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Life in the Newport News Shipyard during the 1940s

Newport News Shipbuilding has manufactured ships in times of peace, war, adversity, and abundance for the nation. Since 1886, Newport News Shipbuilding has built over 800 ships, including both naval and commercial vessels.

In 1940, the Navy ordered a battleship, seven more aircraft carriers, and four cruisers. In World War II, NNS built ships for the US Government’s Emergency Shipbuilding Program and was able to fill requests for “Liberty ships” as needed quickly. The North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was founded on the banks of the Cape Fear River, and its first Liberty ship was launched before the end of 1941. In total, 243 ships were built, including 186 Liberty ships. The Navy awarded the company its “E” pennant for excellence in shipbuilding during the war. NNS ranked 23rd among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.

These photos offer a glimpse into the life of workers and the construction of ships in the Newport News Shipyard during the 1940s.

#1 Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

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#2 Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

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#3 Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

Shipyard employees getting out at 4:00 p.m. Newport News, Virginia, 1941

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#4 Shipyards of Newport News, Virginia, 1941

Shipyards of Newport News, Virginia, 1941

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#5 These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

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#6 Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean navy, 1941

Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean navy, 1941

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#7 This is the storage space in the moulding loft where the many templates for ships’ parts are fashioned in wood. These patterns are then transferred to steel, 1941

This is the storage space in the moulding loft where the many templates for ships' parts are fashioned in wood. These patterns are then transferred to steel, 1941

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#8 These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

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#9 These two skillful workers are punching rivet holes in the frame of a ship on the ways, 1941

These two skillful workers are punching rivet holes in the frame of a ship on the ways, 1941

Nearly a million rivets were used in large naval warcraft until recently, but steel and weight is now conserved by the use of welded jointures whenever possible

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#10 Through the scaffolding may be seen the prow of a battleship under construction, 1941

Through the scaffolding may be seen the prow of a battleship under construction, 1941

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#11 Through the scaffolding may be seen the prow of a battleship under construction, 1941

Through the scaffolding may be seen the prow of a battleship under construction, 1941

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#12 Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean Navy, 1941

Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean Navy, 1941

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#13 In the foreground is the frame section for a new naval vessel under construction. The ways and overhead carriers and cranes are seen in the background, 1941

In the foreground is the frame section for a new naval vessel under construction. The ways and overhead carriers and cranes are seen in the background, 1941

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#14 Thousands of workers contribute thousands of skills in the building of ships for Uncle Sam’s growing Navy. This worker is topping punching holes on a ship’s frame, 1941

Thousands of workers contribute thousands of skills in the building of ships for Uncle Sam's growing Navy. This worker is topping punching holes on a ship's frame, 1941

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#15 This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, 1941

This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, 1941

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#16 The Norfolk-Newport News section of Virginia is contributing a large portion of the new tonnage of our rapidly expanding two-ocean Navy, 1941

The Norfolk-Newport News section of Virginia is contributing a large portion of the new tonnage of our rapidly expanding two-ocean Navy, 1941

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#17 Here is a section of the huge building ways, large enough to permit construction of the largest of super-battleships, 1941

Here is a section of the huge building ways, large enough to permit construction of the largest of super-battleships, 1941

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#18 These four workers are guiding a steel plate through a punch press, 1941

These four workers are guiding a steel plate through a punch press, 1941

When they are through, the plate will go out to the steel plate section, and thence by overhead crane to the building ways.

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#19 Transportation is a vital operation in the huge Newport News Yard, where more than 36,000 workers are employed, 1941

Transportation is a vital operation in the huge Newport News Yard, where more than 36,000 workers are employed, 1941

These two workers are shown laying his tracks for a new railroad spur, which will carry materials right to the building ways where four cruisers and a large battleship are under construction for our new two-ocean fleet.

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#20 These workers are marking off the design for a ship’s plate, using a template as a guide, 1941

These workers are marking off the design for a ship's plate, using a template as a guide, 1941

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#21 These two workers are assembling the hull section of a new cruiser. Four new navy cruisers are on the ways here, and a huge battleship, 1941

These two workers are assembling the hull section of a new cruiser. Four new navy cruisers are on the ways here, and a huge battleship, 1941

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#22 Their helmets hoisted on their heads, these two welders take time out for a smoke and breath of fresh air. Hundreds of welders are employed in the building of Uncle Sam’s new Navy craft, 1941

Their helmets hoisted on their heads, these two welders take time out for a smoke and breath of fresh air. Hundreds of welders are employed in the building of Uncle Sam's new Navy craft, 1941

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#23 Here is driving power for the Navy, a group propeller shafts waiting for installation in new destroyers for our two-ocean Navy, 1941

Here is driving power for the Navy, a group propeller shafts waiting for installation in new destroyers for our two-ocean Navy, 1941

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#24 Fittings of various types, all for use in a single U.S. Navy vessels under construction, 1941

Fittings of various types, all for use in a single U.S. Navy vessels under construction, 1941

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#25 Skilled work requires brawn as well as brains. This husky navy yard worker is driving home a pin in the propeller shaft of a naval vessel under construction, 1941

