V-J Day: A Victory for the Home Front Too

Dennis Riley 2 years ago

Shipworker headline, August 21, 1945

The official announcement of Japan’s surrender was heard in Brooklyn at 7pm on August 14, 1945 -- 70 years ago today.  By that time, most workers at the Navy Yard were home and could enjoy the two-day holiday decreed by President Truman for all Federal employees.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard holds a unique distinction book-ending U.S. participation in World War II.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, is perhaps best immortalized by the sinking of the Brooklyn built USS Arizona (BB-39).  On September 2, 1945, the formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63), also built by the men and women of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Left: Photo of the USS Arizona launching, Library of Congress. Right: USS Missouri launching program, BNYDC Archives.

During the war, the Yard expanded, taking over the area of the former Wallabout Market, and became the largest Navy Yard in the country and represented New York’s largest industrial enterprise.  At its height, the Yard comprised 300 buildings and 30 miles of railroad tracks.  New sub-assembly shops were erected which brought mass production to the Yard and one of the most modern (for the time) materials testing labs was built.  In addition to this expansion, Yard operations grew to include annexes in Bayonne, NJ, as well as Flushing and Maspeth, Queens.

U.S. participation in the war represented 1,346 days during which the Yard operated around the clock -- save for the four Christmas Day holidays over the course of the war -- employing more than 70,000 people at its peak.  The Yard was the first to receive the Navy “E” for excellence in wartime production and it repeatedly won this award throughout the war.  Several times, workers from Brooklyn were disptached to other navy yards to lend their skill and expertise in completing time sensitive jobs.

Navy "E" pin, BNYDC Archives.

During the war, the Yard built five aircraft carriers, two battleships, eight landing craft-tank ships (LSTs), and five auxiliary vessels.   These included the largest and most powerful battleships and aircraft carriers in the world at the time:  the USS Missouri (BB-63), USS Iowa (BB-61), and the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42).  In addition, numerous ships built at the Yard prior to the war served honorably in bringing about eventual victory.  

The Yard also serviced, repaired, and modernized over 5,000 other ships – 1,539 in 1944 alone.  At times it had up to 67 ships under repair.  One of the great repair jobs undertaken by the Yard involved the USS Holder (DE-401) and the USS Menges (DE-320) which were both damaged by German torpedoes, in the bow and stern respectively.  In 1944, sitting side-by-side in a dry dock, a 95-foot section of the Holder’s stern was grafted onto the Menges.

Quote from the Navy Secretary as published in the Shipworker, August 21, 1945.