April 24, 2018

Lost and found: Photos tell stories of World War II

Two black workers, "Labor Management," Kaiser Richmond shipyard #4, 1/4/1944

Original photos of hundreds of U.S. navy ships in San Francisco Bay.  A candid shot of Henry J. Kaiser, laughing while listening to a female accordionist. A color transparency of an unidentified "Rosie" with a cutting torch in front of the ship Haiti Victory before her launch in July 20, 1944.

These are only some of the images from a treasure trove of World War II photographs, many depicting scenes from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, discovered last year by Fresno professor Dan Nadaner. The photos have not been seen since the mid-1940s.

Dan was donating the pictures to the curators from the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, located on the former site of the Kaiser shipyards. He found these cartons while clearing out a storage locker, and wanted the photos to join others already on display at the visitor center.

The photos were taken by Dan’s father, Hugo Nadaner (1915–2009), a real estate developer, contractor, private airplane pilot, and Hollywood photographer. But during World War II, he turned his lens to marine vessels, working with the U.S. Navy to document construction, launch and shakedown cruises.

Hugo Nadaner’s trove of 4x5-inch negatives and photos include images of hundreds of U.S. navy ships. Many are copy photos (photos of other photos), but others are original shots from San Francisco Bay. Although few are identified, some ships and locations are obvious.

Hugo Nadaner (on right), circa 1940s (photo courtesy Dan Nadaner)

A cluster of photos reveal how neighboring industries prefabricated ship components for final assembly in the Kaiser yards. Among the Oakland subcontractors documented between June 24 and 26, 1943, were the Graham Ship Repair Company (foot of Washington St.), the Herrick Iron Works, and the Independent Iron Works. Other nearby factories included Berkeley’s Trailer Company of America and the Steel Tank & Pipe Company, as well as the California Steel Products Corporation in Richmond and the Pacific Coast Engineering Company in Alameda. One contractor documented was the Clyde W. Wood Company in Stockton (a deepwater port on the San Joaquin River), over 50 miles inland from the Richmond shipyards.

There are many photos from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. One set shows the launching of the patrol frigate USS Tacoma from shipyard No. 4 on July 7, 1943. These include the happy sponsor, Mrs. A.R. Bergerson, and two young women, ready with a champagne bottle. Another photo catches three white-bloused singers, while a third is of Henry J. Kaiser finishing a celebratory meal — and is he really singing along with an accordion?

Kaiser shipyard workers are frozen in time. One unidentified Journeyman Maintenance Worker is pumping liquid into a battered bucket; a black welder and a black supervisor share a joke while inspecting an electric arc stinger; the tool control crew from Yard 3 shows home-front women in the trades.

Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources is helping the National Park Service to process this collection. Thank you, Dan and Hugo Nadaner, for your contribution to documenting and sharing the World War II home front.

Maintenance worker with pump, "Labor Management", Kaiser Richmond shipyard No. 4, circa 1943
Maintenance worker with pump, "Labor Management", Kaiser Richmond shipyard No. 4, circa 1943
Tool Control, Richmond shipyard No. 4, circa 1943
Tool Control, Richmond shipyard No. 4, circa 1943
USS Cape Esperance CVE 88 in San Francisco Bay, built as USS Tananek Bay, launched March 3, 1944, Kaiser Vancouver shipyard
USS Cape Esperance CVE 88 in San Francisco Bay, built as USS Tananek Bay, launched March 3, 1944, Kaiser Vancouver shipyard
Child with 5-inch deck gun, likely on a submarine on a navy visitor day, circa 1943
Child with 5-inch deck gun, likely on a submarine on a navy visitor day, circa 1943
Prefabrication, hull section, Pacific Coast Engineering Company, Alameda, June 6, 1943
Prefabrication, hull section, Pacific Coast Engineering Company, Alameda, June 6, 1943
Unidentified "Rosie" at site of Haiti Victory, launched July 20, 1944
Unidentified "Rosie" at site of Haiti Victory, launched July 20, 1944; cropped scan from 5x7-inch transparency
Henry J. Kaiser, unidentified companion, accordion; likely Kaiser Richmond shipyard, launching of USS Tacoma
Henry J. Kaiser, unidentified companion, accordion; likely Kaiser Richmond shipyard, launching of USS Tacoma, circa July 1943