Regional Sea Stories - Still They Sail: Shipbuilding in Tampa During World War II

A Story of Gulf Coast Maritime History

By Lewis N. Wynne and Carolyn J. Baimes

The following article appeared in the Gulf Coast Historical Review which is published biannually in the Fall and Spring by the History Department of the University of South Alabama, Humanities 334, Mobile AL. 36688. Subscription inquries should be sent to the "Managing Editor", GCHR at the address above. The article that follows was copied from Vol.5, No.2, Spring 1990 with their permission. (It's a great little magazine!)

When the planes from Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's carriers attacked the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States was thrust into the cauldron of world war. Subsequent declarations of war by Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini merely confirmed what the American public already realized-that they were in a fight for the very survival of the world as they knew it. Despite the optimism of some Japanese and German militarists over the destruction of the Pacific Fleet, other, wiser leaders were less enthusiastic. Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the strategic planner of the Pearl Harbor raid, quieted the jubilant voices on his staff, noting that only a portion of American naval strength had been wiped out and warning darker days ahead for Japan, since they had only "awakened the sleeping giant." (1)

Yamamoto's depiction of the United States as a sleeping giant was apt. The collapse of the economy in 1929 and the hardships of the Depression that followed had demoralized the people of the United States and had hobbled its industry to the point that it appeared to be dead, but the reality of the situation was that American industry was merely hibernating, awaiting some stimulus to bring it to life. Pearl Harbor served that purpose.

Tampa, like hundreds of other small cities, had suffered the Depression decade fitfully. The city's economy had experienced sputters and sparks of revival, but since its economy was based primarily on agricultural or service industries, Tampa found little in the way of continuous prosperity. Her port, once bustling with activity, was largely stagnant and contributed little to prosperity. After the explosive development boom of the 1920s, Tampa had struggled through the thirties and experienced only minimal growth. Its population had grown slowly during the decade, with only seven thousand new persons becoming residents of the city. The 6.7 percent change in population growth from 1930 to 1940 could easily be accounted for by the natural increase in a city of that size. For Tampa's people, the Depression struck hard. The adjusted unemployment rate for white males was 10.8 percent, but that figure almost doubled when individuals involved in emergency government employment - the CCC, WPA, and PWA - were counted. For non-whites and women, the rate was even higher. With virtually no manufacturing base for heavy industry, citizens relied heavily on the annual influx of tourists to supplement the local economy. (2)

There were occasional bright spots in the otherwise dismal picture. Tampa Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, which had been in operation since February 1917, offered some hope in 1938 when it borrowed $750,000 from the Public Works Administration to fund the construction of a ten-thousand ton dry-dock. The company's objective was to compete for shipbuilding contracts available through the U.S. Maritime Commission and authorized by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. (3)

The Roosevelt Administration, disturbed by the inability of American shipyards to compete with foreign yards and aware that the clouds of war gathering in Europe and Asia might soon cover the United States, prevailed upon Congress to enact this legislation. The purpose of the act was to fund the construction of ten merchant ships a year for ten years. For American shipyards, which had constructed only two dry cargo vessels between 1922 and 1935, the Merchant Marine Act was a godsend. Not only did it provide a market for new ships, but it also featured a "no lose" cost-plus incentive for builders and operators. (4)

Under the leadership of Ernest Kreher, Tampa Shipbuilding secured the PWA loan, constructed the dry-dock and, in 1939, was awarded an eight million dollar contract for the construction of four cargo ships. Approximately two thousand new jobs were created, and for the city's sixty-four hundred unemployed males, the company's success in securing the contracts seemed like the answer to their prayers. The excitement created by the contract award was soon dampened when the company announced that after the construction of a single ship, the Seawitch, it was in serious financial difficulty and might not be able to fulfill the remaining contracts. (5)

The inefficient management of the company prompted the Maritime Commission and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which had assumed the PWA loan, to look around for new owners. In the words of a U.S. Accounting Office report in 1942, "Kreher ... and his associates were competent shipbuilders, [but] they were incapable of efficiently managing the company's finances." (6) The heavy demands for ships generated by the war in Europe and the realization that the U.S. might soon be involved made it imperative to find someone new to oversee the administration of the company.

