WWII: Ships for the Allies

Above: New York Ship workers look on as the light carrier Independence (CVL-22) slides down the ways in August 1942. One of nine carriers completed on the Cleveland Class light cruiser hulls at New York Ship, the “Independence Class” carriers were used extensively against the Axis power of Japan in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Note the large sign suspended from the crane on the right reads “Did you tell your leader when you have finished waiting for a job? Waiting helps the Axis!

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World War II

In 1939, the United States of America was a neutral nation in the midst of an expanding World War. To meet the new international crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt called for American industrial power to be harnessed as the “arsenal of democracy.”

The hull of the 10,000 ton light cruiser USS Cleveland (CL-55), seen on the ways in Camden, NJ. The first in a planned series of fifty cruisers, the “Cleveland Class” were easily the largest single cruiser group ever built to one design. More than twenty were actually built, seven at New York Ship alone. A further nine were converted during construction to light fleet carriers (CVL) of the famous “Independence Class,” all of which were completed at New York Ship.

The United States Navy began a massive new warship building program to meet the growing threat from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Before WWII, New York Ship had been a major builder of civilian vessels during its first 43 years in business. However, the urgent naval construction needs of America and its Allies now required that New York Ship convert its entire production capability to building new naval warships.

Over the next six years, New York Shipbuilding Corporation would play a vital role in constructing the largest and most powerful Navy in history. Laying the keel for “Battleship X” on July 5, 1939 was just the beginning. In June 1941 the Camden waterfront witnessed the 35,000 ton battleship’s hull slide into the Delaware River. Completed less than a year later in March 1942, USS South Dakota (BB-57) would go on to become one of the most famous battleships in U.S. naval history.

From December 1941 to August 1945, New York Shipbuilding Corporation completed 26 major units for the Navy, including eight light cruisers, nine light aircraft carriers, two battle cruisers and one battleship. An additional forty-four other warships had already been completed before Pearl Harbor and America’s formal entry into WWII. In all, 218 warships built at New York Ship saw active service during WWII.

At is peak period of production during the War, more than 30,000 men and women were employed at New York Ship. Its thousands of workers responded magnificently to the urgent shipping needs of the Allied cause during the war.

Over a twelve month period, from March 1942 to March 1943, New York Ship delivered $217,000,000 in new naval construction alone. The bulk of these deliveries consisted of heavy combatant ships from 12,000 to 35,000 tons displacement, which were completed 8 to 13 months ahead of scheduled completion dates. The sheer magnitude of new warship construction within a twelve month period has never been exceeded in the history of shipbuilding.