Virginia New Deal Navy Ships

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yorktown-t.jpg enterprise-t.jpg tucker-t.jpg downes-t.jpg

Virginia is home to two major ship shipbuilding facilities: Newport News Shipyard and Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Each of these has a long history; each played an important part in World War II, and the New Deal played a major role in the part they played. The National Industrial Recovery Act of of 1933 (NIRA)[1] gave president Franklin D. Roosevelt the authority to build ships and an agency, the Public Works Administration (PWA)[2,3] to pay for them: 2 aircraft carriers, 1 heavy cruiser, 3 light cruisers, 4 submarines, 2 gunboats, and 20 destroyers[3]. The two carriers — Yorktown and Enterprise — were built at Newport News shipyard, and the destroyers Tucker and Downes at Norfolk.

Nor was that the only appropriation by which the PWA financed military ships. The PWA book America Builds[8], Table 20 on page 290 notes that as of February 28, 1939, the PWA had financed 60 naval ships and 99 Coast Guard vessels.

A great deal of work also was done on the Navy yards themselves through allocations from NIRA, the CWA, WPA, and PWA appropriations. “Between 1938 and 1945, a total of $590,000,000 was expended for construction and improvements at navy yards. The program was initiated by an appropriation of $20,045,000 for public works at navy yards in the Naval Appropriation Act of 1938. These funds, which seemed so large at the time but which, in retrospect, were extremely modest, were earmarked by Congress for specific projects to overcome recognized deficiencies and to meet, in part, the enhanced needs of the Vinson fleet expansion bill of 1938. In the fall of 1938, the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks prepared a comprehensive plan for the improvement of the naval shore establishment, based on a survey of overall requirements for these purposes. This plan, which was issued on January 1, 1939, contemplated total expenditures of $330,000,000. Of this total amount, the sum of $75,000,000 was proposed for correction of accumulated deficiencies at navy yards, and $70,000,000 additional was proposed for yard improvements needed in connection with the Vinson fleet expansion program. Projects at navy yards thus represented 44 per cent of the total plan. During the fiscal years 1939 and 1940, funds were provided by Congress under the appropriation 'Public Works, Navy,' for navy yard projects totalling $116,000,000, in support of this program.”[6]  See this page on the Newport News shipyard for further confirmation of New Deal expenditures on shipyards.

  1. National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), Wikipedia (accessed 17 July 2017)... “a law passed by the United States Congress in 1933 to authorize the President to regulate industry in an attempt to raise prices after severe deflation and stimulate economic recovery [and that established] a national public works program known as the Public Works Administration (PWA)...”
  2. McBride, William, Technological Change and the United States Navy, Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology, Johns Hopkins Press (2011).  Within three weeks of his March [1933] inauguration, Roosevelt was encouraging naval rearmament as part of public works since approximatley 85 percent of shipbuilding costs went to labor ... In a complete break with precedent, naval construction now would be at the discretion of the president and begin by executive order. NIRA gave the president carte blanche to construct ships and procure aircraft as allowed under the terms of the naval treaties ... thirty-two ships [were] contracted by Roosevelt under NIRA...”
  3. Ickes, Harold, Back To Work: The Story of the PWA, The Macmillan Company (1935).
  4. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 6174 on Public Works Administration, June 16, 1933: “During the ensuing 30 days the Federal Emergency Administrator of Public Works shall have authority to allot [a] sum ... not to exceed $238,000,000 to the Department of the Navy for the construction of certain vessels”.
  5. Federal Works Agency, Millions for Defense: Emergency Expenditures for National Defense, 1933-1940, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (1940).
  6. Building the Navy's Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps, 1940-1946, Part II, The Continental Bases, Department of the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks. The quotation above is just a sample, it's a massive document that deserves a thorough reading.
  7. Thompson, H.I., Inspector of Naval Materiel, “Ships Under NIRA”, letter of 20 September 1933 to commandants of the Navy yards, which lists each ship that was to be built and at which yards (CL = cruiser; CV = aircraft carrier; DD = destroyer; PG = gunboat).

    Navy Yard Location Ships (hull numbers)
    Boston Massachuetts DD370, DD371
    Charleston Navy Yard South Carolina PG51
    Mare Island Vallejo, CA DD378, DD379
    Brooklyn Navy Yard New York City PG50
    Norfolk Shipyard Virginia DD374, DD375  (Tucker, Downes)
    Philadelphia Pennsylvania CL41, DD372, DD373
    Portsmouth Kittery, Maine Submarines 172, 173
    Puget Sound Bremerton WA DD376, DD377
    Private Yard Location Ships
    Newport News Virginia CV5, CV6  (Yorktown, Enterprise)
    NY Shipbuilding Camden NJ CL42, CL43, DD356-359
    Electric Boat Groton CT Submarines 174, 175
    United Dry Docks Staten Island NYC DD364, DD365
    Bath Iron Works Bath, Maine DD366, DD367
    Federal Shipbuilding Kearny NJ DD368, DD369
    Bethlehem Quincy MA DD360-363

  8. Public Works Administration, America Builds, the Record of the PWA, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC (1939), 298 pages. This book is a kind of final summary report of the PWA, noting opposite the title page that "Since this report was prepared for publication, the Public Works Administration on July 1, 1939, in accordance with the President's reorganization plan, was transferred to the Federal Works Agency, headed by John M. Carmody, Administrator". Nevertheless, the PWA continued to operate under the FWA until June 30, 1943. In Table 20 at the end of this book (p.290), it notes that as of the end of February 1939 the PWA had financed 60 naval ships and 66 Coast Guard vessels.
  9. Fix, William A., Always Good Ships: Histories of Newport News Ships (1986), 387 pages.

Created by Photogallery 2.14 July 31, 2017