Encouraged by the Maritime Commission and the RFC, a local financier, George B. Howell of the Exchange National Bank, purchased the company for five hundred dollars and became the sole owner. Along with the contracts for three new ships, Howell also acquired $47,000 in assets and the almost $1 million in liabilities. Under Howell's leadership, TASCO, as the new company was called, worked to fill the contracts with the Maritime Commission. When war came in 1941, the new management was in place and ready to expand to meet the needs of the nation. (7)

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, TASCO quickly converted its peacetime operations to a war footing. Within days, the company began to gear up to meet the anticipated needs of the Navy and to expand its facilities to increase the number of bottoms it could handle at once. However, change did not happen easily. With the shift from peacetime production to war time construction, TASCO immediately became embroiled in two major controversies.

The first centered around the reorganization of the company and the purchase of all outstanding stock by George B. Howell in 1940. When Howell had assumed control, TASCO had contracts for three cargo vessels for the Maritime Commission. Immediately after the U.S.'s entry into the war, the company had sold these ships, with the concurrence of the Commission, to the Navy. The transaction, which gave TASCO a working capital in excess of two million dollars, came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Accounting Office. After reviewing the evidence, the AO charged Howell and TASCO with illegally selling the ships and with overcharging the Navy to the tune of $1.2 million. The controversy dragged on, but while bureaucrats and company lawyers argued, the yard continued to build new ships. Despite the heat surrounding the transaction, both the Commission and the Navy supported Howell, and he was ultimately absolved of any wrongdoing. (8)

The second controversy which involved TASCO and other shipyards in the state stemmed from the efforts of State Attorney General J. Tom Watson to have a 'closed shop' contract between the company and the American Federation of Labor declared unconstitutional. Watson, a flamboyant attorney, had attempted to persuade the state legislature to outlaw the practice in 1941, but had been unsuccessful. In June 1942, using the war emergency as an excuse, he attacked the union in court. His pursuit of this cause also included a round of fisticuffs with M. J. Nicholason, the attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. Although the courts gave him a technical victory and declared the closed shop suspended for the duration of the emergency, the practice continued nevertheless. Watson's efforts were not supported publicly by local leaders, and TASCO remained unionized throughout the war. (9)

For Tampans, as for most Americans, the war provided a welcome relief to the economic stagnation of the Depression. For the next four years, workers of all ages and occupations were recruited to provide the manpower needed to produce the material the U.S. and its allies needed. 'War work' and "war industries" became the single largest employers of laborers, as thousands of large and small plants sprang into existence overnight to meet this need. The 12.5 million Americans who had suffered through the Depression unemployed now found themselves being actively recruited to fill factory spaces. Older workers, forced into retirement during the previous decade, were now coaxed back to work for wages that were significantly higher than their Social Security benefits. For example, TASCO employed a number of workers in their sixties and seventies who possessed metal working skills that were considered essential. High school and college students were encouraged to contribute to the war effort by taking part-time jobs. Perhaps the greatest gains in the labor market were made by women, and thousands of them took on the roles of "Rosie the Riveter" and "Wanda the Welder." As the demand for soldiers grew, women workers became more and more essential. Thomas M. Woodward, a member of the U.S. Maritime Commission, noted the importance of women in the labor force on an inspection of the Tampa yards. Citing a need for thirty thousand additional workers in yards along the Gulf of Mexico, Woodward offered the observation that "women seem to be the answer, the only one, to the problem." (10)

Although TASCO remained the largest single employer in Tampa, its ability to secure the sixteen thousand workers it needed by 1943 was hampered by the construction of a second major shipyard in 1942. Citizens of the city were delighted with the announcement in the Tampa Tribune that a private company intended to spend thirty million dollars to construct a shipyard in Tampa to produce twenty-four unique cargo vessels, financed by a U.S. Maritime Commission contract for thirty million dollars. (11)

This project, known as the Hooker's Point Yard, was the creation of Matthew H. McCloskey, Jr., a Philadelphia construction mogul and a powerful Democratic politician. Taking advantage of the national shortage of rolled steel, McCloskey proposed the use of concrete for ship construction. Despite the rather lackluster performance of similar ships during World War I, materiel shortages, and the success of German U-boats dictated improvisation. Within weeks of the contract award, McCloskey and his staff moved their operations to Tampa. (12)

