Special Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan, Mar 1

8-10 female workers lining up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to punch in wearing heavy smocks for welding.

Take a special World War II history tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard co-led by Jennifer Egan, author of the award-winning novel Manhattan Beach, and our own resident historian, Andrew Gustafson. As we explore the Yard, visiting many sites mentioned in the book, we will delve into the Jennifer’s research process, discuss the materials she used to bring the Yard of the 1940’s to life, and listen to selections of oral histories of real women war workers that inspired many of the characters and incidents in the book. Jennifer will also reach excerpts from her book and answer questions about her remarkable work. 

Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan

icon-calendar  SUN, Mar 1, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $39 per person
icon-truck  Bus and walking
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Italian Service Units in the New York Port of Embarkation

Solider wearing a uniform with "Italy" written on his left arm sings with three guitarists on a bandstand with a crowd in the background.

During World War II, nearly half a million Axis prisoners of war were held in the United States. The vast majority of these POWs were German, and a small number (less than 1%) were from Japan, but the remainder were Italian, and they fell into a special category. 34,000 Italian soldiers were allowed to work and live relatively freely at military installations across the country, including at the New York Port of Embarkation, and they provided vital labor and skills to the American war effort. So why were these Italians treated differently than their German and Japanese counterparts?>> Continue reading

USS Arizona, Brooklyn’s Most Famous Battleship

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

The Pickabacks, Unsung Heroes of D-Day

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

The Easter Bunny Goes to War

While many children will be gorging themselves on chocolate Easter bunnies and eggs this morning, these treats were absent from most baskets during World War II.

On December 5, 1942, the War Production Board, which supervised wartime industry, issued Conservation Order M-145, banning the manufacture of chocolate novelties, including “products manufactured in a special shape commemorating, symbolizing, or representing any holiday, event, person, animal or object.” The board proclaimed that, “American children will contribute to the war program by sacrificing chocolate Santa Clauses, St. Valentine’s hearts, Easter bunnies and eggs and other chocolate novelties.”>> Continue reading

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 <<

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

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