Marinship file photo [32118]

Marinship Shipbuilding

Type   270 Shipyard
Historical Name of Location   Sausalito, California, United States
Coordinates   37.866282000, -122.496262000


ww2dbaseThe United States Maritime Commission started the Emergency Shipbuilding Program in 1940. In the fifth wave of shipyard expansion in 1942, the W.A. Bechtel Company, along with five affiliates, were awarded a contract to build a new shipyard on the western shore of San Francisco Bay at the northern edge of Sausalito along an inlet known as Richardson Bay. Built upon the former maintenance yard for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, nearly a million cubic yards of earth were moved to fill in the marshlands and create the spaces needed to construct six shipways and the accompanying yard.

ww2dbaseKnown briefly as the "Marin Shipbuilding Division of W.A. Bechtel Company," this was soon shortened to Marinship and the name stuck. Originally intended to build Maritime Commission oil tankers, the shipyard was approaching completion before designs for the tankers were finalized and so Marinship began with a contract for fifteen Liberty ships. Within three months of Bechtel receiving authorization from the Maritime Commission to build the shipyard, Marinship's first keel was laid on 27 Jun 1942. That ship would become the Liberty ship William A. Richardson, named for the founder of Sausalito, and was launched only three months after keel laying and six months after the shipyard groundbreaking.

ww2dbaseOn 7 Dec 1942, the keel of the first tanker was laid at Marinship. This ship would become the USS Escambia, the lead ship in a new class of fleet oilers (civilian companies called them tankers; only the Navy called them oilers). As with all of the war production taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marinship drew thousands of workers to the yards with its force reaching 20,000 workers at its peak. Housing, hospitals, and schools sprang up around the area even more quickly than ships slid down the ways. Marinship also boasted a better workplace safety record than most shipyards of the period.

ww2dbaseLike every other war industry in the region, the labor force benefited from Presidential Executive Order 8802 prohibiting discrimination in defense industries and the resulting migration that brought thousands of workers from all across the country to California, including many African-American workers from the southern states and many women. The California local of the powerful and well-established Boilermakers and Iron Fitters Union, however, signed a broad Master Agreement that was binding upon all Maritime Commission shipyards in California. Among other provisions, the agreement required all shipyard workers to be union members in good standing. Separately from the master agreement, the union also excluded membership to African-American workers. The two restrictions taken together combined to disallow employment to Black workers, except with a severely limited auxiliary union membership. African-American Marinship welder Joseph James filed suit in Marin County Superior Court. The case rose all the way to the California Supreme Court where a unanimous 1944 landmark decision ruled in James' favor and struck down the practice. Notably, the Court did not strike down a union's prerogative to exclude Black members, just the practice of simultaneously excluding Black members and requiring union membership in order to work. Among the attorneys arguing the case to the Supreme Court on James' behalf was Thurgood Marshall, then of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

ww2dbaseThe Marinship yard also hosted its share of dignitaries. In Apr 1945, San Francisco was hosting the United Nations Conference on International Organization, also known as the first San Francisco Conference. In a break from that conference, HRH Prince Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and his party toured Marinship and were hosted by Company president Stephen Bechtel, Sr. The Prince witnessed the launching of one tanker and received a lavish lunch on the decks of a different recently completed tanker. (In the postwar years, Bechtel and Faisal would nurture a long and mutually lucrative relationship developing Saudi Arabia's oil.)

ww2dbaseThe neighboring but distinct Sausalito Shipbuilding had been building Army barges since the war began. As the flow of Maritime Commission shipbuilding contracts began to taper off in 1945, Marinship also began building barges while construction on their remaining ships was completed. With the war's end, shipbuilding at Marinship stopped after almost 41 months of operation. During that time, Marinship built a total of fifteen Liberty ships and 78 tankers. The 93rd and last ship built, the fleet oiler USS Mission Los Angeles, was completed on 29 Oct 1945. Seven would-be tankers had their contracts cancelled and were never completed.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, the land was transferred to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Many acres that had not existed before the shipyard was built were sold off and are occupied today by a variety of private businesses and small boat marinas. Marinship's largest warehouse was retained by the Corps of Engineers and became home to the San Francisco Bay Model, a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta System. The model served for years as a working research center studying how water flows into and through the bay and is still operating as National Park Service attraction.

