Naval Station and Shipyards, Historic   Leave a comment

  • Bethlehem Steel Company, Staten Island, New York
    • McWilliams, Burlee & Co. (1888-1895)
    • Burlee Dry Dock (1895-1907)
    • Staten Island Shipbuilding (1907-1929)
    • United Dry Docks (1929-1936)
    • United Shipyards (1936-1938)
    • Bethlehem Steel (1938-1959)
    • May Ship Repair (current)


Along the North Shore of Staten Island Bethlehem Steel’s World War II-era shipyard in New York was located at Mariners Harbor, near the northernmost tip of Staten Island, at the south end of Newark Bay and within sight to the west of the Bayonne Bridge, from which many destroyer completion photos were taken.
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USS Meade (DD-602) afloat immediately after her launching, at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, Staten Island, New York, 15 February 1942. The keel of USS Brownson (DD-518) is being laid on the slipway just vacated by Meade. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
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Along the North Shore of Staten Island Bethlehem Steel’s World War II-era shipyard in New York was located at Mariners Harbor, near the northernmost tip of Staten Island, at the south end of Newark Bay and within sight to the west of the Bayonne Bridge, from which many destroyer completion photos were taken. Founded in 1889 as the merger of Burlee Drydock company and Port Richmond Iron Works, it was renamed Staten Island Ship-building in 1907 and moved from Port Richmond to its World War II location in 1925. As United Shipyards Inc., it launched the first two Mahan-class ships, Mahan and Cummings in 1935 and two modified Mahans, Dunlap and Fanning, in 1936. No further destroyer construction commenced until December 1940 when, as Bethlehem Steel, the yard began continuous production of an eventual 44 more ships, 39 of which were completed during the war. Concurrently, the yard also produced landing craft, cargo vessels and three ocean-going tugs.

Fastest from keel laying to launching was destroyer-minelayer Shea at 144 days. Three destroyers shared the yard’s record for keel laying to commissioning: 261 days.



  • Brooklyn Navy Yard

The United States Navy Yard, New York, also known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the New York Naval Shipyard (NYNSY), is a shipyard located in Brooklyn, New York, 1.7 miles (2.7 km) northeast of the Battery on the East River in Wallabout Basin, a semicircular bend of the river across from Corlear’s Hook in Manhattan. It was bounded by Navy Street, Flushing and Kent Avenues, and at the height of its production of warships for the United States Navy, it covered over 200 acres (0.81 km2).

Following the American Revolution, the waterfront site was used to build merchant vessels. Federal authorities purchased the old docks and 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land for forty thousand dollars in 1801, and the property became an active U.S. Navy shipyard five years later, in 1806. The offices, store-houses and barracks were constructed of handmade bricks, and the yard’s oldest structure (located in Vinegar Hill), the 1807 federal style commandant’s house, was designed by Charles Bulfinch, architect of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. Many officers were housed in Admiral’s Row.

Military chain of command was strictly observed. During the yard’s construction of Robert Fulton‘s steam frigate, Fulton, launched in 1815, the year of Fulton’s death, the Navy Yard’s chief officers were listed as follows: Captain Commandant, Master Commandant, Lieutenant of the Yard, Master of the Yard, Surgeon of the Yard & Marine Barracks, Purser of the Navy Yard, Naval Storekeeper, Naval Constructor, and a major commanding the Marine Corps detachment. The Naval Hospital, constructed 1830-1838 and rebuilt 1841-1843, was decommissioned in the mid-1970s.The nation’s first ironclad ship, Monitor, was fitted with its revolutionary iron cladding at the Continental Iron Works in nearby Greenpoint. By the American Civil War, the yard had expanded to employ about 6000 men. In 1890, the ill-fated Maine was launched from the Yard’s ways.

On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles (8 km) of paved streets, four drydocks[4] ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet (99 to 213 meters), two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina was laid down. In 1938, the yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The battleship Iowa was completed in 1942 followed by the Missouri which became the site of the Surrender of Japan 2 September 1945. On 12 January 1953, test operations began on Antietam, which emerged in December 1952 from the yard as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier.

When the US Navy took possession of the motor torpedo boat PT 109 from the vessel’s manufacturer Elco on 10 July 1942, the boat was delivered to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for fitting. This boat was sunk in the Pacific in August 1943 and became famous years later when its young commanding officer, LTJG John F. Kennedy, entered politics.

At its peak, during World War II, the yard employed 70,000 people, 24 hours a day.

During World War II, the pedestrian walkways on the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges spanning the East River offered a good overhead view of the navy yard, and were therefore encased in order to prevent espionage.


