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32 Submarines Launched in One Year

Submarines_at__PNYRiverRun Bookstore and the Portsmouth Athenaeum present local author Rodney K. Watterson.  Rodney will talk about his new book, 32 in '44: Building the Portsmouth Submarine Fleet in World War II. The Portsmouth Athenaeum will hold a reception across the street after the event that begins at 7pm on March 31, 2011. (Continued below)  


In the 1930s the U.S. government’s Portsmouth Navy Yard built fewer than two submarines a year, yet in 1944 it completed an astonishing 32 submarines. Over the course of the war, it produced 37 percent of all U.S. submarines. Between July 1, 1940 and July 1, 1945 the shipyard built 79 submarines. It employed an average of around 2,000 workers per year in the 1930s, growing to a peak employment of 20,445 in November 1943. Clearly something extraordinary occurred at the yard in order to support the war effort.  


The Portsmouth Navy Yard’s outstanding performance was the direct result of a highly motivated workforce and innovative management techniques that thrived in the decentralized naval shipbuilding environment of World War II. Shipyard management, by design or necessity, successfully employed industrial management practices that were years ahead of their time. These practices included employee empowerment, special small teams, and mass-production techniques to the extent that they could be applied to submarine construction at the time.  

Watterson’s book analyzes the factors behind the yard’s record-setting production, including streamlined operations, innovative management practices, the Navy’s commitment to develop the yard’s resources as an alternative to private industry, and the yard’s ability to quickly adapt to a decentralized wartime shipbuilding environment. Highlighted in the book are the similarities between Portsmouth’s efforts to accelerate production and those of private shipyards. The author concludes that private shipyards deviated little from construction plans, while at Portsmouth a continuing dialogue with the Navy resulted in constant and effective design changes dictated by feedback from the frontlines.  

Visit the Author's Web page

Rodney K Watterson is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and MIT. He was involved with shipyards and submarines throughout his thirty-year naval career. A resident of Hampton, NH, he also holds a PhD in history from the University of New Hampshire.

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