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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Kaiser Shipyards, Washington and Oregon"
includes ... Kaiser Shipyards ... Ryan Point ... St. Johns ... Swan Island ... Wendy Rose ...
Image, 2006, Ryan Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ryan Point, Washington, and the old Kaiser Shipyard. Tomahawk and Hayden Islands are in the background. Image taken October 9, 2006.


Kaiser Shipyards ...
During World War II, three Kaiser-owned shipyards were located along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. One was located along the Columbia River in Washington State at Ryan Point, Vancouver (Kaiser Shipyard), and two were located along the Willamette River in Oregon at St. Johns (Oregon Shipbuilding Yard) and Swan Island (Swan Island Yard). On September 27, 1941, the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard launched the region's first liberty ship near the St. Johns bridge.

Henry Kaiser and Three Shipyards ...
"In 1940, Henry J. Kaiser signed an agreement with the British government to build 31 cargo ships to aid that country in their war effort. After scouting several sites, Kaiser chose to construct a new shipbuilding yard in Portland, Oregon, and on May 19, 1941, his Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation launched the first Liberty ship, The Star of Oregon.

By the time the United States entered World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Kaiser already had connections with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Maritime Commission. He also knew how to manage resources effectively, getting projects done on time and under budget. Among the testaments to Kaiser’s skills, he had organized the completion of Hoover Dam in half the time expected and his various social and business connections made his company a natural choice to win U.S. wartime shipbuilding contracts.

Kaiser opened a yard in Vancouver and began producing baby aircraft escort carriers in January 1942, and workers started on T-2 tankers at a new Swan Island yard in March of that same year. The company set a record when the Joseph N. Teal was built in ten days in the fall of 1942. In all, the Oregon Shipbuilding Yards delivered 455 ships to the U.S. Maritime Commission. Twenty of them were sent to the Soviet Union under the lend-lease program."


Source:    Trudy Flores and Sarah Griffith, 2002, Kaiser & Oregon Shipyards, The Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society, 2016.



Kaiser Shipyards



Kaiser Shipyard, Vancouver, Washington ...
Vancouver's Kaiser Shipyard stretched between Ryan Point downstream to Columbia Shores. The shipyard was built in January 1942 in response to the United State's entry into World War II. There were berths for eighteen ships in various stages of construction. The shipyard eventually employed 38,000, making it the Clark County’s biggest ever employer.

According to the information sign located at the Kaiser Shipyard Memorial (2015):

"During frenzied activity between 1942 and 1946, the yard built and sent off to war 141 vessels of several types, including aircraft carriers, Liberty ships, LSTs (landing ship, tanks) and transport and cargo ships."

Today the former Shipyard is the site of the Columbia Business Park, south of state Highway 14 along the Columbia River. A viewing tower and interpretive panels are at the Henry J. Kaiser Shipyard Memorial at the boat ramp in Marine Park on S.E. Columbia Way.



Image, 2004, Remains of the Kaiser Shipyards, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The old Kaiser Shipyards, from Ryan Point, Washington. Image taken December 18, 2004.
Image, 2015, Ryan Point, Kaiser Shipyard area, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kaiser Shipyard area, Ryan Point, Washington. Image taken December 30, 2015.
Image, 2015, Ryan Point, Kaiser Shipyard area, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kaiser Shipyard area, Ryan Point, Washington. Image taken December 30, 2015.
Image, 2016, Columbia Shores, Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Renaissance Trail at Columbia Shores, Washington, view looking east. Image taken January 20, 2016.

Once part of the Kaiser Shipyard, the not-quite-finished ships use to line up bow to stern along the shoreline "sea wall". Note the Kaiser Shipyard era "Whirly Crane" in the center background.
Image, 2016, Columbia Shores, Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Renaissance Trail at Columbia Shores, Washington, view looking east towards Ryan Point. Image taken January 20, 2016.

Once part of the Kaiser Shipyard, the not-quite-finished ships use to line up bow to stern along the shoreline "sea wall". Note the Kaiser Shipyard era "Whirly Crane" in the background. Mount Hood is on the left horizon.
Image, 2016, Columbia Shores, Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Renaissance Trail at Columbia Shores, Washington, view looking west. Image taken January 20, 2016.

Once part of the Kaiser Shipyard, the not-quite-finished ships use to line up bow to stern along the shoreline "sea wall". The sculpture "Wendy Rose", a tribute to "Women in the Shipyards" is on the right.


Aerial view, 1959 ...

Image, 2017, Vancouver to Orchards to Sifton Streetcar, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Detail, 1959, aerial photo, Ryan Point, Kaiser Shipyards, and Marine Park, Vancouver, Washington. Original image (P02.001.1151/AP00055.tif) courtesy Clark County Historical Museum Archives and Washington State University Vancouver Library, downloaded April 2017.

View showing Columbia River (bottom), Ryan Point (left point along Columbia River), Kaiser Shipyards (center), today's Marine Park (right along Columbia River), and Washington State Route 14 (top).


