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Courtesy of Brunwick
Glynn County Public Library

Scene 10

Shipbuilding

During World War II, sixteen American shipyards provided significant contributions to the war effort by constructing thousands of "Liberty" ships for the transportation of troops and supplies to be used in the European and Pacific theaters of the war. The United States Maritime Commission selected Brunswick, Georgia, as one of the sixteen locations to build Liberty ships in support of the war effort. Having previously served as a major shipyard during World War I, the Brunswick Shipyard fell into decline during the Great Depression, but was revived by the demand for these Liberty ships. From 1943-45, the J.A. Jones Construction Company produced 85 Liberty ships at the Brunswick Shipyard to be used in the war. These ships, which were relatively cheap and easy to build, consisted of roughly 250,000 parts prefabricated in the shipyard and then welded together. Approximately 16,000 workers at the shipyard performed the various tasks associated with building these ships. Liberty ships were over 440-feet long, more than 50-feet wide, possessed a carrying capacity of over 9,000 tons, and had a range of about 17,000 miles. They were originally designed with a life span of about five years, although a few of them were still roaming the seas some twenty years after the war. It took an average of about 89 days for workers to build a single ship. Between 1941 and 1945, American shipyards had constructed 2,571 Liberty ships, most of which were named after prominent politicians and scientists. In March 1943, the SS James M. Wayne was the first Liberty ship launched from the Brunswick Shipyard. The shipyard closed soon after the war in 1945.

Each Liberty ship shipyard was required to launch six ships a month throughout World War II. Due to the accelerated pace of the war in December of 1944, the J.A. Jones Construction Company in Brunswick announced that it would deliver seven ships, not six, by the end of the year. The workers of the J.A. Jones Construction Company worked throughout the months of November and December to get all seven ships completed as promised. The employees of the J.A. Jones Construction Company volunteered to work through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, with approximately 1,300 workers clocking in for duty on December 25, 1944. As a sign of their patriotism, the workers gave their earned wages for Christmas Day, a total of $16,080 dollars with holiday pay, to the U.S. Treasury. Their dedication to the war effort allowed for the SS William F. Jerman to be built in an unprecedented 34 days allowing them to launch all seven ships on time.

Women at Work

When the United States entered World War II, approximately twelve million women, comprised mostly of minorities and those from lower economic classes, worked outside the home. By the end of the war, that number increased to eighteen million. This dramatic increase was due to an unprecedented number of American women responding to government encouragement to fill factory jobs left vacant by men during World War II. While the majority of women workers during World War II held what were traditionally recognized as female occupations, such as clerical and service sector positions, an estimated three million women worked in plants and factories that produced goods necessary for the war effort. To sell the importance of the war effort and attract women to the workforce, the government launched a propaganda campaign primarily directed at white middle-class families in which women were not already working. This campaign emphasized that women workers were patriotic, received high wages, and were even glamorous and fashionable. The most widely recognized symbol of the campaign was the fictional character "Rosie the Riveter", who was promoted as the ideal woman worker: loyal, efficient, patriotic, and pretty. By 1943, many women workers represented the "Rosie" image in a number of government-commissioned posters and media advertisements. While the image of the woman worker was important during the war, the pre-war image of women as domestic caregivers did not disappear, and the propaganda campaigns were never intended to bring about permanent changes in traditional attitudes regarding a woman's place in society. Women were constantly reminded that their greatest value was in their roles as wives and mothers and that once the war was over, they were expected to return to their homes. By the war's end, men and women both returned to their pre-war roles in society; and while their place in the workforce was only temporary for many women, it was their efforts that led the way for more permanent changes in the future.

Additional Reading

Liberty Ships (National Park Service)
World War II in Georgia (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Brunswick (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
The J.A. Jones Construction Company (Digital Library of Georgia)


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