During World War II, New York harbor was divided into six hundred individual ship archorages able to accommodate ocean-going vessels awaiting berthing or already loaded and awaiting convoy assignment and sortie. On the peak day in March 1943, there were a total of 543 merchant ships at anchor in New York harbor, a figure very close to maximum capacity.The Port of New York was really eleven ports in one. It boasted a developed shoreline of over 650 miles comprising the waterfronts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island as well as the New Jersey shoreline from Perth Amboy to Elizabeth, Bayonne, Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken.The Port of New York included some 1,800 docks, piers, and wharves of every conceivable size, condition, and state of repair. Some 750 were classified as “active” and 200 were able to berth 425 ocean-going vessels simultaneously in addition to the 600 able to anchor in the harbor. These docks and piers gave access to 1,100 warehouses containing some 41 million square feet of inclosed storage space.In addition, the Port of New York had thirty-nine active shipyards, not including the huge New York Naval Shipyard on the Brooklyn side of the East River. These facilities included nine big ship repair yards, thirty-six large dry-docks, twenty-five small shipyards, thirty-three locomotive and gantry cranes of fifty ton lift capacity or greater, five floating derricks, and more than one hundred tractor cranes. Over 575 tugboats worked the Port of New York.

Between Pearl Harbor and VJ-Day, more than three million troops and their equipment and over 63 million tons of additional supplies and materials were shipped overseas through the Port of New York.


Circa 1851 engraving of the Brooklyn Naval Yard and Wallabout Bay from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
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Circa 1944, Brooklyn Navy Yard.
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The North Atlantic convoys were staged near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was here that the USS Enright was repaired after it’s collision with the Portuguese freighter ‘S. Thome’ in April-May 1944.

Brooklyn Navy Yard at dusk, 1945. The memory of the military-industrial might of New York’s waterfront remains visible at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was once the largest naval construction facility in the United States.
(Credit: U.S. Navy via the New-York Historical Society)
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  • Hoboken Shipyard
    • Knowing that the key to cultivating a successful getaway destination was to make Hoboken accessible, Colonel John Stevens expended a great deal of effort investigating and developing transportation methods. In 1811, he launched the nation’s first regular steam ferry service, between Manhattan and Hoboken. In 1825, he created America’s first working locomotive, which ran around in circles on a small, round track. The engine had to be imported from England, but the event was nonetheless indicative of the direction Hoboken was headed.By the late 1800s, the great Delaware, Lacckawanna & Western Railroad converged with the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd shipping lines on the Hoboken shoreline, where ferries shuttled passengers back and forth across the Hudson. Since 1908, the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) subway train has provided continuous service between New Jersey and Manhattan.

      Colonel Stevens seems to have endowed his progeny with a similar bend for progressive engineering. Robert Livingston Stevens, a gifted engineer and railroad pioneer, created the country’s first yacht club in 1844. A spare-time sailing enthusiast, he designed a racing yacht for his brother, John Cox Stevens, called the America. In 1851, John Cox took the ship to victory in a series of races off the coast of the Isle of Wight in England, thus spawning the America’s Cup sailing series. In 1870, Edwin Stevens founded Stevens Institute of Technology, the oldest college of mechanical engineering in the country.

      At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Hoboken was the seat of a vast shipping and industrial complex, in no small part thanks to the planning of the Stevens family. After Colonel Stevens’ death in 1838, Hoboken property was owned by the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, which was controlled by the Stevens family and ended up constructing many of the houses and buildings that remain in Hoboken today. As the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company began to sell off its land to industries, the character of Hoboken changed from a weekend resort to bustling business center. Between 1900 and World War I, more than 250 manufacturing plants took up residence in Hoboken. In 1889, there were just over three thousand manufacturing employees in Hoboken; by 1909, that number had increased threefold.

      The primary industry during Hoboken’s days as an industrial capital was shipbuilding, but at various times the city was home to industries that created a litany of products that have since become household names: Lipton Tea; Maxwell House Coffee; Hostess. The Tootsie Roll, slide rule, zipper, and ice cream cone all were born in Hoboken.

      Hoboken’s harbor was an important dock for German shipping vessels, and, thus, the boats arriving from Germany with immigrants. In 1890, around 40 percent of the city’s population was composed of immigrants, over half of them from Germany. Yet when the United States entered World War I on the side of Britain and France, this all changed. The U.S. government seized control of Hoboken’s piers and the German ships docked there. Martial law was declared in sections of the city, and many Germans were sent to Ellis Island. Thousands of Germans left Hoboken, and soon the city became known for its large Italian population. Meanwhile, the government made use of the docks, sending some two million U.S. soldiers through Hoboken’s piers, to and from the war in Europe, where they were told to hope for “Hell, heaven, or Hoboken” by Christmas.

