Charleston Naval Shipyard Overview
During the Great Depression, the yard participated in a new cruiser-building program, which allowed it to avoid much of the financial agony plaguing the country at that time. In 1931, with the passage of the dry dock bill, the yard received funds to build concrete ways for destroyer construction. The National Industrial Recovery Act provided funds for the yard to build a gunboat named the Charleston, a name chosen by President Roosevelt to honor its builders, in 1933.
WWII brought funding for expansions to the shipyard, and in 1939, $3.5 million was awarded to the yard allowing it to hire approximately 1,800 WPA and PWA workers. The workforce had grown from 241 in 1932 to about 2,000 as the war got underway. Employment didn’t peak until July 1943, when it reached 25,948.
Some the ships produced by the yard during these years included the USS Sterrett (DD-407), the Roe (DD-418), the Jones (DD-427), and the Grayson (DD-435). The yard also built the Tidewater (AD-31) and the Bryce Canyon (AD-36), two of the largest vessels ever built at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
After the war, the yard was turned into a submarine overhaul yard. In 1948, the Conger (SS-477) became the first submarine to be overhauled at the yard. The yard’s submarine work continued through the North Korean invasion of South Korea in the 1950s and up through the 1960s. During the 1960s, the yard also built missiles and took on nuclear submarine overhauls. In 1968, a new six-story packaging building was added to the facility to handle the vertical construction of the 32-ton, 34-foot long, Poseidon missile.
In 1996, operations at the shipyard were shut down after a major reduction of the workload after the Vietnam War. Now the yard is the home of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command.
During the years that the shipyard was in operation it was home to many veterans. Asbestos was commonly used in both shipbuilding and ship repair. As a result, veterans and asbestos exposure was a common occurrence at the shipyard and veterans were then placed at risk for developing mesothelioma.