Chapter XVI
Civil Works

When Hitler launched his lightning attack against the rest of Europe in 1939, he hoped to achieve an impregnable position before the industrial power of America could be turned against him. He missed his objective because England was strong enough to delay him and because American industry was able to convert quickly to the production of fighting goods. Hirohito, likewise, hoped to accomplish quick control before his enemy could mobilize against him. He was defeated because American factories provided the ships, aircraft, guns, and other war tools fast enough to stop him and throw him back on his scorched islands.

Diversion of American industries from peacetime to war production began with Army and Navy contracts for materials which could be produced in existing private plant facilities. Such items as clothing, trucks, a few ships, and even military aircraft, could be procured in this manner. As the demand for materials increased, more of the specialized items which normally were produced in Army and Navy arsenals, ship yards, and gun factories were ordered from commercial organizations. Factories were retooled to build tanks, shell cases, and bombsights.

When the requirements for munitions exceeded the capacity which the combined government and private plants could produce, specialized new plants had to be built.

As many of these facilities would have little peacetime conversion value, the government underwrote their construction in various ways and placed private operators in them. The objective was to get buildings up and machinery installed by the fastest means possible; it was attained by calling upon the shipbuilders and manufacturers already engaged in producing armaments to help plan and design new war plants.

The Navy was primarily interested in facilities for the production of ships, aircraft, ordnance, and ammunition. About 1,000 contracts were made between the government, represented by the Navy Department, and industries which were to acquire or have constructed almost two billion dollars worth of plant facilities -- half the pre-war value of the automobile industry's plant.

Of the amount spent by the Navy for plant facilities, $909,242,000 was spent on new construction of separate installations; $780,553,000 was spent for additional installations at existing factories; and $213,258,000 was spent on projects requiring machinery and equipment only. Of $883,910,000 spent by the Bureau of Ships on facilities for shipbuilding and repair, $262,085,000 was spent on yards which built new ships, and $116,253,000 on yards which both built and repaired ships. Most of the remaining money was used for facilities to produce required shipboard machinery, forgings, electrical equipment, and radio and radar equipment.

The Bureau of Aeronautics used $636,260,000 for increased facilities. About half of this sum was used to provide facilities for the production of engines and engine parts and the other half was spent for plants for the production of aircraft structures, propellers, and minor assemblies.

Ordnance manufacturing capacity was expanded at a cost of $381,883,000 for facilities. Of this, $197,585,000 was used to provide additional means for producing guns and mounts, $74,333,000 was applied toward increase of plants for ammunition production, $100,880,000 was spent for facilities to produce bombs and torpedoes, and the remainder was used for facilities for the production of fire-control apparatus and armor.


The Congress first authorized the Navy to undertake this industrial plant expansion program in June, 1940.1 The act authorized the Secretary of the Navy "to modify existing contracts" and "to negotiate contracts for the acquisition, construction, repair, or alteration of complete naval vessels or aircraft, or any portion thereof, including plans,


Ships on the Building Ways, Groton, Conn.
Ships on the Building Ways, Groton, Conn.
Photograph shows the new yard of the Electric Boat Company, June 1943.

spare parts, and equipment therefor that have been or may be authorized; also for machine tools and other similar equipment, with or without advertising or competitive bidding." The act further authorized the Secretary of the Navy, whenever he found it impossible to obtain facilities to effectuate the purposes of the act, to provide the necessary building, facilities, utilities, and appurtenances thereto on government-owned land or elsewhere, and to operate them, either by means of government personnel or otherwise.

Two months later, in August 1940, the Secretary of the Navy convened a special plant equipment and facilities board to study the problems of plant facilities and to formulate a policy for the guidance of interested bureaus. In its report, this board made a classification of plans or methods of financing facilities, varying from complete government ownership to complete private ownership. The report also made recommendations for means to reimburse the contractors, for procedure at termination of contract, and for ultimate disposal of the properties.


Prior to March 21, 1942, the Bureau of Yards and Docks acted in an advisory capacity only in the construction and administration of plant facilities construction. Direct cognizance over the provision of these plant facilities reposed in the material bureaus which made the respective prime contracts for procurement of the end products.

Junior officers of the Civil Engineer Corps were assigned to this program. These officers reported to the cognizant material bureaus or to their field representatives, such as the inspectors of material, supervisors of shipbuilding, or inspectors of ordnance. Some of them were placed in direct charge


Plant of the Heppenstall-Eddystone Corporation at Eddystone, Pa.
Plant of the Heppenstall-Eddystone Corporation at Eddystone, Pa.
Foundry die blocks and miscellaneous ship and gun forgings were produced for the use of the Bureau of Ships.

of specific projects; others exercised administrative direction, as assistants to the cognizant bureau's representative, of all such projects within his jurisdiction.

Experience with this system of administration soon proved that it was inadequate and defective, due, first, to the lack of competent technical control and guidance, and, second, to the lack of coordination between programs under different bureau representatives, even in the same area. Confusion and controversies developed which threatened serious delays in procurement of the end products.

