Thursday, April 24, 2014

Norfolk Navy Yard Workers in World War II

This picture of the Norfolk Navy Yard was taken in October of 1941 by Alfred T. Palmer. A protégé of Ansel Adams, Palmer was a prolific photographer by the end of the 1930s. Working for the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (O.E.M.), Palmer participated in a massive public information push by the government.

After Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, President Roosevelt pushed for a buildup of American military forces, including making the Navy a true two-ocean force. The photography section of the O.E.M. was tasked with showing the American public how their tax dollars were going to work in the military buildup. Palmer traveled across the country photographing not only the technical side of industry, but also the human side seen in the workers. This is evident in the photograph above, which shows workers relaxing and heading to lunch, in among the implements of heavy industry. A destroyer is seen in the foreground to the left, and a battleship is seen in the background.

Both Norfolk Navy Yard and Newport News Shipbuilding became hubs of frenzied maritime activity during World War II. In total, the shipyards built over 100 ships during the war years, including battleships and aircraft carriers. Norfolk Navy Yard also conducted repairs on numerous battle-damaged ships.

(This post was written by HRNM educator Elijah Palmer.)

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