Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company

Last updated
Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company
Industry Shipbuilding
FoundedJuly 24, 1917 (1917-07-24) [1]
Headquarters Kearny, New Jersey
Parent United States Steel Corporation

The Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company was a United States shipyard, active from 1917 to 1948. It was founded during World War I to build ships for the United States Shipping Board. During World War II, it built ships as part of the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding program. Operated by a subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation, the shipyard was located at Kearny Point where the mouth of the Hackensack River meets Newark Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey. The shipyard site is now part of River Terminal, [2] a massive distribution facility that is partially a foreign trade zone. [3]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Shipyard place where ships are repaired and built

A shipyard is a place where ships are built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial construction. The terms are routinely used interchangeably, in part because the evolution of dockyards and shipyards has often caused them to change or merge roles.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.


Federal built numerous destroyers, destroyer escorts and a handful of light cruisers as well as merchant ships during and between the wars. Around 570 vessels were contracted for construction by Federal SB&DD Company with about 100 not delivered fully completed due to the end of the World War II. Federal also had a yard at Port Newark during World War II that built destroyers and landing craft. [4]

Destroyer Type of warship

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against powerful short range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.

Destroyer escort United States Navy mid-20th century ship classification

Destroyer escort (DE) was the United States Navy mid-20th-century classification for a 20-knot (23 mph) warship designed with endurance to escort mid-ocean convoys of merchant marine ships. Kaibōkan were designed for a similar role in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Royal Navy and Commonwealth forces identified such warships as frigates, and that classification was widely accepted when the United States redesignated destroyer escorts as frigates (FF) in 1975. From circa 1954 until 1975 new-build US Navy ships designated as destroyer escorts (DE) were called ocean escorts. Destroyer escorts, frigates, and kaibōkan were mass-produced for World War II as a less expensive antisubmarine warfare alternative to fleet destroyers. Other similar warships include the 10 Kriegsmarine escort ships of the F-class and the two Amiral Murgescu-class vessels of the Romanian Navy.

A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck. Prior to this smaller cruisers had been of the protected cruiser model, possessing armored decks only. While lighter and smaller than other contemporary ships they were still true cruisers, retaining the extended radius of action and self-sufficiency to act independently across the world. Through their history they served in a variety of roles, primarily as convoy escorts and destroyer command ships, but also as scouts and fleet support vessels for battle fleets.

History of the Federal Yard at Kearny

Aerial view of Federal Shipbuilding, Kearny, NJ in May 1945. Aerial view of Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company 01, Kearny NJ (USA) 1945.jpg
Aerial view of Federal Shipbuilding, Kearny, NJ in May 1945.

Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company was founded July 24, 1917 as a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation to supply ships for the United States Shipping Board during World War I. [1] The site on Kearny Point was first surveyed during the summer of 1917. [5] The shipyard was to consist of everything needed to fully complete a ship from a facility power plant to a wood joining shop. A steel plate mill and boiler shop were to be built as well. $10 million ($196 million today) was allocated for construction. The American Bridge Company was contracted to provide 10,000 tons of steel for the structures. E.H. Gary was president of Federal in August 1917. [6] The ship-ways were completed by the fall of 1917 with keels being laid by November 1917. Federal completed a 9,600 ton ship around six weeks before World War I ended as well as two other ships before the close of 1918. 27 ships were delivered to the Emergency Fleet Corporation in 1919. Federal accounted for 5% of the steel merchant tonnage built in 1919. [5]

A subsidiary, subsidiary company or daughter company is a company that is owned or controlled by another company, which is called the parent company, parent, or holding company. The subsidiary can be a company, corporation, or limited liability company. In some cases it is a government or state-owned enterprise. In some cases, particularly in the music and book publishing industries, subsidiaries are referred to as imprints.

U.S. Steel US steel-producing company

United States Steel Corporation, more commonly known as U.S. Steel, is an American integrated steel producer headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with production operations in the United States and Central Europe. As of 2016, the company was the world's 24th-largest steel producer and second-largest domestic producer, trailing only Nucor Corporation.

United States Shipping Board

The United States Shipping Board (USSB) was established as an emergency agency by the Shipping Act, September 7, 1916.

By June 1921, the Federal yard at Kearny had a 535 by 161.5 feet (163.1 m × 49.2 m) boiler construction shop to build Scotch marine boilers, exhaust stacks, tanks, uptakes and other related items. 235 boilers had been constructed from September 1919 to June 1921. Boilers constructed there were mostly 15 feet (4.6 m) diameter or larger. At that time, 250 men were able to construct three boilers a week with a single 8 hour shift each day. [7]

Scotch marine boiler design of steam boiler best known for its use on ships

A "Scotch" marine boiler is a design of steam boiler best known for its use on ships.