To remedy this unsatisfactory situation, the Secretary of the Navy, by circular letter of March 21, 1942, set forth a new policy which stated:

(1) The Bureau of Yards and Docks shall have cognizance of the construction of all items at privately operated establishments which would constitute Public Works or Public Utilities as defined in Navy Regulations if constructed at shore establishments of the Navy. Such items are hereinafter called Civil Works.

When a contract for construction of Civil Works is made directly between the Navy Department and a builder (as distinguished from the contractor who is to operate the facilities) the Bureau of Yards and Docks will be the contracting agency.

(3) Where the contract is made between the cognizant Bureau and the producer, as in the case of Emergency Plant Facilities and Navy government-ownership facilities contracts, the Bureau of Yards and Docks shall be the authorized representative of the cognizant Bureau with respect to Civil Works.


When the official cognizance was finally transferred on various contracts already in effect, only those projects which were less than 50 percent complete, or, if more than 50 percent complete, were subject to contemplated substantial increases in size and scope, were placed under the cognizance of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.

The majority of contracts for facilities were of three types: Navy-ownership, Defense Plant Corporation, or Emergency Plant Facilities. Although there was a variety of contractual provisions in each class of contract, the terms followed a general trend. In the first, the Navy-ownership type, the contractor constructed or purchased facilities and was reimbursed for allowable costs as the work progressed. The title was vested in the Navy as the facilities were acquired, although the contractor could use the facilities for both government and private contracts. The contractor paid rent, except in cases where the facility was used entirely for government work.

In the Defense Plant Corporation type of contract,


One Bay of the Busch-Sulzer Engineering Company's Plant at St. Louis, Mo.
One Bay of the Busch-Sulzer Engineering Company's Plant at St. Louis, Mo.
Here, diesel engines were produced for the Bureau of Ships.

the contractor constructed or purchased facilities as an agent of DPC, and DPC paid for the facility. The Navy initially reimbursed DPC for 40 or 50 percent of the cost and paid the balance when funds became available. The title was vested with DPC until payment in full was made by the Navy, when the title was transferred to the Navy. The contractor had the right to use the facility while he maintained it and paid rent for it.

In the case of the usual Emergency Plant Facilities type of contract, the contractor constructed or purchased the facilities and paid for them. The title remained with the contractor, and he was reimbursed for his costs by the Navy through equal monthly payments. The contractor used the facilities for any purpose, and he maintained and insured them. He had the option of acquiring the facility within a specified time after termination of the government procurement contract. If he did not do so, the title was transferred to the Navy.

Virtually all these contracts originated in the Bureau of Aeronautics, Ordnance, and Ships, although in a few instances, where a manufacturer could not be induced to participate in providing the facilities, the Bureau of Yards and Docks made contracts directly with a builder and constructed the facility.

After mid-1941, the Navy-ownership contract became the most widely used. The bureaus converted many of their Emergency Plant Facilities contracts to Navy ownership, but the Bureau of Aeronautics to a large extent depended upon the Defense Plant Corporation type of agreement.

In the Navy-ownership and the Emergency Plant Facilities contracts, the functions of the Bureau of Yards and Docks included approving the selection and compensation of an architect or engineer; approving the selection and fee of a general building contractor; approving the terms of any sub-contract for civil works; approving plans and


Western Pipe and Steel Company of California Shipways and Craneways
Western Pipe and Steel Company of California Shipways and Craneways
Incomplete building (right background) contains two locker and wash rooms.

specifications; approving material alterations or increased cost; inspecting, supervising, expediting, and accepting work. In the case of the Defense Plant Corporation contracts, the Bureau of Yards and Docks reviewed plans and specifications. In the case of a prime contract between the Navy Department and a builder, the Bureau of Yards and Docks was the Navy's contracting agent.

After cognizance of civil works construction was transferred, the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the officers of the Civil Engineer Corps took a vigorous part in the program. Officers in charge of construction were appointed for administration of the civil-works portions of the various projects. The Bureau of Yards and Docks made no change affecting the functional efficiency of the facilities in the program, but it expedited progress of the work and determined that construction was of the simplest possible type which would embody sound engineering principles. Contracts were administered by methods and procedures similar to those used on contracts for public works, and in the Construction Department of the Bureau, facilities sections were established. Within these sections, project managers gave the same assistance to the civil works officers in charge of construction as other project managers gave to the officers in charge of public works construction.

One of the first practical moves by the Bureau in its improvement of the administration of civil works contracts was the establishment of the office of Superintending Civil Engineer. The primary reason for the creation of these field offices was the adoption of the basic policy of decentralizing authority


Todd Shipyard Corporation's Hoboken Plant
Todd Shipyard Corporation's Hoboken Plant
New York skyline in the background (across the Hudson River),
with the Empire State Building on the extreme right.

and responsibility by delegation of the powers of the Chief of the Bureau to qualified senior officers of the Corps, who, acting as the Chief's direct representatives in th field, and authorized to act for him, were thus enabled to make spot decisions and take direct action to overcome bottlenecks, insure correct procedures, and expedite progress.