      The city’s economy was devastated by the commercial freeze of its piers during World War I. Yet shipbuilding and the waterfront remained important, although increasingly Hoboken’s shipyards developed a reputation for corruption. In 1948, Malcolm Johnson, a reporter for the NEW YORK SUN, wrote a series of stories about corruption, crime, and murder along the waterfront. Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize for the articles and six years later they were made into a Hollywood movie. Filmed almost entirely on location in Hoboken, Elia Kazan’s ON THE WATERFRONT used actual longshoremen as extras. Hoboken native Frank Sinatra was nearly used for the starring role until Marlon Brando, Kazan’s first choice, accepted the part at the last minute. It is said that Kazan hired a bodyguard for the filming and that thousands of dollars were siphoned away to pay off landlords and suspicious dockworkers.

      In the 1950s and 60s, the new importance of air travel and the development of containerized cargo, necessitating deep water ports, increasingly undermined the Hoboken waterfront, which fell into a state of disrepair. Many of Hoboken’s industries moved away or closed up shop during this time, and the city was considered something of a post-industrial wasteland until the 1970s, when suddenly Manhattan-bound commuters began to take interest in Hoboken’s generous stock of affordable brownstones and townhouses. In the 1990s, a major waterfront renovation project turned Pier A into a park, and Manhattan-based companies began to see the city as a viable alternate office location. Today, Hoboken’s plethora of bars, restaurants, public transportation, and reasonably priced housing — not to mention, as always, it’s proximity to America’s largest city — render it a charming tassel upon the metropolitan bonnet of greater New York.


Hoboken Shipyards
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USS Chenango CVE-28 Todd Shipyard Hoboken NJ Aug 1961 by Dick Leonhardt, on Flickr
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A view from the water of the Hamburg-American Lines Piers at Hoboken, NJ, circa 1915.
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The Hoboken Shipyard Circa 1950.
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September 1909 unknown publication.
Source: Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck
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  • Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne
    • Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (“MOTBY”)was a U.S. military ocean terminal located in the Port of New York and New Jersey which operated from 1942 to 1999. The site is on Upper New York Bay south of Port Jersey on the eastern side of Bayonne, New Jersey.  Since its closure it has undergone maritime, residential, commercial, and recreational mixed-use development. Part of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway runs along its perimeter.In 1932, a basic plan was initiated to build a port terminal off the east coast of Bayonne into the bay to create additional industrial, maritime, and distribution space. After the plan was completed in 1939, dredging and filling began. At the outbreak of World War II, the United States Navy was looking for a location for a port on the East Coast and became interested in the site for a large dry-dock and supply center. The Bayonne military base was opened by the Navy in 1942 as a logistics and repair base, well connected to the transportation network of the Northeast Corridor. After the war MOTBY became port for part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet or the Mothball Fleet.In 1967, the peninsula became a US Army base. It was a large shipping terminal by the standards of the day, and had the largest dry-dock on the eastern seaboard. Once cargo arrived at MOTBY, it could be placed directly into covered warehouses, or onto uncovered, but fully secure staging areas. All types of cargo, from heavy, outsized weapons such as the M1A2 tank and the Patriot missile, to the full range of munitions available to fighting forces could be loaded by Bayonne’s specially trained unionized work force using state of the art, dedicated rail lines. Every type of roll-on/roll-off vessel in the Military Sealift Command (MSC) inventory could be accommodated. This capability was used during the Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991) and during operations in Somalia and Haiti. Dozens of military units (men and equipment) were shipped through MOTBY, as did as outsized cargo such as M1A2 tanks from as far as Fort Hood, Texas. The facility closed in 1999 under a US Base Realignment and Closure 1995 directive.

      Newly Completed, the USS Iowa is Inclined at the Dry Dock at the Bayonne Navy Yard.
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Battleship Iowa being inclined at the drydock of Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, New Jersey, United States, 28 Mar 1943.
Source: United States Navy via
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  • Naval Station, New York

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (May 28, 2007) – From left, guided-missile frigate USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), guided-missile cruisers USS Hue City (CG 66) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and guided-missile destroyers USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) and USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) are moored as part of Fleet Week. The 20th annual Fleet Week New York City provided an opportunity for citizens of New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area to meet more than 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, May 23-31.
    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth R. Hendrix (RELEASED).
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