On December 19, 1960, the Brooklyn Navy Yard suffered the worst accident in its history, a devastating fire aboard the USS Constellation that killed 50 workers. This fire was not only a tragedy for those who were killed and injured and their families, but it marked a turning point in the Yard’s history that many believe led to its closure less than six years later. Over the years, we have had the honor to meet many people that lived through this ordeal, and we will share oral histories and photos from the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archives to reconstruct this fateful day and examine its impact on individuals, the city, and the Navy.
- From Fulton to Constellation: The Worst Accidents in the History of the Brooklyn Navy Yard
- USS Constellation Alumni Association
- Memorial plaque dedication, May 2, 2016
- USS Constellation, Historic Ships in Baltimore
By sheer coincidence, October 8 marks the launching USS Saratoga (1955) and USS Constellation (1960), two of the largest ships ever built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is why we’ve dubbed it “Supercarrier Day.” Aircraft carriers were once a common sight in New York Harbor, as they were built, repaired, and modernized in local shipyards, or they visited for fleet reviews or R&R, but it has been more than 15 years since a carrier visited the city. In this virtual program, we’ll look at important moments in the 100-year history of naval aviation in the region, including early experiments in carrier design, significant carriers of World War II, adapting carriers to the Jet Age, and why no nuclear-powered carriers have ever visited NYC.
For over 200 years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been on the cutting edge of innovation, first as a leading shipyard for the US Navy, and today as a home to 500+ industrial, manufacturing, design, and technology companies. We’ll look back at inventions – some small enough to hold, some as large as ships – both groundbreaking and mundane, that shaped the history of the Yard and the wider world.
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
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
Today marks the 57th anniversary of perhaps the darkest day in the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. To commemorate the fire on board the USS Constellation, we are going to look back at some of the most notable and deadliest accidents in the history of the Yard.
Shipbuilding is a dangerous business (even today), and fatal accidents were frequent throughout industry in the nineteenth century. The scale, pace, and nature of the work in the Navy Yard made it particularly risky, as workers and sailors fell victim to hazards like falling from great heights, being struck by heavy loads, violent machinery, drowning, fires, and exploding munitions and equipment. Workplace safety began to improve around the time of World War I, and more concerted campaigns began during World War II, when safety was urged as an imperative of national security.>> Continue reading
Last month, the US Navy began testing of its new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, aboard the first ship that will deploy the system, the carrier USS Gerald Ford, currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
EMALS is the latest innovation in aircraft carrier catapult systems, which are designed to assist aircraft in taking off over short distances. On June 5, 2015, crewmembers of the Ford launched test “sleds” – meant to mimic the weight of the carrier’s aircraft – off the end of the flight deck and into the James River.>> Continue reading