In addition to many other duties and functions, the Superintending Civil Engineers had a particularly important part in the direction and administration of the civil works program.

It was necessary to assign many newly commissioned reserve officers as officers in charge of construction on civil works contracts, which in some respects and particularly as regards contractual relations, presented more novel, unusual, and perplexing problems than did the regular public works contracts. These officers, adapting their civilian experience to many phases of their work, performed their duties with marked proficiency and success. There remained, however, a functional area in which the new officers could not be expected, or permitted, to assume responsibility without expert support. There were many matters which, to assure prompt and proper execution, required the mature judgment, broad naval and professional experience, tact, and rank of a senior officer of the Civil Engineer Corps, cloaked with full authority and power.

The Superintending Civil Engineers provided this support. Confining their activities to high-level administrative and technical problems, they were able to supervise in a broad effective manner all the civil works projects in their respective geographical areas, They made frequent visits to the various construction sites, reviewing progress, organization, contractual relations, and technical performance, furnishing expert consulting service, and taking immediate on-the-spot action to correct deficiencies and resolve difficulties. In this way, they solved many problems and averted many more.

As civil works projects were successively completed, the Superintending Civil Engineers coordinated and managed disposal of the accumulated surplus materials. After the Japanese surrender, they took an important part in the disposal of


properties created or acquired under the civil works program which were in excess of the Navy's post-war requirements.

By the summer of 1943, the civil works acquired under Navy contracts had reached such proportions that special consideration was warranted to assure that the facilities were being adequately maintained. Protection and maintenance of those facilities were provided in prime contracts with the private operators, but actual obligations and financial responsibilities thereunder varied considerably. Accordingly, on the 27th of July 1943, the Bureau of Yards and Docks proffered its services to all cognizant bureaus for such inspections and technical advice as might be deemed appropriate.

As a result of the general response to that offer, on September 30, 1943, a new division in the Finance and Operating Department of the Bureau was created for the coordination and administration of the civil works inspection services. Shortly thereafter, the office of Civil Works Engineer was created to effectuate that work in each area. Working directly under the Superintending Civil Engineers and servicing specific territories, Civil Works Engineers made periodic plant inspections and submitted detailed maintenance reports. As the result of such services, plant facilities were kept in good condition, thus effectively protecting the physical and financial investments, and, by preventive measures, avoiding unnecessary expenditures.


Although there were obvious similarities between civil works and public works, the civil works projects presented a few unfamiliar situations to the Bureau of Yards and Docks. Instead of two, there were four parties interested in most construction contracts -- the Bureau of Yards and Docks, the bureau which made the operating contract, the prime, or operating, contractor, and the construction contractor. Overall factory layout generally was outlined by the operating contractor, whose experience in manufacturing was an essential element in accomplishing the work. Plans and specifications were made either by the operating contractor or by an architect-engineer. The construction contract was let by the operating contractor. Plans and specifications and contracts were approved by the Bureau of Yards and Docks.

The tendency of the operating contractor was to favor permanent construction. He was not accustomed to using untreated piles, inexpensive wood-frame construction, and substitute materials, and his preference for plans and specifications which called for better types of construction had to be discouraged frequently by the Bureau of Yards and Docks as the approving agency.

To illustrate types of work performed under the civil works program, selected projects are described briefly. Complete installations as well as partial installations are presented, typifying plants of all sizes.

Shipbuilding Facilities

By V-J Day, the Navy had more than 10,000 ships of all kinds. Many of these ships, especially the larger ones, had been built in navy yards; the others had been built in commercial yards.

Under the civil works program, many pre-war commercial yards were expanded and a number of new yards were built.

To support the work of the private yards, as well as the navy yards, industrial plant facilities for making turbines and other shipboard machinery and equipment were either improved or built.

Hingham, Mass. -- The need for landing craft led to the construction of the Navy's largest privately operated shipyard. This project consisted of a complete new shipyard at Hingham, Mass., about 4 miles from the Quincy yard of the Bethlehem Steel Company. Construction was begun in February 1942, and in June of the same year, the first keel was laid.

Construction included 16 shipways and 8 fitting-out piers, together with th necessary shops and accessory facilities to comprise a completely integrated shipbuilding plant. The shipbuilding ways were constructed with reinforced-concrete groundway slabs, with craneways between alternate ways. These shipbuilding ways were later converted into nine escort-vessel ways. The fitting-out piers, of timber construction, were 300 feet long.

At the head of the shipbuilding ways and at the outfitting-pier, 14 headhouses were erected on concrete foundations. These had cinder-block walls on the first story and were wood-framed on the second. The largest building erected was a steel-fabricating and assembly shop, 300 by 1,400 feet; this one-story structure was built on concrete foundations, with a steel frame and cinder-block curtain walls. The building was equipped with cranes and monorail systems.

A wood-frame building, 120 by 355 feet, housed


Machine Shop at the Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard
Machine Shop at the Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard
This photograph was taken December 3, 1942.

the machine shop. The sheet-metal shop was of comparable size, with steel and wood frame and cinder-block walls. Three large wood-frame warehouses of one- and two-story construction were also erected.

