Office
of Sustainable Tourism
National Scenic Byways Program
The literature of World War II is vast, wide and deep. The catalog of the San Francisco Public Library contains 1,630 subject headings under the main heading of World War, 1939-1945. Wading through this literature is sometimes daunting for those looking for specific kinds of materials. The following selections highlight works that the authors used to develop this website, as well as those that offer more breadth and content for those who want different kinds of information. In terms of literature on the Home Front in the Bay Area, we especially recommend Roger W. Lotchin’s The Bad City in the Good War, Marilynn S. Johnson’s The Second Gold Rush, and Albert S. Broussard’s Black San Francisco. A little further afield, Kevin Starr’s Embattled Dreams is an excellent examination of California in the decade of the 1940s. And Richard Lingeman’s Don’t You Know There’s A War On? is a classic and lively description of the Home Front with a nationwide sweep. The internment of Japanese Americans inspired a great deal of writing in many genres: historical context, legal analysis and personal memoir. Among the best of the latter are Jeanne Watkasuki Huston’s Farewell to Manzanar and Yoshiko Uchida’s Journey to Topaz. An unforgettable novel on the subject, removed from the Bay Area geographically but still relevant, is David Guterson’s Snow Falling On Cedars, which demonstrates how the internment affected all the citizens of the area, not just those of Japanese ancestry. There is no dearth of military histories of World War II, but two of those that focus on the Bay Area in fascinating detail are Brian B. Chin’s Artillery at the Golden Gate and John A. Martini’s Alcatraz at War.
Abbott, Carl. The New Urban America: Growth and Politics in Sunbelt Cities. Chapell City: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.
Anderson, Karen. Wartime Women: Sex Roles, Family Relations, and the Status of Women During World War II. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Archibald, Katherine. Wartime Shipyard: A Study in Social Disunity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1947.
Berube, Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: Gay Men and Women in World War II. Free Press, 1990.
Blum, John Morton. V Was for Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
Bonnett, Wayne. Build Ships! Wartime Shipbuilding Photographs, San Francisco Bay: 1940-1945. Sausalito, CA: Windgate Press, 1999.
Bosworth, Allan R. America's Concentration Camps. New York: W. W. Norton, 1967.
Boyd, Nan. Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Broussard, Albert. Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900-1954. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.
Buchanan, A. Russell. Black Americans in World War II . Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Books, 1977.
Campbell, D'Ann. Women at War with America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.
Casdorph Paul D. Let the Good Times Roll: Life at Home in America During World War II. New York: Paragon House, 1989.
Chin, Brian B. Artillery at the Golden Gate: The Harbor Defenses of San Francisco in World War II. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1994.
Daniels, Douglas Henry. Pioneer Urbanities: A Social and Cultural History of Black San Francisco. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.
Fabry Joseph. Swing Shift: Building the Liberty Ships. San Francisco: Strawberry Hill Press, 1982.
Foster, Mark. Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West. Austin: University of Texas, 1989.
Fox, Stephen. The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans During World War II. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Greenberg, Milton. The GI Bill: The Law That Changed America. West Palm Beach, FL: Lickle Publishing Inc., 1997.
Hartmann, Susan. The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.
Hoopes Roy, ed. Americans Remember the Home Front: An Oral Narrative of the World War II Years in America. Berkeley: Berkeley Pub Group, 2002.
Houlihan James. Western Shipbuilders in World War II. Oakland: Shipbuilding Review Publishing Association, 1945.
Johnson, Marilynn S. The Second Gold Rush: Oakland and the East Bay in World War II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. (Oxford History of the United States, Vol 9). New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Kinnaird Lawence. History of the Greater San Francisco Bay Region. New York: Lewis Historical Co., 1966.
Lemke-Santangelo, Gretchen. Abiding Courage: African American Migrant Women and the East Bay Community. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
--- .“Women Made the Community: African American Migrant Women and the Cultural Transformation of the San Francisco East Bay Area.” African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003, p. 254-275.
Lingeman Richard R. “Don't You Know There's a War On?” The American Home Front, 1941-1945. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.
Lotchin Roger W. Fortress California , 1910-1961: From Warfare to Welfare. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
--- . The Bad City in the Good War: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
--- . The Way We Really Are: The Golden State in the Second Great War. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Love, Edmund. Arsenic and Red Tape. Harcourt, Brace & Company: New York, 1960.
Martini, John A. Alcatraz at War. San Francisco: Golden Gate National Parks Association, 2002.
Moore, Shirley Ann Wilson. To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Nash, Gerald. The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Pollenberg Richard, ed. America at War: The Home Front, 1941-1945. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1968.
Rogers, Donald I. Since You Went Away: From Rosie the Riveter to Bond Drives, World War II at Home. New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1973.
Starr, Kevin. The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
---. Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. New York: Little, Brown, 1989.
Taylor, Quintard, and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, eds. African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.
Terkel, Studs. "The Good War:" An Oral History of World War Two. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984.
Wakatsuki Houston, Jeanne, and James D. Houston. Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
Wise, Nancy Baker, and Christy Wise. A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.
Wollenberg, Charles. Golden Gate Metropolis: Perspectives on Bay Area History. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, 1985.
---. Marinship at War: Shipbuilding and Social Change in Wartime Sausalito. Berkeley: Western Heritage Press, 1990.
Adams, Simon. Eyewitness: World War II (Eyewitness Books). New York: DK Publishing, 2000.
Ambrose, Stephen. The Good Fight: How World War II Was Won. New York: Atheneum, 2001.
Colman, Penny. Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. New York: Crown Books for Young Readers, 1998.
Panchyk, Richard. World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2002.
Stanley, Jerry. I am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment. New York: Crown Books for Young Readers, 1996.
Tanaka, Shelley. Attack On Pearl Harbor. New York: Hyperion Press, 2001.
World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area was produced by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, assisted by Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, the Organization of American Historians, San Francisco Public Library and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service; Patrick W. Andrus, Heritage Tourism Program Manager; and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St., NW, Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Thursday.
The itinerary was conceptualized by the World War II Network, a consortium of National Parks and heritage preservation partners with a common goal of promoting the preservation, interpretation and public recognizition of our World War II-era historic properties. Stephen Haller with Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Mike Buhler with the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation coordinated the Network's contributions, including property descriptions and color and historic photographs. National Register web production team members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Essays were written by John A. Martini (Seacoast Defense); Roger Lotchin, Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, (Mobilization); Gordon Chappell, Regional Historian, National Park Service (Port of Embarkation), Wayne Bonnett, excerpt from his new book Build Ships! San Francisco Bay Wartime Shipbuilding Photographs (Shipbuilding); Donna Graves, historian and cultural planner (Women at War); and Mike Buhler, National Trust for Historic Preservation (Preservation).
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