Skip to main content

Launching of the S.S. Nehalem

S.S. Nehalem

On January 5, 1944, Kaiser Shipyards on Swan Island launched its first tanker of the year, the S.S. Nehalem. In acknowledgement of the many women who had joined the company's workforce during the war, the company staffed the launch with women only. Some women were assigned to the underside of the ship to watch over the placement of the wedges, which are hammered into place under the ship to lift it up above the ways (the timbers upon which a ship is built), and the removal of the dog-shores--struts that hold the ship in place before launch. 

A launch was exciting, but it also caused some anxiety. The process necessary to safely manuever a new ship--some of which displaced over two thousand tons of water--out of a dry dock was an engineering challenge. The launching sequence was carefully choreographed and each shipyard employee had a specific job to do. Sometimes as many as 150 workers were needed to launch a ship.

After the tanker was put in the water, the women gathered for a celebratory lunch. The entire event was documented by photographers and a story published in the company's magizine, the Bo's'n's Whistle.






nehalem christening       nehalem worker       boat swain in drag
Sponsor Edna Ione Robirds breaks the champagne bottle against the ship's hull. Org Lot. 686, album 637.     An Oregon Shipbuilding Corp. employee prepares the Nehalem for launch. Org Lot. 686, album 637     Master Shipwright Robert Sweitzer monitored the launch in a dress and wig for the all-women launch. Org Lot. 686, album 637
launching     osc employee     OSC employee
The S.S. Nehalem at the end of the slipways on Swan Island. Org Lot. 686, album 637.     An Oregon Shipbuilding Corp. employee prepares the Nehalem for launch.     An Oregon Shipbuilding Corp. employee prepares the Nehalem for launch.

S.S. Nehalem photograph collection slideshow​

OSC yards


bosns whistle         This issue of Bo's'n's Whistle, dated January 28, 1944, includes photographs and a short article about the launching of the S.S. Nehalem. (Click image to enlarge.)
program       This is the program for the all-women launch of the S.S. Nehalem. All of the participants were girls and women, including the local bands that came to the shipyards to play the tanker out to the Willamette River. (Click to enlarge)
roosevelt letter       This letter, signed by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt and addressed to Albert Bauer, was found in the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation photographic collection in the S.S. Nehalem album folder. The Nehalem was the first ship of the year completed by the Swan Island shipyards in 1944, and it was launched by an (almost) all-women crew.  (Click to see the historical record.)