The yard was equipped with 15-ton pintle cranes, two for each alternate shipbuilding way, and two to serve the area fronting the steel-fabricating shop.

Port Newark, N.J. -- In January of 1942, work was begun on the design and construction of a complete new 115-acre shipyard for use by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Port Newark, N.J., supplementing the main yard at Kearney, N.J. This yard, like the one at Hingham, was used for the construction of landing craft and escort vessels.

During World War I, the site had been used for shipbuilding, but by 1942, only an old building and a damaged wharf remained of the former yard. The new contractor dismantled the old wharf and cut the piles off below the waterline to recap them for re-use The new wharf was equipped with standard-gauge tracks and three 50-ton revolving cranes. Most of the 12 old shipways were reconstructed on the old piles. Crane tracks were laid between alternate shipways, and 18 revolving cranes, of capacities from 32 to 50 tons, were installed.

The plate shop was built one story high, with a steel frame and masonry walls. Its plan dimensions were 525 feet by 254 feet, divided into four bays. An extension housed heat-treating furnaces and boiler. Two other shops, of similar construction, were a sheet metal and a pipe shop, 380 feet by 142 feet. This same construction was also carried out in a machine shop, 191 feet by 528 feet. A four-story office and stores building, 400 by 219 feet, was constructed of reinforced concrete with brick curtain walls. A steel-frame power house, 180 by 85 feet, housed two 1,000-horsepower and two 500-horsepower boilers. These buildings were built on timber piles.

Installation of machinery, such as presses, bending rolls, planers, shears, forging hammers, and the milling machines, lathes, and metal-cutting equipment of the machine shop, was included in Bureau of Yards and Docks work.

Although this work was not fully complete until


September 1943, the first ship construction started in July 1942, and the first ship was launched in October of that year.

Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pa. -- Construction of LST's took place along the seacoast and on inland waterways. One of the building sites which was farthest from the ocean was Neville Island, on the Ohio River, a short distance below Pittsburgh, where the Dravo Corporation, a prime contractor for the Navy, built facilities for the construction of twelve LST's at a time. Prior to the war expansion for the Navy, Dravo had built on Neville Island a plant where barges and other river craft were produced.

Under the war program, the existing yard was expanded by the construction of a seven-position assembly line. The first construction operation took place in position one, parallel to, and farthest from, the river. The growing ships were moved sidewise to each successive building position and finally into the Dravo side-launching ways, which existed before the Navy project was initiated.

Other new facilities constructed included a mold loft, a main office building, a warehouse, a machine shop, and two platens. The platens were open, rectangular, steel platforms for welding assemblies before installation in the ships. The platens were built at the stern ends of positions 1, 2, and 3 in the assembly line. The expanded old yard was called West Yard.

Upstream on Neville Island, separated from West Yard by another industrial property, an entirely new yard area, East Yard, was built. The assembly line at East Yard had five building positions. Side-launching ways were built, as were a service shop, warehouse, carpenter shop, sheet metal shop, two platens, and several minor buildings for personnel and offices.

To facilitate the equipping and outfitting of ships, two fitting-out quays were constructed on the river bank. One, 1,350 feet long, was located at the East Yard; the other, 300 feet long, was just east of the West Yard launching ways. Together the piers accommodated ten ships, moored two abreast. The quay was constructed as a filled steel, sheet pile cellular type. Three icebreaker piers, consisting of steel sheet piling driven in a 30-foot-diameter circle were constructed adjacent to each other, in a line at right angles with the shore, near the upstream end of the longer quay. They served as a means of breaking ice and downstream drift and for ship mooring. Additional mooring, in the non-quay waterfront area, was obtained by the construction of four dolphins in a line 50 feet from the shore and parallel to it.

In each yard, whirler-type gantry cranes were used in the pre-assembly and ship construction areas for handling ship sections and materials. Seven gantry-crane tracks were built, as were tracks for side-movement of ships on the assembly lines and tracks for railway service.

Three architect-engineer firms were used by the prime contractor. One handled the heavy-construction design and supervised the work of a heavy-construction contractor. The second handled shop and warehouse design; the third handled design of offices, cafeterias, and locker buildings. Work in the second and third categories was performed by a second construction contractor. Each of the two construction contractors performed almost $3,000,000 worth of work. The overall cost of the facility, including the non-civil works, was more than $10,000,000.

Pittsfield, Mass. -- While shipyards were being built for the production of escort-vessel hulls, other plants were started for the production of propulsion units. In January 1942, a letter of intent initiated construction at Pittsfield, Mass., of a general Electric Company plant to produce 300 propulsion units per year.

As built, the structure was a one-story manufacturing building, with a lean-to on one side and a two-story office building on the other. The dimensions were 840 feet by 300 feet. Foundations were reinforced concrete to window-sill height. The superstructure was steel frame, covered by corrugated asbestos-siding. The building was equipped with cranes and process ventilation. The lean-to and office building were of wood-frame construction.

