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And Now You Know: V-J Day and the end of World War II in Orange

Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

After the surrender of Germany in May,1945, people in Orange knew the war would not last much longer. The Orange Leader edition of August 10, 1945, used large bold black font to state “JAPS ASK PEACE.”  Below that in smaller, not as bold font, were the words “Peace to Make No Difference at Consolidated Steel.”

Construction of the Consolidated Steel plant in Orange had started about the time it was announced that Consolidated had been given a contract to build 12 destroyers for the U.S. Navy. After the work increased and the war started the population of Orange swelled from about 7,000 to nearly 70,000. With the announcement that the war was ending there was concern about the future of the shipyard.

Consolidated Vice President H.C. Cranfill issued a statement that gave a favorable account for the future of Consolidated in Orange. Firstly, Cranfill stated that as news of the end of the war was received it would be related on the plant public address system.

He went on to say; “First we have repeatedly been reassured by the Navy Department that the destroyers being built for this war will be required for the regular fleet. We will be required to complete our destroyer contracts.

Second, the company originally purchased this site for the purpose of duplicating its extensive California operations which prior to the war were the manufacturing of structural steel and heavy machinery which included oil refinery equipment of all kinds it is the intention of the company to carry out its original intentions just as fast as the completion of the Navy work will permit.

In addition, the Navy Department has assured us that Orange has been designated as a navy base for the laying up of reserve ships stored in the Sabine River which will provide work for a large number of men for the repair and maintenance of these vessels.”

Cranfill went on to say that each employee should look forward to a favorable postwar outlook for the plant. False rumors that the plant would be shut down at the war’s end should be ignored.

He stated that employees would be advised of the hour the plant would be shut down in honor of the victory over Japan and also the hour that operations would resume.

“It is not the desire of the company to attempt to dampen your sprits or deny you to celebrate the day we have all waited for for over five years,” Cranfill said.

He urged all employees to remember that the facility was a government plant, and all equipment and materials were the property of the United States Government. “We urge you all to see the government property is properly stored away in their usual places before you leave your jobs at the time the announcement is made over the speaker system, and you prepare to leave the plant in orderly fashion.”

V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day) was declared a national holiday by President Truman and was to be recognized as a holiday at the Consolidated plant.

Some crews would have to remain on their jobs due to special needs such as maintaining vessels under steam. If an employee was due to be off duty, they were not to report to work on the day declared a national holiday.

“We will advise you over the plant system and also have announcements made over radio stations KRIC and KFDM at to the time and date the plant will be shut down and then re-opened for operations. Therefore, we recommend that during the time you stay turned into one of the radio stations for the company announcements,” Cranfill said.

The V-J holiday was observed in Orange on Tuesday, August 14 and Wednesday August 15.

A review of the V-J holiday was that it was as enthusiastic as the Armistice Day celebration when WWI ended.

Three shipyards, National Shipyard, International Shipyard, and Southern Dry Dock ad Shipbuilding were operating in Orange at the end of WWI.

At the end of WWII there were three yards building ships in Orange, Consolidated, Levingston, and Weaver and Sons.

At the end of WWI when the Armistice was announced, workers quit work, threw down their tools and began to pack up and move back to their former homes.

When the end of WWII was announced, only a small number of people prepared to leave Orange.

Work was expected to remain at the present basis for at least another year since there had been no announcement of cutbacks from the government.

“And now you know.”