Funnel (ship)

A funnel is the smokestack or chimney on a ship used to expel boiler steam and smoke or engine exhaust. They are also commonly referred to as stacks.

By November 1921, Federal had shipbuilding ways for twelve 15,000 ton vessels and had constructed a 9,000 ton floating dry dock. The dry dock was first used June 23, 1921 when Transmarine corp's SS Suhulco docked. The Kearny yard was 17 acres (6.9 ha) with 2,400 feet (730 m) of frontage on the Hackensack River. A wet basin was located at the southern end with a 100-ton 3-legged jib crane for fitting out new ships. [8]

On Sunday night, May 18, 1924, a fire destroyed the largest building at the Kearny yard causing an initially estimated $500,000 in damage. [9] Other estimates were $1.6 million or as high as several million dollars in damage. Firemen used four mobile cranes to try to extinguish fires in the pattern building and the plate shop. Over a thousand workers were idled by the fire. [10] The shipyard had around 5,000 workers at the time and was said to be one of the largest steel fabrication plants in the world. Fireboats and numerous firemen from around the area were called in to fight the fire which spread rapidly through the wooden structures at the Kearny yard. [11]

Fireboat specialized watercraft and with pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires

A fireboat is a specialized watercraft with pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires. The first fireboats, dating to the late 18th century, were tugboats, retrofitted with firefighting equipment. Older designs derived from tugboats and modern fireboats more closely resembling seafaring ships can both be found in service today. Some departments would give their multi-purpose craft the title of "fireboat" also.

The Federal yard at Kearny remained operational during the difficult interwar period and Great Depression. Federal built commercial ships, tankers, barges and car floats for companies like Grace Line, Standard Oil of New Jersey and various railroads. Federal also was able to get contracts for two Mahan-class destroyers in the mid-1930s followed by a few Somers-class destroyers and Benham-class destroyers in the late-1930s lead up to World War II. [4]

1940 to closure

May 1942 launch of USS Fletcher (DD-445) and USS Radford (DD-446) at Federal. 2 of the 4 destroyers launched on May 4, 1942. Launch of USS Fletcher (DD-445) and USS Radford (DD-446) at Federal SB&DD in May 1942.jpg
May 1942 launch of USS Fletcher (DD-445) and USS Radford (DD-446) at Federal. 2 of the 4 destroyers launched on May 4, 1942.

Federal made national news when around 16,000 workers went on strike at Kearny from August 7 to August 25, 1941. Work was stopped on $493 million ($8.4 billion today) in Navy and merchant shipbuilding contracts as the nation ramped up ship construction before entering World War II. The strike was ended when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Navy to seize control of the facility. [12] The final sticking point in negotiations had been the refusal of management at Federal to accept demands to require a "maintenance of membership" clause which would effectively make the shipyard a closed shop. Company president Lynn H. Korndorff offered the shipyard to the Navy rather than accept the demands to become a closed shop. [13]

When the Navy took over, the yard fell under the supervision of Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen Sr. as Officer-in-charge. It was the first take over of an industrial plant by the Navy in that era. While the union was enthusiastic about the seizure, they did not get the response they were expecting when the Navy took control. According to Rear Admiral Bowen in his autobiography, while he was cordial with labor, he refused to acknowledge any union's right to collectively bargain for the workers at Kearny. He also refused to take steps to implement the "maintenance of membership" issue. [14] By November 1941, the "maintenance of membership" clause was still not being enforced and the union sought relief from the Defense Mediation Board. [15]

After 134 days of operation by the Navy, control of the shipyard was returned to the company on January 6, 1942. Under Navy control the shipyard laid 12 keels, launched 10 and commissioned 7 ships. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox returned the shipyard and asked that the company and union work out the remaining issue. Failing that, the two parties would use newly established national machinery to resolve the dispute. [16] The "maintenance of membership" issue had still not been resolved. In May 1942, Federal finally gave in to demands to require membership in the CIO Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers. Company president Lynn H. Korndorff said Federal only complied with the order of the National War Labor Board because of the war emergency. The incident was viewed as one of the first major tests of the NWLB. [17] [18]