Hooker's Point was little more than a sandy spit of land jutting into Tampa Bay. However, for McCloskey the site had three major advantages. First, it was located adjacent to the ship channel in the harbor. Second, its nearest neighbor was the Florida Portland Cement Company, with a fleet of trucks to haul wet concrete. Third, as McCloskey explained to the local newspaper, "You've got to get away from frost to pour concrete, and we ... can work the year round." (13)

Before work on the ships could begin, the yard had to be constructed from the ground up. Administrative buildings, lofts for creating forms and patterns, machine shops, utility services, service roads, and storage sheds were necessary to get the operation going. The most essential of all, however, was the construction of basins to house the ships as they were being built. Unlike conventional shipyards which constructed ships on land and launched them into the water, the Hooker's Point yard built three concrete lined basins, twelve hundred feet long, twenty- seven feet deep and eighty-two feet wide, which were connected to the Bay by huge doors. In each basin, three of the 360-foot ships were built simultaneously. Launching was simply a matter of opening the doors and letting the water in. (14) McCloskey's experiment with concrete ships brought six thousand new jobs in Tampa, and the expansion of a third shipbuilding facility, Tampa Marine Company, also 'increased the demand for workers. Despite the high rate of unemployment in 1940, Tampa could not supply the labor needs of these facilities, and company officials instituted a statewide recruitment program. When these efforts did not produce enough workers, the campaign was expanded into a nationwide effort. The campaign to attract workers was never totally effective, and the Tampa shipyards, as well as other industries, attempted to offset the lack of workers by extending the work week from forty to forty-eight hours. Wages were constantly increased, and appeals made to operators of non-essential industries to release workers for war industries. The cigar industry, Tampa's largest employer prior to World War II, lost two thousand skilled workers by mid- 1943, and the process of attrition continued until the end of the conflict. (15) No doubt this loss of laborers contributed both to the decline and rapid mechanization of the cigar industry in the post-war period.

Tampa's rise as a center of shipbuilding in south Florida, coupled with the development of Hillsborough County as a center for training bomber crews, presented local leaders with a myriad of problems. As the thousands of workers arrived in the city, officials were hardpressed to find sufficient housing. The housing shortage became even more critical as the military opened new bases to train recruits. MacDill, Drew, and Henderson fields were all training centers for bomb crews of the Army Air Force. Pinellas County, across the bay from Tampa, also attracted minor military establishments, and added to the problem. Despite the wartime restrictions on gasoline, some of the snowbirds insisted on making their annual trek south and further complicated the situation. (16)

City leaders were hardpressed to meet the needs of the sudden influx of war workers. In order to accommodate the infrastructure needs for the expansion of the TASCO facility and the new Hooker's Point yard, they asked for and received huge loans from various government agencies. Public transportation routes were rearranged and new routes were added to ensure that workers could reach the yards from almost any point in town. Hours of operation were expanded in order to serve the late night and early morning shifts. Additional vehicles were added to transport workers forced to five as far away from the city as fifty miles. (17)

Officials with the Tampa branch of the Office of Price Administration closely monitored the price of gasoline, and were equally as diligent policing the claims of workers in car pools for extra gas and tire rations. Violators were charged, prosecuted, and punished. The OPA also closely monitored the practices of local merchants, and hoarders and speculators were quickly dealt with. (18)

Perhaps the most difficult task faced by local authorities was in satisfying the demand for affordable housing. As the yards expanded their labor forces, workers found it difficult to find accomodations for themselves and their families. Patriotic appeals were frequently made in the newspapers asking home owners to rent every available apartment or room to house these new arrivals. To ensure that workers were not being gouged by greedy landlords, the Office of Rent Control periodically published lists of acceptable rents established by Federal regulations, and just as periodically, the ORC sent inspectors into the field to ensure that no gouging took place. (19)

Despite the best efforts of the ORC and local officials, the demand for housing exceeded supply. A variety of plans were suggested, including one that called for the city to turn vacant factory buildings into apartments. Although the idea seemed worthwhile, it was quickly abandoned because the cost of renovation was greater than that of new construction. Other solutions had to be found. (20)

The city fathers, led by Mayor Robert E. Lee Chauncey, quickly took other steps to resolve the problems. On the same day the Tampa Tribune reported the decision to forego the renovation of old factories, the City Council voted to lease twelve acres of the Municipal Trailer Park to serve as a park for four hundred two and three bedroom trailers for workers and their families. Rather primitive, the trailers had no bathrooms or laundry facilities, and occupants were forced to use a communal building for this purpose. Despite the critical shortage of housing and the relatively low rent (twenty-eight dollars a month for a two bedroom unit and thirty-two dollars for a three bedroom one), the trailer park proved unpopular and never operated at full capacity. (21)

