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
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
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.
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.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels • Women.
Location. 43° 39.205′ N, 70° 14.019′ W. Marker is in South Portland, Maine, in Cumberland County. Marker is at the Liberty Ship Memorial in Bug Light Park, on Cushings Point, off Madison Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: South Portland ME 04106, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this 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 (here, next to this marker); 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). Touch for a list and map 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 Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 5, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 564 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.