By Gerald Sandvick
World War 2 hinged on the Allies having enough ships to both fight the enemy and to carry millions of tons of war goods across the world’s oceans. Shipyards on the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coasts built thousands of vessels, but America’s sometimes forgotten Fourth Coast, the Great Lakes, built hundreds of ships as well. From 1940 to 1945, warships, cargo haulers, Coast Guard tenders, and fleet service auxiliaries of many types were launched from the two cities of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, which lie at the far western end of Lake Superior. During the war, half a dozen shipyards in Duluth-Superior produced more than 200 vessels of 10 main types, up to 338 feet long and 5,000 tons, all having to make close to a 2,400-mile journey to the ocean. The shipyards grew from nearly nothing in 1939 to become industries employing thousands of men and women by 1945 and making a major contribution to the story of America in World War 2.
Gerald “Jerry” Sandvick is professor emeritus of history and a past president of the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association of Duluth. His specialty is research and teaching World War 2 history.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
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