Erie, Pa. -- To increase the machine-product output of the Erie Forge and Steel Company, the Navy in 1940 entered into a facilities contract with that company, whose products included finished machined crankshafts for submarines, mine sweepers, and other small ships; compressor crankshafts for larger ships; propulsion shafting for naval and maritime vessels; and gun forgings.

In layout, the original plant consisted of four main buildings, located adjacent, and parallel, to each other -- the open-hearth building, the forge shop, the machine shop, and the heat-treatment building.


Mesta Machine Company Plant at West Homestead, Pa.
Mesta Machine Company Plant at West Homestead, Pa.
Shafting, turbine rotors, and gear rims were produced here.

The largest of these, the machine shop, was 420 feet long and 190 feet wide. Other buildings included laboratory, a power house, office buildings, storehouses, a crane house, a garage, and four oil tanks.

Under the facilities program, all four major buildings and part of the minor buildings were extended. Overall length of the machine shop became 1,366 feet; the forge shop grew from 364 feet by 199 feet to 880 feet by 199 feet; the length of the open-hearth building became 760 feet; the heat-treat building, 115 feet. A radial brick stack was built at the power house. A carpenter shop, a brick shed, a maintenance building, and smaller buildings were also built.

From the time the original contract was let in 1940 until March 1941, work consisted of the installation of machinery. Civil works construction began in March 1941 with the addition of a two-bay extension to one end of the heat-treat building and the addition of a nine-bay extension to one end of the machine shop. The next month, work was started on an extension to the open-hearth building. These extensions became available for use in the fall of 1941. In the spring of 1942, the first of the remaining extensions and additions were ordered. Work on these projects continued to completion through the winter of 1942-43.

Early construction, extending into the summer of 1942, was of steel frame, similar to that which existed in the old plant structures. After mid-1942, where practicable, timber or masonry construction was used.

West Homestead, Pittsburgh, Pa. -- The Mesta Machine Company, West Homestead, Pittsburgh, Pa., manufacturers of steel-mill equipment, extended


Erie Forge and Steel Company Plant at Erie, Pa.
Erie Forge and Steel Company Plant at Erie, Pa.
View in the middle bay of the east end machine shop extension,
showing the beginning of the installation of the wood floor blocks.

their existing facilities for production of propeller shafting, turbine rotors, and gear rims, under a facilities contract negotiated in 1942. The main plant was a two-bay structure with two 90-foot crane runways. One bay, 1,150 feet long, housed the machine shop; the other, 750 feet long, housed scrap storage, electric furnaces, and heat-treating furnaces. The building was of structural-steel frame with cement-asbestos siding on reinforced-concrete footings.

Work was begun in August 1942 under limp-sum sub-contracts made by the company. Design work was done by Mesta's engineering department.

Indian Orchard, Mass. -- As the two-ocean Navy program reached its new construction stride in 1941, industry's valve-producing facilities became incapable of meeting the demand created by ship construction. Late in the year, work began at Indian Orchard, Mass., on a foundry for the manufacture of valve castings, under a construction contract with the Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company. Work was begun in November 1941, and in May 1942 the Bureau of Yards and Docks assumed cognizance of the project.

The foundry building, 298 by 478 feet, was built with brick walls to window-sill height on reinforced-concrete footings. The remainder of the superstructure was of steel-frame construction,


American Locomotive Company Plant, Auburn (N.Y.)
American Locomotive Company Plant, Auburn, N.Y.
Machine shop and office building, diesel engine division.

covered with corrugated cement-asbestos siding. Adjoining the main building was an office bay and a boiler room.

Auburn, N.Y. -- In February 1942, expansion of plant facilities of the American Locomotive Company at Auburn, N.Y., was begun, to accommodate the production of diesel engines and turbo chargers.

A machine-shop building, 202 by 627 feet, was built of steel-frame construction on reinforced-concrete foundations. Two 80-foot crane bays and one 40-foot low bay extended the length of the building. A two-story office building of reinforced concrete and brick was erected adjacent to the machine shop. A new 5600-horsepower water-tube boiler was installed in an extension to the existing boiler house.

The plant was equipped with cranes, compressed-air facilities, and shot-blast equipment. Work was completed by December 1, 1942.

Aeronautical Facilities

The aeronautical facilities program contained a higher percentage of Defense Plant Corporation contracts than did the shipbuilding facilities program. Of 348 aircraft plants built with Navy money, 218 were built under Defense Plant Corporation jurisdiction. Under this program, which cost $637,260,000, some 67,000 planes were produced and delivered to the Navy between mid-1940 and August 1945.

Cooperation between the Army and the Navy in the use of aircraft facilities was developed to an advanced state during the war, so that Navy-built plants turned out Army plane parts, Army engines, and completed Army planes. In a similar manner, Army-built plant facilities produced for the Navy. The mutual use of facilities provided an equitable distribution of end-products and resulted in economies to both services.