ww2dbaseMarinship Ships in Order of Completion

1William A. Richardson48Mission Loreto
2William T. Coleman49Mission Santa Maria
3William Kent50Pasig
4John Muir51Kettleman Hills
5Lyman Beecher52Elk Hills
6Philip Kearny53Lost Hills
7Thomas Hart Benton54Antelope Hills
8Francis Preston Blair55Buena Vista Hills
9Mark Hopkins56Coalinga Hills
10Andrew D. White57Montebello Hills
11Sebastian Cermeno58Abatan
12Peter Donahue59Inglewood Hills
13Sun Yat Sen60Baldwin Hills
14Escambia61McKittrick Hills
15Henry Durant62Newhall Hills
17Jack London64Rincon Hills
18Lackawapan/Cahaba65Potrero Hills
19Mascoma66Sunset Hills
20Ocklawaha67Midway Hills
21Sebec68Whittier Hills
22Tomahawk69Signal Hills
24Mission Purisima71Ventura Hills
25Ponaganset72Puente Hills
26Mission Santa Cruz73La Brea Hills
27Mission Soledad74Santa Maria Hills
28Mission San Jose75Caney
29Mission San Juan76Kern Hills
30Mission San Miguel77Elwood Hills
31Mission San Fernando78Torrance Hills
32Mission Santa Ynez79Santa Fe Hills
33Mission San Rafael80Dominguez Hills
34Mission Solano81Paloma Hills
35Mission San Luis Rey82Tamalpais
36Mission San Carlos83Fullerton Hills
37Mission De Pala84Belridge Hills
38Mission San Diego85Coyote Hills
39Mission Carmel86Huntington Hills
40Mission San Antonio87Wheeler Hills
41Mission San Gabriel88Cohocton
42Mission Dolores89Fruitvale Hills
43Mission Capistrano90Marin Hills
44Mission Santa Clara91Mission San Francisco
45Mission Buenaventura92Mission Santa Ana
46Mission Santa Barbara93Mission Los Angeles
47Mission San Luis Obispo

United States Navy
Marinship Corporation
Sausalito Historical Society
United States National Park Service
United States Army Corps of Engineers
California Supreme Court [James v Marinship; 25 Cal.2d 721, 1944]
Liberty Ship
NavSource Naval History
The San Francisco Chronicle
Arab News
The United Nations

Last Major Update: Jun 2022

Ships Constructed at Marinship Shipbuilding

Ship NameYard NoSlip/Drydock NoOrderedLaid DownLaunchedCommissioned
Tamalpais18 Sep 194429 Oct 194420 May 1945

Marinship Shipbuilding Interactive Map


Bechtel photo of the site for the Maritime Commission shipyard granted to them that would become Marinship, 24 Mar 1942, Sausalito, California, United States. Photo 1 of 3.Bechtel photo of the site for the Maritime Commission shipyard granted to them that would become Marinship, 24 Mar 1942, Sausalito, California, United States. Photo 2 of 3.Bechtel photo of the site for the Maritime Commission shipyard granted to them that would become Marinship, 24 Mar 1942, Sausalito, California, United States. Photo 3 of 3.Preliminary filling and grading of the Marinship site, Sausalito, California, United States, May 1942. Left edge is the start of the administration building and the intersection of Bridgeway at Ebb Tide.
See all 28 photographs of Marinship Shipbuilding


Diagram of the Marinship Shipbuilding yard, Sausalito, California, United States, 1945.

Marinship Shipbuilding Timeline

26 Mar 1942 W.A. Bechtel Corporation was granted a Maritime Commission contract to build a shipyard on San Francisco Bay that would become Marinship. Ground was broken the next day.
27 Jun 1942 The keel was laid for Liberty ship William A. Richardson at the Marinship yard. This was the first keel laid at Marinship and it was laid a mere 3 months after the W.A. Bechtel Corporation was awarded the shipyard contract from the Maritime Commission.
7 Dec 1942 The keel was laid for fleet oiler Escambia at the Marinship yard. This was the first keel laid at Marinship for a tanker, the ship type Marinship was primarily intended to build.
16 Jun 1943 The keel was laid for Liberty ship Jack London at the Marinship yard. This was the last Liberty ship made at Marinship as production had entirely shifted to building tankers, the ship type Marinship was created to build.
18 Sep 1944 Tanker Mission San Francisco was laid down at the Marinship yard. Before launching, the ship would be renamed Tamalpais.
29 Oct 1944 Tanker Tamalpais was launched at Marinship yard.
25 Apr 1945 HRH Prince Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and his party came aboard the tanker Tamalpais and sat for lunch during a tour of the Marinship yard.
20 May 1945 Fleet oiler USS Tamalpais was placed in commission, Lt Cmdr A.J. Church commanding.
10 Aug 1945 The last ship completed at by Marinship Shipbuilding, fleet oiler USS Mission Los Angeles, was delivered to the Navy. Seven other tankers had their contracts cancelled and were never laid down. Marinship closed a short time later.

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Modern Day Location
WW2-Era Place Name Sausalito, California, United States
Lat/Long 37.8663, -122.4963
Marinship Shipbuilding Photo Gallery
Bechtel photo of the site for the Maritime Commission shipyard granted to them that would become Marinship, 24 Mar 1942, Sausalito, California, United States. Photo 1 of 3.
See all 28 photographs of Marinship Shipbuilding

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