South Portland in Cumberland County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
We were all working there for one purpose: to get this country out of trouble. Everyone had one thing in mind: to produce and to win.
Worker at New England Shipbuilding Corp.
Before there could be any British Ocean class or American Liberty ships - there had to be a shipyard in which to construct them. South Portland's Todd-Bath shipyards, operating as an affiliate of Todd Shipyards of New York, had a two year contract with the British government to build 30 Ocean class cargo ships. On December 26, 1940 contractors broke ground on a 26-acre shipyard with three basins containing seven building berths.
After President Roosevelt announced an Emergency Shipbuilding Program to produce 200 standard class cargo vessels - later called Liberty ships - the U.S. Maritime Commission established the South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation to construct a new yard to the west of the Todd-Bath shipyard. On April 28, 1941, construction began on the West Yard with four conventional shipways and a contract to build 16 ships, soon expanded to six ways for construction of 24 ships. At this time, the Todd-Bath shipyard became known as the East Yard. In March 1943, the U.S. Maritime Commission purchased the Todd-Bath shipyard from the British and merged it with the West Yard of South Portland Shipbuilding Corp.
William Stark Newell (1878 to 1954)
W.S. "Pete" Newell's keen foresight had far-reaching implications for the state of Maine, the shipbuilding industry, and a world at war. In 1927, when most had abandoned hopes for Bath Iron Works, he scrabbled together financing from investors to keep it afloat. By World War II, BIW received the Navy's honorary "E" pennant and was launching a Navy Destroyer every 17 days. In the late 1930s, he showed a friend, naval architect William Francis Gibbs his drawings for a new basin type shipyard in South Portland. These drawings eventually would lead to Newell receiving a contract from the British government to build a shipyard and 30 Ocean class cargo ships. The yard would expand and a [sic] go on to build 236 Liberty cargo ships during World War II.
Pete Newell's experience, education, and business acumen helped him to create one of Maine's most successful industries of all time. In 1945, Rear Admiral Emory Land of the U.S. Maritime Commission sent this telegram: "Pete is a top-flight shipbuilder, an A-1 industrial leader, an outstanding citizen, and a loyal friend."
[Photo captions follow]
1. This 1940 aerial view shows Cushing Point and the 2,200-foot breakwater and lighthouse that protected
2. Piles of snow and ice-covered hulls were no excuse to stop working. In Journey Through Chaos, war correspondent, Agnes E. Meyer reports, "the weather conditions in Maine, where the thermometer often fell to 10, 20, 30 degrees below zero, were a test of character that no other group of workers had to meet. Yet the absenteeism and turnover were below that of most other shipyards."
3. One of the first steps in construction of the shipyard was the erection of a temporary 1,500-foot cofferdam to keep water out of the shipbuilding basins.
4. On July 31, 1941, in this first issue of the shipyard's employee newspaper The Shipyard News, company founder William "Pete" Newell addresses his first 1,000 employees, a number that would swell to 30,000 at its peak and level off to about 18,000 at maximum productivity.
5. This October 1944 aerial view shows the entire New England Shipbuilding Corp. including both East and West yards with vessels at the fitting out piers. At the East Yard ships were floated out of flooded basins with bows facing out and at the West Yard ship slid down
6. These workers posed on July 16, 1918 at the Cumberland Shipbuilding Company at Cushings Point, where they built World War I troop ships and barges. This site became the Todd-Bath shipyard.
7. The nearby homes of Ferry Village overlook the storage area with stacks of supplies brought in by rail from the Broadway Plate Yard, located three miles off site.
8. Henry J. Kaiser (left), whose firm built the Grand Coulee, Bonneville, and Hoover dams and William "Pete" Newell (right) of Bath Iron Works formed a business partnership with Todd Shipyards of New York to build two new shipyards and construct sixty Ocean class cargo ships for the British government. Kaiser's yard in Richmond, CA and Newell's Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland each built thirty ships.
9. Construction scaffolding covers the Enoch Train. The sign projects a launch date of October 12, 1943 and 50 days for production. By late 1943, crews completed shkips in an average of 52.5 days. With such intense production demands, the work continued around the clock with three shifts, seven days a week.
10. New England Shipbuilding Corporation Yards 1943.
Location. 43° 39.206′ N, 70° 14.018′ W. Marker Click for map. Marker is at the Liberty Ship Memorial in Bug Light Park, on Cushings Point, off Madison Street. Marker is in this post office area: South Portland ME 04106, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. WWII: On the Home Front (here, next to this marker); Voyages for Victory (here, next to this marker); The Work Force (here, next to this marker); South Portland and Its Liberty Ships (here, next to this marker); The Ugly Ducklings (here, next to this marker); The Ultimate Sacrifice (here, next to this marker); Liberty Ship Memorial (here, next to this marker); South Portland's Ships for Liberty (a few steps from this marker). Click for a list of all markers in South Portland.
Also see . . .
1. South Portland's Wartime Shipbuilding. (Submitted on May 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. South Portland Shipyard Oral History Project. (Submitted on May 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Patriots & Patriotism • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 605 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.