South Portland in Cumberland County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
The Work Force
We welcome you to our yard. You are now a member of our army of 25,000 men and women building the ships so urgently needed to carry war supplies to the fighting front.
New England Shipbuilding Corporation, Employee Handbook
With the shipyards in their backyards and world war raging overseas, many men and women did their patriotic duty by reporting to the shipyard’s personnel office for employment.
In 1941, when the Todd-Bath shipyard was being built, planners estimated a need for 10,000 workers, but as demand for ships increased, that number quickly grew to 15,000. While Pete Newell brought over some of his experienced managers and crew from Bath Iron Works, the majority of new workers were inexperienced. With no time for extensive apprenticeships, personnel counselors helped employees choose from over 60 different positions and enrolled them in 30-day training programs.
In all, over 80,000 men and women joined the work force at the South Portland shipyards, some for just a short period, others for the duration, but each one a shipbuilder in his or her own right.
Wendy the Welder
During World War II, women entered the work force in record numbers. In April of 1943, Augusta Clawson, working for the U.S. Office of Education, went undercover as a welder at an Oregon Shipyard
Women welders were often referred to as “Wendys” like their counterparts in riveting, the “Rosies.”
[Photo captions follow]
1. October 31, 1941
On Defense Shipbuilding Day the shipyard invited the public to visit the facilities.
2. This game was played on the day that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
3. Women had worked in clerical positions since the shipyard opened, but in September of 1942 they began taking positions as skilled workers, motivated by the goal of ending the war quickly and earning higher wages. Over 3,700 women worked at the shipyard, holding the same positions as men. Many worked as welders, but
4. Workers commuted to the shipyards by bus, ferry, and car, traveling from all over Maine and New Hampshire. These buses line up at the East Yard to pick up and drop off workers.
5. Welders earned bonuses based on the length of completed welds. To keep track, an inspector would mark the end where the welder left off in colored paint. Competition prevailed on a national level too, with yards around the country vying for the top production records.
6. During the war, South Portland’s population exploded from 15,000 to 22,000 as many people relocated to the area to work and live. To meet the sudden demand for housing, the federal government constructed several housing projects for the defense workers such as this one at Peary Village.
7. These men enjoy their employee newspaper The Keel sitting down, but crowded buses often meant workers stood on the ride to the yard. With wartime gas rationing in effect, many had no other choice for transportation to work.
8. Popular singer, Lucy Monroe headlined the Sing America Sing tour promoting the purchase of war bonds. She performed at the shipyard and gave autographed copies of this
9. Women welders on the West Coast.
10. A crowd of workers at the West Yard probably attending a launching ceremony or a special promotional event. The shipyards often sponsored lunchtime entertainment including boxing matches and concerts.
11. In this April 15, 1944 issue of The Keel, Freeman Blake is shown inside the rigging loft. Riggers installed the cable and rope rigging for the masts and booms used for loading cargo on board the Liberty ships. Each Liberty had five cargo holds and could carry up to ten thousand tons of supplies and equipment.
12. Shipyard Departments and Their Work.
Location. 43° 39.205′ N, 70° 14.019′ W. Marker is in South Portland, Maine, in Cumberland County. 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. Voyages for Victory (here, next to this marker); The Yard (here, next to this marker); WWII: On the Home Front (here, next to this marker); South Portland and Its Liberty Ships The Ugly Ducklings (here, next to this marker); The Ultimate Sacrifice (a few steps from this marker); Liberty Ship Memorial (a few steps from 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 Shipyard Oral History Project. (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Patriots & Patriotism • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 456 times since then and 94 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.