Charlestown Naval Shipyard and Boston Navy Yard
Established in the infancy of the Union, the Charlestown Navy Yard began vessel construction in 1800 on the Mystic River, just northeast of downtown Boston. Boston Naval Yard in 1945, the facility was an integral cog in the development and success of the U.S. Navy. Among the more innovative of the many naval yards of the 19th century, the Charlestown Naval Yard was one of the first drydock facilities in the country.
Initially only a repair and storage facility, the Charlestown Navy Yard began vessel construction at the onset of the War of 1812. It was during this period that the yard constructed its first ship, the 74-gun Independence. Slow but steady shipbuilding at the facility contributed to many innovations in the field before the Civil War pressed the facility into a full-time service facility of the Union fleet. The yard became the primary supply and repair unit for those vessels engaged in the blockade of Confederate industry. It was the docking and repair station for the primary ironclad ships, which were ushering in a new era of naval warfare.
At the turn of the century, the facility was fully committed to the construction of steel ships, to which ends an expansion of the original yard was accommodated by the Navy. The yard continued to service and supply vessels throughout the Spanish American War and World War One. Production slowed following the First World War, but again spiked with rising tensions concerning the burgeoning totalitarian governments in Germany, Japan, and Italy in the 1930's. In 1939, with Congress's creation of a two-ocean Navy, the yard was pressed into full-time support of the country's fleet, including the construction and repair of all Navy destroyers and service fleets. Widely considered the golden age of the Charlestown Navy Yard, World War II necessitated the commitment of nearly 50,000 employees at the Charlestown facility alone.
Again, peacetime conditions slowed the production and work of the yard following WWII. The facility began to focus on the modernization of older vessels, especially the sonar and radar systems. While remaining open as a repair facility in limited capacity, the U.S. engagement in conflicts within Korea and Vietnam, necessitated little involvement of the Charlestown yard, which was much too far removed from the conflicts to be of significant naval importance. At the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the shipyard was officially closed, with much of the original occupied land being dedicated to the National Park Service.
The immense services that the Charlestown Naval Shipyard provided to the nation throughout its history would not have been possible without the many men and women who staffed this important historic facility. Dangerous situations were unfortunately a daily reality for those who serviced our navy's fleet, and they should be remembered for their service. While modernizing older vessels, it is possible these workers were exposed to dangerous toxins, such as asbestos that were used extensively in early ship construction. It is important to know for sure if your health has been adversely affected by prior work conditions in shipyards. Any further information should be ascertained via a physician's consultation.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.