For workers at the new Hooker's Point facility, the Maritime Commission constructed six hundred housing units adjacent to the yard. The project, known as Maritime Homes, represented a considerable improvement over the trailers. Each unit included its own bathroom, hot water heater, and refrigerator. The project also included a grocery store, beauty shop, barber shop, and theater. Restricted to McCloskey workers, the rental prices were only slightly higher than those charged for municipal trailers. (22)

Negroes in Tampa also benefitted from the housing shortage when the city government and the Federal Public Housing Authority decided in 1943 to spend $2.3 million to construct five hundred low cost concrete block homes. Justified as a war emergency measure to provide housing for essential shipyard workers, the project was located "in the heart of the largest Negro section in Tampa, and [was] ... well served by electricity, water, transportation and Negro schools." The original plans were modified and the number of units reduced when Tampa alderman "asked that three of the big apartment buildings that would have come within five hundred feet of Ponce de Leon courts, [a] white development, be eliminated." (23) Even the desperate need for emergency housing was not a sufficient cause to ease the rigors of segregation.

All in all, however, race relations in Tampa were placid during the war. Although some Negroes were hired in the shipyards, war industries, with their higher wages and strong unions, remained largely a white preserve. A survey of the Tampa Tribune for the years 1940-1946 reveals only one issue that carried any mention of black shipyard workers, and that issue pictured them sifting through a trash pile to retrieve scrap metal for reuse. (24) The caption to the only picture of black workers in the extant copies of the Hooker's Point Log, the McCloskey company newspaper, identified the white workers, but did not mention any of the Negroes. (25)

White women, on the other hand, were welcomed as workers. Women joined the work force at the shipyards within a few months of the declaration of war. Although the initial groups of women were used in office positions or in "soft" jobs like drafting or driving, this quickly changed as manpower became more scarce. Quick to admit that "women aren't naturally mechanically inclined," the first female office workers nonetheless insisted that they were "equally as capable as men." (26) As the need for additional laborers became more acute, women moved out of the offices and into the yards. On July 28, 1942, a month after the first Tribune article about female workers, the newspaper ran a front page story about Mrs. Alma Brown, the first female member of "the ultra-conservative local No. 432 of the Boilermakers' union, as hard-boiled an outfit as ever pushed a ship into the sea," and the first woman welder to join the TASCO assembly line. Brown, the product of a ten-week welding course at a local vocational school, entered the yard as a probationary trainee, but her immediate supervisor expected little difficulty in having a woman on the job. "Sure, she'll get along all right," he said, "She's a little bit of a curiosity now to the boys, but when we get five or six more the curiosity will wear off." (27)

<i>USS Mauna Loa</I>
Launching USS Mauna Loa, April 14, 1943, TASCO.
Photo from Hampton Dunn Collection.

So critical was the need for additional workers by mid-1942, local unions, caught between their desire to maintain control of skilled laborers and the govemment's demand for more productivity, led the way in admitting women members. Tampa Local 432 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers had admitted Alma Brown to membership weeks before the national leadership submitted the issue to a vote from the general membership. In this way, the sixty-two-year-old prohibition against female members fell by the wayside, and the union leadership found itself rushing to keep pace with its locals. (28) By 1943, women welders had become so commonplace in both the TASCO and Hooker's Point yards that they received little extra attention. By 1944, enough women were employed in the Hooker's Point facility that the company could hold a yardwide contest to select the best female welder and sponsor her in competition with other yards operating in the eastern United States. (29) Older males found work in Tampa shipyards as well. TASCO actively sought older men with metal working skills and brought them into its yard. The oldest worker employed by TASCO was seventy-seven years old in 1943. J. M. Hutchins had entered the blacksmithing trade in 1908, worked in the Mobile and Pensacola shipyards during World War I and was working a full shift at TASCO. Hutchins was joined by others who were advanced in age: W. M. Lovelace, seventy-five years old; R. F. Roberts, sixty-six years old; and E. L. Broadway, also sixty- six. The special skills these men possessed were critical to the production of steel ships, and they were recruited to work. "They're men who were doing this kind of work before many of us were born," said Carl Froehiking, the shop supervisor, "That many years of experience is something that can't be replaced by any other kind of training. Besides, in times like these, we need all the men we can get to keep the iron hot." (30)