According to John T. Cunningham in "Made in New Jersey," Federal "completely proved its might". On one day alone in May 1942, the company launched four destroyers in a 50-minute period. [19] By 1943, Federal Shipbuilding was employing 52,000 people and building ships faster than any other yard in the world." [3]

Federal continued to set company construction speed records throughout the war. In July 1943, Federal claimed records of 170 days from keel to commissioning on the large destroyer USS Dashiell (DD-659) and 137 days on light destroyer USS Thorn (DD-647). Federal also said Type C2 ships were being built in an average time of 82 days. In July 1943, destroyer escorts were being launched about once a week since spring of 1943. [20] Between the Newark and Kearny yards, Federal launched a company record of 11 ships in 29 days during March 1943. [21]

After World War II ended, a number of destroyers were cancelled including some that were partially constructed. Federal had contracts to build several cargo ships for the United States Maritime Commission. Five Type C3-class ships were for Lykes Lines and six for American South African Line. Two bulk carriers were built for National Gypsum and three Type C2 ships for Grace Line's "Santa" / South American passenger-freight service. Federal also converted SS Uruguay from wartime service for Moore-McCormack starting in 1946. [4] [22] [23] [24]

4,000 shipyard workers at Federal joined 90,000 other east coast shipyard workers in a strike action on 1 July 1947. [25] The strike at Federal ended in November 1947 after 140 days. [26]

Site of the former Federal yard at Kearny in foreground on left, c.1974. U.S. Navy ships awaiting scrapping by the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation, Kearny, New Jersey (USA), in June 1974 (555767).jpg
Site of the former Federal yard at Kearny in foreground on left, c.1974.

On April 23, 1948, Lynn H. Korndorff, the President of Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company announced that the US Navy had agreed to purchase facilities at Kearny for around $2,375,000 ($24.8 million today), its depreciated book value. [27] The Navy planned to hold the facility in a standby state for potential emergency reactivation. [28] The New York Times regarded this sale price to be "astounding low". [29] In July 1948, Federal's large floating dry dock was towed 1,700 miles in 19 days to Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation's Chickasaw, Alabama shipyard, which had been constructed during World War I by U.S. Steel, parent of Federal SB&DD. [30]

Around 465 ships were delivered by Federal SB&DD Company out of its 569 hull numbers allocated. 325 were delivered from the Kearny yard and 140 from Port Newark. [4]

Instead of building ships, the site eventually hosted a salvaging operation where numerous ships were scrapped. In 1975, the former Federal yard was described as one of the nation's largest ship-breaking yards. According to the 1975 head of the River Terminal Development Corp, the first ship to be scrapped at the yard was USS Enterprise (CV-6) in 1959. Other carriers scrapped there included Essex, Randolph, Boxer, Wasp and Antietam. Battleships, battle cruisers, cruisers and submarines had also been scrapped at the former Federal yard as of the mid-1970s. [31] Texas Tower 3 was also scrapped at the Federal yard by Lipsett Corp. [32]

Federal Yard at Port Newark

The auto terminal and parking lot to the right of the Newark Bay Bridge was the site of Federal's Port Newark yard. Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York.jpg
The auto terminal and parking lot to the right of the Newark Bay Bridge was the site of Federal's Port Newark yard.

In January 1942, Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company announced they were expanding their facilities to increase capacity and employ an additional 10,000 workers. [33] They expanded to the site of the former Submarine Boat Corporation at Port Newark. After nine months of construction to rebuild the facility, the first ships were launched at the Port Newark yard on October 10, 1942. [34] All of the Gearing-class destroyers built at Federal were built at the Newark yard. [35] The Port Newark yard closed after the war and the site gained some notoriety in late 1947 during a dispute over the scrapping of the battleship New Mexico and two others by Lipsett Corp. [36] The site was an automobile terminal parking lot in the 2010s. [37]

