“And Now You Know” – Orange was getting ready to build Navy ships in 1940

Published 12:26 am Friday, May 13, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Martin Dies, word was received in Orange in early 1940 that a contract had been awarded to build 12 destroyers in Orange for the United States Navy.

In order to build the ships, first a shipyard had to be built. The Sept. 25, 1940, edition of the Orange Leader reported things were “Getting in High” in connection with the shipbuilding program.

Engineers and department heads of the contracting firm of Becthel-McCone-Parsons were in Orange surveying what needed to be done to clear the 50-acre site, where the new Consolidated Steel Corporation shipyard would be built.

A drilling rig had arrived from Houston and was preparing to make core drill samples of the soils on the site of the shipyard. The process was expected to take about 10 days.

A problem had been discovered when it was found there were three hulls of “ancient ships” buried on the shore where three sets of ways were to be built for the construction of the new ships. One or more of the hulls would be obstructing the needed ways.

Engineers were working to determine when and why the hulls were sunk in this area.

The engineers who were working on making the surface examination preparatory to filling in behind the sheet pile bulkheads that would border the river front peninsula said their worst problem had been dealing with deerflies.

The engineers were from California and had never encountered deerflies.

E.C. Parten, building manager for the Navy Yard construction stated that plans for work provided for the employment of as many local workers as possible. He also stated that a few more engineers, department heads and foremen would be arriving from the California headquarters.

Senator Morris Shepard obtained authorization for improving the ship channel at Orange under the pending National Defense Rivers and Harbors Bill. This followed the endorsement of the project by the Navy Department. It was hoped that the bill would be passed in the upcoming session of congress.

Commander E.R. Perry, superintendent of Navy Shipbuilding in Orange, said the project would add to the preeminence of the Navy Yard in Orange.

The ship channel project called for the elimination of the present turning basin at Orange with an added cutoff. The depth of the channel would be 25 feet, with a 150 feet bottom width. This would allow for a much larger turning basin than was available. The enlargement would also have a benefit for the Port of Orange.

The project would eventually involve cutting a channel across the hairpin curve of the river and give a straight channel to the shipyard. The small island created by cutting the channel would eventually become known as Levingston Island.

“And now you know”

— By Mike Louviere