Kaiser Shipyard Memorial ...
BEFORE AND AFTER

"First, this riverfront supplied berries and salmon to the Chinook tribe. Then it grew crops for Fort Vancouver and the Vancouver Barracks. Then in 1865, Lowell M. Hidden from New England bought 200 acres, which he worked as a family farm. His grandson, Robert Hidden, a Vancouver brickyard owner, described the land as "two feet of topsoil over 90 feet of gravel".

Then in January 1942, miracle builder Henry J. Kaiser came to town to make deals for the government. He leased 100 acres from the Hiddens and bought another 100 from the Boss family next door. The land would become a shipyard to build ships for the U.S. war effort in the Pacific - a war the United States intended to win.

The Kaiser Shipyard changed the face of the waterfront. The shipyard, closed and sold after the war, later evolved into the modern business park you see today. But remnants of the existing shipyard remain, including some of the ship ways, marked by concrete walls extending into the river just west of here.

Look closely and you might also pick out original buildings and crane among newer warehouses and offices."


Source:    Kaiser Shipyard Memorial Information Sign, visited January 2015.


A SHIPBUILDING TRADITION

"The Kaiser Shipyard followed a tradition started near this site as early as the mid-1800s with shipbuilding activity at Fort Vancouver.

The city's earliest war boom came when the United States entered World War I in 1917. In a yard just downstream from the Interstate Bridge, the Standifer Company built ships for the federal government. That yard was hailed as the only yard in the world where steel, wooden and concrete ships were built at the same time.

Kaiser's World War II Vancouver Shipyard was on the site now occupied by a business park just downstream from this tower. This wartime emergency yard was established in January 1942, a month after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. The yard quickly expanded to 12 concrete ways, which can be seen form the viewing tower.

During frenzied activity between 1942 and 1946, the yard built and sent off to war 141 vessels of several types, including aircraft carriers, Liberty ships, LSTs (landing ship, tanks) and transport and cargo ships."


Source:    Kaiser Shipyard Memorial Information Sign, visited January 2015.



Image, 2004, Kaiser Shipyard Memorial sign, Ryan Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kaiser Shipyard Memorial sign, Ryan Point, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken December 18, 2004.
Image, 2004, Viewing tower for Kaiser Shipyard, Ryan Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kaiser Shipyard Memorial, Ryan Point, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken December 18, 2004.


McMenamins on the Columbia ...
"Not only does McMenamins on the Columbia offer stunning views of the river, but there is quite a bit of history there, as well. ...

But it wasn’t that long ago, during WWII, that this area was a bustling, bristling wartime manufacturing area. One of the famous Kaiser Shipyards was located at this very spot. As shown in this photo, there were berths for upwards of 18 ships at a time, in all stages of production

According to the Oregon History Project, Kaiser’s Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation (across the river and a little further west, near St. Johns) launched the first Liberty ship, The Star of Oregon, on May 19, 1941 – months before the United States had even entered the war.

Therefore, when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Kaiser already had connections with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Maritime Commission. The company was known for getting projects done on time and under budget. The company set a record when the massive Joseph N. Teal was built in just ten days in the fall of 1942 at the Kaiser shipyards located in St. Johns, a feat that was noted in Life Magazine.

Liberty ships were efficient, functional cargo carriers, meant to be built quickly and at low cost. A Liberty was 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, with a top speed of 11 knots. With five holds, these ships could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo – such as 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.

Kaiser opened the Ryan Point shipyard in Vancouver soon after the Pearl Harbor attack and began producing baby aircraft escort carriers in January 1942. ..."


Source:    "McMenamins.com" website, 2016.


Image, 2016, Columbia Shores, Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Renaissance Trail at Columbia Shores, Washington, view looking east. Image taken January 20, 2016.

Once part of the Kaiser Shipyard, not-quite-finished ships lined up bow to stern along the shoreline "sea wall". McMenamins Restaurant is just visible as first building on the left. Note the Kaiser Shipyard era "Whirly Crane" in the center background.


"Wendy Rose", Waterfront Renaissance Trail ...
"Wendy Rose" is a 10-foot tall and 5-foot wide stainless steel sculpture located at Columbia Shores along Vancouver's Waterfront Renaissance Trail. The sculture was designed and created by a group of local artists known as "Women Who Weld". The sculpture sits on land once part of the Kaiser Shipyards at Ryan Point.

According to the City of Vancouver's "Public Art In Vancouver" website (2012):

"... The Wendy Rose sculpture commemorates and honors all those who worked at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver. ... The stainless steel sculpture is shown in work clothes proudly donning a red glass polka dot scarf. She is seen stepping from the home to the industrial work world and into the future, crossing the dam that powered the shipyards. Wendy is surrounded by other local symbols of the era which help celebrate the spirit and legacy of women of WWII. ..."

[More]


Image, 2014, Wendy Rose, Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Wendy Rose", Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 4, 2014.