Bethpage, N.Y. -- The carrier-based fighter program required several expansions to the Grumman plant facilities at Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y. The first of these additions was begun on March 8, 1942. Included in the project was a wood-frame, two-story, 60-by-270-foot office building, on concrete footings and piers; also a U-shaped, 481-by-343-foot hangar, with brick walls and timber roof trusses.

In September 1942, a 480-by-840-foot addition


Engineer and Experimental Building at the Grumman Bethpage (N.Y.) Plant
Engineer and Experimental Building at the Grumman Bethpage (N.Y.) Plant

was started for the wing-assembly plant. This extension was erected with brick walls on structural-steel framing. Columns of steel, salvaged from the New York World's Fair, were spaced to form 20-by-40-foot bays. The roof was supported by 40-foot, laminated wood beams. The building was windowless. Open areas around three storehouses were enclosed to provide two sections, 230 feet long and 120 feet wide. The plant addition was occupied on October 5, 1942, and the warehouses were in use by the end of the year, although construction on the projects was not complete until July 1943.

In march 1943, construction was begun on another project, to provide a similar addition to the assembly shop. This extension was 420 feet wide and 502 feet long and was divided into assembly area and shops. Steel girders were used instead of laminated wood beams. Six, 100-by-320-foot warehouses, with cinder-block walls and structural-steel framing, were erected. On July 4, 1943, airplane production was begun in the assembly area of this addition. The warehouses had been put in use the previous May.

In November 1943, construction commenced on a building to house engineering and experimental work. The structure, 400 by 780 feet, had steel framing and 8-inch brick walls with 4-inch cinder-block lining. Most of the building was windowless. Its main portion was put in service by July 15, 1944.

By these wartime additions the Navy doubled the manufacturing facilities of the plant.

Strawberry Point, Md. -- The aircraft manufacturing facilities of the Glenn L. Martin Company at Middle River, Md., were located near water which was subject to freezing during three months of the year. To obtain more favorable conditions for flying-boat activities, the Navy constructed an aircraft delivery hangar and facilities at Strawberry Point, less than 3 miles from the plant. The hangar, 200 by 300 feet, was a steel-and-concrete building, with a two-story, brick and concrete office and shop structure in a lean-to on one side. A generous parking area surrounded it. A seaplane ramp of 12-inch concrete was also constructed.

This project, begun late in October 1943, was substantially completed by the middle of June 1944.

Five Eastern Aircraft Plants. -- One of the largest facilities projects undertaken by the Navy and a private contractor was with Eastern Aircraft, a new division of General Motors. Five General Motors plants which had supplied automobiles to States along the eastern seaboard were assigned to the new division, which supplied Avenger torpedo bombers and Wildcat fighters. The plants were at Tarrytown, N.Y., Linden, Bloomfield, and Trenton, N.J., and at Baltimore, Md.

Original work at the plants comprised dismantling automobile manufacturing equipment, adding a few buildings, and revamping some of the existing buildings. At Linden, a storehouse was built to house the old machinery, 5 miles of monorail was


Extension to Factory Building of Vought-Sikorsky at Stratford, Conn.
Extension to Factory Building of Vought-Sikorsky at Stratford, Conn.

ripped out, and a section of the main building roof was raised 26 feet to provide an overhead crane bay. Airport runways and hangars were built at Linden and Trenton for use in testing the Avengers and Wildcats which were completed in those two plants. As at Linden, a temporary storehouse for old machinery was built at Trenton. A large door was erected on the main manufacturing building to allow the removal of complete planes.

The old equipment from the Tarrytown plant was stored in a leased warehouse, and the plant was altered by the relocation of partitions, enlargement of the plant dispensary and hospital, and covering of a railroad well.

Alterations also were made at Bloomfield and Baltimore, but were not extensive, because those plants manufactured parts and assemblies to which their existing facilities could be adapted more readily.

Later, an addition was made to increase the length of the Trenton assembly line. Another General Motors plant at Tarrytown was transferred to Eastern Aircraft, and additional space was acquired at Baltimore. At Bloomfield a new manufacturing building, which doubled the plant's capacity, was built near by, and another existing building was acquired.

East Hartford and Stratford, Conn. -- Facilities were built at East Hartford and Stratford, Conn., for three divisions of the United Aircraft Corporation: Pratt and Whitney, Chance Vought, and Hamilton Standard Propellers.

Pratt and Whitney had a plant group, an airfield, and an administration group at East Hartford. To the basic plant group the Navy added such items as a heating boiler, electrical distribution increment, an oil-storage building, general building alterations and improvements, gasoline storage,


Delivery Hangar at the Glenn Martin Company's Middle river (Mo.) Plant
Delivery Hangar at the Glenn Martin Company's Middle River (Mo.) Plant

and engine mounts in test cells. To the airfield the Navy added runway surfacing and extensions, an extension to an experimental hangar, and an extension to an overhaul shop.

A separate manufacturing group, covering 887,000 square feet, consisted of three buildings, complete with conveyor and monorail systems, primary electric power, compressed air, office and storage space, and a sanitary system. A cafeteria in one of the buildings and 28 engine test cells of various sizes were built.