Skilled work requires brawn as well as brains. This husky navy yard worker is driving home a pin in the propeller shaft of a naval vessel under construction, 1941

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#26 This worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

This worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

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#27 This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new naval vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, 1941

This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new naval vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, 1941

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#28 This worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

This worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

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#29 A worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

A worker is touching up one of the huge condensers for a U.S. Navy destroyer under construction, 1941

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#30 This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new naval vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, where they will become a part of the assembled ship, 1941

This is a structural section, where preliminary work is done before the sections for new naval vessels are brought by overhead carriers to the ways, where they will become a part of the assembled ship, 1941

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#31 A huge overhead crane swings this metal plate into position to be welded to a new cruiser under construction for the U.S. Navy, 1941

A huge overhead crane swings this metal plate into position to be welded to a new cruiser under construction for the U.S. Navy, 1941

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#32 These workers are attaching parts for a new cruiser under construction to the overhead crane which will deliver the metal to the building ways, 1941

These workers are attaching parts for a new cruiser under construction to the overhead crane which will deliver the metal to the building ways, 1941

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#33 A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways. Four cruisers and a battleship are under construction here, 1941

A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways. Four cruisers and a battleship are under construction here, 1941

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#34 A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways, 1941

A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways, 1941

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#35 A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways, 1941

A section for a new U.S. Navy cruiser is being delivered by overhead crane to the building ways, 1941

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#36 Problems, major and minor, arise at every turn in the building of huge whips for Uncle Sam’s growing Navy, 1941

Problems, major and minor, arise at every turn in the building of huge whips for Uncle Sam's growing Navy, 1941

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#37 These workers are red-leading a plate, to prevent corrosion. Only the highest quality materials will serve for the new warcraft under construction for Uncle Sam’s two-ocean fleet, 1941

These workers are red-leading a plate, to prevent corrosion. Only the highest quality materials will serve for the new warcraft under construction for Uncle Sam's two-ocean fleet, 1941

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#38 These workers are red-leading a pipe, to prevent corrosion, 1941

These workers are red-leading a pipe, to prevent corrosion, 1941

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#39 These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

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#40 These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under constructions. These patterns are subsequently transferred to steel, 1941

These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under constructions. These patterns are subsequently transferred to steel, 1941

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#41 It’s got to measure up, or else. This skilled worker is checking the dimensions of a tail shaft bearing for a navy vessels under construction, 1941

It's got to measure up, or else. This skilled worker is checking the dimensions of a tail shaft bearing for a navy vessels under construction, 1941

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#42 These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

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#43 These skilled workers are tinpleting an evaporator top, part of a stream turbine which will help to drive a news naval vessel under construction at the Newport News, 1941

These skilled workers are tinpleting an evaporator top, part of a stream turbine which will help to drive a news naval vessel under construction at the Newport News, 1941

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#44 Behind all the scaffolding a new cruiser is beginning to take shape, one of four under construction on the Newport News ways, 1941

Behind all the scaffolding a new cruiser is beginning to take shape, one of four under construction on the Newport News ways, 1941

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#45 These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

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#46 There are many complicated machining operations involved in the production of ships for our two-ocean Navy. This skilled worker is one of thousands at the Newport News ways, 1941

There are many complicated machining operations involved in the production of ships for our two-ocean Navy. This skilled worker is one of thousands at the Newport News ways, 1941

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#47 (Newport News). These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

(Newport News). These are mold loft workers laying out patterns for various parts of naval vessels under construction, 1941

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#48 These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

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#49 Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean Navy, 1941

Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our new two-ocean Navy, 1941

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#50 These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

These are the men whose skill is devoted to the building of the finest, most powerful fleet of naval vessels the world has ever seen, 1941

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#51 This railroad spur is used for hauling materials onto the ways, where naval vessels are under construction. Huge overhead cranes are used to put heavy parts in place, 1941

This railroad spur is used for hauling materials onto the ways, where naval vessels are under construction. Huge overhead cranes are used to put heavy parts in place, 1941

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#52 Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our two-ocean Navy, 1941

Thousands of tons of lumber and steel are used in the construction of these ways, where American mechanical genius is employed in the production of ships for our two-ocean Navy, 1941

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#53 Huge overhead cranes are used for the placing of heavy parts in the naval ships under construction at these ways, 1941

Huge overhead cranes are used for the placing of heavy parts in the naval ships under construction at these ways, 1941

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#54 In the shadow of the huge building ways. where four cruisers and a battleship for Uncle Sam’s growing navy are under construction, lies the ship’s plate section, 1941

In the shadow of the huge building ways. where four cruisers and a battleship for Uncle Sam's growing navy are under construction, lies the ship's plate section, 1941

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#55 Shipyards of Newport News, 1941

Shipyards of Newport News, 1941

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#56 Shipyard worker (second from right) participates in a musical organization, 1940 May.

Shipyard worker (second from right) participates in a musical organization, 1940 May.

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#57 The forward deck on a C-3, photographed from the bridge. Winch in foreground; winch platform in center of picture, 1940

The forward deck on a C-3, photographed from the bridge. Winch in foreground; winch platform in center of picture, 1940

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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