Oregon Shipbuilding Yard, St. Johns, Oregon ...
During World War II, three Kaiser-owned shipyards were located along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. One was located along the Columbia River in Washington State at Ryan Point (see above), and two were located along the Willamette River in Oregon. One was located in St. Johns (Oregon Shipbuilding Yard) and the other on Swan Island (Swan Island Yard).

"The largest Kaiser shipyard in the Northwest was the Oregon Shipbuilding Company, often shortened to Oregonship, located on the Willamette River northwest of Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. Opening in 1941, Oregonship initially built merchant ships for the British government, which had suffered heavy losses from German U-boat missile attacks on its merchant fleet, but it soon produced ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission. The original 87-acre site grew to more than 300 acres." [The Oregon Encyclopedia, 2017]

On September 27, 1941, the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard launched the region's first liberty ship near the St. Johns bridge.

"The Northwest’s first Liberty ship, the nation’s second, was the Star of Oregon, launched from Oregonship on September 27, 1941. Construction of that first ship took 131 days, but production speed increased dramatically at all Kaiser shipyards as the war progressed. By 1943, Kaiser workers were producing a Liberty ship on average in just 42 days, completing three each day." [The Oregon Encyclopedia, 2017]

"During World War II, up to 125,000 people worked in around-the-clock shifts at shipyards in Portland and Vancouver, Washington. ... At the OSC yards (Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation, St. Johns, Oregon), as many as 35,000 workers built 435 ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission, including military tankers, aircraft carriers, and Liberty and Victory Ships used to transport goods and people to the war front. The OSC was one of three shipyards in Portland and Vancouver owned by Henry Kaiser’s Kaiser Corporation."


Source:    Kathy Tucker, 2002, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon History Project, 2016.


Swan Island, Portland, Oregon ...
According to "The Oregon Encyclopedia" (2017):

"During World War II, Swan Island was the site of one of the Kaiser shipyards and worker housing. At the request of the United States government, contractor and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser developed a major shipbuilding operation at Portland and across the Columbia at Vancouver, Washington. Between 1942 and 1945, the Kaiser shipyards produced 147 T-2 tankers at Swan Island, making it the Liberty and Victory ship capital of the United States. In all, 455 ships were produced at Kaiser's Oregon shipyards during World War II." [The Oregon Encyclopedia, 2017]


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, March 31, 1806 ...
we Set out this morning [from their camp at "Jolie Prairie", today the location of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airpark ... also in this area are Wintler Park and Ryan Point] and proceeded untill 8 oClock when we landed on the N. Side opposit one large House of the Shah-ha-la Nation near this house at the time we passed on the 4th of November last was Situated 25 houses, 24 of them were built of Straw & Covered with bark as before mentioned. those [of] that description are all distroyed, the one built of wood only remains and is inhabited [vicinity of today's Portland International Airport]. ...     at 10 A. M we proceeded on accompanied by one Canoe and three men, one of them appeared to be a man of Some note, ...     passed up on the N. Side of White brant Island [Lady Island] near the upper point of Which a Small river falls in about 80 yards wide and at this time discharges a great quantity of water [Washougal River]. the nativs inform us that this river is very Short and heads in the range of mountains to the N E of its enterance into the Columbia the nativs haveing no name which we could learn for this little river we Call it Seal river [Washougal River] from the great number of those Animals which frequents its mouth. this river forks into two nearly equal branches about 1 mile up and each branch is crouded with rapids & falls. we proceeded on about 2 miles above the enterance of this Seacalf river [Washougal River] and imedeately opposit the upper mouth of the quick Sand river [Sandy River] we formed a Camp in a Small Prarie on the North Side of the Columbia [Cottonwood Beach] where we intend to delay one or two days to make Some Selestial observations, to examine quick sand river [Sandy River], and kill Some meat to last us through the Western Mountains which Commences a fiew miles above us [Cascade Mountain Range] and runs in a N. N. W. & S. S. E. derection. The three Indians encamped near us and visited our fire we entered into a kind of a Conversation by signs, of the Country and Situation of the rivers. they informed us that Seal river [Washougal River] headed in the mountains at no great distance. quick Sand river [Sandy River] was Short only headed in Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] which is in view and to which he pointed. this is a circumstance we did not expect as we had heretofore deemed a comsiderable river. Mount Hood bears East from this place and is distant from this place about 40 miles. this information if true will render it necessary to examine the river below on the South Side behind the image canoe [Hayden Island] and Wappato islands [Sauvie Island] for some river which must water the Country [Willamette River] weste of the western mountains to the Waters of California. The Columbia is at present on a Stand and we with dificuelty made 25 miles to day—.





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Center for Columbia River History website, "Kaiserville: A Muddy Miracle", 2016;    Clark County Historical Museum Archives, Washington State University Vancouver Library, 2017;    Kaiser Shipyard Memorial, Vancouver, Washington, visited 2015;    The Oregon Encyclopedia website, 2017;    The Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society, 2016;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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April 2017