At Hamilton Standard Propellers, also in East Hartford, United Aircraft had a basic plant, a test building, and an administration group. The basic plant was improved by interior alterations, the construction of five factory additions, cafeteria, and shipping-room additions, and sub-stations. The size of the test building was increased. New Navy projects included a helicopter test tower and two test cells for helicopter propellers.

At Chance-Vought, at Stratford, United Aircraft had an 11-building manufacturing plant and several other buildings. To the group of 11, the Navy added three buildings, increased the utilities, and built extensions. One extension was a two-story brick and reinforced-concrete addition to the main factory building, providing 250,000 square feet of space. Another extension provided 150,000 square feet. New buildings erected by the Navy included an experimental hangar, a stratosphere test chamber, a test laboratory, an assembly hangar, and three engineering buildings.

Seattle, Wash. -- To provide a flying field for four-motored Army bombers manufactured by the Boeing Aircraft Company at Seattle, the Navy acquired a 165-acre rectangular tract in the city of Renton at the south end of Lake Washington, across a commercial waterway from Boeing's Renton plant. The site was cleared of brush, and some of the existing commercial and industrial buildings were removed. An abandoned river channel and a water area at the north end of the site were filled, and some grading was undertaken. Building construction included two buildings, a ground-operations building, and a garage. The flying field's main runway, 5,400 feet long 200 feet wide, was built of reinforced concrete. Oiled-gravel strips, 150 feet wide, were laid on either side of the runway. A barge-type drawbridge, with pier approaches, was built across the commercial waterway to connect


the airfield with the manufacturing plant. Two barges were used. In the closed position the barges butted against each other and abutted against the approaches. They were drawn parallel to the banks of the waterway to open the channel.

An important part of the work at Renton airfield was the relocation of a steel tower power transmission line which crossed the runway site. A new right-of-way around the city of Renton was acquired, and on it was constructed a steel tower, double-circuit, transmission line. This project cost more that $600,000.

San Diego, Calif. -- Eight Emergency Plant Facilities contracts and two Defense Plant Corporation contracts provided facilities at San Diego for the production of PBY flying boats and B-24 four-motored Army bombers by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation. The various contracts covered such items as additions and mechanical installations in four aircraft manufacturing buildings, a new 8,700-foot runway and other airfield improvements, bomb protection, hangars, a seawall, seaplane ramp, a sub-assembly building, and a final assembly plant, 200 by 900 feet.

The heavy-duty runway, which was built for testing the large bombers, lay with about 5,200 feet on a commercial airport, Lindbergh Field, and with the remaining 3,500 feet on the adjacent Marine Corps base.

Litchfield Park, Ariz. -- Near Phoenix, Ariz., at Litchfield Park, a facility for modification of Liberator bombers and for the manufacture of Lockheed wing, aileron, and tail assemblies was built by the Navy and Defense Plant Corporation for the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. New Liberators, flown there from San Diego, had radar and other equipment added before the bombers were given operational tests.

A 6,000-foot runway was built and connected by a taxiway to an industrial area which included among its major buildings, a 200-by-250-foot steel assembly building, a 300-by-600-foot wood assembly building, an administration building, two sawtooth-roof manufacturing buildings with a total area of 375,000 square feet, and a 200-man barrack.

Kansas City, Mo. -- Many other plants for manufacturing airplanes, assemblies, and smaller parts were built under the civil works program. Most of the plants were smaller than those which have been described. Some were larger. An example of the large plants was United Aircraft's, Pratt and Whitney Division, engine plant, located in a 393-acre area in Jackson County, Mo., 12 miles south of Kansas City, Mo. Its buildings, containing 3,580,000 square feet of floor area, had a production capacity of 300 aircraft engines per month. There were 36 engine test cells and four dynamometer test cells.

Ordnance Facilities

Glassmere, Pa. -- A wartime development in ammunition was the admixture of aluminum powder in high explosives to give more effective detonation characteristics. On February 27, 1944, the Aluminum Company of America accepted a letter of intent from the Bureau of Ordnance to construct and operate an aluminum powder plant capable of producing 2,000,000 pounds of the powder per month, The site chosen was in Glassmere, Pa., on the west bank of the Allegheny River, near the company's New Kensington plant, which would supply pig aluminum and part of the operating labor for the new plant.

The main part of the process was housed in a one-story atomizer building. The 287-by-42-foot structure had 12-inch brick wall on a concrete foundation. A two-story sifter building, 85 by 35 feet, was built of similar construction. In addition, the process used seven collectors, each housed in a steel-frame building, 24 feet long and 14 feet wide. In all, 14 buildings were erected for the plant, which was in full operation on July 31, 1944.

