They say a Navy ship has three birthdays: its keel-laying, its launching, and its commissioning. The World War II-era battleship USS Missouri has one more, its recommission in 1986 as part of President Reagan’s 600-ship Navy. But one person was witness to its first two birthdays, Brooklyn Navy Yard shipfitter Clayton Colefield, who sat for an oral history in 2009 with Sady Sullivan of the Brooklyn Historical Society.>> Continue reading
For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work with third and fourth graders in the Brooklyn Historical Society’s CASA program. These young scholars are tasked with writing a book about a place or story important to Brooklyn’s history. In 2018, we helped students learning about Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Greenpoint, and the Empire Stores. This year, students from PS 380 in Williamsburg took on the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The students decided to look at the Yard’s history through the lens of some of its famous ships, Arizona, Maine, and Fulton among them, but also the little-known Peacock.>> Continue reading
On August 14, 1965, the Landing Platform Dock USS Duluth (LPD-6) floated out of Dry Dock No. 3 at the New York Naval Shipyard. In the preceding 145 years, this shipyard had witnessed the launch of 125 commissioned warships of the US Navy, beginning with the 74-gun ship of the line USS Ohio, and this would be the 126th – and final – to be built on Wallabout Bay.>> Continue reading
At the Brooklyn Navy Yard‘s shipyard, operated by GMD, they repair mostly commercial ships, but they also get a fair number of federal government contracts. The shipyard does not repair US Navy combat ships, but we are currently hosting nearly every other federal agency that operates ships, with vessels from the US Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and Military Sealift Command. Right now, a unique MSC ship from the US Navy Oceanographic Office is in dry dock, USNS Pathfinder.>> Continue reading
For the first time in 175 years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Timber Shed has emerged from behind a wall, and it is being prepared for a new life. One of the oldest buildings at the Yard, it is one of the few few surviving structures that represents the Yard’s early history of wooden shipbuilding.
Actually, the Timber Shed represents the whole purpose and justification for creating the Navy Yard in the first place. When Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert purchased 40 acres of land in Brooklyn 1801, he used appropriations for the purchase of timber, claiming that the Navy needed secure places to store it; otherwise, he was just wasting money moving the government-owned timber to the private shipyards that were building the ships. With this creative interpretation of the law, he created six shipyards that would be at the core of the US Navy for the next 160 years. In those other five Navy Yards (Portsmouth, Boston, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Washington), none still have an extant timber shed.>> Continue reading
Today marks the anniversary of the launching of USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We have written about the Arizona many times before, including about the impact the sinking had on the Yard’s workers half a world away, and about our visit to the memorial in Pearl Harbor. It remains one of the most well-known and written about ships in the history of the US Navy, but we want to take a look at some lesser-known incidents in its storied history connected to the Yard.
When looking back at the ship’s history from the perspective of its tragic end, one can’t help but find many omens; when taken together, they seem to have foretold its fate. They are, of course, coincidences, not curses, but fascinating nonetheless.>> Continue reading
Operation Neptune, the seaborne component of the Normandy invasion, required nearly 6,500 vessels to deliver the vast Allied armies and their supplies and equipment onto the continental beaches. This didn’t just include warships and landing craft, but also more mundane vessels, like barges.
Allied planners scoured the British Isles for craft of any kind to use in the invasion, and they encountered a major shortage of large barges, capable of carrying 1,000 tons or more, and with a draft of less than six feet. Enough simply could not be found or built. Barges of this size were too large to load onto the decks of even the largest transports, and too fragile to tow across the stormy North Atlantic. So in February 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent an urgent message to Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall asking for a solution.>> Continue reading
Wallabout Bay is currently hosting a pair of ships that harken back to the days of the New York Naval Shipyard, as a pair of mothballed ships from the James River National Defense Reserve Fleet are visiting, Cape Ann and Cape Avinof.
Created after World War II, when the US had a massive surplus of merchant ships, the NDRF was a way to keep those ships in reserve if another national emergency should arise. Managed by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and once containing thousands of ships at eight anchorages around the country – including the Hudson River Reserve Fleet in nearby Tarrytown, NY – today the NDRF has only about 50 ships in Beaumont, TX, Suisun Bay, CA, and in the James River near Newport News, VA. While these ships are in various states of repair, requiring weeks or even months of work to be put back into action, MARAD also maintains the Ready Reserve Force, 45 vessels strategically positioned around the country with minimal crews that can be reactivated in just four to 20 days.>> Continue reading
John Ericsson (1803–1889)
John Ericsson was perhaps more of an engineer than any man who ever lived. Of his 85 years on this earth, 75 of them were spent as an engineer, and he worked in almost every conceivable field of engineering a person could in the 19th century, spanning the apogee of the Industrial Revolution. >> Continue reading
Henry Eckford (1775-1832)
The long, arduous, and risky journey to America has a way of bringing to our shores the most ambitious, talented, and daring people; Henry Eckford was certainly one of those. Born and raised in the Scottish town of Kilwinning, located not far from the famous shipbuilding center along the Firth of Clyde, Eckford set off from his homeland for Canada to learn the shipbuilding trade at just 16. Like John Barry, he apprenticed with his uncle, and became a skilled shipwright in the yards along the St. Lawrence River.>> Continue reading