1941: A shipbuilding boom
Just 11 days after the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy completes the acquisition of the San Francisco Shipyard from long-time owners, Bethlehem Steel Dry Docks. They rename the facility the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and expand Drydock No. 4, once again making Hunters Point home to the world’s largest graving dock. The Navy officially begins shipbuilding operations to aid in the World War II effort. This marks the beginning of San Francisco’s role as a shipbuilding behemoth during World War II. The takeover also yields a massive influx of blue-collar workers in the 1940’s. This population explosion, which is also tied to the Great Migration of African Americans from the South, transforms Bayview-Hunters Point from a rural fringe area into an urban center almost overnight. At its heart is a bustling district known as the Third Street corridor.
1945: The Shipyard plays a strategic role in WWII
The key components of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb are loaded onto the USS Indianapolis, which is docked at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945.
1947: The iconic Shipyard crane is erected
The crane goes up. The American Bridge Company, known for its role in the construction of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, builds a 630-ton gantry crane. It’s the largest in the world at the time, capable of lifting battleship gun turrets and other objects weighing up to one million pounds. The crane’s 730-foot runway spans a pier 405 feet wide and extends more than 160 feet over the water on either side. Writes one journalist at the time, “Completion of the giant lift will make Uncle Sam fastest on the draw among the nations.” Today the crane remains an iconic feature of the city’s skyline.