A temporary subculture developed around the yards, and company officials supported a variety of recreational and cultural activities for their workers. Hooker's Point printed a bi-weekly newspaper, supported various sports programs, provided after-work social programs and generally maintained a paternalistic attitude toward its workers. The construction of housing projects for war workers only tended to promote the concept of separation from the native population of Tampa. Although no copies of company newspapers from the TASCO yard have been located, references to that yard and smaller yards in the area indicate that a great deal of intercourse took place between the workers of different companies. 31 Workers were not free to move from yard to yard, however. Wartime job assignments, regulated by the federal Manpower Administration, prohibited workers from capriciously seeking new positions. Hanging over the head of all male workers was the threat of losing their critical job rating and having to enter the draft. The threat of military service did not prevent workers from voicing their dissatisfaction from time to time, and all the Tampa yards occasionally experienced work stoppages and walkouts. From the be beginning of the war absenteeism was a problem for yard administrators, and remained so during the entire period. (32)

The impact of the war industries on Tampa was revolutionary, particularly in motivating the business and civic leadership of the city. They believed that the industrial development brought by the war and the economic benefits created by the construction of military bases demonstrated the viability of Tampa as a "New South" city. The rapid industrialization of the Tampa area also forced local leaders to modify their stance on unionization and the rights of laborers. Tampa's reputation as a center of anti-union feeling before the war had focused national attention on the city, but this sentiment was quickly suppressed when the prospect of millions of dollars in government contracts loomed before them. Of course, much of the community acceptance of unions stemmed from the nature of the shipyard work. Although TASCO was operated by a local businessman, George B. Howell, the Navy Department, adhering to the pro- labor legislation of the New Deal, mandated the use of union labor. Howell and other local leaders had no choice but to accept this mandate. Hooker's Point yard, owned by northerner McCloskey, also depended on government contracts, and local sentiment played no part in its decision to recognize the right of unions. The conversion of prominent Floridians to the labor point of view was temporary at best, and the state adopted a "right to work" constitutional amendment in 1944. (33)

The influx of nearly thirty-one thousand new workers and their families dramatically altered the economy of the city, and changed it from a somnolent small town with a primarily agricultural and semiskilled labor base into an aggressive forward-looking city seeking to retain and expand its war time supply of skilled labor. As early as February 1942, Tampa newspapers were speculating as to what the city's future would be after the war. By 1943 corporate leaders at TASCO, Hooker's Point and the smaller yards in the area were focusing a portion of their time and resources on postwar industrial pursuits. George B. Howell and the TASCO yard management team inaugurated a program to design, build, and test semitrailers for use by trucking companies in the postwar period. Matt McCloskey, the owner of the Hooker's Point yard, also invested time, money, and manpower in identifying and developing postwar products. Civic leaders promoted the concept of a new industrially based economy for the postwar years, and the diversity of these ideas indicated that most Tampans were no longer willing to return to the prewar reliance on tourism, cigars, and agriculture. (34)

The productive capacity and engineering innovations of Tampa yards gave every indication that the possibility of maintaining a postwar heavy industry base was very real. Matt McCloskey's Hooker's Point yard astonished the shipbuilding world by devising new construction techniques in its use of reinforced concrete to build cargo vessels. Although some concrete ships had been built during World War I, they had proved to be fragile and unreliable. Hooker's Point yard, using continuous pours made possible by new vacuum pumps and mobile mixers mounted on trucks, applied many of the techniques used in constructing high rise buildings. When engineers determined that a lighter weight concrete was needed, McCloskey employees identified "Fuller's earth" as a substitute for the heavier sand traditionally used. A secondary industry developed around the mining of this material, and the McCloskey company purchased deposits and opened their own mining operation. (35)