Shrewsbury, Mo. -- Powdered aluminum also was made by the Metals Disintegrating Company of Missouri, at Shrewsbury. The plant, consisting of eight new buildings, five dust collectors, and three converted buildings, was similar in its facilities to the Glassmere plant. Maximum production was more than 2,000,000 pounds of powder monthly. The atomizer building was 50 by 220 feet, of brick, concrete, and steel walls with interior framing of wood or steel. Work included a considerable amount of earth fill to render the rolling terrain of the 10-acre tract usable A system of surfaced roads was built to connect the various buildings, and a drainage system was installed to counteract the tendency of the roads to fail in the new excavation and fill areas.

Fridley, Minn. -- In March of 1943, work was begun on additions to the Northern Ordnance Incorporated plant at Fridley, Minn., which produced mounts for 3-inch and 5-inch anti-aircraft guns. The


Building Ways at the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation Plant, San Pedro, Calif.
Building Ways at the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation Plant, San Pedro, Calif.
This photograph was taken March 23, 1942.

project included the construction of five buildings and the remodeling of a sixth. This construction was one of the few performed directly by the operating contractor.

The largest building erected was for storage, assembly, and shipping. It was a one-story structure, 256 by 1,228 feet, divided into forty-nine 25-foot bays. Walls were brick on concrete foundations; roof trusses were of steel resting on longitudinal concrete rigid frames, which also supported heavy-duty traveling cranes. A naval inspection office, 50 by 160 feet, was provided, also a building for hydraulic testing. The existing commissary was extended in a brick structure, 79 feet by 274 feet, and an addition was made to the boiler house.

Charlotte, N.C. -- On the first of June 1942, a contract was made by the Navy Department with the United States Rubber Company, for the construction of a 40-mm shell loading and assembly plant on a 2,260-acre site, 10 miles south of Charleston, N.C.

In this construction, 249 individual buildings, ranging in size from 6 by 6 feet to 870 by 500 feet, were erected, most of them of wood-frame construction concrete-block foundations. The plant had three loading lines, and construction was planned so that the first of these was completed and in operation while work continued on the other two. Within the area, 13 miles of railroad tracks and more than 8 miles of gravel roads were constructed. Wide dispersal of the Plant made a central heating system impracticable, and five boiler houses were erected so that each could serve one or two general areas. A complete sewerage and sewage-disposal system for the plant was installed. Water was obtained from the city of Charlotte.

The first test shells were loaded on December 12, 1942, and loading line No. 1 was in operation by December 17.

Other plants for loading 40-mm and 20-mm shells were constructed at Bristol, Va., Mayfield, Ky., Chillicothe, Ohio, Elkton, Md., Peru, Ind., and Hanover, Mass. Each plant included many buildings, dispersed over a wide area.

Lexington, Ky. -- All civil works contracts were not for new facilities. There were almost an many kinds of civil works projects as there were places at which civil works contracts were made. At one place, the only work might be a coat of paint or a process piping system. At another, a small addition might be made to a large privately owned plant. At still another place, a large addition might be made to a small plant. An example of the small project was a facility for which a civil works contract was made at Lexington, Ky.

The Sylvania Electric Products Company made electronic devices for the Bureau of Ordnance at several places, including also, Emporium, Pa, Dover, N.H., Altoona, Pa., Kew Gardens, N.Y., Ipswich, Mass., and Mill Hall, Pa. In general, the


U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant, Indianapolis, Indiana
U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant, Indianapolis, Indiana
Machine tool section of the Lukas Harold Corporation.

civil works contracts were for rehabilitation of existing facilities, whether already owned or acquired by the Sylvania Company.

At Lexington, the company, as prime contractor for the Bureau of Ordnance, leased the first floor of a two-story L-shaped building which had been, successively, a garage and a super-market. The company's purpose was to provide a plant which would feed parts to its Huntington (W. Va.) plant. The building was steel frame, with concrete floors, brick walls, wood second floor and roof. Alterations included removing partitions, installing new office partitions, installing new windows and doors, improving the electrical and heating systems, cleaning, and painting. Outside work included a loading platform, a parking lot, and a lunch room, first-aid and women's sanitary facilities building.

After V-J Day

Civil works was another activity in which the Bureau found increased work after V-J Day. During the war, the Bureau of Ships, The Bureau of Ordnance, the Bureau of Aeronautics, the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and, in a few instances, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, acquired an interest in various plants through facilities contracts.

The Bureau of Yards and Docks was called upon to prepare engineering inventories and to make extensive appraisal and evaluation reports on some 450 plants, valued at about $400,000,000. Included among the properties were about 50 floating drydocks. The inventories and evaluations were required incidental to post-war planning and for disposition of those facilities which were no longer needed. Some of the facilities constructed as civil works were incorporated into the permanent shore establishment of the Navy, thus becoming public works; other facilities were placed in a stand-by status and leased to private operators. Also, a few facilities were retained for use in the Naval Reserve training program. The remaining facilities, constituting the larger portion of the total, were either sold to the private operators under the terms of the contracts or were declared surplus to the War Assets Administration for ultimate disposition on the open market. Until finally disposed of, the Bureau made periodic inspections of the plants, to insure that the facilities were being properly maintained and that the public investment therein was protected.


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1. Public No. 671, 76th Congress, June 28, 1940.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation