Brownstoner: Fighting World War II at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brownstoner Logo, a white B on black background

Brownstoner, January 22, 2019

by Susan De Vries

While the Brooklyn Navy Yard is being transformed with new buildings and uses, during World War II thousands of workers toiled to keep America’s battleships and aircraft carriers ready for the troops. Learn more about the busy shipyard and its role in the war with a winter bus tour around the complex. The tour includes stops where battleships like the USS Arizona and Missouri were launched, ship assembly shops and other significant sites. You’ll also be able to hear stories of what it was like to work on site during the era thanks to audio clips from oral histories of sailors, ship workers and women working industrial jobs.

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Aircraft Carrier Visits Now a Rare Sight in NYC

Last week, New York City was visited by the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth. This 65,000-ton carrier has spent several weeks in the US while undergoing flight testing with the F-35B fighter, which will be the primary component of its air wing. The seven-day stopover in New York was mostly for crew R-and-R, though the ship also hosted the Atlantic Future Forum on cybersecurity.

New York City is home to the Intrepid, permanently docked on the Hudson River and home to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, and the city still hosts Fleet Week every year around Memorial Day (with some exceptions), but aircraft carriers have not been part of the festivities for over a decade. Let’s take a look back at some of the floating airfields that have visited the city.>> Continue reading

Lecture: “Wendy the Welder: Work in World War II,” Oct. 15

An African-American female wearing a welder's helmet flipped up. She is smiling and looks surprised.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard reached its peak in World War II, employing 70,000 civilian workers. Desperately short of labor, the Navy employed more than 10,000 women at the Yard, in jobs ranging from seamstress to draftswoman to welder. This lecture by Andrew Gustafson will look back at the history of the Yard, and how World War II represented a major change in the culture of work, but also continued traditions of female labor dating back more than a century, utilizing documents, artifacts, and oral histories form the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archive, including many than we’re used in creating the world of Jennifer Egan’s bestselling novel Manhattan Beach.

Monday, Oct. 15, 6:30pm | New Canaan Library | >> More Information <<

Bklyner: Jennifer Egan Discusses ‘Manhattan Beach’ at Brooklyn Public Library

Bklyner, September 18, 2018

by Robin Kaizer-Schatzlein

Last night author Jennifer Egan was in the green room of the Brooklyn Public Library‘s central branch getting ready to go on stage for a talk about her book Manhattan Beach. She is a self-possessed and open woman with the look and delivery of sharp news anchor. Part of the 2018 Brooklyn Book Festival, the event was a panel discussion with Zaheer Ali of the Brooklyn Historical Society and Meredith Wisner formerly of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, moderated by author Alexis Coe.

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The Photo That Inspired NYC’s Merchant Mariners’ Memorial

On June 9, 2018, Reinhard Hardegen, the last surviving German submarine commander of World War II, died at the age of 105. With his passing, he joins the ghosts of American merchant mariners who still haunt Manhattan’s Battery Park.

Dedicated in 1991, the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial was created by sculptor Marisol Escobar as tribute to the 9,000+ American Merchant Marine sailors killed in the war. The Merchant Marine provided a vital service to the war effort, shipping troops and supplies across some of the deadliest seas in the world. American mariners received fire from the enemy, and they returned fire, as many merchant vessels were armed, while suffering the highest casualty rate of any service branch in World War II.>> Continue reading

Metro: The 8 essential things to do during Fleet Week in New York

A white globe on a green background. The Metro New York logo

Metro New York, May 21, 2018

by Eva Kis

Tour Military History: For Memorial Day, classic Harbor Line and Turnstile Tours have created a special Military History Tour ($68) about the city’s past from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Sail past New York’s harbor forts, see the Brooklyn Army Terminal, wave to the Statue of Liberty and go all the way down to Staten Island’s Homeport during a 2.5-hour tour aboard a 1920s-inspired yacht. 

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100 Years of Refuge at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

May 15, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This remarkable facility served for 47 years as a critical supply base and logistics hub for the US Army, and today it is a center of industry and innovation, home to 100 companies and nearly 4,000 jobs. Throughout this centenary week, we will be sharing stories of the Terminal, past and present, on our blog and social media.


The Brooklyn Army Terminal was designed for war, a massive warehouse and port facility to receive, store, process, and ship war materiel to points around the globe. But the Terminal did not just send out troops and supplies to wage war; it has also been an important place of refuge and relief for people trying to escape persecution, war, and disaster. Here are some examples of the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s history as a safe haven over the last century.>> Continue reading

Visiting the Ships of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Since we began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard nearly ten years ago, the Yard has become a huge part of our lives and our identity, both as a company and as individuals. We see connections to its past and present nearly everywhere we go, and we are learning new things about it every day.

We are always looking for new ways to bring the stories of the Yard to life for the public. It has been nearly 40 years since a ship was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and more than 50 since a US Navy ship was built there, so shipbuilding can seem like a distant memory. We have found that actually seeing the products of the Yard’s workers is not only a great inspiration, it also helps us better understand the nature of the work that went into them. It’s one thing to talk about welders, shipfitters, caulkers, and riggers building a 45,000-ton battleship; it’s another entirely to actually see the sum of that labor and how it all fit together. Unfortunately, only a small number of Brooklyn-built ships still exist, but we have been lucky enough to visit a few of them over the years.>> Continue reading

The Many Names of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Some of the subjects we frequently have to address on our tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard are: where is it? and what is the official name?

So let’s start with the first question. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is located on the banks of the Wallabout Bay, a bend in the East River located opposite Manhattan’s Corlears Hook. The Yard has grown considerably since it was established in 1801 with the purchase of 23 acres of land on the bay’s western shore. Today, it encompasses 300 acres that encircle the bay from west to east, bounded by Little Street and Navy Street to the west, Flushing Avenue to the south, and Williamsburg Street, Kent Avenue, and Division Avenue to the east. >> Continue reading

Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Frederick Lois Riefkohl

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Frederick Lois Riefkohl (1889–1969)

The histories of Puerto Rico and of the US military are deeply intertwined, and much of that history runs through the career of Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the US Naval Academy, to win the Navy Cross, and to achieve the rank of rear admiral. Normally we would not consider someone from Puerto Rico an immigrant – they are US citizens – but Reifkohl lived in a complicated time.>> Continue reading