Concrete ships built by the Hooker's Point yard provided a viable alternative to steel ships, and when the nation's steel output failed to keep pace with demands during the early years of the war, these ships helped meet the need for new vessels. Unlike their World War I counterparts, the McCloskey ships performed very well. Powered by 3500 h.p. engines, the "floating skyscrapers" weathered hurricanes, submarine attacks and hard use. Individuals who served on the concrete ships were most complimentary of their stability, durability, and overall seaworthiness. McCloskey's continued development of this method of shipbuilding was brought to an end when supplies of steel improved. Although revolutionary in design and relatively inexpensive to produce, the major criticism of the concrete vessels was the length of time needed to produce them. In an era when Henry J. Kaiser was producing a 550-foot "Victory" ship every ten days, the three to six weeks needed to produce the smaller concrete ship could not be justified. Although some experiments were undertaken to speed up the curing time for the wet concrete, no significant reduction was ever achieved. No longer concerned about materiel shortages, the Maritime Commission ended the concrete ship experiment, and in 1944, the Hooker's Point facility joined the rest of the nation's yards and began to construct steel ships of the N-3, coastal cargo freighter, variety. (36)

Tampa Marine Company, another yard along the Ybor Channel of Tampa Bay, also contributed to the city's war economy. Employing only two hundred prewar workers, this yard expanded its capacity significantly during the war years, and between 1942 and 1945, it produced ninety-five ocean going tugs. Bushnell- Lyons, another small company, produced steel barges for the Navy. Perhaps the most noteworthy accomplishment of these yards was the diversity of ships they produced. (37)

Despite the productivity of Hooker's Point, Tampa Marine, and Bushnell- Lyons, the combination of these yards could not match the productivity of the TASCO yard. Operated under contract to the Navy, TASCO produced an amazing variety of naval vessels, ranging from the ten thousand-ton destroyer tenders, Piedmont, Sierra, and Yosemite, to seven ammunition carriers in the 4Mazama and Mauna Loa class. In addition to these large supply ships, TASCO also produced twenty-four coastal minesweepers in the "Auk" and "Admirable" classes, twelve destroyer escorts, as well as a number of self contained "barracks" barges, repair vessels, and cargo ships. Including repairs made to ships damaged by enemy attack and conversions made to existing ships, TASCO processed a total of 494 vessels. Its employees received approximately $105 million in wages and salaries, most of which remained in the Tampa economy. In addition, the company either trained or paid for the training of a large number of Tampa residents in the skilled machine trades. 38 The full extent of the yard's production was a closely guarded secret during the war, and Navy personnel maintained a close watch over the facility. The Tampa Tribune made note of the secrecy imposed by the Navy when it announced it on July 1, 1945: "Navy Takes Lid off Tampa Shipyards." (39)

The economic boom created by the entry of the U.S. into World War II ended suddenly for Tampans. With the Allied victory in Europe in April 1945, and the detonation of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 7, the need for more ships suddenly ceased. By August 12, despite the absence of a formal surrender by Japan, both the navy and Maritime Commission cut back their orders for ships. Two days later, TASCO announced a reduction of its labor force by two thousand workers. On August 17 McCloskey's Hooker's Point yard announced the loss of its contracts. In rapid succession the Tampa Tribune announced one layoff after another. The phaseout was hardly a gradual process; layoffs were frequently for thousands of workers at a time. (40)

By December 1945 the Hooker's Point yard was closed permanently, and little war-related activity was going on at TASCO or Tampa Marine. Both companies had returned to peacetime production, and the strategic planning for the postwar period allowed them to continue operations, although at a reduced level. George B. Howell, the dominant force behind TASCO, resigned the presidency of the company and returned to the banking business. Matt McCloskey, the developer of Hooker's Point, now shifted his attention once again to traditional construction enterprises, although he did purchase an interest in a Jacksonville shipbuilding company. For the residents of Tampa, the end of the war did not mean an end to the industrial dreams spurred by the war. For the next twenty years, various attempts would be made to keep Tampa shipyards in operation. The irony is that the Japanese, whose defeat was engineered in part by Tampa workers, would later prove to be too strong as competitors for this industry. (41) For Attorney General J. Tom Watson, the end of the war was a signal to renew his attacks on organized labor. Within days of the beginning of layoffs by Tampa shipyards, he announced his intention to enforce the "right to work" amendment to the state's constitution. (42)

