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In the 1930s, the U.S. government's Portsmouth Navy Yard built less than two submarines a year, yet in 1944 it completed an astonishing 32 submarines, and over the course of the war produced 37 per cent of all U.S. submarines. This book analyzes the factors behind the small 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 adapt quickly to a decentralized wartime shipbuilding environment.
The author highlights similarities between Portsmouth's efforts to accelerate production and those of private shipyards. He concludes that private shipyards deviated little from construction plans, while at Portsmouth a continuing dialogue with the Navy resulted in design changes dictated by feedback from the frontlines.
Rodney K. Watterson, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and MIT, was involved with shipyards and submarines throughout his thirty-year naval career. A resident of Hampton, NH, he holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of New Hampshire.
Praise for 32 in '44
“32 in ’44 is a very readable book that has helpful figures simplifying data to document the Portsmouth Navy Yard’s operations. Ten tables summarize production results and other statistics. Readers also will appreciate the 1939 and 1945 shipyard maps. The book has thirteen photographs of submarine launchings and personnel and an excellent bibliography listing other shipyard histories. It does an exceptional job helping us understand the tremendous industrial advantage that the United States had and how that advantage helped us to win the war. It is highly recommended.”
— The Journal of America’s Military Past, Winter 2013
“32 in ’44 provides a detailed view of how the management and work force of the Portsmouth Navy Yard achieved its remarkable submarine construction record during World War II….Well worth reading.”
— Historical New Hampshire, Summer 2012
“32 in ’44 is a great read for anyone interested in the naval yards and their production and management in the United States,”
— Nautical Research Journal, Spring 2012
“The author of this book brilliantly evokes the between-the-war ear and the frantic wartime years. He conclusively demonstrates the superiority of Portsmouth to other U.S. submarine yards in terms of productivity, speed of construction, and quality of production…This book is eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of Rodney Watterson’s meticulous research and clear writing. He has provided extensive detailed footnotes and a number of helpful tables and figures. This book should be ready by anyone trying to understand the remarkable achievements of U.S. industry in building the massive “arsenal of democracy” of World War II.”
— Marine Technology, July 2011
“This is a unique history of wartime production in a naval shipyard. It is footnoted, well-illustrated with photos and maps, and supplemented with an excellent bibliography. . . .This excellent book ably achieves its purpose in documenting the building of the huge Portsmouth submarine fleet in World War II.”
— PowerShips, Summer 2011
"The Portsmouth Navy Yard (PNY) built its first submarine in 1914 and would continue to build them until 1971, but 1944, when it built 32 subs for the Navy, has to be its 'finest hour.' Rodney Watterson has captured that 'hour' extremely well. The PNY exemplifies America as the 'Arsenal of Democracy' and this book is a very valuable contribution to the history of the defense effort at home."
—Tony Cope, author of On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah
"During 1944 the yard built an astonishing thirty-two submarines, including launching four boats on one day; such production demonstrated American industrial capacity and the ingenuity to overcome obstacles that could have spelled delay and Allied defeat."
—Gene Allen Smith, Texas Christian University, author of Thomas Catesby Jones
"Rodney Watterson brings a rare blend of qualifications and experience in producing this book on the World War II submarine building era at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. As a career submarine officer, he was stationed twice at the yard during the postwar period, thus enabling him to provide personal insights and familiarity with its operation. . . . This informative book is worthy of its place on the shelves of every American naval history enthusiast and scholar."
—Richard E. Winslow III, author of Portsmouth-Built: Submarines of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
"32 in '44 is a careful study of the amazing efforts made at the Portsmouth Navy Yard to build much-needed submarines for the U.S. Navy. Rodney Watterson's incisive analysis of the yard's management style, labor processes, and manufacturing methods provides a valuable perspective on an important aspect of the colossal American war effort."
—Christopher Tassava, Carleton College
"Rodney Watterson’s excellent 32 in '44 illustrates the value of the 'public option' in high-tech shipbuilding. As the Navy’s own shipyard, Portsmouth provided greater control over the design and production of wartime submarines, while competition with Electric Boat drove both shipyards to outstanding production rates. This effort produced innovations in business and fabrication practice that carried over into the Cold War."
—Gary E. Weir, Chief Historian, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
"An extraordinary history of wartime submarine construction at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Rod Watterson's vivid recreation of the heady World War II construction days at the government’s public shipyard in Kittery, Maine brings the designers, fabricators, welders, ship fitters and building ways to life. 75 submarines were built here between 1942 and 1945, but this was the magic year?1944? and Watterson has captured that magic in splendid fashion."
—Vice Admiral George W. Emery, USN (Ret.), 24th Commander of the Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Commander Submarine Allied Command Atlantic