Guide to the California Shipbuilding Corporation
(CalShip) Collection, 1941-1945
Special Collections & Archives
18111 Nordhoff St.
Northridge, CA 91330
Phone: (818) 677-2832
Fax: (818) 677-2589
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Overview of the Collection
Collection Title: California Shipbuilding
Corporation (CalShip) Collection
California Shipbuilding Corporation
0.42 linear feet
Language of Materials:
Abstract: The California Shipbuilding Corporation
(CalShip), established in February 1941 on Terminal Island, became one of the focal
points in Los Angeles' war effort. At CalShip, forty thousand men and women worked
under war contracts to produce 467 vessels in four years. Known as the "Liberty
Fleet," these cargo ships were designed to be constructed faster and less
expensively than traditional cargo ships. The CalShip shipyard closed in September 1945
after the launching of its last Victory ship, "four years to the minute after the
first slid into the water." The collection is comprised of fifty-one copies of the
CalShip Log, for the period September
1, 1941 to January 11, 1945.
The California Shipbuilding Corporation (CalShip), established in February 1941 on
Terminal Island, became one of the focal points in Los Angeles' war effort. With
the United States' entry into World War II, shipbuilding turned from a small
industry into an industrial giant up and down the West Coast. Large Navy contracts
brought port expansion and shipbuilding to California, and shipyards sprang up from San
Francisco to San Diego. Under contracts from the U.S. Department of Maritime Commission
and a number of U.S. Navy contracts, Los Angeles engaged in a thriving shipbuilding
business in the early 1940s. Workers from every region of the United States migrated to
the area for work in the shipyards and the docks of California. As a result, at the peak
of shipbuilding in California, the industry employed over 282,000 people. Shipbuilding
became a highly efficient wartime industry in California, employing laborers dedicated
to quality and expediency in their work. The building of ships and the number of jobs in
the industry peaked in mid-1943 and held together well until the end of the war.
CalShip was constructed on artificial earth supported by 57,000 piles. The property
selected for the construction of the shipyard was the marshy, weed infested land of
Terminal Island. Original plans for the building of the shipyard called for eight
shipways and six outfitting docks to be constructed. But, because of the tremendous
demand for ships that the war had created, the building program was expanded. The result
was the construction of fourteen shipways and ten outfitting docks. The cost of
construction was over $11,000,000.
CalShip's first completed cargo ship was the S.S. John C. Fremont, launched 27
September 1941. 7,800 workers completed the ship more than a month ahead of schedule (it
had taken only four months to build) and a great ceremony marked the event. On the day
of its launching, fourteen other merchant ships were also launched, seven from the
Atlantic Coast, six from the Pacific Coast, and one from the Gulf. It was the first
"mass launching" of ships since World War I.
At CalShip, forty thousand men and women worked under war contracts to produce 467
vessels in four years. Known as the "Liberty Fleet," these cargo ships were
designed to be constructed faster and less expensively than traditional cargo ships.
"Part of the [Liberty] ship was pre-fabricated, and its parts were welded together
instead of riveted, which cut construction time in half." This was a much quicker
way to build ships, and by 1943, construction of one of these vessels took less than 60
days. The Liberty Ships were an important element in supplying armed forces overseas
with materiel so desperately needed for combat operations. While originally designed as
a cargo ship only, they were later modified to carry personnel overseas as well.
"Liberty Ships accounted for about half of all cargo ships produced during the
After the end of the war, the Maritime Commission and the Navy department began
canceling their contracts and the shipbuilding industry rapidly fell to the wayside. The
CalShip shipyard closed in September 1945 after the launching of its last Victory ship,
"four years to the minute after the first slid into the water."
This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
United States. Maritime
Genre/Form of Material:
Defense contracts -- California
Employees' magazines, newsletters,
etc. -- California -- Los Angeles
Shipbuilding contracts -- California -- Los
Shipbuilding industry -- California -- Los
Ships -- Welding
Shipyards -- California -- Los
World War, 1939-1945 --
World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilians
World War, 1939-1945 -- Manpower --
California -- Los Angeles
World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- California
-- Los Angeles
Robert G. Marshall, September 1985
Conditions Governing Use:
Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s)
of this collection has not been transferred to California State University,
Northridge. Copyright status for other materials is unknown. Transmission or
reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond
that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners.
Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of
the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Conditions Governing Access:
The collection is open for research use.
For information about citing items in this collection consult the appropriate style
manual, or see the
Citing Archival Materials
Scope and Contents
The collection is comprised of fifty-one copies of the bi-weekly magazine,
CalShip Log, for the period September 1, 1941 to January 11,
1945. Aimed at the employees of CalShip, its purpose was to inform workers of safety
rules, policies and procedures and the progress of working for the war effort. The
magazine includes a section on employee leisure activities. Also included in this small
collection is a copy of the 1942 issue of
, which pictorially details the transition of swampland into the
Terminal Island shipyard, one newspaper clipping on the closing of the shipyard in
September 1945, and a Labor Day "Victory" program for 1942.
Calship Cavalcade (issue),
1941 September 1-December 15
1942 January 1-December 15
1943 January 15-December 1
1944 January 15-November 15
1945 January 11
Newspaper clipping: "Calship Becomes Ghost Yard After Last Vessel
1945 September 28
"Ships for Victory" Labor Day program,
1942 September 7