There is little in Tampa today to remind residents of the great flurry of activity that was generated by the World War 11 shipyards. Hooker's Point is gone, replaced by other industries. Maritime Homes, the large complex erected for war workers, has been bulldozed. TASCO has passed through several hands and now is know as the American Shipbuilding Company, a property of New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner. It is as if some giant hand has simply wiped the slate clean, and what was, is not and never will be again. (43) Despite the demise of Tampa's shipyards, there are some who remember this great adventure fondly. There are also occasional flashes from the past when ship names are mentioned. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the strength and vitality of the shipyards in found in a perusal of Jane's Fighting Ships or other ship publications. Here and there, the notations appear: "built by Tampa Shipbuilding." For most of the ships constructed between 1940 to 1946, age and modernity have consigned them to scrapheaps or reserve fleets, but some, like the Sierra and Yosemite, still play an active role in today's Navy. For still others, however, postwar existence has meant being transferred to foreign countries. Today, Tampa built ships are operated by the navies of Taiwan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Argentina, and Turkey. Orphans of the sea, but still they sail. (44)


(1) John Deane Potter, Yamamoto: The Man Who Menaced America (New York, 1965), 96-135.

(2) Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940, Population (Washington, 1943), Table C-41, 154.

(3) L. A. Sawyer and W. H. Mitchell, The Liberty Ships: The History of the 'Emergency' Type Cargo Ships Constructed in the United States During World War II (Newton Abbot, Devon, 1970),11-15.

(4) Clinton H. Whitehurst, Jr., The U.S. Shipbuilding Industry: Past, Present, and Future (Annapolis, 1986), 25-42.

(5) Edwin P. Hoyt, The Lonely Ships: The Life and Death of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet (New York, 1976), 276~-77. Tampa Tribune, June 17, 1942.

(6) Tampa Tribune, June 17,1942.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid. See also, Tampa Tribune, December II and 12, 1942.

(9) See Tampa Tribune, June 23; July 25, 28; August 2, 5, 13, 19, 20, 22, 22, 23, 26; September 12; October 10, 18, 27, 30; November 1, 8, 10, 12, 13, 1942; January 17, 21, 24, 31; February 12, 17, 1943. For a good treatment of anti-labor activities in Tampa, see Robert P. Ingalls, Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882-1936 (Knoxville, 1988).

(10) Tampa Tribune, May 2,1943; June 6; July 4, 1~8; August 22,1943.

(11) Tampa Tribune, June 11, 1943. See also, Robert J. Eh~linger, Matt: A Biography of Matthew H. McCloskey (Privately Printed, 1987).

(12) Ibid., 109~-13.

(13) Tampa Tribune, June 23, 1942.

(14) Ibid., August 26; November 17, 1942.

(15) Ibid., May 2; June 2, 1943.

(16) Ibid., September 22, 1942; March 18; April 2, 5; December 31, 1943.

(17) Ibid., June 17, 1942.

(18) Ibid., June 23; July 26; August 13, 19, 1942.

(19) Ibid. See also, December 25, 1943.

(20) Ibid., November 14, 1942.

(21) Ibid., November 6, 14, 19, 1942; January 17, 18; March 18; April 4, 5, 11, 1943.

(22) Ibid., June 21, 1943.

(23) Ibid., October 7; December 23, 1943.

(24) Ibid., October 16, 1942.

(25) Hooker's Point Log, December 30,1944.

(26) Tampa Tribune, June 28; December 15, 1942.

(27) Ibid., July 28, 1942.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Hooker's Point Log, February 17; March 31, 1945.

(30) Tampa Tribune, August 22, 1943.

(31) See 1944-45 run of Hooker's Point Log in author's possession.

(32) Ibid., September 25; November 30, 1944.

(33) Tampa Tribune, February 16, 1945.

(34) Ibid., February 4; December 16, 1945.

(35) Ibid., January 20, 1943.

(36) Ibid., June 10, 1944.

(37) Ibid., September 12, 1943.

(38) Ibid., October 14, 1945.

(39) Ibid., July 1, 1945.

(40) Ibid., August 12, 14, 17, 18, 21, 23; September 5, 1945.

(41) Ibid., February 14; March 21, 1946.

(42) Ibid., November 17, 1945.

(43) Leland Hawes, "Two Concrete Ships Used at Normandy," Tampa Tribune, July 27, 1985.

(44) Jane's Fighting Ships, 1986-87 (London, 1988).

Dr. Lewis N. Wynne is the Executive Director of the Florida Historical Society. Carolyn J. Barnes is a graduate student in the public administration program at the University of South Florida and Research Coordinator for the Florida Historical Society.

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