Ships built

An incomplete list of ships built by the FS&D Company

See also

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  1. 1 2 Dickie, Alexander J., ed. (February 1922). "Federal Shipbuilding Yard Busy". Pacific Marine Review. Pacific American Steamship Association. 19: 121.
  2. "River Terminal Development". riverterminal.com. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 Genovese, Peter (October 7, 2011), "'Jersey State of Mind': A gritty little hub with heart", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-10-06, The Federal Shipbuilding Co., a U.S. Steel subsidiary based in South Kearny, played a key role in supplying ships for both World Wars. Scarcely six months after Pearl Harbor, according to John Cunningham in "Made in New Jersey," Federal "completely proved its might. On one day alone in May 1942, the company launched four destroyers. By 1943, Federal Shipbuilding was employing 52,000 people and building ships faster than any other yard in the world."
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Federal Shipbuilding, Kearny and Newark NJ". shipbuildinghistory.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  5. 1 2 "Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company". Port of New York Annual: 274. 1920.
  6. "Biggest Yard for Building Ships". The Day. New London, CT. Wall Street Journal. August 25, 1917. p. 11.
  7. "Quantity Production of Scotch Marine Boilers". Marine Engineering & Shipping Age. Aldrich Publishing Company. 26: 443. June 1921.
  8. "Federal Shipyard takes up Ship Repairing". Marine Engineering & Shipping Age. Aldrich Publishing Company. 26: 835. November 1921.
  9. "Half Million Shipyard Burns". Billings Gazette. Billings, MT. May 19, 1924. p. 1.
  10. "Firemen fight flames from moving cranes". Anniston Star. Anniston, AL. United Press. May 19, 1924. p. 1.
  11. "Big Fire Raging in NJ Shipyard". The Gazette. Montreal, Ontario, Canada. May 19, 1924.
  12. "Kearny Plant to Resume Full Operations Tuesday". Sheboygan Press. Sheboygan, WI. United Press. August 25, 1941.
  13. Reynolds, T. F. (August 24, 1941). "US Seizes Kearny Shipyard". The Sunday Morning Star. Wilmington, DE. United Press. p. 1. (Page 6 contains text of FDR's executive order signed August 23, 1941 to seize the plant)
  14. Bowen, Harold G. (1954). "5". Ships, Machinery and Mossbacks: The Autobiography of a Naval Engineer. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press. p. 221.
  15. "Mediation Board Decision Would Affect CIO Parley". The Pittsburgh Press. November 16, 1941. p. 9.
  16. "Navy Turns Plant Over to Owner". Spokane Daily Chronicle. AP. January 6, 1942. p. 6.
  17. "Big Steel Accepts Labor Board Order". The Telegraph. Nashua, NH. May 9, 1942. p. 2.
  18. "Shipyard Dispute is Terminated". Schenectady Gazette. AP. May 9, 1942. p. 3.
  19. "4 Destroyers Launched from Kearny Yards". The Lewiston Daily Sun. Lewiston, ME. May 4, 1942. p. 1. Fletcher, Radford, Quick, and Mervine
  20. "Real Speed". The Palm Beach Post. July 2, 1943. p. 5.
  21. "Newark Launches Four Warships". St. Petersburg Times. AP. March 29, 1943. p. 9.
  22. "Various". Pacific Marine Review. 43. 1946.
  23. "Various". Pacific Marine Review. 44. 1947.
  24. "Various". Pacific Marine Review. 45. 1948.
  25. "More Shipyard Workers Strike". New Castle News. INS. July 1, 1947.
  26. "Ship Builders End Strike". Evening Telegraph November 14, 1947. Dixon, IL. AP.
  27. "Navy Buys New Jersey Shipyard". Indiana Evening Gazette. AP. April 23, 1948.
  28. "US Steel has gone out of the shipbuilding business". Press Telegram. Long Beach, CA. April 22, 1948.
  29. "Plant of U.S. Steel is Sold to Navy". The New York Times. April 22, 1948. Federal Shipbuilding Goes for $2,375,000, Regarded as Astoundingly Low
  30. "Big Floating Dry Dock coming to Mobile". Dothan Eagle. AP. July 28, 1948.
  31. "Famed Ships scrapped at ship-breaking yard". Anderson Herald Bulletin. AP. September 1, 1975.
  32. "Texas Tower May Get New Job". Bergen Record. AP. August 11, 1964.
  33. "Federal Shipbuilding Will Expand Facilities to Handle War Orders". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, PA. United Press. January 26, 1942. p. 20.
  34. "Two Vessels Launched". The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Spartanburg, SC. AP. October 11, 1942. p. 3.
  35. "Newark Bay Yard". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  36. Staff Writer (November 13, 1947). "Pact To Stave Off Battle In Newark Sought". Ellensburg Daily Record . Ellensburg, Washington . Retrieved 2009-10-15.
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  38. Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers, An Illustrated Design History. ISBN   978-0-87021-718-0.
  39. "Nucleus Crew Here to Fit Out New Destroyer Epperson". Bath Independent. 16 December 1948.
  40. "Epperson". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships . Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.

Further reading

Coordinates: 40°43′26″N74°06′22″W / 40.723790°N 74.106168°W / 40.723790; -74.106168